Following is my monthly running column, which appeared in the Republican Herald newspaper today.
A good day to watch a marathon is a bad day to run a marathon
The 121st Boston Marathon provided excellent conditions for the nearly one million spectators who lined the historic 26.2-mile route from Hopkinton to Boston’s Boylston Street, but for the more than 26,000 registered runners, temperatures nearing 80 degrees heated by a tailwind meant slower times and plenty of dehydrated casualties at the medical tent.
Mentally, after training for months and logging thousands of miles in all kinds of weather, waking up to summer-like conditions in mid-April can break the spirit of a marathon runner. Goal times are abandoned and the race becomes an exercise in survival.
Many runners wilt beneath the heat, but for three of our local runners, their drive to complete the task — perhaps inspired by their dedication to training and their devotion to helping others — propelled them across the finish line on Boylston Street and earned them the coveted Boston Marathon participation medal.
Last month we told you about Tower City’s Timmy Harner. A little over a year ago, Harner was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. On Monday, April 17, Harner crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon.
Harner has not only beaten the disease and run the Boston Marathon, but he has raised over $12,500 for Team in Training, the main fundraising arm of the Leukemia- Lymphoma Society. On June 9, Harner will be the keynote speaker at a seminar for cancer survivors at the Hershey Medical Center.
If you are booking a vacation and you are hoping for warm weather, consult Minersville’s Father Christopher Zelonis. Father Zelonis has run the past two Boston Marathons, braving warm temperatures each time. He also survived tropical conditions at the Run for the Red Marathon two years ago, when temperatures and humidity levels reached 90 degrees.
Father Zelonis donates his time to the elderly at several area nursing homes, as well as serving as a volunteer at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill.
Schuylkill Haven’s Rick Devaney is a veteran of nine Boston Marathons. He, too, crossed the finish line despite this year’s heat, and he, like Father Zelonis, serves as a volunteer at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill.
Mike Peckman, director of marketing and public affairs at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill, heaped praise on his two long distance running volunteers.
“To think we have two members of our volunteer department who are part of a very special club … those who have run the Boston Marathon,” Peckman said. “We are very proud of the training, dedication and accomplishments of both Father Zelonis and Mr. Devaney for the marathon. We are equally proud and appreciative of all they do for our patients, our friends and neighbors, each and every day here at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill.”
Harner, Zelonis and Devaney are special, indeed. Their drive, determination, and dedication extend to both their race training and to their desire to serve.