122nd annual event

Cold, wet, windy trek for Midcoast runners at Boston Marathon

Horrible conditions make journey grueling — but still amazing
By Mark Haskell | Apr 17, 2018
Courtesy of: Theresa Withee Steve Cartwright, left, and Jala Tooley with their Boston Marathon bib numbers.

Boston, Mass. — What a difference a year makes.

One year removed from some of the hottest temperatures on record in the Boston Marathon, the 122nd running of the fabled, historic 26.1-mile journey on Monday, April 16 saw more notable weather impact the race for eight Midcoast runners and nearly 30,000 more that converged on the city for arguably the world’s most famous foot/road race.

While last year’s temperatures reached near 80 degrees, this year saw temperatures in the 20s to go along with high winds and 10 inches of rain — not to mention sleet — to make the weather for this year’s incarnation the worst in 30 years.

However, the rain did little to dilute the field — nor dampen the spirits — of the 29,960 participants who represented all 50 states and 109 countries.

Of those nearly 30,000 runners — and 186 from the Pine Tree State — eight ran on behalf of the Midcoast, including Shawn Rumery, 32, of Searsmont; Linwood Downs, 56, of Lincolnville; Steve Cartwright, 66, of Tenants Harbor; Jala Jamison Tooley, 38, of Camden; Kenneth Wich, 55, of Belfast; John Priestley, 60, of Rockport; Katherine Collins, 47, of Winterport; and Ellen Spring, 65, of Thomaston.

The historic race, hosted and sponsored by the Boston Athletic Association, begins in Hopkinton and ends on Boylston Street.

Most who participate in the Boston Marathon had to reach a qualifying standard for their age and gender in the calendar year leading up to the event. However, others can participate through other means, such as with charity groups, for example.

Cartwright finished in 4:20:08 for 19,226th overall, 11,157th among men and 174th in his age division. His mile pace was 9:56.

Collins finished in 3:53:39 for 14, 354th overall, 5,263rd among women and 547th in her age division. Her mile place was 8:55.

Downs finished in 3:55:46 for 14,835th overall, 9,296th among men and 801st in his age division. His mile pace was 9:00.

Tooley finished in 3:58:32 for 15,518th overall, 5,921 among women and 3,640th in her age division. Her mile pace was 9:06.

Priestley finished in 4:55:23 for 22,634th overall, 12,709th among men and 874th in his age division. His mile pace was 11:16.

Rumery finished in 3:24:35 for 6,445th overall, 5,221st among men and 2,886th in his age division. His mile pace was 7:49.

Wich finished in 3:50:51 for 13,628th overall, 8,801st among men and 699th in his age division. His mile pace was 8:49.

Spring was unable to finish the race.

The official timers are shut off after six hours.

The weather conditions were so bad — as well as mentally and physically draining — that, according to reports, more than 2,500 needed medical attention at one point or another. One of those was Spring.

"It was the worst conditions ever with sheets of rain, wind, and such cold temps." Spring said. "I made it to 17 miles and then dropped out at a medical tent. It was very disappointing not to finish but I couldn't have kept going feeling as cold as I did. There were many less fans than usual, but the ones that were out were great. Maybe next year ..."

Despite the horrendous early-spring weather, Cartwright and Tooley — who carpooled to the event along with seasoned area runner Theresa Withee — raved about the experience.

For Cartwright, it was his second straight Boston Marathon, and Tooley’s first.

“Collectively enduring hardships brings people closer together, and running the Boston Marathon in such challenging weather — like sailing into the teeth of a gale — kept my heart warm,” said Cartwright. “Even though by body was soggy wet and chilled to the bone. We all persevered and the spectators who braved the deluge roared their support.”

Tooley echoed those sentiments. “It was really awesome,” she said.

“I’m going to go, I’m going to enjoy the moment and if I see my friends or my family, because my family came down with my kids, I’m going to stop and say hello and give them a hug,” she said. “I was going to enjoy it and not kill myself trying to get that next qualifying time. But I said if I got under four hours, I’d be happy.”

She clocked in just under four hours to meet her goal, but not without having to kick it into another gear down the stretch.

“I had my Garmin watch on and when it chimed at mile 25 and I saw the time, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it,” she said. “Then when I turned onto Boylston Street and I saw the clock and it was ticking at 3:58, I thought, ‘Oh no,” and I mustered up some sprinting power.”

Cartwright, who typically runs races in his bare feet, opted to wear shoes for the event given the chilly temperatures, rain and sleet.

“As I ran, I thought about dropping out,” he said. “I wanted to be warm and dry. That had to wait. The famous ‘Free kisses’ from Wellesley College students gave me a boost, as did the humor of signs.”

Cartwright said some of the signs ranged from “You’re already running better than the government,” to “You’re between a walk and a hard race.”

Both admitted the conditions were the worse they had ever raced in, including Cartwright, who ran a road race in Millinocket in December.

“The wind would come and it was almost like a wall hit you,” said Tooley. “You literally had to power through this wind that was trying to push you backwards.”

Despite the conditions, Tooley said, “It was the most incredible, amazing experience that I won’t soon forget.”

Cartwright said he lost his phone at some point during the event and afterwards, “some kind people called my friends for me, brought me hot water and congratulated me with hugs and smiles.”

“This is Boston,” he said. “The hugs and smiles will stay with me longer than any chill.”

Runners who want to comment for this story or tell their story after running this year's event can call or email Mark Haskell.

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