Long before the tragic events of last year’s Boston Marathon, the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to the Back Bay had been a source of inspiration to many.
The speaker at this week’s parish of Christ The King in Mashpee 50+ Club meeting is one of them.
Before an audience of nearly 50 club members on Tuesday afternoon in the parish hall, author Michael Connelly shared his first person account of running the race in 1996, despite suffering from heart disease that at one point had him “coding on the operating table.”
Mr. Connelly, a banker by trade, is the author of two marathon-related works, “26 Miles to Boston” and “26.2 Miles to Boston.” He is also a sports blogger on the Boston Herald website, and the author of “The President’s Team,” a chronicle of the 1963 Army versus Navy football game that was played just two weeks after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Mr. Connelly, who only ran the race once, at the age of 32, described the experience as “spiritual.”
After telling all of his friends and family that he was going to run the Boston Marathon, he said that at that point there was no turning back and that he had to do it. And then the long, grueling training regimen began. The Boston Marathon requires runners to put one foot in front of the other more than 30,000 times along its hilly course.
“The finish line is only achieved by getting up early in the morning, running those miles in the snow, and spending lunch hours on a treadmill,” he said.
On the third Monday in April 1996 when he took on the marathon course, Mr. Connelly described the experience as “lonely,” despite being surrounded by thousands of other runners.
“The marathon was my version of ‘this is your life.’ I laughed. I cried,” he said, noting that he seemed to be reliving parts of his life on a mile-by-mile basis as he struggled with fatigue and pain as he ran toward the city with his head down.
He remembered seeing his parents waiting for him by the Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and seeing his grandmother at the 19th mile.
“During this journey my life would change,” Mr. Connelly said, adding that any limitations he had previously placed upon himself were falsely placed.
“I won the race that day even though I finished in 25,000th place,” he said as the audience laughed.
Mr. Connelly also spent a significant amount of his 75-minute talk stressing the importance of writing, which he said some people in the technology age have written off as a “dead language.” He said that he often gives leather journals as gifts so that people can tell the stories of their lives before it is too late.
“Cemeteries are full of unfulfilled dreams and stories never written. There is no excuse not to write,” he pleaded to the audience.
Mr. Connelly only spoke briefly about last year’s Boston Marathon bombings.
“Boston’s worst day became Boston’s best day. We became galvanized. We are people that pull together for those that need them,” he said.