Born to Run: Harvard and the Marathon

Beantown's Best

"It was long and I had fun and I'll never do it again." Harvard junior Adam Button said between breaths, just moments after crossing the finish line of his first Boston Marathon.

Cringing and bending down trying to stir some feelings in his legs, Button added. "Baby, I wasn't born to run"

That might have been the consensus among some 200 Harvard students who braved the rain and the pain to compete in yesterday's Patriots' Day extravaganza, but it certainly wasn't enough to stop most of them.

And if the 26-mile, 385 yd course from Hopkinton to the Pru was a bit too much, some resourceful Harvard students found a way around that, too.

In one of the day's most unusual scenarios, Harvard sophomore Margaret Fernandez crossed the finished line with something approaching a grin Why?

It appears Fernandez surprised even herself by being there, because she hadn't even planned on running.

"I decided to run it about 10 a.m. [two hours before the start]," she said. "And that's after working til 3 a.m. last night."

Why?

"I was kind of fed up with the rest of the planet, and so it became a case of 'this is for me'--you know, like the L'Oreal commercial," she explained.

So Fernandez left the Harvard campus by subway, but finding things a bit too congested, hitchiked her way to Natick. "It was as far as I could get," she said. So that's where she started running. And she ran right into a Natick beauty parlor.

Why?

"I knew that if I had any problems like a squeaky sneaker or a running nose it would really distract me," she said. "Well, I had wet gloves. So I went into a beauty parlor where a very nice Italian man let me blow dry my gloves and everything was cool."

Fernandez, who plays j.v. lacrosse but has never run more than four miles, polished off her 16-mile jaunt from Natick to the Prudential Center at the wonderfully joyous pace of 12 minutes a mile.

Just don't ask why.

***

Senior Rob Henderson, a member of the Harvard varsity track team and an official entrant in the Beantown extravaganza, scored the fastest time of any Harvardian, clocking in at 2:36.20.

"I definitely felt worse this race than [after] any I'd ever done before," Henderson said, adding. "The biggest thrill came when I turned and waved to the crowd outside of the Harvard Club on Commonwealth Ave I got a huge cheer."

***

Well, sophomore Jill Vialet had a huge complaint.

"I want to say that I think it's really unfair that men get to go off to the side when they wish to go to the bathroom, but for women it's a real problem," said a soggy but jubilant Vialet as she crossed the finish line with fellow Adams House resident Laura Crosby.

Aside from her specific complaint, how ever. Vialet was all smiles.

"I feel great," she said.

***

So where does the mere mortal fit into all of this? Well, if you like to be part of a team, and you know a good time when you see it, why not enter the Boston Marathon as a group?

Four former and present Harvard crew members--Joe Pettirossi, Karl Roullard. Tom Gentile, Fernando Gueler and assistant freshman crew Coach Blocker Meitzen--ran the race in a five-part relay, with each man logging five-and-a-quarter miles.

***

Rodney Pearson, a Winthrop House tutor who had Harvard's second-best time last year when he breezed in at 2:33.02, dropped out at the 16-mile marker, after an injured hip gave him some pain.

"I'm not that concerned with finishing," he said, "Even the best consistent marathoners like Bill Rogers drop out when they don't think they're running fast enough," he added.

Fellow Griffin Club member Margaret Waters, who had the fastest woman's time of 3:03.32 last year, did not run at all.

"She had a sanity attack and stayed out," said Pearson.