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The road to Boston

Almost 200 Maritimers to take part in 2017 event

Denise Robson of Dartmouth, N.S. (right, #110) starts in the elite women's group in 2015.
FayFoto/Boston photo
By Andrew Wagstaff
Maritime Runner
March 6, 2017

  To most runners, this city and its storied marathon represent the Holy Grail of road racing, not only for its challenging course that attracts elite runners from around the world, but for the spirit that comes from the city and its people.
  That spirit gets behind its sports teams like no other city. Everyone knows that Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics and Patriots fans are just a little bit nuttier about their teams than others.
  With a history dating back to 1897, the Boston Marathon came before all of those teams and, for that one weekend in April, the thousands of runners who descend on the city are its stars.
  On Monday, April 17, 2017, nearly 200 of those runners will be Maritimers, one of the larger contingents sent from this region. Nova Scotia will send 114 runners, joined by 62 from New Brunswick and 19 from Prince Edward Island. Many will be running Boston for the first time, and many others will be returning as seasoned veterans.
  For Denise Robson of Dartmouth, N.S., who will be returning to the event for the 11th time, Boston represents some of her happiest and toughest moments of competition. For all of its glory, she said the nature of the course – especially if one gets carried away with some of the early downhill sections - is murder on the quad muscles, and takes weeks to recover from.
  But those challenges live deep in the shadows of her many Boston high moments.
  “To get that BQ standard is a big achievement for many runners, many who continue to strive for it,” said Robson. “Also, the people of Boston, no matter your time or placement, treat you like a celebrity. You qualified to race the prestigious Boston Marathon, it’s a big deal, and they make you feel like a rock star.”
  Few would argue Robson’s rock star status. At 48, she is still able to hit her Elite BQ time of 2:50, and will once again be starting with the best runners in the world this year.
  Some of her proudest running achievements have happened in Boston, including her PB 2:43.16 at the 2010 event, which won her the Women’s Masters title and a $10,000 prize, and saw her name etched in stone in the Centennial Monument at Copley Square.
  In 2008, she finished 11th out of 8,935 females participating in the race. For that achievement, John Hancock/Manulife arranged for her to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game in Fenway Park along with Olympian and elite American runner Ryan Hall.
  “I was more nervous than on the start line of any marathon,” she said.
  A mother of five who returned to running at the age of 35, Robson is running faster now than she did in her university days, and hopes her result this year will continue to provide an example of what can be done.
  “At 48, my personal bests are proudly hung up on a shelf; however, these personal bests were all achieved at age 40-plus,” she said. “I hope to be able to get my 11th unicorn and just run the best race that I can on that day, and inspire women to dream big at any age.”
Denise Robson at the 2012 Boston Marathon.
For Chris Anderson of Bayport, N.S., April 17 will see his 29th consecutive running of the Boston Marathon. Even though he has run 113 full marathons in his life, there continues to be just something about Boston.
  “The Boston Marathon is special because of its history; because myself and other marathoners have had to qualify each year to participate; and because of the tremendous support and respect shown to marathoners by the Boston spectators, community and organizers,” he said.
  As with his previous 28 trips to the big race, Anderson plans to make the most of the opportunity before him. His family members will travel with him to offer their support.
  “I hope to experience all that Boston and the Boston Marathon events have to offer in the six days that I will be in Boston and, upon crossing the finish line, be able to say to myself that I did the best that I was capable of while running the greatest marathon that I’ll ever be able to enter,” he said.
Chris Anderson at the 2016 Boston Marathon.
Stan Chaisson of Charlottetown will be making his fifth consecutive appearance at Boston next month.
  “The Boston Marathon is an event that the whole city of Boston takes pride in and embraces, making it an exciting running destination,” he said. “There’s a strong community engagement and positive energy that you can feel as soon as you arrive.”
  Each year has provided a unique experience for Chaisson, but for him it’s tough to match what it felt like crossing that finish line for the first time.
  “It was a tough race for me, but the feeling of genuine support from spectators along the way, especially the last few miles, was energizing,” he said.
  Training has been going well this year for the Islander, who feels he is well prepared for the course come April 17. His goal this year is to beat his Boston personal best and get a sub-2:38.
  “With a lot of training, and good conditions, it’s definitely a possibility,” said Chaisson. “However, the most rewarding part of running is simply knowing you put your best effort forward, and in Boston that’s always the case.”
Stan Chaisson at the 2013 Valley Harvest Marathon.
Darrell Travis of Hampton, N.B. has run 20 consecutive Boston Marathons, and is entered for his 21st this year, although he is battling some injuries and is not yet sure if he will make it.
“To do 20 in a row, one thing I have learned is there is always something to overcome to get to the start line, so hopefully I win the battle again this year,” he said.
Many memories stand out for him from the past 20 years at the event, from the elation of finishing the race in 2005 only four months after being told he would likely never run another marathon due to major surgery, to the horror of the bombing in 2013, when several runners and volunteers from his local running club, the Hampton River Runners, were on hand.
But something about Boston keeps bringing Travis back. For one thing, it gives him a goal to train for in the wintertime.
Darrell Travis at the 2015 Boston Marathon.
“At first I thought I could never qualify and I was amazed when I did,” he said. “For years after, I was still amazed I qualified again. After that, what kept me going was never quite being satisfied with my result, and thinking I could do better.”
  Then the streak took over, and now it’s all about keeping it going and seeing how long he can continue qualifying and competing.
  But it’s still more than that, according to Travis.
  “Over the years I have been able to train and travel to Boston with a lot of other runners and made a lot of great friends,” he said. “Being able to share in other runners’ goals of qualifying, training and participating in Boston helps me get there and keeps me inspired.”
Shelley Doucet (left) and her sister Marcie Holland at the 2016 Boston Marathon.
  Shelley Doucet of Quispamsis, N.B. will be making her second appearance at Boston this year, although she considers it her long-awaited competitive debut in Boston. Injury prevented her from running after qualifying for the 2015 race, and almost stopped her again last year.
  “In February I was in the best shape of my life, but out of nowhere I got injured and couldn’t even walk as I injured my glute,” she recalled.
  After many hours of cross training and rehab, she made it to the race with her sister, Marcie Holland of Saint John, N.B., and the pair ran it “just for fun.” This year the sisters will be joined by Doucet’s husband, Evan, who will be running it for the first time.
  She described the event as a “42 kilometre party” with people everywhere.
  “I watch it every year, and watch the elites run through, and when I was running it last year it was just so amazing to know that I was actually running on the same streets as the best runners in the world,” said Doucet. “In no other sport can you do that… actually participate in the championship race or game with the best.”
  Corinne Fournier of Saint John, N.B. visited Boston in 2009 and got a picture of herself taken at the finish line. Even though she had never run further than 5K, had not even run a race before, she told herself, “I’m going to run here someday.”
  She achieved her coveted BQ time at Fredericton last May, and has been counting down the days to Boston ever since.
  “I remember the feeling of running that race and realizing midway that I was on pace to get my qualifying time – I don’t think the smile ever left my face,” said Fournier. “It still feels so surreal. To be running one of the most prestigious races in the world where so many amazing runners have run, I think it will truly be an incredible experience.”
  It has already given her a case of marathon madness. Fournier is thinking she would like to run a destination marathon again next year, combining her running with her love for travel.
  For now, she is focused on Boston. She moved to Halifax in January, and has been training there with the Halifax Road Hammers, several of whom will also be competing at Boston.
Corinne Fournier after running her BQ race at last year's Fredericton Marathon.
  “Training with a great coach and other runners with the same goals has definitely kept me motivated this winter,” said Fournier. “It has been so great to share this journey surrounded by so many friends and so many other amazing runners.”
  Running Boston has been a dream for Charlotte Gardiner of Charlottetown since she ran her first marathon in 2014, and this year she will realize that dream. She qualified last May at Maine’s Sugarloaf Marathon, running 42.2 km in the pouring rain with a huge smile on her face, knowing that it was her day.
  “I think part of the allure of Boston for many of us is the challenge of getting there, but I think the other part is everything Boston has come to represent,” she said. “I have watched the race from home on Marathon Monday every year since I began running, tracking those I knew running, and I cannot wait to be out there to experience it firsthand for the first time this year.”
  To prepare, she has begun online training with Lee McCarron and the Halifax Road Hammers, and has been encouraged by her results. She ran an impressive 1:32.40 at the Freeze Your Gizzard half marathon in Montague, P.E.I. on Feb. 26, bettering her previous PB by more than three minutes.
  More importantly, she said she is feeling good and having fun.
  “I am excited to see where my fitness will be, come April and, of course I have a dream goal in mind,” said Gardiner. “However, you only get to run Boston for the first time once, and it’s something so many people never get to run. This is really all about celebrating the opportunity of being there and enjoying every step.”
Charlotte Gardiner will make her Boston Marathon debut this year.
(Clockwise from above left) Ronald J. MacDonald, winner of the 1898 Boston Marathon; Fred Cameron winning the 1910 Boston Marathon; and Johnny Miles winning the 1926 Boston Marathon.
  The Maritime Provinces and New England states have a connection dating back centuries, when the shipping industry united many ports on the eastern seaboard. In 1917, Bostonians responded with immediate aid after the Halifax Explosion leveled much of that city, taking 2,000 lives, and Nova Scotia continues to express its gratitude to Boston every year by providing the official Christmas tree that is lit on the Boston Common.
  “It’s been almost 100 years since the City of Boston sent aid to Halifax after the December, 1917 explosion, and each year our city takes great pride in Nova Scotia’s tree that shines brightly in our city,” said T.K. Skenderian, communications director for the Boston Athletic Association. “We share cold weather, warm people, and a great relationship I think both cities really enjoy.”
  This lasting bond between regions has also carried over into the Boston Marathon. Three Maritimers have won the event, all of them Nova Scotians, dating as far back as the second Boston Marathon in 1898, which was won by Ronald J. MacDonald of Fraser’s Grant, N.S. In 1910 it was Fred Cameron, born in Advocate, N.S. and living in Amherst, N.S., who won the event. Johnny Miles of Sydney Mines, N.S. won it not once but twice, in 1926 and 1929, and the Johnny Miles Running Event Weekend is held every year in New Glasgow, N.S. in his honour.
  Skenderian said they are looking forward to welcoming another large and spirited contingent from the Maritimes, and wished these runners the best in their last few weeks of training.
  “Runners from the Maritimes endure some of the coldest long runs in their training for the Boston Marathon,” he said. “Our volunteers take great pride in servicing these, and all runners every year, and certainly when they can award a finisher’s medal around their necks. For runners from the Maritimes, these medals are very well earned.”

Click here for a complete list of Maritimers competing in the 2017 Boston Marathon.