Faces in the pack
By Marvin Pave, Globe Staff, 4/12/2002
Cathi Campbell did not spend months training for this year's Boston Marathon in hopes of collecting a big paycheck Monday. Nor did Brian Herr, Elizabeth Morin, Sarah Nixon, Thomas O'Hearn, or Dr. William Tan. They are typical "Faces in the Crowd," from among the nearly 17,000 official entrants for Boston 2002, individuals running the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston for the experience, the challenge, or a special cause.
Campbell, who said after her first Boston Marathon in 1994 that she'd never do it again, is glad she didn't stick to that decision. She tried shortly before her 30th birthday in 1997 "just to see how I could do," and the result (a 3:00.13) was a springboard for the Boston Latin and Northeastern University graduate to qualifying for the 2000 Olympic Trials in Columbia, S.C. Campbell, who lives and practices law in Allston, is returning to the Boston Marathon field for the first time since '97 and will represent the Boston Athletic Association with a goal of earning a berth at the 2004 Olympic Trials in St. Louis.
Herr, who lives a half-mile from the starting line in Hopkinton, will be running in his 15th Boston Marathon, including his 13th consecutive year as a member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge Team. Since 1990, the team has raised more than $13 million for the hospital's Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Cancer Research. Herr's 2002 run will be an emotional one because his father, Denis, died last month after a battle with cancer. "I'll continue to run in my father's honor," said Herr.
Morin, a Milford resident who grew up in Woolwich, Maine, will be experiencing her first marathon after years of competing in 10Ks and 5-milers. "It wasn't until last year that I started thinking seriously about running a marathon," said Morin, a member of the Tri-Valley Front-Runners club. "Some of the women I run with who had marathon experience encouraged me to give it a try at least once and I qualified at Lowell last October. It was close. I needed to stay at 3:55 or under and I made it in 3:53 in the 45-50 age group."
When Medfield's Nixon was a high school field hockey and lacrosse player in Shaker Heights, Ohio, the training activity she disliked the most was the mile run. But after being challenged by a friend to give long-distance running a shot, the Trinity College graduate has changed her tune. Also a member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge Team, Nixon, 37, qualified for the Boston Marathon last year when she ran a personal-best 2:53 in Paris. "It was my first trip to Europe -- April in Paris -- and it was great," said Nixon, who ran the 2001 Boston Marathon with her three sisters.
He'll be 71 in June, and you'd have to call Natick resident O'Hearn a late bloomer because, he recalled, "after I graduated from Tufts University , I got married, raised three kids, and smoked two packs of Luckies a day. I didn't start running again until I was 57 years old." The former Everett High and Tufts track captain has made up for lost time and also kicked the smoking habit. He's run close to 30 marathons in the last 13 years, including races in Greece, Iceland, Bermuda, Sweden, Denmark, and Chicago, and he was best among his age group when he competed in San Francisco at 60.
Tan, who hails from the Republic of Singapore, is a Fulbright scholar at Harvard University and a first-time Wheelchair Division competitor in Boston. But he's hardly a neophyte when it comes to wheelchair sports. A five-time Singapore wheelchair marathon champion who competed at the Paralympics at Seoul in 1988 and was a triple gold medalist at the Far East and South Pacific Games in 1986, Tan, 46, is a member of the Kids at Heart Marathon Team at Children's Hospital Boston. A polio victim at age 2, Tan's goal for Boston this year is "to complete the last half-mile of the race with my patient partner, Jessica Doktor, sitting in the chair with me." Tan, who has raised $2,500 in pledges for Children's -- a Harvard teaching hospital -- said his friends at the cafeteria at Harvard have been preparing him special "carbo-loading" lunches to get him ready. "The food's been so good, and I'm gaining so much weight that I hope I can fit into my chair," he said.
These six runners represent the majority of this year's Marathon field -- striving for personal goals in a celebration of fitness, camaraderie, tradition, and the spirit of giving. Look for their reports in Tuesday's Globe.
Cathi Campbell, 34
Her criminal law students at Northeastern University should cut Campbell a little slack at their 5:30 class Monday night since Campbell won't have much time to catch her breath. Campbell, a cross-country runner and miler at Boston Latin, stopped running after high school. "I was a couch potato with practically no sports interests," she said. "I was busy working and trying to put myself through [law] school."
Campbell was hired by the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department, and her supervisor, who had run the Boston Marathon, had an inkling he could persuade Campbell - who by now was running before work - to seriously train.
In the 1994 Marathon, she posted a 3:30. A few years later, she hooked up with the Boston Running Club and coach Jeff Staab, who felt she had the talent to qualify for the Olympic Trials."I kind of laughed that off and went home to talk to my husband [Kevin Daly] about it and he also encouraged me," said Campbell.
She came close to qualifying in Vermont (2:54) four years ago, then took some time off when her son was born. Success came in 1999 in Chicago (a 2:47), followed by the trials in South Carolina, where Campbell finished 57th at 2:52 in wilting heat.
She hopes to finish under the Olympic Trials qualifying time of 2:48 Monday. Campbell is active on Northeastern's Allston-Brighton Scholarship Committee, which awards full tuition to neighborhood residents. "I was a scholarship recipient years ago, and being on that same committee is one of the most pleasurable things that I do," she said.
Brian Herr, 39
Herr, who grew up in Erie, Pa., played football at Fairview High and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. It was while working in Texas for the Westinghouse Corporation that he realized running to the convenience store and the cleaners was good exercise, so he just kept adding on the miles.
Now employed by WESCO Distribution in Westwood, a national electrical wholesaler, Herr met his future wife, Mary, when he was chairman of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge and she was a volunteer runner. "Now she quarterbacks the fund-raising and I quarterback the sweating part," said Herr, who estimates that the couple - who have three children - have raised around $50,000 for Dana-Farber, one of the first organizations given official Marathon status by the BAA.
Herr started competitive racing at the Houston 10K. "I was amazed I could go 6 miles," he said. "I never dreamed that running a marathon would be possible." Herr's running partners have included Pete and Bill Santis, grandsons of Dr. Sidney Farber, founder of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "I got involved with Dana-Farber because my grandfather and uncle had died of cancer. This year, because of my father's passing, I know it will be a difficult day for me. But running as part of that team is also a great support structure."
Herr is a member of the Hopkinton School Building Committee, which has a meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday. "Usually, it's a hot shower, a couple of beers, and then to bed," said Herr. "With that meeting coming up Monday, I'll go easy on the beer."
Elizabeth Morin, 47
Morin was a pioneer of sorts, running on the first girls' track team at Morse High in Bath, Maine, as a quarter-miler and with the club track team at the University of Maine in Orono in the half-mile. "I had more fun than anything," recalled Morin.
Morin and her husband, David, have two children, Eric, 15, and Ann-Marie, 18. The latter, a senior captain of cross-country and track at Milford High, hopes to run cross-country at St. Anselm's College next fall.
Morin's daily runs start at 5:25 a.m. and wind through Milford and Hopedale. Morin said her return to competitive running was sparked by an appearance in the Shamrock Classic, sponsored by the Boston Celtics, shortly after her marriage. "I enjoyed that experience," she said, "and as I ran the 10Ks and 5-milers I noticed a great deal of improvement."
But it wasn't until last year that Morin had the Marathon on her mind. At the Bay State Marathon, Morin glanced at the time clocks frequently to see if she had a shot at qualifying for Boston. "I'd figure out how many minutes it was taking me to do each mile and it wasn't until about mile 22 that I started to tire. But as I neared the finish and knew how close I was to qualifying, I speeded things up at the end - and qualified with two minutes to spare. It was a great feeling to see my friends and my husband there at the finish line."
Morin realizes this could be her one and only Boston Marathon experience. "I've been given this one shot," she said, "and I know that no matter what happens, I'll have the lifetime memory of running the Boston Marathon."
Sarah Nixon, 37
The Wellesley Booksmith, located near the 13-mile mark of the Boston Marathon route, holds its weekly story hour today at 10:30. Nixon, who specializes in children's books, plans to regale her audience with stories about running, including "The Tortoise and the Hare."
But when it comes to long-distance running, Medfield resident Nixon is no tortoise: Monday, she will be running in her eighth Boston Marathon and her 13th marathon overall. Nixon was the top female finisher at the BAA Half Marathon last October with a time of 1:21. Although she has an outside shot at qualifying for the Olympic Trials if she can finish under 2:48 on Patriots Day, Nixon has her sights set on a sub-2:55.
"I took my first long-distance run in aerobic training shoes," recalled Nixon, who was so encouraged by that 11-mile unaccompanied jaunt from Medfield to Dover that she went to the local library to read up on marathoning. Nixon has been running for Dana-Farber since 1996.
Nixon, who taught kindergarten and first grade in Medfield, has three children ages 4 through 10. She ran her personal best time in Paris last year. "I was the first American female to cross the line in Paris," said Nixon, "but then again, don't ask me how many American women were in that race."
At last fall's New York City Marathon, Nixon donated 120 garlands, each containing 50 origami paper cranes, for display at the city's public libraries. The cranes, crafted by schoolchildren, represented the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Thomas O'Hearn, 71
He wanted to play football at Everett High School, one of the premier Class A powers of the late 1940s, but there were some words of wisdom from the football coach. "I just about got killed out there," recalled O'Hearn, "so Coach suggested that I go out for track."
It was a good move because O'Hearn ran a 4:28 mile in high school, nearly a decade before Roger Bannister ran the first sub-4-minute mile in England in 1954. O'Hearn also finished fifth in the New England Intercollegiate Cross-Country Championships while representing Tufts.
O'Hearn retired 10 years ago after a career with the Dennison Manufacturing Co. in Framingham, where he was in charge of new product development. He qualified for his first Boston Marathon by beating the qualifying time at the Boston Peace Marathon from Carlisle to Boston City Hall 13 years ago.
O'Hearn, who was clocked in 3:51.05 at the New York City Marathon last year, was hoping for a time of 3:40 or better this year, but a back injury hampered his training. so he'll try for 3:50 or better and enjoy the scenery and the crowds along the way.
"Boston's the best marathon in the world, so well organized. Not like in New York City where it's like a zoo," said O'Hearn, who trains by himself and takes pride in the fact that his daughter, who didn't take up marathoning until she was in her 30s, will likely finish the course in around three hours. "She just did the Brooklyn Half Marathon in an hour and 28 minutes. For me, marathoning is all about competition within myself. I love Boston the best."
William Tan, 46
He remembers his father supporting the family by selling banana fritters from a pushcart on the streets of Singapore. Times were so hard for Tan and his six siblings that his parents could not afford a wheelchair, forcing the paraplegic youngster to crawl around the house. "Growing up with disabilities was very challenging and my parents were forced to carry me piggyback to school until I was 10 years old," said Tan, a graduate student at Harvard in occupational and environmental health.
Tan's life changed dramatically in his junior year of high school when he was introduced to a paralyzed police officer, Wahid Baba, who specialized in wheelchair sports as a form of rehabilitation. "I fell in love with it instantly," said Tan. "For the first time in my life I had a sense of speed and of the wind blowing through my hair."
Tan was one of four countrymen selected for the 1988 Seoul Paralympics. Because he couldn't afford a racing chair, Tan's friend made one for him in his garage and completed it a week before the Games. But because of mechanical problems, Tan had problems steering and was disqualified.
Believed to be the first wheelchair athlete in Boston to race for a charity, Tan lost his father shortly before the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney. "It was a devastating time for me," he said. "I didn't go to Sydney and even though I qualified for Boston last year, I couldn't come because we had a memorial ceremony for my father that same week back home. So after all that has happened, being in Boston for this year's Marathon is special to me."
This story ran on page F9 of the Boston Globe on 4/12/2002. © Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.