For the last 35 years, on the third Monday of April, Mike Beeman has been a fixture at the Boston Marathon starting line near Hopkinton Green. He always has completed the grueling 26-mile, 385-yard race, never once failing to reach the finish line on Boylston Street, recording a personal best of 2:37.00 in his fourth start in 1982.
“It was the same year as the Duel in the Sun,’’ Beeman noted, referring to the epic showdown between eventual race winner Alberto Salazar and runner-up Dick Beardsley. “I was dueling with them at the start, and then the gun went off.’’
For the last six years, Beeman’s admiring former students from the Class of 1979 and 1980 at Salem (N.H.) High School, several of whom have been inspired to run Boston, have celebrated the humble and self-deprecating runner’s amazing streak of longevity and perseverance.
As has been their custom at a carbo load dinner party every Saturday night before the race, they gather at the Salem home of Paul Fallisi (Class of ’79) for a mini class reunion to toast their former track coach and favorite teacher, who now teaches marketing at Tift County High in Georgia, and to wish the Derry, N.H., native well on yet another Boston Marathon jaunt.
“I ran my first marathon in 2006 and Mike had seen my name in the paper and he looked me up to congratulate me,’’ Fallisi said. “I was just flattered that Mike Beeman even remembered me, because he was the inspiration for me even doing it.
“Ever since he moved to Georgia, I’ve had Mike come stay with me and we get reconnected once a year and enjoy the celebration of the Marathon.’’
This year, though, the party was in jeopardy of being called off – and Beeman’s streak in danger of running its course — when the 56-year-old suffered a bilateral quadriceps rupture during an early morning run last Labor Day near his home in Tifton, Ga.
“It’s an extremely unusual injury, and it comes from basically having run 114,000 miles on my body, a lot of basketball, jumping, quadriceps straining,’’ said Beeman, who played basketball at Merrimack College and was inspired to run his first Boston Marathon in 1978 after watching his college buddy, Dave McGillivray, run the year before. “I had done a jump rope and plyometrics and just beat the crap out of my body.’’
And so, while he was out jogging last Sept. 3, Beeman’s left quad snapped. He immediately dropped to both knees, which caused the right quad to snap as well. Beeman was left helpless, all alone in the middle of the road, unable to get to his feet. He recalled how he calmly sat himself up on the hot Georgia asphalt and pulled his kneecaps up from his shins, waiting in agony until a female cyclist came to his aid and called for help.
“It’s hard to believe I’m seven months removed from that,’’ said Beeman, who underwent surgery that afternoon and was on his feet three days later, shuffling around on a walker. He spent the next three months rehabbing, and walked his first mile on Oct. 23. He worked his way up to a 6-mile walk on New Year’s Day, adding a mile every week until he jogged and walked to a 2:19:00 in a half-marathon Feb. 17 at Jacksonville, Fla., which set the table for Beeman to do his first marathon since his injury, jogging and walking his way to a 5:02:00 in the Albany, Ga., Marathon March 2.
“I was at a Walmart here and I ran into somebody who wondered if I was going up to Boston as a spectator this year,’’ Beeman said recently by phone from Georgia, where the divorced father of two has made his home for the last decade. “I guess everybody just assumes that I’m done, but I’m not. I don’t feel that way at all. I don’t feel like it’s time.’’
After walking and jogging his way to a 4:47:59 in a brutally hot Boston last year, Beeman is prepared to see his streak, tied for 13th-longest among active runners in race history, extended to 36 consecutive starts when he lines up for the 117th running of the Boston Marathon Monday.
“Wouldn’t it be ironic if I came close to that time with two new legs?’’ Beeman mused. “It would tickle me. But I’m just going to enjoy it and I’m going to walk a lot and listen to my body for a change and spend a lot of time in Wellesley, because those girls are amazing and so much fun.’’
It used to be Beeman ran Boston with his head down, oblivious to all the scenery he passed along the way. He pounded the pavement, killing himself to post a decent result to qualify for the next year’s race.
“I think Mike smells the roses a lot more now and just realizes how big and how beautiful Boston is,’’ Fallisi said. “He spends more time slapping high-fives with the people lined up on the side of the course. He enjoys and embraces and looks forward to Heartbreak Hill. I think he enjoys Wellesley College a lot more than he had in his first 30 marathons.’’Continued...