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Faces in the crowd

They chalked up miles of smiles along the way

By Maggie Cassidy
Globe Correspondent / April 20, 2010

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From his home in West Des Moines, Iowa, last week, Jason Flogel said he was excited to run his first Boston Marathon wearing bib No. 41, meaning he would rub shoulders with other elites from around the world — only 40 of whom were ranked ahead of him.

“I’m from Iowa,’’ he had said. “I don’t get to race these guys all the time.’’

Flogel, one of the runners randomly chosen by Boston Athletic Association executive director Guy Morse to have their stories told in the Globe, did more than just race alongside the elites yesterday: The 27-year-old Web developer edged ahead of many of them, turning in a personal best of 2:21:51 to secure 26th place.

“It was a great day for a race,’’ Flogel said. “It was a very new experience walking out with all the other elites. It was kind of overwhelming.’’

Flogel was familiar with running long distances in the Midwest, where he’s completed five marathons, but he appreciated the atmosphere of Boston, particularly the cowbells that kept him going just after Wellesley College. Whereas other marathons draw crowds of supporters at the start and finish lines, “it was awesome to have the crowd all along the course,’’ he said.

“It seemed to be much more of a marathon-friendly city,’’ he said. “From that aspect, it made it fun.’’

While Flogel said he “could’ve dealt with a little less wind,’’ the toughest challenges of the race — particularly the Newton hills — were about what he expected. He conquered Heartbreak Hill by keeping his head down.

With his eyes on the Olympic trials, Flogel said he has no current plans to return to Boston but hasn’t counted it out. For now, he’s just happy with yesterday’s result.

“Everyone says it’s a hard course to run fast,’’ he said. “I’ll take a personal best whenever I can.’’

Scott Przystas
Scott Przystas, a 24-year-old physical education teacher from Grand Haven, Mich., also ran a personal best in his first Boston, clocking in at 3:00:10.

He hoped to run under the three-hour mark, but he couldn’t be disappointed with a personal record, especially when the course’s difficulty exceeded his expectations. The downhills in Newton were particularly tough, he said.

“I was not expecting them,’’ he said. “They just trashed your quads. Every step, every stride I was just praying that I wasn’t going to clinch up.’’

Part of the reason his quads held out, he said, was the support of volunteers and spectators.

“The crowd is just nonstop people, nonstop clapping, nonstop cowbells, nonstop cheering,’’ he said. “That adrenaline will take you a long way in a race like that.’’

Przystas will be back in Michigan today after completing the second leg of a two-car, 12-hour drive back from Boston with his girlfriend and their families. If he runs Boston again, he said, he would run a slower pace to enjoy the sights and sounds.

“I saw a lot of cool things today,’’ he said. “The racers had a lot of cool personalities. It’s unique, and that’s why it’s the best marathon I think that I’ve ever done.’’

Yvonne Jessup
Yvonne Jessup, a member of the Visalia Runners out of Visalia, Calif., ran her third Boston Marathon about four minutes slower than she expected, for a 3:34:37 — but she still considered the event a good time and a great race.

“I thought the weather was beautiful, it really cooperated,’’ she said. “The crowds are just great, everyone cheers you on. There was a lot of excitement along the course.’’

Jessup, 47, said the notorious hills, especially in Wellesley, haven’t gotten any easier since her first two Boston Marathons, but a loudspeaker encouraging runners after Heartbreak Hill was particularly helpful.

“For them to be announcing that for all the runners all the way through, it boosts your spirits,’’ she said. “I appreciated it today.’’

Admiring the scenery along Commonwealth Avenue also added some kick to her step, she said, while a tailwind around the last curve pushed her home.

“I really enjoy all the old architecture — all those houses are just gorgeous,’’ she said. “I could really keep my mind off the pain when I was looking at all that.’’