Not to completely discredit the Globe’s fine Boston Marathon preview section, but among all the stories of Kenyan dominance, historical factoids, and faces in the crowd, there is nary a mention of perhaps this year’s most compelling story.
After all, how often is it that the annual race can boast a 438-pound beekeeper from Wisconsin among its participants?
Scratch that, a 358-pound beekeeper from Wisconsin.
Twenty-six-year-old Jacob Seilheimer, a student at Franklin Pierce in New Hampshire, still plans to run Monday’s marathon, after shedding 80 pounds in his ultimate quest of…well, not dying, but lately it seems, it hasn’t been easy, the privileged runners of Monday’s race unwilling to share the public road with someone who hasn’t trained as vociferously as they have over the past year.
“Many of my fellow runners and I log an incredible number of miles each week in the hopes of being able to qualify for Boston. I'm sure that you have received an exception to run because of your fundraising efforts. In my opinion, this is why you don't belong,” writes John Toth of Palmdale, Calif., in one of the many critical e-mails Seilheimer has posted on his website (http://whatwouldjacobdo.com) since deciding to run.
“Anyone who runs Boston should earn it. Your participation in the marathon diminishes the experience for everyone involved. Why set my alarm for 4:30 or 5:00 each morning to train if I can slide into Boston by a publicity stunt -- albeit an altruistic one? When I finally do qualify for Boston, I want to line up with elite athletes who have proven their dedication through years of training and thousands of miles. It is nothing against you personally, but you are the guy who cuts in line to the detriment of everyone behind you.”
OK, pal. We’re glad you have so much faith that a 358-pound guy will serve as a detriment to others, but we tend to think the real runners might leave him a wee bit behind, no?
For the record, here is Jacob at 438 pounds last October, dressed up as what is apparently Rosie O'Donnell for Halloween.
The question here is: Who is he hurting? Does he give the prestigious Boston Marathon a bad name by trying to accomplish his goal (however unrealistic it may be)? He certainly won’t be the only unofficial runner that tries to make the trip from Hopkinton to Boston Monday morning. He’s raising money for charity. He might inspire other obese people to follow a similar path of losing weight.
"It's not going to be pretty," Seilheimer told the Portland Press-Herald. Jog-walk miles at about an 18-minute pace would bring him into town before dark, and he's determined to get through: "Barring something physical, like a dislocated hip or something, I can at least crawl the last few miles."
You’d think the Boston Athletic Association would embrace Seilheimer’s quest. In essence, these are the stories the Boston Marathon should be about, but always seem to get passed up in favor of a Kenyan whose name we won’t remember until the next year’s race. Sorry if that offends the folks who’ve trained all year for this moment in the sun, but frankly, most of us would rather watch paint dry.
Enter a compelling guy like the beekeeper from Wisconsin, and, well, heck now I’m hooked on wanting to watch the race, just to see if he actually does walk, or even crawl by, at some point during the day. I mean, I’m truly impressed and awed by the people who trained daily for this race, but truthfully, hearing about it is sort of like me breaking down my fantasy baseball team for you. You don’t care, and frankly, neither do I.
I do, however, care about what Seilheimer’s next move is. And if the “real” runners get put off by that turn of events, that a 358-pound beekeeper might have more support behind him than anyone else on the course, then perhaps they’ve lost the true meaning of the sport anyway.
In a blog entry posted last night, Seilheimer addressed his critics:
"I’m sorry if I have offended anyone. I didn’t know that bandits were such a black eye for the race. I didn't know so many people would want to stick a shiv (sic) in one of my legs because I wanted to experience the "religious" experience that is the Boston Marathon -- that so many have said is the greatest day of their lives.
I assumed I could run down the road by myself, a long way behind the real runners. Proving something to myself, proving that I could I could do something that seemed so impossible. No matter what happens on Monday, this has been an unbelievable experience for me….
…I guess if they remove me from the race I’ll find a running track, walking path, dog park, bike trail, ski hill, anywhere with a measured distance and run the race by myself. Any 26.2 miles will do. I just thought it might be a little more convenient to use the same one everyone else was..."
Let the man run. It’s not like you’ll have to get out of his way or anything.