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Faces

Quartet was up to test

Finishing touches from four challengers

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Maggie Cassidy
Globe Correspondent / April 22, 2008

For all four Boston Marathon "Faces" profiled in Friday's Globe, yesterday was a return to the big race. None of them newcomers, each had made the 26.2-mile journey at least twice - and one was making his 36th trip from Hopkinton to Boston.

After overcoming huge personal challenges, each person in the eclectic mix returned with more spirit and gusto than before.

Ronald Kmiec, 65, had a heart attack Nov. 22, 2007, and his 11,687-day running streak came to an end - but he didn't miss his 36th straight Boston Marathon, finishing in 4 hours, 16 minutes, and 24 seconds.

"I feel very satisfied that I was able to just keep the streak alive," said the concert pianist from Carlisle. "It would have had to have been something severe that would have reminded me of my heart attack to have stopped me."

Beth Kissinger, 42, one of three siblings in her family with a rare genetic liver disease, said she experienced "the best and worst of the Boston Marathon."

Kissinger, of Hopkinton, N.H., ran her fourth Boston race, but her first for the American Liver Foundation. In honor of her brother, who died from the disease in 2003, she painted "STEVE" down her calves and arms.

Although nausea and cramps caused her to finish about 40 minutes behind her desired time at 4:13:52, she was overwhelmed by the crowd support.

"It was really supportive to hear them yell his name. That was really powerful," Kissinger said. "I really wanted to cry or stop, and then somebody would be like, 'Come on, Steve! You can do it!' and I'd want to finish."

Norfolk's Kris Porell, 43, also making her fourth Boston run, recovered from breast cancer in 2002 but had a tough go at Boston in 2004, finishing in five hours and swearing she wouldn't return. But yesterday she brought her time down to an impressive 3:40:56 - four minutes better than her Phoenix Marathon finish in January.

"You just have a different feeling each time," she said. "You're more proud of what you're doing and you can feel more strength. I think I might try it again."

Johan Otter, 46, of Escondido, Calif., ran a hasty 3:30:54 in his third Boston Marathon, his first since surviving a viscous grizzly bear attack Aug. 25, 2005.

Otter nearly matched his qualifying time of 3:29 at Utah's St. George Marathon in October - just his third attempt at qualifying since the bear inflicted almost 30 separate wounds and broke a vertebrae.

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