Local TV news personalities recall the most extreme Boston Marathon weather

"It wasn’t our biggest storm, but it was our wettest, and it was miserable from start to finish."

04/16/2012 - Wellesley, MA - Wellesley College - Boston Marathon runners at the half-way water station in Wellesley coped with the staggering heat the best they could - by dousing themselves with water.  Dina Rudick/Globe Staff.
A 2012 Boston Marathon runner at the halfway water station in Wellesley coped with the staggering heat by dousing himself with water. –Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

In the 122-year history of the Boston Marathon, the race has never been canceled due to inclement weather, according to the Boston Athletic Association.

That doesn’t mean the race hasn’t seen severe weather, however. In 1967, the B.A.A. says runners faced snow squalls during the first five miles of the race, and in 1905, the temperature was reported to have reached 100 degrees.

With this year’s Boston Marathon fast approaching, we asked four local television personalities who have covered the race for years to share their thoughts on the most memorable Boston Marathon weather.

Note: These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity and length. Weather descriptions are courtesy of the B.A.A.

2002: A heavy mist severely reduced visibility.

Margaret Okayo is followed by Catherine Ndereba, both from Kenya, during the 2002 Boston Marathon. —Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff
Advertisement

Mike Lynch, WCVB-TV sports anchor: “The one that affected the broadcast the most was 2002, with the fog and the mist. That one stands out to me as a broadcaster because it turned it into almost a radio event. I think I was on the back of a truck that time. People were asking me how big of a lead the leader had, and I was counting the telephone poles between the leader and challenger. I said, ‘Well, he’s got a four-telephone-pole lead right now, but I don’t know how big that is. And now it’s narrowed; he’s got a two-telephone-pole lead!'”

Mike Wankum, WCVB-TV meteorologist: “I also remember 2002 because of the fog, when the choppers couldn’t get up. The helicopters couldn’t get shots, and as you watched it on TV, all you could see was this fog. I remember [former WCVB-TV reporter] Jack Harper being in the back of the press truck describing the race. He couldn’t see, and none of us could see. Jack Harper is retired now, but he always had this incredibly dry wit. He was one of the only people who could make a race in a fog bank entertaining.”

Advertisement

Lynch:There were cameras on the course, but they were spaced out. I think it was the starting line, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, and Cleveland Circle, so the only time you could actually see the runners was when they approached these cameras stationed on the sidewalk. In the meantime, we just did play-by-play, like it was radio.”

2004: The hottest marathon since 1976 (86 degrees at the finish) had a record number of heat-related illnesses.

Matt Noyes, NBC 10 Boston chief meteorologist: “I remember 2004, because it was crazy hot. We forecasted temperatures up in the 80s, and it definitely reached that. When you’re at the finish line, you always wonder, with the sea breeze, will it really get that hot? In 2004, it definitely did. I think it was 86 by the time it was done, and I think that was the hottest it had been since the ’70s.”

Lynch:It seems like it’s cold almost every year, so when it’s not, those are the years that stand out. ‘04 was a year that was really, really hot. Along the route, runners were dropping everywhere. Newton-Wellesley’s emergency room was jammed early with people dropping out of the race.”

2007: Rain, wind gusts of 25 to 30 miles per hour, and temperatures in the mid 40s.

Runners brave the elements at the 2007 Boston Marathon. —John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Eric Fisher, WBZ-TV chief meteorologist: “They were so on-the-fence about canceling the marathon in 2007, which seems almost impossible. It has to be really bad to cancel the Boston Marathon. The 2007 nor’easter was called days in advance — it was damaging, litter down all over the course, trees down, pouring rain, just a disaster. That was probably the biggest marathon storm that we’ve seen in recent years. Logistically, I’ve talked to [race director] Dave McGillivray about this: That was the most difficult one. How do you stage? How do you set it up? You’ve got all of these tables, and volunteers, and tents to set up, and bus routes and equipment, and you’re trying to factor in all of these things. It was just a ripping storm in the overnight. The day itself was kind of rough, but not as bad as what we saw just a few hours earlier. And a lot of times with the marathon, that’s it — you’re trying to nail a good eight-hour window [of weather], which is still pretty tricky this time of year.”

2012: A high of 89 degrees was reported in Framingham by midday.

Stefano Durante of Italy cools off under a hose held by Kathryn O’Friel of Ashby while climbing Heartbreak Hill in the heat during the 2012 Boston Marathon. —John Blanding/Globe Staff
Advertisement

Kevin Lemanowicz, Boston 25 News chief meteorologist:For me, 2012 sticks out the most. I was at the finish line, or just beyond the finish line, as people were coming in. It was brutally hot that day. I believe it was 87 degrees at the finish line, and people were just coming in and collapsing. That became a story connected to the weather, so that’s why I was down there. I remember thinking I couldn’t have run two miles in this on my best day, and these people are running 26.2.”

Wankum:The one I remember most impressively was in 2012, when it was so hot. Everyone always talks about the legendary ‘run for the hoses’ back in 1976. That was like 96 degrees on the course. But that one in 2012, I think it was 87 at the finish line. Fans loved it, because you’re outside, the sun is beaming down, life feels wonderful, but the runners were suffering. They had trained in cold weather, and then to be exposed to that kind of heat is so tough.”

Fisher:I ran the marathon last year, and it was about as cold as it could be this time of the year. But last year’s weather is better than heat. What we had in 2012 is much more dangerous, and it’s a lot harder for the athletes or whoever is running the marathon to deal with. The heat is the No. 1 thing that is most difficult for the runners. [Medical director] Chris Troyanos, there in the medical tent, will tell you that last year’s weather was such misery for everyone watching and running, but they didn’t have nearly the amount of people they had to treat as when it’s even 70 degrees, or 75 degrees, let alone in the 80s.”

2018: Driving rain, winds gusting to 45 miles per hour, and temperatures in the low 40s.

Elite runners power through the rain during the 2018 Boston Marathon. —Keith Bedford / The Boston Globe, File

Fisher:From a personal perspective, 2018 was miserable. You’re going at it as a forecaster and a runner. It’s a double whammy. You’ve got the pressure of forecasting the race, and then you’ll have to go out and run in it afterward. There were times where you were just laughing like a crazy person while you were running. It wasn’t a passing shower or storm or burst of wind; it was just dumping rain, wind in your face, from the moment you started in Hopkinton all the way into Boston.”

Wankum:Last year, with the cold and driving rain, was also impressive. I remember looking at people on TV and thinking, ‘This just looks awful.’”

Lemanowicz:I remember people just dropping out with the sleet and rain and how cold it was. It was a crazy weather day last year.”

Noyes:Last year definitely takes the cake. I remember being out there at the starting line, and it was just absolutely soaking wet. An inch of rain came down, the temperature was in the low 40s, and the wind was whipping, so it felt like 30s. We had water dripping on our electronics, even with them under a tent. The poor runners getting out there were cramping. It was absolutely terrible.”

Fisher: “The most memorable part of last year was being at my in-laws’ house, and my wife was duct-taping all of my equipment. We were wrapping duct tape around my gloves, around my shoes, trying to keep water out. It was a very solemn atmosphere. It wasn’t our biggest storm, but it was our wettest, and it was miserable from start to finish.”

 Photos: The Boston Marathon through the years: