Former Red Sox pitcher Mike Myers thought he knew what he was in for as he prepared to run the 2018 Boston Marathon, but nothing could prepare him or the rest of the nearly 30,000 entrants for what they were about to face Monday.
“Somebody told me the wind was going to be behind us, and it was behind us for a total of about 5 yards,’’ said Myers with a laugh. “Just the amount of rain that came down, I wasn’t even concentrating on the wind, although there was one point between miles 18 and 22 where the wind was coming in pretty fierce. It felt better than I thought it would though.’’
Myers was happy to finish the race, and not just so he could check off another item on his bucket list. The former relief pitcher who was a key member of the 2004 Red Sox team that ended the 86-year World Series drought, was running for the Angel Fund, which raises money for research of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
“They’re making strides in trying to find a cure, but until it’s completely done, and seeing how it affects people, it means a lot,’’ said Myers. “When I think of ALS, I think of the Boston area. Everything that goes on around the Angel Fund, and the Ice Bucket Challenge.
“I think it’s pretty cool how everybody’s embraced trying to help out and find a cure and bring awareness to the situation.’’
Myers became aware of the program during his time with the Red Sox. Teammate Mike Timlin’s mother had passed away from the disease shortly before Timlin joined the Red Sox in 2003. The righty reliever connected with the Angel Fund president Rich Kennedy and pledged to donate $500 for every relief appearance he made. The Red Sox Foundation would match. Timlin then proceeded to make 81 appearances in 2004 and 78 appearances in 2005.
“The awareness came first, and the real momentum came with the research that we’re seeing,’’ said Kennedy. “Everybody now knows a story about ALS. They know something about it because of the Red Sox, because of Pete Frates, because of the ice bucket challenge and things like that. It’s pretty amazing.’’
Kennedy, who lost both his father and his younger brother to ALS, was grateful for the exposure, as well as the fund-raising. A littler more than two years ago, he was also diagnosed while he was training for what would have been his 32nd marathon.
“A 23-mile run turned into a nine-mile run because my left leg just quit on me,’’ said Kennedy, who lives in Cohasset and works as a physical therapist. “I’m very in tune with what’s going on with my body, but I’ve treated literally dozens of ALS patients. I was way too familiar with the symptoms and the likelihood of it happening to me. The black cloud had finally struck.’’
Myers, 48, had stayed in shape since last pitching in the big leagues in 2007, but he was not a serious runner. After committing to run Boston, he embarked on an aggressive 30-week program in October to get ready for the race back in his hometown of Castle Rock, Colo., where he is neighbors with Timlin.
“I’ve got people all around me in the neighborhood that have run marathons, Iron Mans, and all kinds of long distance stuff, and they’ve been giving me a lot of advice,’’ said Myers.
Although Myers played for the Red Sox, he did not have much familiarity with the course heading into the race.
“I knew how to get from Fenway Park to the finish line, but that was about it,’’ said Myers, who now works as a special assistant for the Major League Baseball Players Association. “It was a little shocking to see how many towns I would be covering, because when I run in Castle Rock, over 20 miles I basically go through two towns.
“Seeing how close the towns are and how many I’d be going through, it seemed like a lot longer than it really is.’’
Whenever someone asked Myers what his goal was, he replied that it would be to run 100 percent. It didn’t quite work out that way, as Myers estimated he walked maybe a mile and a quarter, but ran the rest of the race.
“I’m just glad I was able to do this for ALS.’’
Kennedy is also grateful for the work of Myers and the others who were running for the Angel Fund. His form of the disease can be hereditary, and while none of his four children have been diagnosed, he is concerned for their futire.
“It’s absolutely remarkable. I’m truly optimistic for myself. The main goal in starting this was more to protect my kids,’’ said Kennedy, 58. “I wanted treatment for them and their cousins more than anything. Things have happened so unbelievably quickly over the past two to three years that I’m thinking this could actually save myself.’’