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Boston Weather: 45.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Weather Tests MIT Marathoners

By Brian Loux


The cheers. The agony. The celebration. The two days off.

One way or another, numerous MIT students took advantage of Monday’s Patriot’s Day holiday by getting involved with the 108th Boston Marathon. While most of them lined up around the last four miles of the race to watch, others opted to run part or all of the race, or serve as a race volunteer for the day.

Adding to the race’s already exhausting challenges was 80°F and above heat combined with strong gusts of wind. Boston Athletic Association media contact Jack Fleming said that medical assistance along the course took in two to three times as many runners as usual.

“It was a tough race. Coaches were telling us to throw out our goal times,” said Eugene J. Lim G, a registered runner with bib number 4127. “Being the village idiot that I am, I only modified my time by five minutes instead of the 50 minutes to an hour they had advised.”

Lim, who unofficially ran the marathon for the last two years and then qualified for the marathon this year with a time of 3:08, nonetheless decided to run for charity. He ran for Children’s Hospital, specifically in memory of 11-year-old Anderson Nguyen who passed away last August after complications during a bone marrow transplant.

Lim was also honored as one of the Saucony 26, the shoe company’s program that recognizes 26 people (one for each mile) with special reasons for running.

Lim’s troubles came to him late in the race. “Past Heartbreak [Hill, around the 21st mile of the race], my muscles just stopped contracting. It was pretty scary.” Despite the pain, Lim continued on until the I-95 overpass near Boston’s CITGO sign. “I don’t know what happened ... but I fell to the ground ... and there were three Red Cross people standing over me,” Lim said.

However, this turned out to be what Lim described as his most memorable moment of the race. “They asked me if I wanted to go on, and I did, especially because I was running for charity ... the crowd roared its approval.”

Lim ended up finishing in 3:51, far behind his goal. However, Lim said he will “absolutely” run the race next year. “I’ve done it before,” he said. “I know I can do it again.”

Being a bandit

A majority of student runners, however, fall into the category of “bandit runners,” or runners who enter the race at Hopkinton unregistered.

Francesca E. Guidi ’04 and Debbie Cheng ’04 both opted to be bandit runners for this year’s race. “It was a last moment decision,” said Guidi. “Debbie and I thought it would be our last chance. Next year, when we would be working, we may not have the chance or be in shape to do it.”

Unfortunately, crime didn’t pay for these bandits. The pain and the heat eventually became overbearing, and Cheng’s knees began to give out. “We had to walk after half of it,” said Guidi. However, both women were still determined to finish, and according to Cheng, they “walked and ran to the end.” The two finished in around seven hours.

Guidi and Cheng found that the spectators were the most memorable part of the day. “People were so nice, everyone was so supportive and sprayed us with a hose when we went by,” Guidi said. “It was awesome,” Cheng said. “All the support and cheering from the people was really uplifting.”

Both women will move to New York within the next year, but neither believes she will be able to undertake the New York Marathon. “I wish I had trained this term,” Cheng said.

Jump for Joy

When wannabe runners don’t have rides out to the starting line, many opt to become “jumpers,” or runners that enter the race after the starting line, usually by jumping over the race fences.

Many jump in to run with their friends and encourage them to continue. Goodwin Chen ’04 jumped in with a small pool of seniors to push on bandit runner Kartik S. Lamba ’04 at the Mile 22 mark. “I hadn’t seen the marathon, so I thought I might as well see it as a runner.”

Lamba sent out an e-mail the night before the marathon asking his friends to join him in the race. “I did it last year for the first time, and saw others jump in the race,” Lamba said. “I thought that would really help ... it was something to look forward to.”

Chen’s 4.2 mile endeavor did not tire him out much. First, the weather cooperated during the stint. “I did not feel the heat because it was cloudy and windy,” he said. Additionally, Chen said, the run was easy because Lamba “was dead tired by then. It was very easy for us all.” Lamba agreed with Chen’s synopsis of the last leg of his race. “By that point, your muscles are cramping ... and you’ve got blisters everywhere,” Lamba said. “But I was just in it to finish the race.”

In retrospect, Chen wishes that he jumped in at an earlier mark, and is considering doing longer distances in future races.

A little help from your friends

Ask any runner, and they will tell you that they could not have completed the race alone. Cameron M. Bass ’04, along with the other members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, volunteered to hand out water and Gatorade to all the runners that passed by. “We have contacts from the past years,” Bass said, explaining how his fraternity got involved. “They’re really nice about it and they set you up with a place to be and they give you a free red jacket.”

While most runners and spectators went home before dusk, Bass and the other volunteers had to work for eight hours on race day. “It was pretty intense,” he said. “We’re getting water and Gatorade ... and there’s a such a horde of people coming in at times.” At other times, Bass said, the job was fun. “We try to give [the runners] Gatorade without breaking their pace. A lot of times they will go by and accidentally splash you or spit on you ... it’s entertaining.”

One benefit to the job was that the unusual weather was never a bother for the volunteers. “We were sitting on top of hundreds of gallons of water,” Bass said.