Marathon Monday

Running Boston at age 65 meant a lot to me – a bid for immortality.  My stretch goal was to run at the same pace I ran it at age 48. 

It’s an inspiring course.  The first 4 miles of downhill tempt everyone to a fast start.  The next 11 are about controlling pace over mostly flat roads.  Then, the course dives down a long steep hill to Newton Lower Falls and the race really begins.  The Newton hills demand grit.  Finally, one hopes to have gas in the tank for a fast finish down through Brookline into Boston.

Four weeks earlier on my birthday, I had run the first 22 miles of the course and felt great – started in the dark on a beautiful cold morning; ran a steady pace on the flats with a slight tail wind; felt the passion to accelerate over the hills; crested Heartbreak Hill to see the sun rising over the city; stopped at Boston College feeling confident for a strong final four miles on race day.  A great run and a peak experience in itself, but perhaps a training error. 

I figured I had four weeks to recover and hoped to be as strong or stronger on race day.  I did some shorter, faster training runs and rested up.   In the week or two before the race, with several years of training behind me, I worried that I’d get hurt or catch COVID.  The day before the race, I stumbled going up the stairs in flip-flops, felt a twinge in my hamstring and thought it was all over . . . but the hamstring loosened up.

On race day, I went out at 8:40 pace, about 15 seconds faster than I had run four weeks earlier.  I gambled that I’d be able to maintain that steady pace over the hills and average out to a slightly faster run than four weeks earlier.  In fact, I averaged the same pace through mile 22, but I was decelerating, not accelerating.   I didn’t have much left in the tank after Heartbreak.

Near Cleveland Circle, there was a man holding a sign that said “Finish on Empty.”  I yelled over to him – “Hey, I’m already on empty.”  Not quite empty, I had enough to finish down Beacon street running 9:00 to 9:30 pace, but not the fast finish I’d hoped. 

My tank was so empty at the finish line that the short walk to the Public Garden to meet my wife felt longer than the race.  I noticed that a lot of other finishers didn’t seem to be walking so slowly.

I had finished in 3:52, about 13 minutes slower than I had in 2005.  So much for agelessness. 

Most of the people around me on the course were from out-of-state – T-shirts and accents from across the country and around the world.  I had not fully appreciated how far people at all levels of competition come to run this race.  Lucky we are to live in this state.

As a public servant, I marveled at the brilliantly executed logistics of the event:  The clean online sign-up process, the clear pre-race communications, the military marshalling of all the region’s school buses to convey 30,000 runners to the starting line (not to mention the marshalling of all of the region’s portable bathrooms), and the great support on the route – a massive volunteer army.

Hats off to the Boston Athletic Association and their race director, Dave McGillivray, and enormous gratitude to all the volunteers.  Great thanks also to the communities who host the event and all the public safety personnel from dozens of agencies who mobilize to keep the event safe. 

Special gratitude to all who came out along the route.  I ran my first marathon at 16 and I’ve been doing long races my whole life.  I am grateful to live in a sports town that celebrates runners.

Thanks to all for the very kind words below!!!! I am grateful for the support.


Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

86 replies on “Marathon Monday”

  1. Hope all goes well with a run that is safe, speedy, and rewarding! You are amazingly versatile!

  2. Good luck on the commemoration of the Battle of Marathon and of Lexington and Concord.

      1. Ok. One victory to which democracy owes all, and one opening skirmish in the American fight for independence.

  3. I recognize your bunny ears, Will because I was wearing them too while face painting all the beautiful children at the Community Egg Hunt! Hope you enjoyed running. Well done!

  4. Will, CONGRATS to you! My husband ran the course in about the same time as you a few years ago when he was 4 years younger than you. Your time was GREAT! What an accomplishment! Yay you!

  5. Congrats Will! I stopped running marathons in my late fifties. But, to be honest that course with all those downhills in the first half of the race were never good for my quads.

    I hope you recover quickly!

  6. Congratulations, Senator! I’m proud to be a BAA volunteer, offering you water and cheering along the way!

  7. How inspiring,Will!
    Thank you for sharing your experience-a true gift to us all.
    I’ll look forward to reading your posting about your run at age 85!

  8. Quite an accomplishment to run it officially twice, and even more for practice. We should all be so healthy at 65! Congratulations, Senator.

  9. Congratulations! You did great! You’re a little older than me; we’ve met a few times around the neighborhood and I would have guessed you were maybe 50. Maybe I should take up running . . . nah!

  10. CONGRATULATIONS! An incredible feat to run a marathon! You did it. It was an incredible day for the city and all who came. Not only the runners but all those who supported them. So many joyful moments. Thank you for sharing the fullness of your day’s experience.

  11. Nice story. Hats off to you finishing the race. It’s a great memory you will treasure.

    Thanks for sharing.


  12. Congrats! We followed you on the app all morning! Thrilled you were able to finish!

  13. Good job Will, really good job! I hope you give the joints plenty of time to recover. Still a lot of years ahead and you are going to need them.

  14. Senator, I have always thought runners have a better perspective of life, since it whizzes by faster, so you know you gotta get crankin’. Thank you for going the extra mile for us.

  15. Will — I never, ever would have guessed you are 65! Very impressive to run a marathon, for sure!
    Kathy Greenough

  16. Congratulations, Will. I am decidedly (and unfortunately) not a runner. My oldest daughter and I watched in person and we were in awe of anyone that finished – we were in Cleveland Circle and saw the post-Heartbreak Hill exhaustion on everyone’s faces!

  17. Congratulations!!! Your commitment & perseverance are inspiring! I hope you celebrated your marathon accomplishment!!

  18. Congratulations Senator Will…. that’s an awesome Job!!!????????

  19. You’re amazing, Will! What a great example of staying forever young you’ve set for all of us. In this time of such hardship around the world, it’s so important to hear uplifting and inspiring stories. You’ve given us a great one! Here’s to another 30 years of running for you.
    All the best,
    Will T.

  20. Loved reading about your Boston Marathon experience! CONGRATS on a strong finish and take good care of yourself as you recover and prepare for next year!

  21. Perseverance is a tremendous quality. I appreciate your tribute to the organizers, volunteers and municipalities along the race. This 65 year old enjoyed the entire race on Channel 4. Thanks for their great coverage!

  22. Congratulations Will. You are an inspiration to many of us. We may not be able to run marathons like you but we can try to stay in shape as we age.

  23. What a wonderful tribute to this historical marathon. I’m so impressed Senator! I enjoyed being a spectator on the sideline. It was so exciting to see the people of Boston out again enjoying the event!

  24. Congratulations! That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing your highs & lows from marathon day!

  25. Fantastic race Senator. 3:52 is fabulous at any age. Thanks for the on-the-scene narrative. I felt like I was there.

  26. Terrific accomplishment, congratulations! You’re a role model in so many varied ways. (ps wow, 8:40 steadily for 22 miles :))

  27. Will … 8:51 pace for 26 miles … impressive to me, regardless of age. At 65 … just amazing. But as we all know, there always be those greater and lesser than us … even ourselves over time. Just another way that you are so special. Congratulations … Chuck

  28. Congrats on your run! Excellent work! I ran also yesterday, and was such an awesome event. Very few things compare to that unique Boston Marathon vibe! What an experience!

  29. My dad, Philmore Gilbert, was a runner. Actually, when he would run the reservoir in the late fifties, 60s cops would stop him….no one was running at the time. He never did run the marathon, but the marathon was always a part of our family life. We would drive out to Hopkinton and then stop at various places on the way in to Boston to cheer on our favorites: the younger and elder Johnny Kelly, the “Preacher”, Erich Segal, the Yale University professor who wrote “Love Story” . Very few ran the marathon in those days…and fewer people watched. But every year, on my birthday, April 19, Paul Revere’s Day in those years, that was what our family did.
    I am so impressed that you ran, that you finished. It takes amazing grit. May you run many more years! May dad would have cheered you on.

  30. Thanks for giving us an inspiring example of how age does not necessarily imply
    decrepitude. Reminds me of how, in my first marathon, I encountered at the
    20 mile mark a 66 yr. old Japanese runner (37 years my senior).

  31. Owww…Senator Will,
    Knock on wood, at 65 …running a marathon in 3:32 hours.
    Bravo, you are a champion.
    May you always be in good health.

  32. We are so honored to have you. Modesty, grit, high achievement and honesty in all you do. Kudos again Will.
    Congrats, Geri

    1. What else to say by Hats off to you Senator. Tremendous accomplishment.
      I biked around and watched from a number of vantage points. An amazing day. Congratulations.

  33. You are the best Will, legislatively & otherwise……….the Legislature, the Commonwealth & the Fenway are lucky to have you………..your folks raised a great son & then passed him onto us……..sincerely…….helen…..

  34. Great job! I’m just happy to hear you are healthy enough to run a whole marathon! That way, you’ll live a long time, and I can keep voting for you! I live in the vicinity of the course, and I agree, it was very well-managed. I liked seeing the sanitation trucks posted on Commonwealth as a vehicle-attack prevention. Very simple and inexpensive protection just in case.

  35. Well done! Your story about the pre-race run was poetic…
    continue to prove you have the courage and determination that we see in your career.

  36. Congratulations, Will! A 3:52 finish is something to be proud of – at any age!!!

  37. Will, having run Boston twice for the accomplishment of just finishing (’99 and ’21 – on what felt like one leg after knee surgery the prior spring) I felt every aspect of what you described. Congratualtions and you are right, we are fortunate to live in such a great city.
    One footnote to add, Dave McGillivray gets a lot of credit for the race as the “race director” (which he should) but the coordination you described was actually done by the “race producer,” Ed Jacob’s and Interstate Rental in Jamaica Plain ( This was Ed’s 51st production of Boston. Similar to that of other large events such as graduations and championship parades, Ed and his team are spot on with pulling off an extraordinary experience for everyone. I know the above because Ed is my brother-in-law. 🙂
    Best of luck in your recovery and congrats again.

  38. Congratulations on your perseverance.
    (And be careful with those flip-flops.)

  39. Congratulations Will!!!
    You are an inspiration and a great role model in so many ways.
    To finish four miles on empty is amazing but if anybody could do it, it was you!

  40. Bravo, Will! I loved reading your account including some backstory. I am so impressed by your accomplishment on Monday and even more by the humility, grace, and openness with which you approach all challenges in life. Thank you for your inspiring modeling of strong mental, physical, and emotional health expressed in strong relationship to community.

  41. Oh Will, what a great description. Thank you and congratulations for sharing that. Long distance running requires such discipline and mental toughness. And you have shown that in your public service to your district in every way throughout your time in all the offices you have held. I offer a profound thank you.

  42. My Dad took us to the finish line when we were kids so that we could appreciate the tremendous accomplishment and achievement of all the runners. I have always marveled how the race has attracted people from all over the world. I posted the above link from another runner’s perspective who was shut out of the race this year. He and many others were discriminated against based on their religious beliefs. I heard the Boston Athletic Association didn’t allow runners from Russia this year either. Running the Boston Marathon is about individual achievement. Our constitution is about protecting the rights of the individual. I am so disappointed in Boston this year in regards to not making this race open and available to everybody without discrimination. I think my Dad would be disappointed too. He worked at Government Center in Boston for over 35 years. He was a Regional Commissioner for all of New England, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and New York, for the Department of Education and Rehabilitation. He helped to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act when it was passed as a bipartisan effort during the Bush administration. In 2013 we were Boston Strong. We are faltering now as a City. Boston has gone terribly wrong in some aspects. It is sad to me that my Senator cannot acknowledge that. Without your acknowledgment of how others are currently being discriminated against, you cannot work to help right that wrong.

  43. I would love to see the entire Legislature (and for that matter the rest of the Senate) literally and figuratively run again. Get out from hiding behind their smartphones and zoom and actually see their constituents in the real world. I know they may have average times in the 7.00++ but the exercise will do them good.

  44. Congrat’s! Here’s a title for your Marathon documentary or memoir: Good Will Running.
    I heard on WCRB that Heartbreak Hill got it’s name when Johnny Kelley passed the lead runner, Tarzan Brown, in Newton in 1936, gave him a pat on the back, then lost the lead and the race to him.

  45. Great job!
    I tracked you all the way, ready to give you a shout out at the Hereford Turn.
    Must’ve glanced at my app at the precisely wrong moment because next thing I know, you crossed the line!
    Maybe you ran the last mile under 8?
    Any rate, please know I’m your fan!

  46. I loved reading about your experience, so inspiring! Thank you for doing it, and thanks for sharing, Senator!

  47. Congratulations Senator – loved reading your journey up to and in the Marathon!!
    Good for you and hooray for all who were with you too!!
    Go for next year!!

  48. Congratulations, Will! You did fabulously. I feel proud to have a multi-talented senator, who appreciates so many different things about life in Massachusetts.

  49. Great Job Senator! I hope you bask in the glow of your race, while planning your next run. Keep it up.

  50. Having never being athletic in my entire life, I am so very impressed, both with your determination and your success – because, yes, it is a victory, both the investment of time to train and then to run the course to completion! But I’m even more astounded given your incredible devotion to your grateful constituents, your outreach to all of us, and the principles that you uphold as our state senator. Mazel tov!

  51. I appreciate the loneliness of the long distance runner the same way I work through the night on deadlines. It takes a reticence, patience, a solid will and tremendous luck the flipflops don’t get you before the finish. Congratulations!

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