WORLD RECORD HOLDER RETIRES FROM THE BOSTON MARATHON AFTER 45 CONSECUTIVE FINISHES
By: Mark Buciak
On April 16th, there will be over 26,000 runners from all 50 states and over 60 countries running the 116th Boston Marathon but one runner will not be at the starting line for the first time in nearly half a century.
That runner is……………….Neil Weygandt of Upper Darby, PA.
At age 65, Neil is retiring from the Boston Marathon.Neil has completed the last 45 consecutive Boston Marathons.This is a World’s and Boston Marathon record.True that Johnny J. Kelly completed a record 58 Boston Marathons but they were not consecutive.In 1967 at age 20 Neil ran 2:47:11 on a cold drizzly day for his first Boston Marathon. Lyndon B. Johnson was president of the United States, the civil rights movement was at its peak, Will Cloney and Jock Semple were in charge of the marathon which was an extremely grass roots event with no million dollar sponsors, no prize money, and no timing chips for the 600 or 700 marathoners.The race entry fee was only $2. There was one race t-shirt to choose from for $4 and no qualifying time standards to enter the marathon which was a men’s only event.Dave McKenzie won the marathon with a time of 2:15:45 which was not held on a Monday.A lot has changed over nearly a half century but one thing remained the same throughout those 45 years……..Neil Weygandt would start and finish the Boston Marathon for each year.Recently I had the honor to learn more about Neil’s running career especially his Boston Marathon experiences.
I am pleased to share what I have learned…..Neil has been running for over 50 years and has run over 100,000 miles including 80 ultra-marathons and more than 100 career marathons with a PB of 2:36:51.
When and where did you begin your running career?
August 1961, Havertown, PA Who influenced your running the most?
Tom Osler, 2:29 marathoner (1967 Boston), 2x National Road ChampionBrowning Ross, Olympic steeplechase, 1948 and 1952 (7th place in 1948); Pan Am Games, 1951, 1st place 1500m, 10x winner of Berwick, Pa. 9.3 Mile Run for the Diamonds
What do you remember from your very first Boston Marathon? The leaders were almost out of sight when I turned right from Hayden Road to Route 135!
Why did you run it? Influenced by Tom Osler's stories about Boston!
What was your qualifying time? No official qualifying time was required but I ran 2:50:10 in the 1966 Ruthrauff Marathon in Philadelphia. This was my first marathon of my life.
What did it feel like to cross the finish line for the very first time in Boston? Amazing! It certainly beat college meets!
Did they serve beef stew at the finish line? Yes. In 1970, I was in line next to Ron Hill, the winner in a record 2:10:30 in a cold rain!
Did you have any major injures during the last 45 years? Yes, Plantar fasciitis--cured itself after several months
How has your training changed over the 45 years? A lot slower and a lot less mileage--82 miles a week in 1983-84 to 34 a week in 2011!
What has changed most in your 45 years at Boston? The number of women competing from zero to thousands
What change do you like most? The number of official aid stations and letting women compete.
What is your advice to first time Boston Marathoners? Don't go out too fast!
What is your favorite Boston memory? Tie between my first (1967, 2:47:11) and PR (1983, 2:36:51)
Who is your all-time favorite Boston Marathoner? Tie between John J. Kelley and Bill Rodgers
What does the Boston’s Quarter Century Club (QCC) mean to you? It is great being part of a group of serious and dedicated runners. To them, Boston is sacred. Special credit goes to Ron Kmiec and Mark Buciak for all the work they put into organizing this group of marathoners.
When you crossed the finish line in April 2011 did you realize that was your final Boston Marathon? I wasn't 100 % sure but felt embarrassed by time, 5:52:14. So I felt I probably wouldn't repeat.
When and how did you decide you would retire from the Boston Marathon? Last October. Because of injuries: Arthritis and sciatica made it difficult to train properly. I didn’t feel I could train properly and get a respectable time.
How difficult of a decision was this for you?
Some ambivalence, because I wanted to keep the streak going, but decided that realistically, my body couldn't take it.
What do you plan to do on April 16th? Watch Boston on TV and contact old race veterans to relive the good times.
Do you ever think you'll return to Boston to run another Boston Marathon? No. There would have to be many changes in my life for me to run it again.
What are your future running plans? Relax -- for now – as I run 1 mile a day
What are your future non-running plans? Stay active in the sport in some manner
Anything you would like share with us? I want to thank the BAA, the Quarter Century Club (QCC), and everyone involved with the Boston Marathon for their efforts over the years. The spectators are incredible with their cheering, encouragement, and support.
Neil Weygandt quietly and consistly finished the Boston Marathon for a record 45 consecutive years giving all of us the finest example of a true marathoner’s marathoner. Although Neil will not be competing in this year, he will be in our hearts all the way from Hopkinton to Boston. Neil never crossed the finish line in first place at Boston but he certainly is a true champion.Happy retirement Neil and looking forward to doing one of those 1 mile runs with you!
Editor’s Note: Mark Buciak (PB: 2:30) having completed 32 consecutive Boston Marathons is a member of the Boston’s Quarter Century Club and is the Program Director of THE ROAD TO BOSTON Training Program (www.theroadtoboston.info).
Mark is a running coach, writer and public speaker who can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Special Thanks: To Diane McManus who helped gathered information about and from Neil to make this article more complete and to Mike Harrington who submitted several key questions.