Brent Hatch missed running the infamous Boston Marathon last year after recovering from an Achilles’s tendon injury.
The teacher from Madison Elementary School in Blaine knew this year would take an extra effort – not only to qualify but to run close to his sub-three hour time on the famed 26.2-mile course.
One year after the bombings left the community from Hopkinton to Boston shaken, a record number of runners made it a point to return in a big way.
Hatch, an eight-time Boston Marathon runner, said the race felt undoubtably different.
“There was a buzz in the air. It seemed like a fresh start for the people out there,” Hatch said. “[They] wanted to prove they could pull it off again. The race is a real source of pride for them.”
Boston Strong T-shirts weren’t simply a helpful slogan to get through the terror of what happened.
“I’ve been out there seven or eight times and I never noticed the support for the race like I did this year,” he said. “I think it helped them with their own emotions. Not a Boston person went by without saying, ‘Thank you for coming out and making this right.’ It was really neat. The people who would normally honk at you waited a few more seconds.”
While the law enforcement was obviously bolstered, Hatch said, “the crowd was the opposite of afraid. They felt like a piece of their property was taken away.” And instead of gating off yards from runners along the route, police were encouraging the runners to use as much of the roadway as possible, given the size of the field.
Hatch covered the course in 3 hours, 20 minutes, about 10-15 minutes off his goal time but much better than someone with leukemia might hope for.
Hatch has battled a form of leukemia for what will be eight years in September. Among the medicine is a daily chemotherapy pill,but the trade-off is tendon and joint pain along with fatigue and weaker bones due to lower phosphate levels.
“I’m just really happy to be running at all,” he said. “I was finally seeing my speed coming back and if I had another month I could’ve seen my speed come all the way back.”
While on the course, Hatch saw more motivational reminders than he could between signs, shouts of encouragement from the crowd or other runners on the course. Two fellow marathoners stood out the most.
Hatch passed Team Hoyt, the father-son duo that completed their final Boston Marathon this year after more than 1,000 races over the years. Dick, 73, the father has pushed his son Rick, 51, who has cerebral palsy, in a custom-made wheelchair. The pair were within a mile of the finish line before being pulled off the course last year in what was suppose to be their final race after a statue of the pair was unveiled in front of a school near the starting line in Hopkinton.
“[Seeing them on the course] really got to me,” Hatch said. “They’ve ran 30 of them and to see that was special. It was tear-jerking.”
Another example of the perseverance and determination to complete the course came from a 75-year-old runner he eventually passed after the gentleman was on a 3:06-3:07 pace for more than half of the course.
Hatch met another runner on the course who was staying in the same hotel. He completed the race on two crutches and a prosthetic leg with his wife along side.
“I talked with him after the race and his arms were really beat up from the pounding they took on the course,” Hatch said. “He started well ahead of me but seeing him on the course gave me that extra get-up-and-go that I needed,”
Hatch was happy with the progress he made after qualifying for Boston with a 3:14 at Grandma’s Marathon last June to secure this year’s spot at Boston.
Jason Olson is at