PROFILE: Ben Beach Has Run 51 Straight Boston Marathons

(4-19) Ben Beach has run and finished 51 Boston Marathons in a row, and he'll be on the line again Monday morning in Hopkinton. Beach's streak is the longest in Boston Marathon history, and probably in world marathoning. The 69-year-old from Bethesda MD broke 2:30 four times in younger, faster days but now battles a rare neurological disorder that puts a "hitch" in his stride. It's not enough to stop Beach, however.

Career-profession? I’ve been a writer and editor for most of my career, whether with publications, environmental groups, or the federal government.

When did you start running and why? I enjoyed baseball, football, and basketball, but by age 16 it became clear that I lacked the size and strength to be successful in any of them. I started dabbling in running and discovered that I had an appropriate body for it. I was never on a HS or college team; I just ran on my own.

How much did you run in your peak years? Probably just over 100 miles/week, but I hit that only during a brief period while training for a marathon. In my peak years, I ran about 3,000 during the year.

Top race performances and/or proudest achievements?
I've run every Boston Marathon since 1968. My best marathon was in New York: 2:26:29 in 1981. In Boston I was under 2:30 four times and under 2:40 17 times. I ran the Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler in 53:15 in 1978.

An estimate of your total lifetime miles? This is a wild guess because I have almost no info from age 16 to 25. (But I wasn’t racking up too many miles during the first half of that span.) Since 1974, I’ve run about 75,000 miles.

How much are you running and cross-training now? Strength work? Stretching? My dystonia [see below] has ruined my gait, so I run only three days in an average week and probably total only 15 miles. In March (2019) I hit 102 miles, my first month over 100 in 13 years. Pathetic! I do at least two workouts most days, with a mix of running, biking, swimming (summer only), weight-lifting, rowing (on a machine), and use of an elliptical trainer and exercycle. I love the variety. I stretch a lot but remain tight.

Any recent race results? Embarrassing! I ran the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten-Mile in 1:44:45 on April 7, 2019. I believe that’s my only race the past six months.

Does it bother you that you are slower now and how do you stay motivated? Yes, it’s very frustrating that it takes me twice as long to run a marathon and that when I put in an hour on the roads, I have covered only five or six miles. I tell myself that at least my body is still capable of running. As my times deteriorate, I can still set goals and compete in my age group. I try to compare myself to other 70-year-olds rather than to Ben Beach at age 35.

Diet, weight, supplements? I weighed about 125 pounds when I graduated from college and am still 125, though I’ve probably grown a couple of inches. I have been taking glucosamine for a number of years in hopes it’s good for my joints. I tend to doubt that it is, but I haven’t heard that there’s any downside to the stuff, and I’m willing to pay for it (usually stocking up when it’s on sale). I’m not a big fan of supplements; I believe that if I eat a reasonably balanced diet, I’ll get what I need.

Injuries and health issues? Like most long-time distance runners, I’ve had all kinds of injuries—to hamstrings, calves, groins, knees, hip flexors, etc. In the early days, I was inclined to run through them, but before long I discovered that was dopey. Last year I had two hernia operations. Fortunately, the hernias came along after the marathon. I don’t think they were running-related.

My biggest health issue arose when I was in my early 50s: a neurological disorder called dystonia. In my case, the brain, for some reason, tells my left hamstring to contract when I’m trying to stride. The result is a very awkward gait, to put it charitably. I get botox shots every four months, which help somewhat. I thought my running days were over, but the human body is incredibly adaptable. [Video, 12 years ago, of Ben and his awkward, dystonia-induced stride.] 

What 3 short tips would you offer to younger runners who want to run for a lifetime?
2--Listen to your body.

How does running & fitness improve your life on a daily/weekly basis? I can’t imagine life without exercise. I certainly concur with all those studies showing the many benefits of exercise. One thing I particularly appreciate is the freedom to eat more.

What are the biggest lessons (life lessons and running lessons) you have learned from running? Steadiness pays, and you get out what you put in. Pardon the platitudes! I want to stay healthy as long as I can.

PROFILE--Jimmy Green ran the 1956 Boston Marathon. What were you doing then?

(4-19) James (Jimmy) Green ran his first miles in 1949, and his first Boston Marathon in 1956. There's probably no active marathoner anywhere who ran Boston earlier than Green's first. Four years later, he placed third at Boston in 2:23:37. He thought he had completed his last Boston in 1997, but the necessity of making a positive, life-enhancing statement in 2014 carried him back to Hopkinton once again. Now 86 and living in Marblehead MA, Green finished Boston in 2014, 2015, and 2017. And, given his steady 25 miles per week, he thought about it again this year. But life got in the way. 

Your career/profession? Teacher, tech writer, Russian intercept operator during ’56 Hungarian uprising (exciting). I was an English major in college, and taught for many years at Saugus High School in Massachusetts. In 1972, I got a PhD in foreign affairs from American University, with a minor concentration in Russian language and studies.

When did you start running and why? A close friend, captain of the cross-country team, introduced me to the game. That was in 1949 at Quincy High School in Massachusetts.

How much did you run in your peak years? I never exceeded 3,000 miles in a single year. During my best year of training and racing before running 2:23 at Boston, I averaged 78 miles a week during the winter buildup, taking off Mondays. The other six days, I ran a 13-mile course each day, alternating hard days and easy days. I did less training the rest of the year after Boston and none in December.

Top race performances or proudest running achievements?
I ran my first Boston Marathon in 1956, finishing 23rd in 2:37:56. In 1960, I was third at Boston in 2:23:57, my personal best.

I was the first alternate on the 1960 and 1964 Olympic marathon teams. In 1960, I finished 2nd in the Milk Run in NYC 4 days before the Olympic Team left for Rome. Johnny Kelley beat me by 1:45 but I beat the other two Olympians--Alex Breckenridge and Gordon Mackenzie by over three minutes.

In 1959 I placed 2nd in the PanAm marathon (behind Kelley), followed 26 days later with a 4th in the First International Marathon in Seoul, Korea.

Training? I had no clear- cut plan. My program evolved. In 1959 and 1960, I ran mostly 13-mile workouts (at 5:50 pace one day, 6:50 the next) with Mondays off. I describe this training as internecine, because the JG (me) of one week tried to surpass or equal the times set by the JG of the previous week, month, or year on the same course, same distance.

In February, 1960, I ran a 32-miler with Kelley in Mystic, CT, near his home. We wore training clothes, and completed the course in 3:15 (about 6:10 pace). I finished about a minute behind him, but he said our was a record for the course. I usually did a 20 to 23-mile run every third week, and also did days of 20 x 440 with a 440 jog.

During cold winter weather, I often ran with 3 or 4 tops and 2 layers of sweat pants. I ran alone 95% of the time because I was the only runner in town. I believe that running to the limit alone against the clock, 3 times a week, 13 miles on average, wearing layers of clothing in winter, heavier training shoes, in every kind of weather produced a strong foundation for consistent results.

Estimate of your total lifetime miles? 110,000?

How much cross training did you do? I did occasional sets of 35 pushups but irregularly. When injured in ‘61, I did 15 sets of 35 pushups and followed each of those with sets of 10 pullups, wrists out. The total workout time was about 70 minutes for 725 pushups and 150 pullups. Most of them, I think, legitimate. I did no stretching and thus had numerous hamstring pulls often during the weeks preceding the BAA Marathon.

In the first story from my book "Tales of Boston Harbor," I describe my clam digging days in high school. There are few experiences that can equal the physical, psychological, and almost spiritual demands of the work. It was a marvelous preparation for competition. No foe is more relentless than an incoming tide, none more unforgiving.

Current training? I'm getting in about 25 miles a week. Until a month ago I thought of running Boston again this year. But then I needed cataract surgery, and a few other things came up.

Recent race results? I ran 71:30 in a Gloucester, MA, 10K on 9/30/18.

How do you maintain motivation against the inevitable slowing? I always time myself and compare current times with past ones over the same course, or on the track.  This approach keeps me motivated

Diet and weight changes? Little change except I take on average 2 Ibuprofen daily before training and one at bedtime. With a wife, who is an excellent cook, I have always eaten well.

What injuries or other health issues have you faced through the years? Hamstring pulls before 5 different Boston Marathons between 1959 and 1968. And a heart attack after the 2017 Boston. I finished in a little over 6 hours and went to a nearby cafe for a coffee with my wife. The next thing I remember is that I was stretched out on the floor. They took me across the street to the marathon medical tent. I was then sent to Mass General, where an excellent cardiac surgeon was working. He put in a stent, and I was out of the hospital in a couple of days.

A favorite inspirational quote or two? From The Plague, by Albert Camus: 
…we all carry it within us, the plague, because it has left no one—no, not one single person in
the world— untouched. And one must remain perpetually vigilant over oneself in order not, in a moment of distraction, to find oneself breathing into another’s face, foisting the infection on him. It’s the bacterium that’s natural. Everything else, health, wholeness—purity, if you will—is the product of will, and of a will that must never slacken. The honorable man, the man who infects almost no one, is he who has the fewest possible distractions. And what will it take, and what
effort, never to be distracted!

From Macbeth,
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
Philosophy of running and life? A friend and former Canadian great, Gordon Dickson, now deceased, used to run with a group that would spontaneously make fun of their efforts. During workouts, they might recite: "Over hill, over dale... Keep a goin'." Or: "Through the mountain pass... Keep a goin." The last phrase became their refrain, used with endless improvisations. It reflected their dark musings about runners endlessly in training like Sisyphus forever pushing the rock uphill. Our labors are absurd, yes. Gordy had it right. Yet we must try, we fight on. 

PROFILE – Maggie Mason has been running for 36 years

Santa Barbara Half Marathon,
(4-19) Maggie Mason describes herself as an “adult-onset athlete” as she wasn’t athletic at all as a kid, kind of shrimpy and always picked last for every team. That changed in the second half of her life when the Santa Barbara resident discovered running, and used it to overcome depression and excess weight. She’s getting ready to retire after 30 years of teaching English at the high school and college level, and will no longer have to squeeze all her training into the pre-dawn hours before work. Mason, now 62, guesstimates her lifetime miles at 50,000. A little more than two years ago, she ran a 3:23:02 marathon on her 60th birthday.

When and why did you start running?  July 1983. I was in my mid twenties and went to a party with a guy I had a huge crush on, and then he left with another girl.  Stuck with no ride, I ran all the way home—about a mile—and I wasn’t even winded.  I enjoyed it and started running the very next day, and continued to run for fitness for years. 

I stopped running in the early 90’s, as I was married and trying to start a family.  For about five years I underwent extensive infertility protocols.  My doctor advised me to stop all strenuous aerobic exercise during the treatment.  I never got a baby, but I did get fat, due to the combination of strong fertility drugs, lack of exercise, and depression, which resulted in a weight gain of over 45 pounds. Going from a trim 120 to a peak of 165, I hated my body.

At age 40 to reclaim my body, I started biking 25 miles to work and back every day, refusing to take a day off, even during a two-week period of Santa Ana winds and 95-degree heat.  As a result, I severely strained my knees and couldn’t even walk.  My doctor told me to change up my activity so I went back to running.

I ran 8-10 miles a day, five times a week, and loved it. I had finally found my sport.  After a few months of doing what I thought then was an insane amount of mileage (40-50 miles per week), I said to myself, “I bet I could run a marathon.”  So I did.  A marathon was my first race at age 42.  Since then, I’ve run 23 marathons, and countless shorter races.

How much did you run per week in your peak years? Now?  My peak years were in my late 40’s/early 50’s, when I was running 55-65 mile weeks, topping out at 70 during marathon training.  Now, I run 40-50 mile weeks, peaking at around 55-60.  

What were some of your better/memorable races? Boston 2002. I was newly divorced, running the Boston Marathon “for fun,” because I had just run the L.A. marathon in March.  Running really helped me grapple with all my demons.  I wasn’t expecting to race well in a marathon 6 weeks after a PR, so I was just having fun: slapping kids’ hands, taking oranges from spectators, chatting…all the things I never do when racing hard, and I set a new PR. I’ve since run faster, but that was the dream marathon, the effortless one where I felt fantastic the entire time.

 Another memorable marathon was CIM in 2013.  I sprained my ankle the day before the race while running a 2-mile shakeout, and it was swollen and purple.  My coach told me to tape it up and run anyway.  I could barely fit my shoe on.  I ended up with a great time of 3:19, just 3 minutes off of my all-time PR of 3:16.

Boston Marathon, 2014
My most accomplished marathon was on my 60th birthday, at CIM in 2016.  I’d set out to break the course record for 60-64. I had to run under 3:24, and I ran 3:23:02.  I was ecstatic!  I did break the course record, but as it turns out, so did someone else—she beat me by 5 minutes!  I didn’t care…I had done what I wanted to do, and was thrilled.  What a great birthday present.

How did you train differently in your younger years?  When I was younger, I ran every day and sometimes did doubles, either biking or a second run.  I started taking two days completely off when I reached my mid-50’s, and then began substituting some cross training for pounding the pavement. 

Has your diet changed through the years?  Not substantially, although I’ve incorporated much more fruit in the last decade.  I’ve also almost completely eliminated pre-processed food from my diet. I process most of my food myself, although it is labor-intensive.  I still do love tortilla chips and cheese and crackers, though, and pizza.  I’ve discovered that I love to cook, so I spend lots of time on meal prep. 

Cross Training:  Yes! I purchased an outdoor elliptical-style stand-up bike from Kickstarter about 3 years ago (sort of like an ElliptiGo), and I either ride that or go to the gym for an elliptical speed workout once or twice a week.  I also lift weights.  When I retire, I plan to hike in our lovely mountains more often, and run errands by walking or biking.

How important is social running to you? I’ve run with a very close-knit small group as well as a larger running club for years, and have formed lifelong, solid, beautiful friendships.  When you’re out there for 2-3 hours, you tell stories, solve problems, let off steam, share small and large victories.  Also, doing the hard work together is inspiring.  I feel so buoyed whenever I’m struggling on the track, or grinding through a tough hill workout, and someone shouts, “Go, Maggie!” 

How are you adapting to getting slower? Slowing down has been humbling, but I accept it with alacrity.  My current all-out miles on the track used to be my 10K and 10-miler pace.  But this is my body now, and it gives me what it can.  I try to treat it with kindness and respect, and be grateful for the gift it keeps giving me.

I love age-graded and age-group results, because they help me stay competitive and excited.  Since I entered the racing scene after 40, these measures have been far more meaningful to me than overall results. 

Obstacles along the way: I’ve had two major chronic injuries during the past 20 years that took me down but not out.  One lasted 6 months, an annoying and painful psoas injury.  The other, an insertion-point hamstring pull, persisted for 2 years, and also reverberated down my leg, manifesting in multiple other ways, all painful and game-changing.  I ran marathons while in the thick of both of these injuries, and frankly, I don’t recommend it. 
September, 2012

A favorite quote:  “In all the activities of life, from the most trivial to the most important, the secret of proficiency lies in an ability to combine two seemingly incompatible states—a state of maximum activity and a state of maximum relaxation.”--Aldous Huxley, from his book of essays, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, which is out of print and which I highly recommend…it’s really hard to find. 

Has running helped you with the aging process?  Um…YEY-ESS!  1.  I always look forward to “aging up” into the next group, so I can stay competitive.  2.  Being fit and strong is a great gift as we age, and health is a powerful incentive to run.  3.  Because I’m competitive, I run in pace groups with younger women who have become dear friends.  They’re having babies now, and I’m involved in their lives. Delightful.  4. Running gives me a connection to life and vibrancy, and reminds me that no matter our age or stage in life, we can find relevance and purpose. I think it was Samuel Johnson in Rasselas who pointed out that forward motion is critical to our humanity.  Running gives us that sense of movement and direction.  It’s profound.

What three tips would you give a younger runner who wants to be a lifetime runner? 
1) Pace yourself, in all things running.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Respect the workout, the training plan, or the race. Learn to apportion your energy.  That takes maturity and restraint.  

2)  If you feel depleted or unmotivated for weeks or more, it’s time to rest and regroup.   Don’t drive yourself to the point where you have to tap out just because you’ve set certain goals.  If running becomes drudgery instead of joy, take time off.  You will come back stronger. 

3) Incorporate variety in your running. Seek out new routes, take off your watch or earbuds, sign up for an out-of-town event, or train for a race distance or terrain you’re unfamiliar with. 

What are the biggest lessons you have learned from running? Running engenders endurance and resilience, which spills over into life lessons in so many ways.  I’ve learned to be more comfortable with discomfort, to ride out the bad patches, to hunker down for the long haul.  And to treasure the good stretches!   Also, I love the mantra of “hard, easy.”  It describes so beautifully not only what is good for our running, but good for our lives and our souls.

PROFILE--Harry McCalla has been running (or moving at a good clip) for 61 years

(3-19) Harry McCalla began running at Berkeley High School (CA), and in college at Stanford (class of '65) recorded many top performances in the 880, mile, 2-mile, and steeplechase. In April 1963 McCalla ran a mile in 4:01.5--the alltime best for an an African American. He often ran against his friend Ben Tucker, recently profiled on this site. (See link in photo below.) McCalla collected five NCAA medals and has been inducted into three Halls of Fame. Now 76, he retired in 2012 and lives in Dallas. [Note: McCalla is no longer an active runner, but we're happy to publish profiles of fascinating, older runners who are still pursuing a fitness lifestyle through walking, strength-training, and other activities. Do what you can. That's McCalla.]

Career? I retired from IBM in 1993 after 25 years of sales and sales management. Then I worked for eight years as an Account Executive with Agilysys, a Premier IBM business partner. My last corporate employment was with ADT as a sales Account Manager. I left ADT in 2012.  

Lifetime miles? Maybe 100,000? Who knows. I’m just glad to still be here.

Started running and why? February 1958 (DOB: 1942). I started running as a sophomore at

PROFILE--Marc Bloom has been running (and writing) for 55 years

(3-19) Marc Bloom has enjoyed incredibly long, productive careers in running and running journalism, beginning in 1964 and extending to the present. His next book, Amazing Racers, is due to be published in early August. It's about the amazing success of the Fayetteville-Manlius high-school cross-country program in upstate New York, and how coach Bill Aris has inspired so many runners. Bloom's personal running is just as impressive. An undistinguished performer three decades ago, he now ranks among the nation's best for his age.

When did you start running and why? It was spring 1972. I hadn’t run since HS grad in ’64 and had gained weight. I didn’t feel “right.” I’d been married three years at that point. My wife (Andrea) and I lived in Brooklyn and would go to a nearby HS track to play paddleball. I started jogging a few laps, one thing led to another, and I started doing some mileage on the roads, and by fall ’72 was running 40 to 50 miles a week and had lost my extra weight, about 20 lbs. My first race was a 3M on a frigid Thanksgiving morning, on Staten Island.

Peak running? When I was doing the NYC Marathon almost

PROFILE--Ben Tucker has been running for 62 years

Ben Tucker was the first African American to run the equivalent of a sub-4-minute mile. He clocked a 3:40.8 for 1500 meters during the AAU National Championships on June 28, 1964 in New Brunswick, NJ, finishing seventh. (That time is equivalent to a 3:58.4 in the mile.) The first four that day were some of America's best: Tom O’Hara, Dyrol Burleson, Jim Grelle, and Jim Ryun. All broke the American 1500 meter record that day. In college, Tucker competed for San Jose State and was a member of the 1962 and 1963 NCAA Cross-Country Championship teams. He set school records in the 800 and 1500 meters. His 800 record stood for 15 years, while the 1500 meter school record was tops for 11 years. Now 75, he lives in Berkeley, CA.

Career/Profession? I retired in 2003 from the University of
California, Berkeley, as Manager of Early and Immediate
Outreach Programs. But I wasn’t ready to just sit still, so I
signed up for acting classes at a performing arts company for
seniors in Oakland, focusing on storytelling as an art form. I’ve performed

PROFILE--Phil Camp has been running for 56 years

Classic photo from the 1969 Culver City
Marathon, where Camp (398) finished
8th in 2:31
(3-19) Phil Camp goes back a few years and sticks out of the crowd. He's taller than most lifelong runners we know. Also faster, with a marathon best of 2:13. Truth is, he's even more impressive on a big Navy ship deck, where he has run a 4:39 mile on a sharp-turning eight-lap "track."

Your career profession? 22 year career as a Naval Officer and Aviator ('70-'92); Air Ambulance Pilot (7 yrs) Business/private jet pilot for Netjets (16 yrs).

When did you start running and why? Started running in my junior year of High School, Sept '63 because I could outrun the rest of the PE class in the weekly endurance run!

Peak running? Usually 70-80 miles/week and then 100 mile/week during a month leading up to a marathon.

Top performances or achievements? My best marathon was a 2:13:46 in