PROFILE--Dan Larson has finished 49 Boston Marathons
(July 2019) Dan Larson stands third on the list of runners with the most Boston Marathon finishes. He's got 49, including the last 44 in a row. A Yale University grad (four years behind a certain F. Shorter), Larson has spent most of his career in small medical clinics in upstate New York, roughly 75 miles north of Albany. He has also finished an annual Turkey Trot 10K 53 years in succession. After completing this year's Boston in 4:49:46, Larson, 68, has decided, "One more and then ... we'll see."
Career/profession? I am a family physician, but to borrow from George Sheehan, I was a runner long before I was a doctor.
When and why did you start running? I started running to get in shape for freshman high school basketball and also had some friends who ran at late dusk all summer long.
How much did you run in your peak years? I was never one for huge mileage, but likely averaged more than 90 miles per week for about 6 or 7 years in my twenties and thirties
Top races or running achievements? I went from being a
10:42 two miler in high school to 9:12 in college. That college two mile was two days before finishing 47th in the 1973 Boston (2:37:38) which was my highest finish. I won the Finger Lakes Marathon over a very hilly course on a warm day in 2:37 in 1973.
I have started 50 Boston Marathons and finished 49, the last 44 consecutively. I started the race with a fever and illness in 1975 but dropped out. Sadly, it was the false pride of youth because I could have walked in and still finished under 4 hrs. However, I did not wish to run that “slow”. Oh how I regret that decision.
I have another streak of 53 consecutive Troy (NY) Turkey Trots. My best 10k there was 31:00 but I no longer worry about anything except making it to the finish and seeing old friends.
Estimate of total lifetime miles? I am really rather clueless because I have never kept a log so this is a rough guess: About 185,000 miles???
How much are you running and cross-training now? I now run much less. Over the course of a year I run about 1000 miles or a bit less. Most of that is on trails in the woods in the autumn and then some more in the late winter and early spring in a panic to get ready for Boston. In the summer I am a cyclist, and in the winter I am a cross country skier.
A recent race result or two? In the last few years I have gone from about 3:50 to 4:50 for the Boston Marathon. I cannot break 26 or 27 minutes for a 5k.
Does getting slower bother you? How do you cope? Getting slower gradually bothered me only a little. Then a big slow down in recent years distressed me a lot. However, I am finally coming to terms and grateful for being able to continue at any level.
How have your diet and weight changed through the years? My peak racing weight was about 153. I gradually gained to about 180 ( I am only 5’9”) but am back down to 174. All heavy for a runner.
What injuries or other health issues have you faced through the years? How have you dealt with these? I have had a few running injuries over the years. I will not bore folks with them. My major health issue was a stroke two years ago while on an airplane. It affected my cerebellum or balance center. It was due to a blood clot passing through a previously unknown congenital heart defect which I subsequently had repaired.
A favorite inspirational quote? My old Yale track coach, Bob Giegangack, a former Olympic Coach and Frank Shorter's college coach, said to me my senior year. "Larson, if you run that Marathon it will **** up your track season." He was right but it was worth it.
What 3 tips would you offer hopeful lifetime runners?
1--Have fun with some running buddies
2--Enjoy some runs in the woods and do not always run on the roads
3--Tolerate slowing down but enjoy the competition, even at a diminished level.
How does running & fitness improve your life on a daily/weekly basis? To get 90% of the health benefits of exercise, you only need to walk about 30 minutes a day. Everything else is for your own fulfillment.
What are the biggest lessons (life lessons and running lessons) you have learned from running? Most of us never got rich or famous from running, so enjoy whatever you can. I know a few runners who did achieve some fame and gain, but even they remained friendly and enjoyed the same runner camaraderie that we all appreciate.