Marathon man

awileman@sierrastar.comMay 20, 2014 

It was 3 a.m. and still dark outside Monday, April 21, when an anxious 63-year-old Dave Miller, of Oakhurst, woke up in his Needham hotel room and began his preparation to run in the 118th Boston Marathon.

At 3:30 a.m. Miller, a creature of habit, sat down to enjoy his typical pre-race breakfast consisting of a buttered bagel with jelly, small bowl of cereal, banana and a Cliff Bar.

Grabbing his Glazier Freeze Blue Gatorade on his way out the door, by 4:30 a.m. Miller was dropped off at the Needham train station ready to catch the the train to Boston Common.

With his gear checked and mind set, Miller boarded one of several yellow school buses, designed to transport participants to the starting line at Boston Common, and arrived at 7 a.m. at the Hopkinton athlete village staging area where he would eagerly prepare for the biggest and most grueling race of his life.

Now standing amidst 9,000 determined runners Miller was moments away from embarking on a journey to join the profound history of Boston Marathon runners.

Starting amongst herds of runners only 1/4 mile from the starting line, Miller said it took him nearly eight minutes just to reach the start.

The Boston Marathon, described by Miller as "the Mecca of marathon races" covers a distance of 26.2 miles spanning from Hopkinton, Mass., winding through Ashland, Farmingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and then coming to an end in Boston at Boylston Street.

After finally reaching the start of the race Miller maintained a strong pace throughout the first 15 miles, good enough for 10 in his age group (M60-64). But by the 16-mile mark near Newton Hills, Miller began experiencing severe cramps.

Burdened by the pain of cramping, Miller said he focused on cheers from the crowd to keep him going, some of which were yelling his name written in permanent marker across his racing bib and arms.

"The fans created a wall of screaming people for all 26.2 miles," Miller said. "Before you got to the towns you could hear the crowd screaming. A dozen times when I was hurting throughout the race I would turn and look at people yelling "Go Dave, you can do it."

Miller, who portrayed the event as a monumental display of will-power and camaraderie, said the only reason he was able to finish the race was because of the continuous support from the herds of bystanders that lined the streets for the entire race.

"It was a shooting pain compared to the worst "charlie horse" you have ever had," Miller said. "The energy from the crowd was the only thing that allowed me to continue."

Despite the jarring pain, Miller finished the race with a time of 3:21:48, good enough for 36 out of 1,112 racers in his age group (M60-64) and good enough for 6,891 out of the total 31,931 runners who finished the race.

Miller said the race was one of the most physically taxing things he has ever done and credits the crowd and the prestige of the race as the only reasons he was able to finish.

Only recently becoming a long distance runner, Miller started running at the age of 23 after enrolling in jogging class at junior college. But it wasn't until recently that Miller decided to run in his first marathon.

After placing fifth in the 2012 Central Valley Runner of the Year series amongst his age group (60-64), Miller thought of taking his running experience a bit further and entered a marathon.

Encouraged by his initial success Miller almost immediately began entering other marathons across California including the Santa Barbara marathon, Los Angles marathon and the San Francisco marathon.

However, between financial implications and finding time to get away the father of eight never thought of running in Boston.

It wasn't until he was approached by an old Air Force friend by the name of Rick James who offered to sponsor him that Miller took the race into serious consideration.

With eight months to go before the race, and with a little influential talk from James, Miller decided he couldn't pass-up the opportunity.

"I wouldn't have been able to experience the Boston Marathon without him. I have eight kids and there is no way I could have afforded to go if it wasn't for James," Miller said.

However, for Miller the race was not as simple as deciding to run.

Unlike other Marathons, prestige and a world-wide desire to run the Boston Marathon has created such a demand to run the race that the Boston Marathon now requires a qualifying time in a pre-approved marathon race.

In order to qualify for the grueling race and prepare his body for Boston Miller was forced to step up his training from 3-4 days a week to five days a week as a way to combat fatigue he had been experiencing in other races.

Prior to the race Miller spoke with several runners and talked to a marathon expert Greg McMillian who convinced Miller to focus on his training and use an alternative method of training.

"I loved his plan, I was doing speed work but he changed my speed work to things I had never done before. Because he changed it based on what I was doing, it really helped me improve," Miller said.

According to Miller all the preparation paid off. He ran a qualifying time of 3:12:18 at the San Francisco marathon, just good enough to qualify to join the first wave of elite runners which consisted of 9,000 runners all required to place with a qualifying time of 3:12:58 or less.

"It was great because you are meeting runners that are serious about running because they had to qualify. These are all serious runners so you are meeting with runners with a runners mentality," Miller said. "I'm not an elite but, I felt like one."

Nicknamed Marathon Monday, the Boston Marathon takes place every third Monday of April to commemorate Patriots' Day, representing the anniversary of the first battles of the American Revolutionary War taking place in Lexington and Concord.

This year's Boston Marathon was a uniquely special event with emotional ties stemming from the 2013 bombings.

For those who were present during last year's race, which was punctuated by the violent terrorists attacks, the race encompassed the passion that is Boston, proclaiming that the spirit embodied in the Boston marathon is far stronger than any terrorist act.

Still wearing the bracelet commemorating last year's terrorist attacks that left three dead and more than 260 injured, Miller said this year felt extra special as he was continuously bombarded all week long with congratulatory support from Bostonians all over the city.

Miller said the support for marathon runners was evident throughout the city and said he was emotionally taken back by the gratitude and support shown by the profound love that embodies "Boston Strong."

"The city of Boston and runners all over the world were united in memorial to the tragic events of last year sending a united statement to terrorists that we are not afraid and will continue to display our freedom to support the oldest marathon in our country and stand alongside the great people of Boston," Miller said.

Miller plans to return to Boston in just a few years in hopes of finishing amongst the top 10 in his age group.

The Sierra Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service