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Running a Covid-delayed Marathon

2021 Boston Marathon finish; inset, Eric Harrison

Alexander Eric Svenson, an Arlington native and a student , wrote this piece to get the perspective of a local runner in the Boston Marathon, especially given its rescheduling to the fall because of Covid. When he saw Patch report that Eric Harrison of Arlington was among was among 40 competing, he reached out. Alex, also a runner, competed with Eric's son when he was on the Arlington High School track team.

While the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic resulted in canceling the 2020 Boston Marathon and postponing the 2021 event to the fall, one local man continued to train for the big race despite the lockdown and quarantine restrictions.

Eric Harrison, a 59-year-old Arlington resident, ran his sixth Boston Marathon last month. Initially planning to run the race in April 2020, the race would have been his first Boston Marathon since 2005.

The last marathon Harrison ran was the Hyannis in 2019, but watching his kids compete for the Arlington High School cross-country and track-and-field teams inspired him to enter the race again in 2020.

Needed to work hard

However, once the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) decided to cancel and postpone, Harrison knew he needed to work hard to stay in shape and prepare for the race this October.

“The rescheduling wasn’t terrible timing for me, because I had done really good training for the 2020 marathon,” Harrison said.

According to the BAA, in order to prepare for running the Boston event, all runners must have competed in another marathon beforehand.

Harrison explained that most runners typically run a series of races, increasing in distance to help find their pace and meet their qualifying time leading up to a marathon.

“I was not yet sure what my pace was going to be for the 2021 marathon,” Harrison said. "Canceling the 2020 marathon allowed me to have some time off to recover and prepare for the 2021 race.”

Feeling good about his running, Harrison continued his training throughout the next few months for the 2021 marathon, slowly increasing his miles to the point where he was running 50 miles a week.

Runs Minuteman, along Mystic

Harrison’s runs often took him on Arlington’s scenic Minuteman bike path or along the Mystic River. Some of his runs were as long as 20 miles, in which he would run a loop from Arlington down to the Charles River and back.

Harrison spent much of his time running and training during the lockdown and quarantine that was initiated by state officials at the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, and continued thereafter.

Since he was working from home most days of the week, his running became his outlet both physically and mentally during a time when social contact was supposed to be limited.

“With the lockdown and working from home, when you’re home all the time it’s kind of a treat to be able to go outside and do something,” Harrison said. “My running became my outlet.”

In the days leading up to the fall race, Harrison began to cut down his distances to prepare him for the 26.2 miles he would run on Marathon Monday.

Marathon worries unwarranted

On the day of the big race, Harrison was hoping that everything would go as he had planned. He was worried that because of the restrictions caused by the ongoing pandemic, the race might be a little disorganized.

“I was a little apprehensive this year,” Harrison said. “We all had to get loaded onto buses and in Boston and then ride out to Hopkinton, and I just wasn't sure how it would go.”

However, Harrison said that he “just showed up at the appointed time, and it was really easy getting on the bus,” and once he got to the starting line, “everything just flowed so smoothly.”

Harrison ended up finishing the race in 3 hours and 31 minutes, qualifying him for both the 2022 and 2023 Boston Marathon.

'Wake-up call'

“When compared to the other marathons I have run, such as New York and Hyannis, I had a wake-up call on how hard the Boston course is,” Harrison said.

“Even though the course is net downhill, it is just a lot harder to run with the format of so much downhill and then the hills at the end,” Harrison continued. “It makes you hurt in different places than you would running other marathons.”

Although Harrison finished just two minutes above his desired time, he had a great experience running the race, and was particularly impressed by the large crowds that came out to watch and support the runners.

“I did not expect crowds to be as big as they were,” Harrison said, “but it was great! Especially when you start getting tired and people help keep you motivated to finish the race.”

Sept. 25, 2021: At least 40 from Arlington run 2021 Boston Marathon

This news summary, which includes opinion, was published Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021.

Svenson, a senior at Suffolk, writes for The Suffolk Journal and creates news packages and online news reports for New England Cable News and Westford Community Access Television.

Harrison works as the director of data development at the Workers Compensation Research Institute, where he oversees data analysis and data production with accountability for data acquisition and quality for proprietary database of over 20 million workers’ compensation claims.

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