Ben Beach was coming through Natick Monday when he felt an Achilles’ tendon give way. “I haven’t had an Achilles’ problem in 35 years,” the 63-year-old Maryland resident said by telephone Tuesday. The timing undoubtedly was lousy but Beach was determined to cross the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street while the clock still was running.
Beach is the Marathon’s “streaker laureate,” having completed more consecutive Patriots Day runs here — 45 since 1968 — than any other active runner. Had he finished his 46th he would have broken the global record for all marathons that he shares with Neil Weygandt, who finally gave up the chase last year. But when the race was stopped immediately after two bombs went off near the finish line Beach was stranded on Beacon Street just before Kenmore Square and never made it to Boylston.
If he had finished around 3:15 pm, as he’d hoped to, his family likely would have been only a few feet away from the blast that killed or injured nearly 180 people. As it was, his brother Randy and wife Jennifer had been near that spot only a few minutes earlier before they decided to move 50 yards up the street toward Massachusetts Avenue to find a bit more standing room. “That decision might have saved our lives,” wrote Randy, a Boston University graduate and columnist for the New Haven Register.
Beach’s wife Carol had organized a carbo-loading party on Sunday evening and passed out commemorative T-shirts. There was no question, daughter Emily and sons Carter and Evan insisted, that their dad would go the distance.
Even after he and a friend slowed to a trot and then a walk, Beach reckoned that he could make it before the six-hour limit. After a phalanx of volunteers blocked the road just after Heartbreak Hill, Beach took to the sidewalk. “But when we got to the 40K mark the cops said, no way anybody’s getting any closer,” he said. “We’d hoped to at least complete the course.”
His status as streaker laureate, a race ahead of Nantucket resident Timothy Lepore, is intact. Whether BAA officials will disregard the forced incomplete and consider next year’s race his 46th in a row is a discussion for later. What Beach is thankful for now is that all his rooters made it home safely. “I’m really glad,” he said, “I was so slow yesterday.”