fb-pixelBruins legend Zdeno Chara finishes 2023 Boston Marathon: 'I'm very, very honored' Skip to main content
Boston Marathon notebook

What’s harder: Running the Marathon or playing an NHL game? Zdeno Chara can’t decide.

Zdeno Chara can’t decide if running the Boston Marathon was harder than playing an NHL game
Wrapped in a white-and-silver blanket 3½ hours after he began the race, Zdeno Chara was all smiles as he crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon. (By Julia Yohe)

Back in the day, it seemed to take 6-foot-9-inch Zdeno Chara just a few strides to skate the length of a hockey rink for the Bruins.

On the same day his former team launched its much-anticipated Stanley Cup playoff run, Chara needed a few more steps to finish his first Boston Marathon in the highly respectable time of 3:38:23, the clear leader among a handful of former Boston professional athletes making their marathon debuts Monday.

After the PA system blared the Bruins’ TD Garden goal anthem — “Kernkraft 400″ by Zombie Nation — as Chara crossed the line with a wide smile, he reflected on the vast differences between the sporting efforts.

Advertisement



“It’s two different things, definitely,” he said. “This is something that you have to be very smart — the first half with your head and then second half, obviously, with your legs and heart.

“Nothing can take away from the playoffs; everything you do is so grueling and rewarding at the end.

“I mean, it depends how you look at it. There’s obviously been some, some very hard games and runs in the playoffs, but this is obviously something different that I’ve never done before.

“I’m very, very honored to be part of such a historical race and be part of the community.”

Running on behalf of two charities — the Thomas E. Smith Foundation and the Hoyt Foundation — Chara wore bib number 3333 (his Bruins number was 33).

The low-key 46-year-old Slovakian delivered a vote of confidence for the team he devoted 14 seasons to in his 24-year NHL career.

“It’s one of the best teams that’s probably ever played, all the records, it’s unbelievable history,” said Chara, a member of the 2011 Stanley Cup Bruins champions. “I’m wishing them all the best.”

Advertisement



Chara and the Bruins were nearing the end of the 2013 season when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred.

“I look back on it as one of the biggest tragedies but also one of the biggest bondings that you could see among the people in the city,” said Chara. “The people showed how they came together and supported each other; that was incredibly motivational and inspiring for all of us.

“Running 10 years later, I mean, I always had that in the back of my mind, and I just started to obviously give my best the last few miles. I was thinking about the people who were affected.”

Holt, Flutie stay the course

Ex-Red Sox utility star Brock Holt spent nearly six hours on the course in his marathon debut, coming in at 5:46:57 in his run on behalf of the Jimmy Fund

“I think if I would have run a little harder, it would have affected me a little bit more, but it does get rough, my legs are a little shaky right now,” said Holt. “My pace was not too quick. I wasn’t trying to break any records today, just trying to enjoy it. And I did, it was fun.”

Holt said he trained diligently at first “but the last probably month and a half, I skipped a lot of runs, so the most I ran was 12 miles. So once I got past 12, it was all new to me today. But like I said, it was a blast.”

Advertisement



Holt’s wife Lakyn finished in 5:51:13.

A former teammate, Ryan Dempster, finished in 4:42:11.

Dempster ran on behalf of the Lingzi Foundation, which honors bombing victim Lingzi Lu.

Doug Flutie, running for the Flutie Foundation, finished in 5:28:34 despite recent groin and hamstring injuries that kept him from training the last six weeks.

“I thought I was going to get 5 miles into it and say it ‘screw it,’ ” said the former Boston College quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner. “I went mile by mile. Anytime I felt anything, I walked.”

Doug Flutie got a hug at the finish line.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Powering through was important to him on the 10th anniversary of the bombing.

“It’s important to the people that are Boston,” said Flutie, a Natick native. “I lived here my whole life, and I know every step of that marathon, and the day that happened, it was something that was especially Boston they were trying to take away.”

Quick fix led to victory

Tightening a loose wheel in the middle of a marathon you’re leading is a necessary but perilous proposition.

The less-than-a-minute pit stop by Susannah Scaroni turned into a footnote to her first Boston Marathon women’s wheelchair victory in 1:41:45, a time more than five minutes ahead of second-place finisher Madison de Rozario.

“This course is pretty bumpy — especially, well, mostly all of it — and my right wheel came loose,” said Scaroni. “I had a kit with me, so I pulled over and tightened it as quickly as I could and got back into the race.

Advertisement



“I just hoped I could maybe maintain a gap, but that’s exactly what happened. I’m so happy it didn’t get loose again.”

Wheelchair winners Marcel Hug (left) and Susannah Scaroni with the hardware at the finish line.Omar Rawlings/Getty

The furious twists of the Allen wrench between Miles 8 and 9 cost Scaroni less than a minute, leaving her plenty of time to build back a lead that was never threatened from Mile 6.

The win was Scaroni’s first in nine attempts here.

“Hearing the crowds on Boylston is the most noise I’ve ever heard crossing this line,” she said. “It normally seems like it takes 10 years to get down Boylston, but today I felt like I was lifted by the crowd.”

Marcel Hug set a course record with his 1:17:06 finish in the men’s wheelchair division, topping by 58 seconds the record he set in 2017. It was the Swiss athlete’s sixth victory here. He finished second last year behind Daniel Romanchuk, who finished more than 10½ minutes behind Hug this time.

“Everything went perfect,” said Hug. “I just tried to go fast from the beginning with the first downhill. After the downhills, I was alone and tried to keep my pace as good as possible and go as fast as possible.

“It’s incredible in these conditions, with headwinds, crosswinds, rain, to do a time like this. For me, it’s incredible.”

Tanzanian joy

On the steps of an office building behind the finish line, a throng of 30 jubilant flag-wrapped Tanzanians exulted with a serenade of high-energy song and chants for the second-place men’s finish of Gabriel Geay.

Advertisement



Benjamin Fernandes explained the joyous display.

“He’s the eighth-fastest man in the world for marathon history, and he’s Tanzanian, so us, as Tanzanians, we usually don’t have people who run a lot and are out there, so this is a big deal for us as a country,” said Fernandes, who flew in with others from Dar es Salaam to Boston to cheer on Geay.

Tanzania's Gabriel Geay (right) took a lead at Mile 19.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

“We were with him last night and we were surprised, because he wasn’t feeling so well last night; he had a little bit of a fever and a headache and was texting till 2 in the morning. And he was like, ‘I’m nervous,’ so to see him come in second was phenomenal.”

Marshal Ortiz

David Ortiz’s galvanizing “this is our [expletive] city” speech at Fenway Park after the bombings made him the easy choice to serve as grand marshal of this year’s race.

“ ‘Boston Strong’ is the type of phrase that was needed when we really needed it,” said Ortiz, who made prerace appearances at both the starting and finish lines. “We reunited New England. We went through something that was not expected but we handled it, we got together. This town is amazing.”

David Ortiz placed the trophy at finish line before the race.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The BAA and the City of Boston presented him with the Patriots’ Award.

“I always tell people everywhere I go: New England is the type of town that knows how to regroup, how to bounce back, knows how to put it together,” Ortiz said. “That’s one of the things that made me really proud.”

Keeping it clean

An estimated 6.6 tons of gulped-and-chucked paper cups were swept up to be composted. Race organizers have reduced waste by nearly 40 tons since 2018. Eighty percent of waste from the course is recycled, composted, or sent to other sustainable streams. Twenty-one tons of clothing was shed or misplaced last year. All of it was donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters … The race’s official charity program was expected to bring in more than $40 million, which would bring the grand total of funds raised to $500 million since 1989 … Two F-15 pilots from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield needed only 4 minutes to cover the course in the ceremonial flyover.

Correction: Because of a reporter’s error, an earlier version of this story listed Zdeno Chara’s nationality incorrectly. He is from Slovakia.

Read more about the Boston Marathon


Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com.