Paul C. Clerici was staring uphill toward his 25th birthday when he ran his first Boston Marathon in 1990.
“I wanted to do something to mark that quarter century,” said Clerici, recalling the crowds who lined the 26.2-mile route from Hopkinton into Boston. “I saw all these families cheering. I saw the signs in the windows… It lifts you up.”
Clerici returned the next year, and the next, running every year until 2013, when he took a break to finish writing “Boston Marathon History by the Mile.”
Published in 2014, the book is a collection of stories, photographs, research, and advice for viewers and runners alike to enjoy. As the marathon nears again this year, Clerici has given readings at local book stores, libraries, and events.
“This book breaks down the courses into chapters,” said the 51-year-old Walpole resident. “Every chapter covers an anecdote or historical event that happened and I included fun facts that stand out. All towns are included, and I mention how many miles there are in the towns, what kind of terrain you can expect ... and special landmarks you may see.”
Clerici drew on his experience as a former editor at the Walpole Times to research, conduct interviews, and write the book. He was also inspired by his own experience navigating the race.
“As a runner in the Boston Marathon, your life changes for several months beforehand. You schedule your days with what you’re going to eat and what miles you’re going to run. Then when you actually get to Hopkinton to start the race, everyone’s excited,” he said.
“I’ve run 43 marathons, some outside of the state, but Boston is so different. The support you get from the people is what really keeps you going. They’ll yell at you to continue and it’s terrific. It carries you through the whole course. When you finish, you’re so emotional and happy, and of course you’re tired, but all of that preparation was worth it. Now you have something to celebrate forever.”
In 2013, Clerici was putting the finishing touches on “Boston Marathon History by the Mile” and did not run in the race.
That was the year two homemade bombs were detonated near the race’s finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was later convicted in a sweeping verdict and sentenced to death.
“I was at the WBZ Channel 4 studios and all I remember thinking was, ‘is this really happening?’ but no one hesitated,” Clerici recalled. “There were doctors and other people who were there who ran to help those injured. The EMT’s, police, and our overall community came together. There was instant love and support.”
If anything, the tragedy only increased Clerici’s desire to publish his book; he wanted to show Boston in a positive light with the rich history to back it up. He threw in anecdotes like the one about a Natick man who would dress up as Santa and root for runners from the sidelines.
“I wrote this book for different people,” he said. “For people who live around here and know about the Boston Marathon, I hope I surprise them. For those who are attending it for the first time as a spectator or runner, I hope this book pumps up their enthusiasm.”
Paul Clerici has additionally written two other books, “A History of the Falmouth Road Race: Running Cape Cod” and “History of the Greater Boston Track Club.” All are available through Arcadia Publishing and The History Press, a few independent stores, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.
“People should experience the Boston Marathon because the journey itself is so rewarding,” Clerici said.
Rebecca Bicalho can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.