Aspen’s Keleher beats heat at Boston Marathon |

Aspen’s Keleher beats heat at Boston Marathon

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Brandy Lauren PhotographyAspen's Chris Keleher, right, nears the finish line of Monday's Boston Marathon.

Concerned that soaring temperatures would wreak havoc on a field of more than 22,000 runners, Boston Marathon race organizers last week offered a deferment program to encourage novice runners to sit this one out.

Approximately 328 people did not make it to the starting line Monday, according to The Associated Press, opting instead to have a place saved for them in 2013’s race.

Aspen’s Chris Keleher was not one of them.

“I never really considered that,” the Aspen Middle School eighth-grade teacher admitted Wednesday evening. “I absolutely had to do this. This has been on the horizon for a long time.”

Keleher first conjured the idea to compete in the prestigious marathon while a student at the University of Oregon. A professor challenged him and others to compile a list of 50 things they wanted to accomplish in their lifetimes. Boston made Keleher’s list, one that he has tweaked over the years and includes purchasing a Volkswagen bus and becoming captain of the Starship Enterprise.

He got his bus – a 1976 model – about six months ago. Monday, he got his Boston Marathon finisher’s medal. Keleher contended with temperatures that topped out at 89 degrees and covered 26.2 miles in 4 hours, 2 minutes, 19 seconds – good for 9,101st place.

“I’ll take it, especially after walking six of the last 10 miles,” the Aspen High cross country and track coach joked. “Boston’s a tough course, not one you can approach cavalierly at all.

“The heat was oppressive. It was definitely a challenge. … I think the warmest (training) run I took was 53 degrees, so it was a good 35 degrees different during the hottest part of the day.”

While he was competing in just his third marathon, Keleher said he felt prepared. He secured his spot in Boston by virtue of two strong finishes in the past 18 months – in Tucson, Ariz., and in Eugene, Ore., where he logged a 3:07:48.

Training for Boston began in earnest about 20 weeks ago.

“It was the perfect winter to train – no snow, trails and bike paths and other stuff still open,” Keleher said. “As far as the learning curve, I have a lot more to learn if I want to really run (marathons) the way they should be run, but I didn’t go into this lightly. I trained smart.”

Nothing could have prepared him for the heat, however. (A total of 2,181 runners sought help at Boston Athletic Association medical tents – a record for the event – with as many as 500 more treated at Red Cross stations, according to the AP.)

“You never know what you’re going to get. That joy and frustration, that’s what running is,” Keleher said. “Last year was perfect conditions to run this course. I have a friend who lived back there, and he said it just as easily could’ve been 35 degrees and sleet. That would’ve been miserable and changed times, too.

“The first time I looked at the weather was two weeks out, and the long-range forecast said 68 and a fairly good chance for rain. … As it started getting closer, (the temperature) kept creeping up, to 79, then 83 and 87. It was definitely toasty.”

Buoyed by a downhill start, mostly in the shade, and the energy of being surrounded by 10,000 runners in the first wave, Keleher said he felt good as he pushed off around 10 a.m. Monday.

Things took a turn for the worse about six to eight miles in, Keleher said.

“I think I was feeling the affects of dehydration. And I don’t think I ate enough that morning,” Keleher said. “Things started to go downhill. By about Mile 13, 14 and 15, part of my calf was giving me a little warning sign that I was going to cramp if I pushed any harder. I started backing off, running in the shade wherever I could find it, and pouring cup of water after cup of water on me.

“Once I got over not the embarrassment but the frustration of not running the time I wanted and training so hard to run this slowly, I tried to enjoy myself, enjoy the spirit of Boston and laugh at people.”

Keleher routinely veered to the sides of the course to high-five animated onlookers and grab Otter Pops handed out by grinning children manning makeshift aid stations. He watched competitors take turns being sprayed by hoses and stealing kisses from the female students standing outside Wellesley College, west of Boston.

One racer even ran clear across the road, stopped and asked a man grilling in his front yard for a bite of bratwurst.

“As slow as I was running and as frustrating as it was, it was a really cool spectacle to be a part of,” Keleher said. “What a great way to spend a couple hours with thousands of your closest friends.

“It was amazing. You’re looking down the road and can see about a half-mile in front of you, and there’s this river of people, of bobbing heads. You can’t see pavement anywhere. There were always 300, 400 people around you running the same pace. Misery loves company, right?”

Cramping in his legs forced Keleher to walk for extended stretches during the race’s second half but, spurred on by a cheering section that included his wife, mother, father and brother, he made it to the finish.

“I was kind of in a death shuffle, just moseying along and putting one foot in front of the other,” Keleher said. “It was really good to see that finish line, to get that medal and get the right to wear the race


“The whole thing was quite a spectacle. I’m glad I got to be a part of it.”

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