Saugus native Amy Cronin Davis waves on Heartbreak Hill. (Eric Davis)
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Local marathoners weathered the course in good times

BOSTON — While Lawrence Cheono and Worknesh Degefa were staging their dramatic finishes in Monday's 123rd running of the Boston Marathon, the back-of-the-pack runners overcame their own obstacles to finish the 26.2-mile course.

Central among those obstacles was the weather, which seemed to suffer ugly mood swings as it bore down on the runners.

"The weather was nuts," said Ellen Goldberg of Nahant, who may have taken five-plus hours to finish the course, but counted it as an even bigger source of pride that she's raised $82,074 for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind in the 10 years she's run the race.

"That's really the most important thing," she said.

As for the race, she struggled.

"It was hot, it was cold, it rained, the sun came out … this was a microcosm of the old saying that if you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a moment. It'll change," she said.

But afterward, when she sought treatment in the medical tent, attendants there told her she wasn't the only one affected by it.

"It played havoc on a lot of bodies," she said.

Saugus' Glen Harrington, running for the Pine Street Inn, said he heard that at least 30 runners suffered heat stroke as the sun came out during the afternoon and turned an already-muggy day into a scorcher — albeit briefly.

"Halfway in, it got hot, and I ended up with a pretty good sunburn," he said. "But other than that, it was great. I ran it in 4:27.54, which is a personal best."

He'd run the course a week ago, save for the first four miles, and he said the one discovery he made today is "you lose elevation right away." Then come the hills, which he navigated without too much of a problem. Harrington said the stretch between Cleveland Circle through Brookline to Kenmore Square can be tedious because "you've done the hill and now it's just time to finish. And it's a long stretch. Lots of houses that look pretty much the same, and the trolley tracks."

Others made note of that too.

"It just never seemed to end," said Swampscott's Mark Mercer, 53. "All you want to do after you get over those hills is get to the finish line."

Mercer ran a 4:40, but that might be because he'd run a marathon last week in the United Kingdom.

"My body's a little beaten up right now," he said.

He ran for Colin's Joy Project, a foundation set up in memory of 2-year-old Colin McGrath, who was struck and killed by a car in South Boston two years ago.

Mercer says it may be a cliche, but "the best part of the race are the fans.

"I've run Chicago, and they have great crowds too. But Boston's fans are fantastic."

He also likes the course in Boston, which, he said, offers more variety than Chicago mainly because of the hills. But did he feel that way as he was going up and down them?

"Some of them yes," he said, "some of them no."

Lynn's Thomas Mackin, running for Massachusetts General Hospital's Emergency Response Team, ran the course in 3:16, and said "it was a great, painful experience. That's how I'd describe it."

The muggy weather also bothered him.

"It was kind of tough to deal with," he said. "I just kind of pushed through it."

Mackin, a former track star at Lynn Classical, said the course is deceptively tough.

"The first part of it is all downhill, and I may have gone out too fast," he said. "The back end is worse. I struggled going up the hills, and I had to walk up a couple of them. But I made it, which is all that mattered."

Like Harrington and others, Mackin found the straight stretch through Brookline somewhat of a challenge.

"You've done the hills, you just want it to end by that point," he said. "It felt very, very long."

Saugus native Amy Cronin Davis, 34, a 2002 graduate of Saugus High, now lives on Heartbreak Hill, so she's familiar with it. She ran the race 10 years ago, and said there is a big difference between now and then.

"The field just keeps getting faster," she said, noting that she ran a 3:30 and had plenty of company throughout. "It's crazy how competitive it's getting."

Unlike some of her fellow racers, "I got through it pretty dry. When I got dropped off for the bus to Hopkinton (on the Boston Common) it was really raining hard. But once the race started, I missed it."

Still, with all her knowledge of the course, she said she began cramping up on the hills.

All the runners were fueled by the fans along the course, and especially by their families.

"The best part for me was turning onto Boylston Street and seeing my wife, my mother, my sister, and my little girl Faith to greet me," said Harrington, 37.

"And my sister (Angela Fleming) was awesome. She was like a crazy person. She ran around to three separate points along the course to cheer me on."


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