Last Sunday, Boston hit its all-time snow record with 108.6 inches. The extreme conditions may have put many indoors, but it hasn’t stopped runners — especially those training for the 2015 Boston Marathon.
The race is scheduled for April 20, so participants are determined to get their training in whatever way they can.
With most of their usual paths covered with more than eight feet of snow, runners have had to find indoor tracks or use treadmills in their basements. That includes Nicole and Chad Greene, a married couple who are also elite runners with 51 marathons between them.
“We brought the TV down and have been watching lots of movies while we do our long runs on the treadmill,” Nicole says.
“This will be our first Boston Marathon together, and we are pushing to run fast and hard,” Chad adds.
Some runners have taken up other sports, such as snowshoeing. Others have simply layered up, and found safe paths.
Brian Oates, for example, runs the carriage lane along Commonwealth Avenue at the famous Heartbreak Hill in Newton. “The drivers are really encouraging,” says Oates, who is training for his 19th Boston Marathon. “A thumbs up goes a long way.”
Even so, the runners have had to take caution. They might run earlier or later when the roads are more open. Reflective material is a must in order to be seen by cars. Also, tall snow banks prevent the runners from looking around corners and intersections.
“You’ve even got to be ready to jump into a snow bank to avoid collisions,” Nicole says.
As if the snow weren’t enough, temperatures have often been below freezing. So runners must always be alert for black ice and slippery patches, too.
“It’s like a test,” Oates says. “You have to prepare for it if you want to succeed.”
So why don’t they quit? What spurs them on to train through these harsh conditions?
Many runners have personal reasons to keep at it.
“I did not play sports as a kid, so running a marathon was my first athletic accomplishment,” says Debbie Harding, who is now training for her 15th Boston Marathon. She wants to keep running the race until her 11-year-old son can run with her.
Maureen Keegan is running her first Boston Marathon for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in honor of her mother who is a cancer survivor. “I think, if my mom could deal with cancer treatment, I can run a marathon,” Keegan says.
But for many runners, it’s the Marathon itself — and the spirit of the city — that pushes them through the epic snow and cold.
“We run because it is Boston,” Nicole says. “You have to earn your way to be there, and that brings about a special vibe like no other race has, not even the others in the Big 6.”
The “Boston Strong” spirit gives many runners strength, Chad adds. “The Boston Marathon now exemplifies that runners will always endure, and that no finish line is too difficult to cross.”
This year, the rough and never-ending season of snow and cold just adds to the challenge — and the sense of accomplishment.
“It will be a good story,” Keegan says. “At the end of the day, not only will I be able to say that I finished the Boston Marathon, but also that I beat the winter of 2015.”
Photo: Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo, Elise Amendola/AP Photo