Berkshire County runners brace for cold, wet Boston Marathon

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When one packs to go run 26.2 miles, the suitcase checklist wouldn't normally feature plenty of trash bags.

However, with another cold and rainy Patriot's Day on tap for eastern Massachusetts, that's exactly what a large crowd of Berkshire County runners are tucking in amid the extra socks this weekend.

The 123rd running of the Boston Marathon is forecast to look a whole lot like the 122nd edition last spring, which saw a raw and rainy day from the starting line in Hopkinton through Heartbreak Hill and to the finish line on Boylston Street in Boston.

"Just hard hearing the weather, that it's going to be terrible again," said Abigail Wright, 24, who was the top reported local finisher at last year's race. "But, can't really control that.

"I did pack more rain gear this year, along with more trash bags to sit on, more socks and shoes. Just trying to stay warm and dry. I feel a little more experienced in that way, just because of how terrible it was last year."

Wright, a Pittsfield High and Springfield College alum, who is now head coach of cross-country at MCLA, will be running her fourth marathon, and making her second trip to Boston. She finished in 3 hours, 9 minutes, 42 seconds last spring and will be wearing bib 8772 this year, starting with the second wave in the first corral.

Wave 1 runners will depart the starting line at 10:02 a.m., followed by Wave 2 at 10:25. Waves 3 and 4 have been condensed due to the impending weather. Wave 3 will begin at 10:50 a.m., with Wave 4 starting as soon as they are through.

The Berkshire Eagle has heard from 19 local runners heading east to compete, and all have varying goals, ages and levels of experience.

"I always have goals set, and I would like to be as close to three hours as possible, but knowing the weather isn't great, I'm trying to go with just the goal to finish," said Wright. "It's such a well-known marathon and it's a great honor to be running in it. Knowing all the fans are going to be there cheering you is a great accomplishment in itself. Just being able to cross that finish line on Monday will be fabulous."

Wright is actually the youngest of the county crew, which features 11 runners over the age of 50.

"Boston is completely lined from Mile 1 to Mile 26 with people. The experience is inexpicable," said Wright. "I can't even fathom it. It's just an unreal thing to do."

Jackie Lemme Varney, 27, currently resides in New Jersey, but the Mount Greylock graduate has serious ties to the Berkshires, as she'll be competing in her second ever marathon and first Boston with dad, Kent, of Berkshire Running Center. Lemme also won the female division at the Independence Day 5K in Pittsfield, besting Wright by 14 seconds.

Jackie will be under bib 10669, while Kent, 52, wears 8325.

"We haven't been able to run together, obviously, but it's been really nice because after our long runs we'll text each other and talk about how it went," said Jackie. "It's also just nice to have my dad, who knows so much about running, if I have any questions about what kind of workouts I should do and the best times to do it. That was awesome to have throughout the training process."

Lemme Varney qualified for Boston at the New York City Marathon in 2017. It will be a full family affair in Boston, with Shiobbean Lemme posting updates on the local runners to the Berkshire Running Center Facebook page.

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"My dad and I had this goal in mind of running a pretty fast time, and obviously the weather could affect that," said Jackie Lemme. "Something I've always tried to do in races is run off of how I feel. So that's what I'm going to try to do."

Other locals making a second consecutive trip to Boston are Paul Gage, 48, of Cheshire, who was the second reported Berkshire runner in at 3:25.14 last year. He'll wear bib 9822. Sheffield's John Kemp, 51, finished in 3:28.00 last spring and will return with bib 5618.

Also returning is Dalton's Jennifer Bell, 53, who will don bib 20191.

"I was just thinking, I did 2018, so I'm not actually all that worried about the weather," said Bell, who coaches the Wahconah Unified track team. "You get out there, as prepared as you can be, and just go for it. It's Boston.

"There's nothing like Boston."

Bell is no stranger to marathon running, as this will be her 53rd race. Boston 2019 will be her third in the city, but already her sixth of the year, as she was in Kansas four weeks ago. She did her first in 2015, and was hooked. Bell has a goal of finishing as close to 3:30.00 as she can, but even more impressively, hopes to run a marathon in all 50 states. She's knocked off 32 thus far.

"I love running, and it's brought me a huge community of friends, and that's part of what I love about it. I've met so many great people," said Bell.

Another family duo taking the trip is Steve and Elizabeth St. Clair of Williamstown, both 60. Steve will be in bib 20135 and Elizabeth 23566.

Hoosac Valley cross-country coach Nick Curelop, 30, of Great Barrington is headed to Boston and will compete with the first wave out of corral two. He'll be in bib 1612.

Veteran marathoners Matt Kinnaman, 58, of Lee and David Wilson, 57, of Lanesborough are back. Kinnaman in bib 9001, Wilson in 19920.

Out of Williamstown, Erin Hightower, 54, will wear bib 29933.

David Oelberg, 55, of Lenox is in bib 13575. Ken Bilodeau, 57, of Becket is in bib 18667. Kristen Vorisek, 40, of Housatonic is in bib 19587. Christine Arace, 46, of Pittsfield is in bib 21404. Beverly Ameen, 55, of North Adams is in bib 23389. Allison Lassoe, 56, of Sheffield is in bib 24032, and Jennifer Robbins is also slated to race.

Precipitation and cold temperatures may sap seconds and minutes from the day's runners, but as Bell said, it is Boston.

And if anyone, runner or spectator needs some advice, take it from the MCLA coach who learned from the likes of Theresa Apple and Stephanie Ambrose.

"You just need to be mentally tough, Your legs can only do so much, and when the weather seems unbearable and you're shivering, if you keep a positive mindset, it will help you get the extra mile and do the best that you can do," said Wright. "My advice, stay tough and push through that pain."

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.


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