Boston Marathon, Jim Fixx’s Running

Jim Fixx's book is a classic running primer.

Kenyan Robert K. Cheruyiot won today’s Boston Marathon in record time, become the first able-bodied man to finish in less than 2:06.

In addition to his record-setting run, Cheruyiot became the second person with his name to win the fabled race.

He is not alone in having a namesake who won the marathon.

Johnny A. Kelley, one of the event’s true legends, ran the race 61 times, finishing 58.  He was at times confused with 1957 winner by the same name, Johnny J. “The Younger” Kelley.

Watching the crowd cheer the elder Kelley as he made his way through Mile 24 at Coolidge Corner was a childhood highlight.  I met him years later at the John Gray classic in Cape Cod and asked him if he remembered Mike Kelley, a friend of mine and a nephew of his.

“Mike Kelley?” he exclaimed.  “I’ve got 19 Mike Kelleys, 22 Johnny Kelleys.”

You get the idea.  The list of Kelley relatives with the most popular Irish names was not short.

I first got the marathon bug in seventh grade, when Kelley was a mere 70 years old. I started running three miles with my friend David Sharff before we did our paper routes.

Dad got me Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running, the classic primer on the then-national craze that had a red cover and his musclebound legs in mid-stride.

Fixx died suddenly of a heart attack at age 52, giving ammunition to all non-runners, but not before he left behind an accessible and helpful book that got you oriented for how to approach running, including a chapter on Boston.

My training has suffered in the past couple of months, and I’m still optimistic about getting ready for Chicago in October.  At some point along the way I imagine I’ll be thinking about Johnny Kelley, Robert Cheruyiot and Jim Fixx.


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