20 04 2008

Beach Says He Won’t Give Up On Boston

Washington Post

April 20, 2008; Page D04

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/04/19/ST2008041902315.html

Over the course of 40 consecutive Boston Marathons, finishing never has been an issue for Ben Beach. Tomorrow’s race could be different.

“There’s no place to hide,” said Beach, from Bethesda. “But Boston is a big part of who I am and I’m not prepared to give that up.”

Beach suffers from dystonia, an involuntary muscle twitch in his left leg that makes his leg flail awkwardly with every stride. Long an accomplished runner, Beach has a personal best of 2 hours 27 minutes. At 58, his best racing days are behind him, but Beach always had been among the top half of Boston finishers until last year, when he crossed the line in 4:11.

Dystonia first afflicted Beach five years ago, but it wasn’t diagnosed until more recently by doctors at the National Institutes of Health. He has been forced to limit his running to about three times a week, while cross-training on a bike.

Beach has the second-longest consecutive-year streak at Boston; he trails only Neil Weygandt, who started in 1966, the year before Beach first toed the line as a freshman at Harvard.

“Some people say I’m nuts, and I can appreciate that,” Beach said. “But . . . I’m bound and determined to keep it going.”

Botox treatments there have quieted the misfiring nerve signals but left Beach’s competitive spirit undaunted. On April 6, he completed his 36th Cherry Blossom Ten Mile run, making him the only runner to have finished every race.

The marathon, of course, is more than 2 1/2 times as long. “These days, it’s more a question of whether I can make it to the end,” Beach said. “But running a marathon is always a challenge. It’s now more of a challenge, in a different way.”

Jim Hage

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