Marathon man Bill Brown hits the 100 mark
Some 20 Islanders accompanied 55-year-old Bill Brown of Vineyard Haven in all or part of the Cape Cod Marathon, Sunday, most wearing tee-shirts that said "We are running with a legend." Bill, a self-effacing man, had to wear a shirt that said "I'm the legend."
Reason for the special attention was the fact that it was Bill's 100th marathon and his many friends in the running community were eager to honor him.
Bill took up running in the first place because he was overweight and a heavy smoker, neither, he thought, acceptable role models for his children, a son and three daughters.
Distance running soon became a major interest and pastime. His first marathon was the Hyannis in 1989. His second marathon, the next year, came at the end of an Ironman event at Sunapee, N.H., after he had swum 2.4 miles and bicycled 112 miles. In fact, a dozen of Bill's marathons have been part of Ironman events, including five of his first 14 marathons.
Bill, a vice president at Island Insurance, really got serious about running marathons when he learned of the 50 State Club whose members have run a marathon in each of the 50 states. In 2000 he ran seven marathons. The next year he ran seven more. In '02, '03, and '04 he ran an even dozen per year. Then, with an injured disc, he slowed down to four in '05 and four in '06. In '07 he ran eight marathons and five so far this year, including the Rochester, Minnesota, his 98th, in May and Anchorage. Alaska, his 99th, in June, the final two of his 50-state goal.
There have been lots of memorable races along the way: New Orleans, for one, and running up Pike's Peak: "That was cool!" He's run through cities and canyons and across a lava field on Hawaii. He did the Tahoe Triple, running three marathons in three days circling the lake.
Sunday's Falmouth was his 100th marathon and the occasion of a grand post race party in a tent pitched at the home of Larry Johnson and Kim O'Callahan of Vineyard Haven.
Photo by Dana Gaines
Tables were laden with food and drink and the tent was bedecked with 100 flags, each with the name of a marathon Bill had run.
Bill Brown is a prime example of the distance runner's generous attitude toward his sport. There is little to nothing about jealousies or grudges. Indeed, distance runners seem genuinely pleased with someone else's accomplishment - a personal best time, a higher finish than expected, someone's first. There is just as much joie de vivre and bonhomie among the also-rans as among the leaders.
"In fact, it's all about camaraderie," Bill told The Martha's Vineyard Times. "That's what makes it so rewarding and worth all the time and all the pain." Seeing him surrounded by more than a hundred friends all celebrating his 100th marathon it was clear to even the uninitiated observer that he well knew what he was talking about and meant every word.
Bill has no thoughts of quitting. Near the top of his agenda is a return to the Coeur d'Alene Ironman in Idaho.