Runners prepare for 121st Boston Marathon

Seven Island runners will compete in Monday’s race.

Marylee Schroeder (left) and Chantal Desgagne smile after completing the Boston Marathon in 2014. Marylee and Chantal will race again this year. — Photo courtesy of Chantal Desgag

This is an exciting time for long-distance runners. The Boston Marathon is only days away, and approximately 30,000 hopeful entrants from around the globe, their arduous training completed, are making final plans for Monday’s 26.2-mile run.

Among them are several local runners who have put in the training and are ready and eager to go. The Times interviewed four of these runners,  Marylee Schroeder of West Tisbury, Chantal Desgagne of Vineyard Haven, Ben Martin of Chilmark, and Joellen BenDavid of Oak Bluffs.

Their stories vary in the details, but have a common thread: the thrill of running in Boston.

The race is held on Patriots Day, and coincides each year with an 11 am Red Sox home game. This unique annual doubleheader gives the holiday a distinctive Party Day flavor. Many local fans start their day inside Fenway Park and then line the streets in the early afternoon to watch and cheer the parade of marathoners as they head toward the finish line. It is a festive scene, exhilarating for fans and runners alike.

“I have run 15 Bostons,” said Marylee Schroeder, “and each one has been as exciting and fulfilling as my first. The fact that Boston is the only major marathon that has qualifying requirements makes it even more special.” Marylee added that she had watched the race for many years as a spectator and was in awe of the participants. Fifteen Boston Marathons later, she is still overwhelmed by the experience.

Chantal Desgagne of Vineyard Haven, who has run Boston three times, has equally strong feelings about the race. “It’s a very special event,” she said. “To be part of it is an honor.”

For Chantal, the last stages of the race provide tremendous satisfaction. “I love making that turn onto Boylston Street,” she said, referring to the home stretch. “It gives me butterflies.” Moments later, having crossed the finish line and “barely able to walk,” she receives her medal for completing the race. “The rewards,” she observed, “come at the end.”

For Ben Martin and Joellen BenDavid, the anticipation has a different tenor. Although each has marathon experience (Ben one, Joellen five), both are “Boston rookies,” as Ben puts it. “I’m really looking forward to it,” Ben continued. “I am very excited about hearing the roar of the crowds, and feeling the pride of completing the race.”

Joellen’s excitement about her first Boston is tempered by some anxiety. She is raring to go, but knows she must stay in control at the start of the race. “It’s hard to keep from going out too fast at the beginning,” she said. “I have made that mistake before, and suffered for it at the end.”

The four runners have other things in common besides eager anticipation. Each of them has the ardent support of loved ones in preparing for and completing the marathon. Spouses, sons and daughters, and special partners have been there through the training, and will be there along the course on Monday.

“My husband is the best support I could ask for,” said Chantal. “I should be seeing him as I make that turn onto Boylston.” For Marylee, seeing her family and hearing their cheers “makes my worst training run worthwhile.”

Ben has an additional source of inspiration. He is running on behalf of the Boston Bruins Foundation, which benefits children in cities and towns across New England. “I’m very grateful to all my sponsors,” said Ben. “We have raised over $5,500 for this cause.”

So time winds down, and the starting gun is only three days away. Wherever they trained, on Meetinghouse Lane, along State Beach, over Chilmark hills, on Island conservation land, these four hardy, admirable local figures are champing at the bit.

Some of our readers will be in Hopkinton, or Framingham, or Wellesley or outside Fenway Park on Monday, cheering them on. We will catch up with the four hopefuls next week, postrace, as they reflect on their 2017 Boston Marathon experience.