April 2017 - ATHLETE PROFILE
Dr. Daniel Larson
Family: Wife, Victoria Wirth; daughters, Nell and Sunny; son-in-law, Adam Silbert; and grandsons, Brant and Beckett Silbert
Occupation: M.D. Family Practice, Chief Medical Officer for Hudson Headwaters Health Network
Primary Sport: Running
Secondary Sports: Cross Country Skiing (Loppets) and Cycling
By Jennifer Ferriss
It’s a rite of spring. Patriot’s Day, a state holiday for Massachusetts and Maine, is the third Monday in April commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Spring break begins for school-aged children. At 11:05 a.m. the Red Sox play their traditional home game, and just prior to the first pitch being thrown, at 10:25 am, Dan Larson will begin his 48th start at the 121st Boston Marathon, in the second wave, last corral, a privilege earned as a Quarter Century Club member.
The Quarter Century Club was formed by Ronald Kmiec (ranked fourth in consecutive finishes) in 2001 to honor the achievements of John A. Kelly, a legendary runner who has set the standard for all those in the Quarter Century Club, who had completed at least 24 consecutive Bostons. Dan is currently ranked an impressive sixth in the club for 41 consecutive runs and 46 cumulative finishes. A one-year gap in his streak was early on in 1975. In 1975 after a weeklong illness and just breaking a high fever the night before, Dan spotted his girlfriend at mile 15.6. She asked how was he was feeling and noted that he did not look good. She offered him a ride to the finish, and Dan accepted the invitation. If he walked (or crawled) to the finish line he would hold the second longest streak, just below Bennet Beach who currently holds the record for the longest streak at 49 finishes.
Dan decided to run his first 26.2 miler in 1969 during his senior year at Scotia-Glenville High School. The Holyoke Marathon, now called the Walter Childs Marathon after the founder who died in 1991, continues to be a Boston qualifier and is America’s 10th oldest marathon – now in its 55th running. The summer race was a learning experience for Dan, who had never run farther than five miles. He ended with blisters, chafing, and a desire to try another one, in Boston, 1970.
Dan headed off to Yale that fall and was coached by Bob Giegengack, who was the head coach of the 1964 U.S. Olympic team after serving as an assistant Olympic coach in 1956. He told “Gieg” that he wanted to run the Boston Marathon and in response, was told it would ruin his track season. Despite the warning, Dan laced up his shoes and toed the line with his Yalie teammate Jeff Godwin. April 20th proved to be challenging, with a headwind and freezing rain, hypothermic conditions set in for Jeff, and the race most certainly “ruined” Dan’s track season.
Dan has since qualified for most of his Bostons through competing in the marathon and no longer has to race in local favorites, like the Mohawk Hudson Marathon in the fall. Up to this point in time, he has qualified for every one of those without ever needing any kind of exemption from the qualifying times. After a serious illness this past fall that resulted in three months off from training, Dan is facing the reality that his qualifying record may come to an end this year.
You would get the sense that someone who is dedicated to continuing a streak would also be a stickler for a training plan, but training for Dan is a bit unconventional compared to most marathon runners. At the writing of this article, Dan was planning his first run over 12 miles, he thinks. Dan does not run with a GPS or with any particular time in mind. He knows his routes and based on others he runs with, he has an idea about the distance. Dan enjoys the freedom of running and not the regimen. He prefers to run on trails and dirt roads and many of his long distance workouts are done on cross country skis. Nordic skiing is a sport that is shared by his entire family. Victoria and Dan head to the province of Quebec during the winter for amazing ski conditions, when locally we are wondering what winter will bring. Sunny and Nell both competed on the Nordic ski team at Queensbury High School and joined the club team at Yale.
It’s a matter of course. Since 1978, Dan has had a pre-race dinner of white rice and butter, staying for the past 34 years with the same group of friends. “The nicest” elderly lady has provided access to a kitchen and bathroom in Hopkinton, just 100 yards from the start line for many years. Every year since 1971, Dan has a reunion with a college friend at mile four. He knows the theme songs, who is playing, the Wellesley girls never disappoint, and the ethnic neighborhoods of Framingham stand out as a favorite part of his run. In the end he still gets a burst of adrenaline as he turns right at Hereford Street and left on Boylston. Post-race, you can find Dan hanging out with his running friends Paul and Jim Forbes from Niskayuna and family at the Boston Park Plaza.
Victoria has been to at least 39 marathons, even with Sunny and Nell in tow. Growing up, their daughters spent every Patriot’s Day weekend in Boston right through most of their college education. They all stand at mile 12.8, right after Wellesley, with their Danish friends, waving their Danish flags. Victoria enjoys driving Dan to the start, taking the backroads to avoid traffic, and looks forward to the message that Dan has crossed the finish – easier now with electronic tracking and devices. Dan looks forward to his reunion with Victoria at the Woodland T-Station in Newton.
Boston is not the only streak Dan holds – he has been running the Troy Turkey Trot for 51 consecutive years, 50 of those with his high school cross country rival, Mark Mindel from Niskayuna. Mark knows Dan has one more year than him and looks for Dan to break his streak so he can gain the title. Records die hard. Victoria recalled the year that their daughter Sunny had a change in plans for Thanksgiving and would not be heading to Queensbury. This was an opportunity to break tradition and celebrate the holiday in Utah with their daughter Nell. Victoria left early to help prepare the meal. Dan ran the Turkey Trot then hopped on the last Southwest Airlines flight to Salt Lake City soon after he crossed the finish line.
All good things eventually come to an end. Dan knows that luck has played a big part in his streak – having no significant illness or injury. He would like to see at least 50 finishes. Asked what they will do once the marathon streak has ended? Victoria wants to go to Paris; Dan wants to volunteer at the race.
“It’s like Fiddler on the Roof – it’s about the importance of traditions…” “There’s a shared joy doing these races. It makes you feel connected. And there is a little bit of pride that you’ve toughed through things.” –Jason Franchuk, “Longtime Turkey trotters form friendly rivalry.” Times Union, Nov. 25, 2014. Timesunion.com, April 2, 2017.
Look for Dan wearing bib number 15565 online or on the course. He won’t be breaking his best time of 2:27, but he plans on keeping his streak going, for at least another year.
Jennifer Ferriss (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Saratoga Springs leads an active outdoor lifestyle. Once the weather warms up, she will commute to her librarian gig on her 1980s Japanese Bianchi, with a backpack that carries more than meets the eye. Always on the search for a new adventure, she will run her first international race this May in Singapore.