Forty-eight years ago, Daniel Larson ’73 peeled himself off the floor of a Tufts University fraternity house and slowly made his way to the start line for his first Boston Marathon. Little did he know that nearly half a century later, he would suit up to start his 49th consecutive Boston Marathon this past Monday.
While Larson did not set any records as a member of the Yale track and field team, his achievements and his iconic Yale tank top have been a mainstay of the Boston Marathon. Now a doctor, Larson currently holds the record for most consecutive finishes under the official Boston Athletic Association qualifying standards, with 42. He also ranks third in total lifetime finishes with 48 — strep throat prevented him from completing the race in 1975.
“I had run one [marathon] before in my senior year of high school even though I had never run more than five miles in my life,” Larson said. “I was a mediocre high school distance runner, but I remember reading about Amby Burfoot and John A. Kelley the elder, and I had just always been attracted to the romance of the event.”
Burfoot, an alumnus of Wesleyan, won the Boston Marathon in 1968 and raced against Yale in a 1966 cross country race that featured a number of future Olympians, including himself, Frank Shorter and Wesleyan’s Bill Rodgers. Meanwhile, John Kelley raced the Boston Marathon 61 times before he died in 2004.
As Larson prepared for his first Boston Marathon in 1970, two Yale teammates joined him on the quest. Every Sunday, they completed the 18-mile round trip to and back from Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden.
Forty-eight years later, Larson credits his longevity to an approach to training rooted in enjoying life and nature. From his home in Queensbury, New York in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, he switches between biking, cross country skiing and, of course, running. At 66, Larson does not force cardio workouts to conform to a highly regimented schedule.
While the spitting rain and cold of the 2018 Boston Marathon — evocative of the chilly drizzle that he and his teammates faced in 1970 — did not make for a particularly motivating atmosphere for Larson on Monday, the Yale track and field alumni supporting him across the country did. Henry Carey ’75 was one of a number of Yale alumni to watch Larson cross the finish line with a time of 4:37.43.
“Dan was my teammate, and he was terrifically generous in spirit regardless of ability,” Carey said. “Dan was a pioneer, and what’s truly amazing about him is his durability.”
Even outside New England, distance running still brings Yale track and field alumni together. In recent years, a group of runners from the classes of 1968–75 has run the 199-mile Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon, in which a team comes together to complete the arduous, overnight event.
At no point in the half-century endeavor has Larson questioned his commitment to the event. He recounts how after blossoming as a runner his senior year, head coach Bob Giegengack, who coached the US Olympic team in 1964, asked Larson whether he planned on running the Boston Marathon again. Giegengack, or Gieg as the team called him, was worried that such a strenuous undertaking would derail a promising final year.
Larson responded, “Gieg, you never cared about me when I was a slow JV runner — why do you care about me now?” And while Giegengack was correct and the marathon did hurt Larson’s final season, Larson maintains that it was worth it.
Yuki Kawauchi won the men’s division of the 2018 Boston Marathon, and Desiree Linden won the women’s.
Caleb Rhodes | email@example.com