TIFTON — A bit of Boston came to Tifton recently as Mike Beeman ran his Boston Marathon streak one higher.
Beeman, a longtime Tift County educator and coach, ran his race in town earlier this month. It was his 43rd consecutive Boston Marathon.
Going into this year’s marathon, he had the seventh-longest streak. Beeman has not checked everyone in front of him to see where he stands. Ben Beach, the current leader, did complete his 53rd and Beeman’s old friend (and Boston Marathon race director), Dave McGillivray, finished his 48th.
The Boston Marathon is always held in April in Massachusetts, but this year, of course, has been very different.
The marathon was initially postponed because of COVID-19, but Boston Athletic Association officials decided in May to take the event in a different direction.
Runners were given the option of running their own marathon between Sept. 7-14 on a course of their choosing. Since officials could not watch thousands of runners, competitors were required to provide some proof that not only did they run 26.2 miles, but as a May press release stated, “continuously, on the same day.”
With that option on the table, Beeman carefully planned his own course in Tifton.
“I set up kind of a repeat course,” Beeman said. He ran along the path of a 5K course in the northeast section of town. “I set it up so I repeated it a number of times.”
Along the way, he set up water stations and had his car nearby for any supplies he might need.
“I never wanted to be more than a mile and a half from my car or water,” he said. Aid stations are frequent at the Boston Marathon, providing everything from water to energy bars to first aid.
He ran the first 14 miles by himself, then had Dawn Floyd as company for the remainder. Beeman’s daughter, Melanie, and a few of her friends cheered him while running with him during the last two miles.
“I was thankful to God the weather cooled off.” He admitted to being a bit worried that he wouldn’t be able to finish. “It turned out to be amazing.” Beeman said when Floyd joined him, he began narrating the run, pointing out where they would be in Boston, such as Beacon Street and the Newton Hills (miles 17.5-21).
The local course can’t quite replicate the Boston experience — “There are no hills in Tifton,” he laughed — but he did designate one part as his own Heartbreak Hill, the Boston landmark so-called because of its half-mile incline 20 miles into the run.
“Over by ABAC, there are a couple of rises on some of the back streets, like 26th, 28th has a hill. Coming up in front of Northeast (Middle School), there’s a hill.”
As part of the at-home experience, Boston Marathon officials sent all those who entered their own downloadable race pack, including their bib number and a finish line. Beeman said he did not print out anything. He’s just happy he made it through one more year.
Said Beeman, "Just a great experience to share it with a few people around here.”