A Boston Addiction


David Yon,


I am fond of reminding readers about the great running history we have in Tallahassee. So many of the races began in the mid to late 1970s and have continued every year since. But it pales in comparison to a certain New England marathon. On April 19, 1897, Patriot’s Day, 18 men lined up in front of Metcalf’s mill in Ashland, Massachusetts for the first Boston Marathon. As Tom Derderian tells the story in his book Boston Marathon, Tom Burke dug a boot into the ground on one side of the road and dragged his foot across the dirt road to create the starting line for the race. Only 10 would finish with J. McDermott becoming the first winner of the race. It has been run every year since except for 1918.

Warren Emo was not there that day, but he became thoroughly hooked on the race known for the unicorn in 2004. His preparation, believe it or not, started in 1998 when he took his 12 year old daughter to run a 5K. The 5K was being run along with the Tallahassee Marathon and as he watched the runners disappear, he began hearing stories about the marathon from the spectators. “I was so taken by the adventure and challenge of the Marathon that I came back to witness the Marathon finish. That day started my journey and goal toward running my first marathon.” Those who know Warren know that the award winning architect is, shall we say, a careful planner. “It took 6 years of preparation and training before I ran my first marathon, which was the Tallahassee Marathon.”
His planning and preparation paid a bonus though. I still have a picture in my mind of him churning around the last corner of his final loop at Wakulla Springs in December of 2003 with the clock (and the crowd) telling him he could qualify if he dug deep. The clock had already sped past 3:34 leaving Emo less than a minute before the magic qualifying time of 3:35:00. Training partners, Jerry McDaniel and Bill Perry, were yelling at him to push. Sounding like a steam engine, he just kept pumping his arms throwing “coal” on the fire and building steam to push his legs a little bit faster. It all paid dividends as he drove to the finish line and passed the clock which displayed 3:34:47.

“I owe my qualifying to my good friends Jerry McDaniel and Bill Perry. Both had prior marathon experience and took turns pacing me to get across the finish line in my Boston qualifying time.” Despite the exhaustion he was hooked. Warren would qualify for Boston 10 straight years and Monday, April 15th will be his 8th time at the starting line. (He has finished them all so far.)

As Warren explains, “Achieving a Boston Marathon qualifying time and running the Boston Marathon is top on the goal list for almost anyone that runs a marathon. The challenge of the course, the variation in the impact of weather and the international flavor of the event makes it a new challenge and goal that never gets old for me. Training for a marathon in the late fall and winter on Old Centerville Road in Tallahassee is perfect for the 3rd Monday in April Patriot’s Day race date. I enjoy the training and count myself lucky to see the sunrise on Old Centerville Road on a chilly February morning at the start of a 20 mile training run. Also, the taste of a Bradley’s sausage and chocolate milk after running 20 miles is a nice perk.”

Warren has in fact seen some of the worst and the best conditions at Boston. That first year, in 2004, Boston welcomed him into the fold with temperatures that climbed into the mid 80s and a cloudless sky. That day, 2500 runners found themselves in hospitals or medical tents. There was no push to the finish, only a death march that lasted 4:04:06. His last timeat Boston, 2010, he ran his fastest time – 3:24:49. He plans to keep his streak going.

I count at least 18 people from Tallahassee signed up for Boston this year. Here is hoping the weather treats them well and they enjoy the land of the unicorn as much as Warren Emo has.