The agony and the ecstasy of a life well-run


Editor’s note: Larry Kessler, beloved area runner and writer, died on April 25 at age 71. He had been writing this column since August 2019. His now final column was submitted a week before his death.

As I write this, it’s truly the best of times and the worst of times.

It’s late on Marathon Monday, the day of the 128th Boston Marathon, which was run on a picture-perfect sunny April day, with highs in the 60s. Although it may have been a tad warm for the runners, it was a glorious day for the spectators and volunteers.

The professional races were impressive, and, as is usually the case with the marathon, the whole day was inspiring as 30,000 runners left Hopkinton, hoping to cross the finish line in Boston.

Yet on the same weekend, the world became an even more precarious and dangerous place in the wake of Iran’s assault on Israel, which involved hundreds of missiles and attack drones, most of which were reportedly intercepted in mid-air, before landing and exploding.

The juxtaposition of one of the finest examples of humanity – the marathon – with one of the worst – a war involving bitter and ancient enemies that never seems to end – brought me back to the circle of life.
Traditionally, April and May are the months of rebirth and renewal, but now I’m not so sure. Besides the fierce national and international events that are tearing us apart as a nation and people, I, for the first time, am really feeling my age.

A lot of that has to do with a chronic pain issue in my ribs that no one seems to know how to treat or get rid of. It’s been keeping me up nights and draining me to the point where I feel as if the part of me that has been jogging or walking daily for 49 years is becoming more in the past than the present.

I am walking still, but at this point, I’m uncertain about my chances of being able to do a few races later this year. And yet, whenever I watch the Boston Marathon, I’m reminded of the days when I was a marathoner.

I ran my first one in December of 1976, in Baltimore, when I was 24, and my final one, the 100th Boston, on April 15, 1996, exactly 28 years before this April’s marathon date.
In between, there were marathons in Georgia (my only “DNF,” did not finish), Florida and Texas, and several in Rhode Island.

After the’96 Boston race, I ran several challenging 25-kilometer races, such as the Around Cape Ann road races held on Labor Day in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which I did through 2006. Since then, there have been numerous 5Ks and the annual Arnold Mills 4-Miler on the Fourth of July in Cumberland.

But now, in light of my physical limitations following a December bout with COVID, I can no longer take my health for granted. I’m hoping to find a way forward, and to once again be truly inspired by the positivity to be found in such events as the Boston Marathon.

At the least, I would like to get to the bottom of my pain issue, and soon.

But in the meantime, I’m only too happy to play the proud papa and brag about my older daughter, Arianna, who on St. Patrick’s Day in Los Angeles finished her second marathon, almost two years after running her first one in Providence. She trained diligently and was able to complete the race in 5 1/2 hours.

It’s nice to know that she’s followed in my now-creaking footsteps.

Larry Kessler’s obituary appears on page 29.