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Local runs Boston Marathon

Goodrich resident Don Brewer and his Boston Marathon medal. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
April 20, 2011 - It wasn't his best performance, but running the Boston Marathon April 18 was one of the best experiences of Don Brewer's life.

"I would call it the worst performance of my life, but the best weekend," said Brewer, a Goodrich resident. "For somebody like me, there's no way to be disappointed in the outcome."

The 49-year-old finished the 26.2 mile distance in 5 hours and 22 minutes, but just getting there was a dream come true. Brewer jokingly calls himself an "aspiring" runner for 20 years. He enjoys the sport, but the self-employed carpenter puts work and family, which includes wife Lori and kids Lauren, 25, Kurt, 22, and Emily, 19, first, with running time farther down the list.

He runs as regularly as he can, which might mean three runs in one week, or no runs for a few weeks. He has run several races, including the Crim, the Brooksie Way Half-Marathon and four years ago, ran the Detroit Free Press Marathon, up until this past Monday, his only marathon.

The Boston Marathon is a race that in order to gain entry, most runners must meet a qualifying time (done according to age and gender); however, runners have one other avenue they can pursue to run what is arguably one of the most famed marathons in the world— they can raise money for one of the marathon's chosen charities.

Brewer took this route to run Boston. For the past few years, he has signed up through the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and been put on a waiting list. In mid-December, Brewer learned he would have a spot in the Boston Marathon if he committed to raising the required $3,500 for MS.

He had just four months to train, and without a treadmill, was running outside in freezing temps, on icy roads. Still, he said, the running was easier than the fundraising. To get the money he would need to donate to charity, he collected pop bottles and cans off the roads, sold pizza kits, hosted a euchre party and enlisted the help of family and friends.

"People were very supportive," Brewer said. "Especially with the way the economy is going, it's good there are still a lot of people willing to help a good cause."

He raised the money in three months, with time to spare, and traveled to Boston on Saturday with his family along for the ride.

Brewer didn't make it to the starting line of the 115th Boston Marathon unscathed, however. He injured his leg in March and eased off on mileage wanting to be healthy enough to run the race. His longest run in training would be 18 miles.

The morning of the race, the weather couldn't have been better, Brewer said, with sunny skies, and a temperature in the mid-40s. He was in the third wave of runners to go out.

"I've not been to Mardi Gras, but that is what the Boston Marathon reminded me of," said Brewer. "There was a line of people on both sides of the road for the whole route. All the cheering and support all along helps and there are these great old historical homes and buildings."

Brewer had a 3-hour playlist of songs and while running also thought of his family and his father who died in November. For the first 18 miles or so, he estimates he was doing roughly a 10.5 minute per mile pace, but then he began struggling.

Around mile 20, he encountered Heartbreak Hill.

"Not that they are daunting by themselves, but it's so late in the race and you've used up your energy," Brewer said. "I did a lot of uphill walking and downhill running when I got to that point... In the last third of the race is where I lost my time. Then it became a matter of survival. I never hit a point of no return though. I was going to the there, I just wanted a better time, like everybody... For somebody like me, there was no way to be disappointed in the outcome. It was well worth the fundraising effort. Everyone wins."

In fact, Brewer said the only thing the first place winner gets that he doesn't is the money and endorsements.

"I had to be philosophical, I was going to go and have fun," he said. "I saw so many people looking at their watch and hung up on the time clocks and you can only do so much. I wasn't going to let the experience be ruined."

Just two days after the race, Brewer was feeling well, with just some minor stiffness in his legs. While running Boston, he said he wasn't planning his next event, just trying to live through the one he was in. Now, however, he is hoping to run a 50-mile trail run in Wisconsin later this year, and his pipe dream is the Western States 100-Mile Trail Run. Boston has been checked off the bucket list.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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