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April 20. 2014 11:21PM

Francestown man hopes to join exclusive Boston club

Tom Peters of Francestown plans to join the club.

A software engineer in Cambridge, Mass., Peters has just about finished his initiation rites into the exclusive group. Somewhere around 1:30 this afternoon, he figures he will have all the paperwork — make that legwork — completed.

If all goes well, he will cross the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon at about that time and will become one of the newest members of the Quarter Century Club, runners who have finished 25 of the races in a row.

Peters completed Boston Marathon No. 24 last year. Today makes 25.

"It's kind of cool, Peters said. "I have a few friends who are in it and they've kind of pulled me along."

He would love to break three hours this year, but said he wouldn't mind anything between 3:00 and 3:10.

Last year, he finished in 3:16 and was back in one of the hotel rooms rented by the Greater Lowell Track Cub watching on television when the bombs exploded at the finish line.

"It was almost like 9/11 again," Peters said. "You had the first puff of smoke and then a few seconds later another explosion. It was just like the airplanes. They locked us in the hotel and stopped all communications. People were trying to call home and couldn't do it."

Peters, 61, wrestled in high school and in college at what was then Lowell State College (now UMass Lowell) and was not much of a runner until he started working at Wang Laboratories in Lowell in 1988.

Wang didn't have a gym, but some people there went running on their work breaks.

"I hated running," Peters aid. "But if you worked at Wang and wanted to do anything, you ran."

He fell in with the runners and had everything he could do to keep up with them at first, but eventually one thing led to another and by 1990 he was running the Boston Marathon. He hasn't stopped since.

"When I first did it, I wasn't thinking about whether I should do another one or not," Peters said. "The thought on the first one was, wouldn't it be neat to run the Boston Marathon."

So he ran in 1990, then broke three hours with a time of two hours, 57 minutes in 1991. He ran another, then another.

"Somewhere around five, I said I'd go for 10," Peters said. "I got to 10 and heard about the Quarter Century Club. It isn't that difficult to keep going and it becomes kind of a mental addiction. If I'm not in Boston on Patriots' Day, I'll probably be going a little nuts. It's such a big part of my life."

The Boston Athletic Association recognizes the Quarter Century-ers on its web page and notes that there were 52 active members of the club as of the end of the 2013 race.

Bennett Beach, 64, of Bethesda, Md., leads the group with 46 straight Bostons. Two of the 52 are listed as New Hampshire residents and at least one other has strong Granite State ties.David Audet, 49, of Concord has finished Boston each of the last 26 years.Mike Beeman, 57, a former Derry resident and Londonderry High School basketball coach, has run 36 straight. He lives in Tifton, Ga., now.

Beeman will move into a tie for longest Boston streak by a New Hampshire runner by completing today's race.

The longest current Boston streak by a Granite Stater (37) ends today.Stanley Vancelette, 77, of Amherst is listed as an entrant, but will not be in the race.

He hurt his foot in February and has not been able to run since. He's just trying to get back to running at this point and said he isn't thinking about running Boston again.

Vancelette never set out to run Boston each year, for nearly four decades.

"It was just an accident," he said. "It wasn't intended or anything like that. It was just pure luck to go that many without missing one.

All kinds of things could have come up and interfered."

But they didn't.

Last year, when the bombs went off at the finish line, Vancelette said he was at about Mile 16. He was having some trouble in the race and was thinking then it might be his last Boston.

He didn't want to hang it up at Mile 16.

"I used parallel roads to go to the finish," Vancelette said.

"Actually, they didn't want me to finish. They wanted to put me on a bus and take me to Boston. I was having problems, but I did want to finish. I stayed out of the way of all the activities. Obviously I couldn't cross the finish line, but I did the distance."

The BAA, Vancelette said, did the calculations for runners that had run a certain distance in a certain time and gave him a projected time, which gave him a finish in No. 37 straight.

That was nice, but it likely didn't much matter.

He had gone the distance.

alessels@unionleader.com


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