Ferreira’s Boston Marathon run a show of solidarity

Last modified: 4/25/2014 12:55:38 AM
Dan Ferreira thought he was finished with long-distance racing. He had been competing in marathons, Ironman competitions, ultramarathons, snowshoe races and any other grueling event he could fit into his schedule since 2007. But after fighting through injuries, struggling to reach personal goals, finding more joy in less punishing activities, and a painful experience in the Mont-Tremblant Ironman in August of 2012, he decided to call it quits.

The “retirement” didn’t last long for the 31-year-old Ferreira, who grew up in New

London and lives in Concord, not after the tragic events at last year’s Boston Marathon.

“I hadn’t run any marathons the whole year before, I was kind of over it, but once that happened last year, I knew I had to run in Boston,” Ferreira said. “We had some friends who were at the finish line, and one of the people there was a little kid who still has nightmares about it. So just showing the solidarity with everybody running, plus, the terrorists win if people avoid it.”

So two days after last year’s race, Ferreira registered for the Vermont City Marathon on May 23 in Burlington so he could qualify for tomorrow’s 118th Boston Marathon. He ran a 2:59:13 in Burlington, and the qualifying time for his age group (18-34) is 3:05:00. But Ferreira lowered his time to 2:54:21 at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon in Georgia in November, and lowered it again when he ran a 2:52:16 at the Kiawah Island Marathon in South Carolina in December to finish third out of 897.

Ferreira’s qualifying efforts will have him starting in the second corral of the first wave in tomorrow’s race. The elite runners start at the front of the field, and after that the throng of 36,000 is split into four waves, which are further divided into nine corrals of about 1,000 runners each. There is one elite-level New Hampshire runner, Lebanon’s Andrea Walkonen, 14 New Hampshire runners in the first corral of the first wave (or 1/1) and nine, including Ferreira, in 1/2.

Even though Ferreira qualified among the top percentages of both the field and his home state, he doesn’t think of himself as a top-level athlete. There are certainly faster runners out there, but Ferreira’s self evaluation is most affected by comparing himself to the athletes in his family, starting with his wife, Amber.

Amber Ferreira is a professional triathlete who was the 16th female finisher in the 2013 U.S. 70.3 Championships (a half Ironman triathlon consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run), took 22nd at the 2013 70.3 World Championships, and was named the New Hampshire Triathlete of the Year from 2009-12. She also won the U.S. Snowshoe National Championships in March.

Comparisons aside, training and racing together has been a huge part of the Ferreiras’ relationship. Dan had planned to propose to Amber at the finish line of the 2008 Boston Marathon, “but she ran it so much faster than me I didn’t get a chance to do it,” he said. So the proposal was delivered later that year at the finish line of the Mount Washington Road Race. And Amber was the one who got Dan into running when the two were dating and going to graduate school for physical therapy (they both work at Concord Hospital now).

Dan had no interest in the track teams during his time at Kearsarge Regional High. He played football, basketball, baseball and lacrosse for the Cougars before graduating in 2001, but he doesn’t think much of his accomplishments in those sports, either. And once again tough comparisons are to blame.

His older brother, Matt, was an all-state soccer and baseball player for Kearsarge and started for the Cougars basketball team that reached the 1999 Class I title game. His younger brother, Andrew, and younger sister, Marilyn, were both 1,000-point scorers at Kearsarge and both went on to play college basketball.

“I just happened to not get any of those genes,” Dan said with a laugh.

The Ferreira siblings have even created a “Gold Jacket Tournament” (yes, that’s a Happy Gilmore reference) to test their athletic abilities against one another.

“It’s an epic weekend. Name a sport and we have a tournament in it, and I am perpetually dead last. Whatever it is, I’m somehow going to lose it,” Ferreira said. “They make sure running isn’t part of it. All of them say running isn’t a sport. If we incorporate it at all, it’s typically an obstacle course and they win anyway because I’m not as agile as they are.”

But his siblings have to be impressed with Ferreiras’ current running schedule. After he re-caught the marathon bug, Ferreira signed himself up to compete in four marathons in about a month – Knoxville on March 30 (2:54:24, 14th out of 694), Raleigh Rock ‘n’ Roll on April 13 (2:58:38, eighth out of 1,615), Boston tomorrow and Pittsburgh on May 4. He’ll give himself a little break before the next one, the Mayor’s Sun Marathon in Anchorage on June 21, and he’s considering plans to run in three more marathons this year.

Ferreira prefers to race in smaller marathons like the ones in Raleigh and Knoxville where he has a chance of finishing near the front, as opposed to Boston where he’s looking at a place somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000. But even though it isn’t his kind of race, and it fell just one week after the event in Raleigh, there was no way Ferreira was missing this Boston Marathon.

“Before, I didn’t see the point in going to Boston, for me anyway, since I’m not going to place anywhere near the front,” Ferreira said. “But this year there was a much bigger reason that just doing it for myself.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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