BOSTON — On Saturday Jimmy Green drove down from Marblehead with his wife Michelle and dog, Panda, to pick up his bib number for what could be his last marathon. At 82, he is the oldest participant from Massachusetts this year.
Last year he took nearly 5:30 to reach the finish line, but he has seen faster races before.
In 1960, when the record in Boston was 2:20, he finished third with 2:23. “To maintain a good pace, you have to run at the edge of exhaustion for a long time,” Green said.
He had a great year in 1959 — he’d gotten second in the Pan American games and won some other major races internationally — making him a favorite for the 1960 Boston Marathon. Coming in third gave him a foot in the door to making the Olympic team but, “The person I tied with, according to some rule, it put him on the Olympic team even though my record, my combined times for the two marathons, was much better than his. Still, he got the chance to go replacing me,” Green said.
For this year’s race, Green trained for about six months, but found it challenging to find places to run in due to the horrendous winter. In Marblehead he found a hilly area to train on, but the 30-mile-per-hour winds there made it difficult for him to do his best.
Since his retirement, Green now has more time to spend playing the piano and studying Russian. “A few times a week I’ll look at a Russian newspaper and try to learn new vocabulary,” he said. “One day I learn four new words and the next day I forget three,” he added with a laugh. “I love Russian stuff. The Ukrainian crisis renewed my interest in that area.”
Training younger runners is another thing he enjoys. “You try to get people interested in the sport because you’ve done it your whole life,” he said. However, he feels sorry because he hasn’t been able to interest a decent number of novices or experienced runners. “I feel like I have an extensive knowledge of the sport that can help many people improve greatly.”
Green’s own coach, Jock Semple, was instrumental in getting him into the sport. “Anybody that had contact with Jock became a much better runner because he made it seem worthwhile to run a race and to run well.”
Today Green will be happy to make the finish line; records now are a thing of the past. But back in the day he was driven by something a lot less simple.
“It’s something called fear that keeps you going, you don’t wanna hear any footprints behind you. So you keep moving,” he said.