Running has been a part of his family his entire life. Our Strider Spotlight this month features Ed Burke.
I grew up in the back room of the Bill Rodgers Running Center (BRRC) and was surrounded by elite runners in my childhood. If you bought a pair of running shoes at the BRRC in the 1980s you probably spoke to my father who managed those stores for Bill Rodgers. I remember Bill and the BRRC crew coming over to my parents’ house in Melrose for summer barbecues and to relax after long runs. One of those barbecues was on August 5, 1984, I remember being called out of the pool to watch Joan Benoit Samuelson win the Women’s Olympic Marathon for the United States.
On the TV is Joan winning the Marathon. Front row left: My parents Arleen and Ed Burke, one of the BRRC staff and his wife, and Marie and Charlie Rodgers (Bill Rodgers brother). Back row left: Me watching TV from behind my dad with my brother Patrick to my right, along with Don Murray, VP of the Boston Police Patrolman’s association and the Mayor of Boston Ray Flynn. Joan signed the photo ‘To all the gang’.
My father was a very fast runner and running was a central part of his life and that of our family’s in the 1980s. I spent many years travelling from race-to-race to see my father run and the times he ran Boston were always the most special. A few years later I took up cross country track at Melrose High School, largely due to the influence of my father, the guys from the BRRC, and my pronounced lack of talent in other sports. I kept running through my 20’s and into my early 30’s until I fell into a bad eating habit and came to have a hate-hate relationship with the force of gravity. This unhealthy trend continued until I hit 40 years old and a disheartening 365 pounds, at which point I decided a radical change of lifestyle was necessary.
In August of 2014 I had weight-loss surgery (sleeve gastrectomy) and began my journey back to a healthy lifestyle.
Since that time, I have managed to go from only being able to walk a mile to finishing my first Marathon in Lowell (Baystate) in 2018. I feel like I’ve been paroled. When I think aback to my time laying in the recovery room at MGH after my weight-loss surgery I remember wistfully thinking about all the things that I would hope to be able to do again now that I had positioned my lifestyle on the right track. Now, years later, I’m running several marathons per year.
In 2019 I met the minimum threshold for joining the Marathon Maniacs running club which is 3 marathons in a 3-month period. Running the Boston, Big Sur and Bay of Fundy Marathons qualified me for Marathon Maniacs and then I ran Clarence Demar, Newport and Marine Corps towards my goal of 50 marathons in 50 states. I’m on track to run 5-6 marathons again in 2020. I unofficially ran the Boston Marathon course on New Years day this year as I really liked this years Boston Marathon jacket and thought the only way I could justify buying one was to run the marathon in calendar 2020. This brings my marathon count up to 8, if you count my unofficial run of the Boston course on New Years day.
Every marathon I run has its own memorable moments but three stand out to me from last year:
- The three seasons I encountered while running the Boston Marathon (Spring, Summer, and Fall), now I know why everyone has a Boston Marathon story – usually related to weather.
- Making it past the cut-off point for the Big Sur Marathon at Mile 21.2 with only 9 seconds to spare – they don’t kid around with the cut off time on that Marathon and the very large California State trooper who was keeping time grumbled the best compliment I received during a marathon as I made it past the cutoff, he said through gritted teeth “I like your spirt”.I mumbled “Thank you”.
- The sheer volume of the cheering from the families of fallen soldiers as I ran down the “Blue Mile” of the Marine Corps Marathon course.There were thousands of spectators crammed into a 1 mile stretch of the course which had a photo of a fallen soldier placed every 10 feet for the length of the whole mile. The rain was pouring and the people were scream cheering for the runners. The Wellesley “Scream Tunnel” has nothing on the Blue Mile at Marine Corps Marathon. This was the most emotionally moving and humbling mile I’ve ever run.
For anyone else who is considering running multiple marathons in the same year I suggest focusing your pacing to finish and finish uninjured. As long as you are able to run you will likely keep coming back for the next race, if you hurt yourself you’ll put your progress back. Also, I strongly recommend a strength training and flexibility program as part of your overall training regimen along with deep tissue massage. These preventative efforts pay dividends in the form of keeping me uninjured.
For people considering their first marathon I strongly advise running at least two 18-milers and one 21-miler during your training program. Also, completing a marathon is as much a mental as a physical challenge. I would burn into your subconscious that a marathon is a 20-mile warmup and a 6-mile run with the halfway point being at 20 miles, and not 13 miles. The fatigue of a marathon is not linear and the mental stamina to get to mile 20 is equal to that required to get from 20 to 26. Keeping this seemingly trite but critical fact in mind helped me tremendously.
This past year I was very proud watching my daughter Molly progress in her running. When she runs I advise her to break her runs into manageable distances in her mind and to stay focused on the distance at hand. The later miles will take care of themselves, I remind her to focus on the mile she is running and to stay focused on her pace.