The Edmond Sun

April 19, 2014

Arcadia man, 80, prepares for 111th marathon

Résumé includes marathons on 7 continents

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — A year ago, Arcadia resident Tom Briggs was well into the Boston Marathon course when he heard runners nearby talking about an incident up ahead.

At 2:49 p.m. April 15, 2013, two bombs exploded 550 feet apart on Boston Street near the finish line. Smoke clouds rose into the air as runners and spectators scattered. First responders converged on the scene.

“I heard about a terrorist attack near the finish line,” Briggs said. “So when I got to mile 22 it didn’t surprise me when I saw the National Guard blocking the road. And that was that. The course was closed.”

Briggs and the rest of the country soon learned the bombs killed three and injured, according to some reports, more than 250 people.

Thursday morning, after a run — he normally runs five days a week — Briggs was sitting at his dining room table, talking about his more than impressive running résumé. When he was in his 40s, he took up running to prepare for a trip to the rugged Sierra Nevada mountain range. In 1985, he ran his initial marathon in Lincoln, Neb.  

“My first aim at Lincoln was to finish,” Briggs said. “My next aim was to finish in respectable time. And my ultimate aim was to qualify for Boston. And I made all three.”

But there’s much more to the story. Briggs said he has run in 110 marathons. His running résumé includes a streak of 25 straight Boston Marathon appearances. And he has run a marathon on all seven continents.

Monday morning, the 80-year-old will be running with an estimated 36,000 others in the 118th Boston Marathon, which generates an estimated $142 million for the Boston-area economy. On Tuesday, a tribute honored those affected by the bombing.

When asked if he’s feeling anxious about the potential for another terrorist attack, Briggs said he’s focused on running.



RUNNER REPRESENTS MOORE

As of Friday, University of Central Oklahoma graduate Maurice Lee III was the only listed Boston Marathon runner from Moore, another city that knows a thing or two about recovering from adversity.

On May 20, 2013, a tornado touched down at 2:56 p.m. on the west side of Newcastle and tracked across Moore. The EF-5 twister killed 24, injured scores of others and caused billions in damage.

Lee, CEO of Smokarama Inc., located in Boley, has always liked to run. He started running in his 50s as a way to maintain his weight and won his division. In 2006, he ran his first marathon, an event in Tulsa. Monday’s Boston event will be his 30th marathon.

Lee lives about a mile from Moore’s tornado-ravaged area, close enough to have had tornado debris fall in his yard. Two of his running friends were near the Boston Marathon finish line when the bombs exploded.

“I feel like it is important for us to do it and to remember what happened here last year,” Lee said Friday afternoon from Boston.

He said he’ll take time to personally reflect about what transpired. He said he also will be aware of his surroundings while he’s in the city.

“I don’t have any fear of being here and I don’t have any fear of running in the race,” he said.

Monday’s National Weather Service forecast for Boston calls for mostly sunny skies and a high in the 60s, meaning it will be cooler than that at race time. Lee said it will be ideal weather as far as he’s concerned.



SECURITY REASSURES RUNNER

Like the others, Leslie Buford, a periodic voice in The Edmond Sun in her role as spokeswoman for OU Medical Center-Edmond, said she is not outwardly concerned about her personal safety.

“The Boston Athletic Association has been phenomenal in letting us know the changes to security of this year’s race,” Buford said. “They have assured us that over 3,500 law enforcement officers will be on the course on Monday to make sure runners and spectators are safe. I am far more concerned about conquering the infamous Heartbreak Hill than any sort of terrorist incident.”

Earlier this week, race organizers released information about public safety measures.

They include an increased Boston Police Department presence along the course route, more than 100 security cameras and nearly 50 observation points.

Buford said for a marathon runner, Boston is the penultimate race for an amateur. Buford said it’s history and having to qualify make it mean more. Then there’s the crowds — more spectators than ever are expected to line the 26.2-mile course on Patriots’ Day.



marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108