LIMERICKMAN Neil Cusack - the only Irishman to win the Boston Marathon – has vowed to return next year and compete four decades on from his famous win in honour of the victims of this week’s bombing.
Neil, 61, said he is due to return to Boston next year for the 40th anniversary of his win there in 1974 - the only Irishman to scoop the honour in its 117-year history, the longest running marathon in the world.
He said it would be a “nice gesture” to run the race alongside other running champions in memory of the three people who were killed this week, including an eight year-old boy.
No one with a Limerick address was listed as taking part yesterday, according to the Boston Marathon site. Over 100 Irish entrants who took part, the majority from Dublin and Cork, are also safe and accounted for.
The former Irish running sensation said he spent all day trying to watch the race online, and was “shocked” when he returned home to see images of the bombing on TV.
“I couldn’t believe it. It’s just wicked. You never expect something like that to happen at a race. They certainly picked a rotten occasion. It’s unbelievable,” he said.
However, he believes that when the race returns next year will be a “massive event”.
“Knowing the Americans they’ll want to come back bigger and stronger than ever before. Next year’s event will be unbelievable. The Americans will be behind it 1000%,” he said.
“It would be great if there was five or six of us who’d do it [having won it previously], such as Bill Rogers, who won it three times. And it would give me 12 months to get into shape to do. It’ll certainly gather legs.”
Neil, then aged 22, won it in a time of 2:13:39, which is “forever etched in my brain and all over the house”, and still remembers the feeling of elation that day when he reached the finish line.
“It was such a big recognition - I was getting letters for weeks afterwards,” he told the Limerick Leader. “I didn’t realise how big the event was until I won it.”
He said competing in Boston was undoubtedly the high point in his career, and “opened up an awful lot of doors” for him.
He also won the Dublin Marathon in 1981, and was a competitor at two Olympic Games - in Munich in 1972, and Montreal in 1976.
He began running marathons aged 11, and stopped at 39, switching to cross-country running. Aged 19 in 1971 he set a then world record for his time in the marathon in Atlanta, Georgia, finishing in 2:16:18.
Now living in Cratloe, Co Clare, and originally from Shelbourne Park, he said he imagines there will be a huge upsurge in people wanting to compete next year to show “solidarity” with those who have been killed, injured and traumatised by this week’s events.
He and his wife Imelda will be taking part in the 10km event in the Barringtons Hospital Great Limerick Run, though he joked he has yet to start training.
Peter Hogan, 66, from Ballynanty Road, who competed in Boston in 1994, is also hoping to run there again in memory of the victims and “to promote world peace.”
John Cleary, race director of the Barringtons Hospital Great Limerick Run, who lived in Boston for five years, described the deaths and injuries as a “tragedy of huge proportions” and a “meaningless loss of life” in what should be a “hugely positive event”.
Nearly 6,000 people have registered to take part in a series of races on Sunday, May 5.