For the first time since 1968, Ben Beach will not be on the starting line in Hopkinton, staring down the Boston Marathon course. The 72-year-old from Bethesda, Maryland, began his Boston Marathon career as a freshman at Harvard University. Since then, he’s overcome significant barriers to continue his streak. He completed the race numerous times after being diagnosed with dystonia in 2002. He ran most of the way in 2013 before the finish line bombing closed the course.
But in 2022, Beach faced his biggest personal challenge yet—a bicycle accident in March that left him with fractured bones by his left eye and in his neck and bleeding in his brain.
“I can’t tell you a whole lot about what happened,” Beach told Runner’s World. “All I know is I was riding along and I was going down a small hill, checking the intersection that I was approaching—it was probably about 70 yards away—and that’s it.”
Beach woke up in the hospital, but doesn’t remember much about that either. He met with a neurologist who said he was recovering well, but he still missed the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run on April 2, a race in Washington, D.C., that Beach had run every year since its inception in 1973.
Beach signed up for the virtual race and planned on running 10 miles on the track this past weekend, aiming to keep the Cherry Blossom streak alive and test his body for Boston. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as hoped.
“It went terrible,” he wrote in an email to Runner’s World following the attempt. “I’m not racing Boston.”
It was a difficult realization for Beach, who had been a staple of the World Marathon Major for more than five decades. While he ran it “on a lark” his first time, he kept coming back—eventually realizing the significance of his streak around the 10-year mark. Beach and Boston Marathon director Dave McGillivray were the last men left with more than 49 consecutive years running Boston (McGillivray is going on his 50th this year). John Kelly still holds the record for most finishes with 58, though nonconsecutive.
Beach’s fastest Boston finish came in 1981, when he ran 2:27:26. His slowest was 6:05:35 in 2019, which is over the six-hour cutoff time, but because the cutoff window starts from the final starter of the last wave, he had a big enough cushion to finish in time.
“I hate to give it up. The marathon is so important to me,” Beach said. “But I’ve got five grandchildren and a wonderful wife. I don’t want to sacrifice what comes ahead, even at age 72.”