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Boston Marathon qualifier runs his own race

Eric Stone
Courtesy of Eric Stone
The Stone family – daughter Sarah, from left, dad Eric, son Ethan, daughter Kate and mom Tracy – prepare to begin their neighborhood marathon. Eric qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon, but after the race was postponed, he decided to run 1.1 miles every hour for 24 hours with his family in their Mountain View neighborhood.

By Christina Cheng
Town Crier Editorial Intern

Mountain View resident Eric Stone expected to be on the East Coast in April, fulfilling his longtime goal of running the Boston Marathon. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, the marathon has been postponed to Sept. 14, and Stone said it’s hard to find the motivation to train for a race that may not happen.

The situation inspired Stone to run his own kind of marathon – in his neighborhood. From 11 a.m. April 18 to 10:15 a.m. April 19, Stone and his family ran 1.1 miles every hour – through the night, for 24 hours straight.

“I follow quite a few runners on Instagram, and saw someone else who was planning on running the Boston Marathon post about his attempt,” Stone said on the origin of the idea. “I sent it over to my family, and they all thought it was a cool idea. I think they really were the ones who encouraged me to stick with the idea and make it real.”

Stone has come a long way in his marathon journey to qualifying for the Boston Marathon this year, filled with lots of hard work and close calls.

Stone said he has run a marathon every year since 2014, including the Big Sur Marathon, the Morgan Hill Marathon, the California International Marathon and the New York City Marathon. After running marathons for a few years, he realized his times were close to the qualifying times for the Boston Marathon, and soon made it his goal.

The Boston Marathon is not only the oldest marathon in the country, but it is also the only race that requires runners to meet a qualifying time,” he said. “I’ve heard the Boston Marathon called the Olympics for nonprofessional runners. I will never be able to qualify for the Olympics – but I can qualify for Boston.”

In 2016, Stone came two minutes short of qualifying for Boston in the California International Marathon – “it was heartbreaking,” he said – but decided to alter his training plan and make another run at it. For approximately 20 weeks, Stone said he ran six days per week, with a peak mileage of 60 miles per week.

“I typically (did) all of my running early in the morning, often waking at 5:30 to go run in the dark before heading into work for the day,” he said. “Honestly, it (could) be exhausting and time consuming.”
His hard work paid off in 2018. At age 44, Stone ran that marathon again and surpassed the Boston qualifying time by 11 minutes, finishing in 3 hours and 9 minutes.

“After trying for so many years, it becomes surreal to qualify. My family had come out to watch the race and they were there at the finish line,” he said. “It was amazing to be able to share that joy with them in achieving something that had taken years to accomplish. At (the California International Marathon), they have a ‘Boston Bell’ that you get to ring if you achieved a qualifying time. I will always remember being able to go to and ring the bell – it’s famous for runners.”

Stone was all set to run this year’s Boston Marathon, scheduled April 20, but as the coronavirus spread, the Boston Athletic Association decided to postpone the race until September. Given the current state of the pandemic, however, Stone isn’t sure if the race will happen this year.

That led Stone – inspired by other runners on social media – to run the 24-hour marathon in his Mountain View neighborhood, with his entire family joining in. The night before, they drew a starting line in front of their home, chose a route, prepared food and drinks, and planned times to sleep. Despite all this preparation, Stone said he and his family “went to bed a little anxious about the next day.”

They began at 10 a.m. with the support of some friends. Stone’s older children Ethan and Kate, who are on the cross-country and track teams at Mountain View High, ran with him every hour. Wife Tracy and younger daughter Sarah alternated between running and biking.

As the day continued, many in the neighborhood heard about the run and showed their support with actions such as putting up signs and flashing lights, setting up a water station and joining in for a few laps, according to Stone.

“Having everyone come out to cheer us on made it feel like this fun community event,” he said. “This really was the positive energy that the neighborhood really needed. And it felt great being a part of it.”
As for the future of his marathon career, Stone doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.

“I really enjoy running and the ability to challenge and push yourself,” he said. “I hope that I can continue to race and improve my running for many years to come.”

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