Mark Dean of Pine Cove returns to Massachusetts next week for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. Photo by J.P. Crumrine
Mark Dean of Pine Cove returns to Massachusetts next week for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.
Photo by J.P. Crumrine
Mark Dean is nearly finished preparing for his second Boston Marathon, but the 51 weeks since his first Boston run have been depressing, discouraging and deceiving.

As many remember, the 2013 Boston Marathon was disrupted and damaged when bombs ignited near the finish line. Three people, including an 8-year-old boy, were killed and more than 200 injured, some severely and permanently.

Dean had already finished his race and was walking along a side street on his way to meet his wife when the explosions occurred. Dean was uninjured, except for pulling his hamstrings during the race.

Despite the muscle cramping, Dean’s finishing time still qualified him to return in 2014 for the 118th Boston Marathon to be run Monday, April 21.

Most amazing about Dean’s running career is that he has run only three previous marathons — including last year’s Boston Marathon. The other two were San Diego’s Rock and Roll Marathon, normally run in June each year.

In 2006, he ran his first Rock and Roll, which convinced him that he had the capability to run long distance. About a week after the 2006 Rock and Roll Marathon, Dean’s friend and trainer, John Hajovski, told him, “… had you been a year older your time would have been good enough to qualify you for the Boston.”

“But the seed had been planted; I could conceivably qualify for Boston. That was the first time I seriously considered the idea,” Dean said. He began training, but running was never his passionate goal. His long-time favorite sport has been soccer. Then in June 2012, he ran the Rock and Roll Marathon again. This time his time qualified him for the next Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.

After the bombings and back in California, he began participating in his favorite sporting event — soccer games. But things went downhill at this point. His love of soccer has almost derailed his opportunity to run again in Boston. Last June while playing soccer, he tore his Achilles heel. His ankle still does not feel the same, but he’ll depart for Boston and another 26-mile run in a week.

“Soccer is great training for running, but running is lousy training for soccer,” he noted. In soccer, the quick stops and sudden direction changes use different muscles that runners can normally ignore. He’s running in pain, he confirmed.

But the bombings and Achilles damage paled compared to the September news that his older brother, Mike, had died unexpectedly in a nighttime car crash. Dean describes his brother as a 21st Century Wyatt Earp.

Mike was on the San Diego police force before retiring and he loved the job. Dean was anxious to attend the funeral, because, as he said, “you hear stories about people that you could never imagine.” He didn’t resume marathon training until December and strenuous running didn’t begin until February.

In 2013, before Mike died, Dean’s goal was to complete his first Boston run in about three hours and 30 minutes, which was about 14 minutes faster than his qualifying time. His hamstring problems prevented him from achieving this goal. As he ascended the marathon’s famous Heartbreak Hill at mile 20, he had to stop twice and pick himself up off the ground in excruciating pain. He rubbed, massaged and searched his soul to continue the race. “I didn’t know if I could finish. I thought about walking the remaining 6 miles,” he said. “I was totally depleted and knew I’d never make my goal.”

Fortunately, he found the strength to run slower and more cautiously, which enabled him to finish in 3:44. He crossed the line at 2:09 p.m. If he had walked, Dean would have been crossing the finish line about when the explosions occurred.

This year, Dean is better prepared for hamstring problems. He has a calf-sleeve to keep his leg tight and warm. He has plenty of GU energy gel for nourishment and energy and plans to consume more water during the run.

Born in Boston but raised in Southern California, Dean views the Boston Marathon as a return home. He connects with family. This year, a cousin, whom he hasn’t seen in 30 years, will travel from Atlanta to Boston to join the family event. It’s scheduled for the day before the race, Easter Sunday, April 20.

“It’s a big holiday for us. Everyone is excited about the Easter Egg hunt,” said Dean.

Only days before the 2014 Boston Marathon, Dean can be seen running the streets and roads of Idyllwild.

This may be his last marathon, Dean said, but didn’t promise. He finds that he prefers middle distance runs such as 15 kilometers or half marathons. He is even considering entering some triathlon events once he improves his swimming ability.

By Mark Dean

They lace up their shoes, they’re ready to race,
26 miles, they all know their pace.
The wind in their hair, their bodies are hard,
But you won’t see the training that got them this far.

Some run to raise money, some run for the joy,
Some for the memory of one little boy.
They come from all over, descend on this place,
Where history’s written, their great Boston race.

They all run together, they all will run strong,
Through streets lined with people, these roads hard and long.
Most of them finish, some will fall short,
But the cheers of the people will be their report.

In their hearts, they’re all victors, they’ve sacrificed all,
To make it to Hopkinton, they’re all standing tall.
They’ll pick up their medals, collect all their gear,
And some will look forward to running next year.

And when all of the crazy festivities end,
And all’s put away, there’s a message they’ll send,
That courage was here and will be once more,
When they all run together, just like before.