• Vt. runs strong in Boston
     | April 22,2014
    Kevin O’Connor / Staff Photo

    Nancy Heydinger, executive director of the Girls on the Run of Vermont program, wears her 2013 Boston Marathon jersey as she watches live online coverage of Monday’s race with Brattleboro office colleagues (from left) Brian Bashaw, Annie Guyon and Cara Melbourne.

    Richard and Peggy Svec had good reason for skipping work — respectively, as town manager and a teacher in Cavendish, population 1,367 — to join the crowds cheering at the Boston Marathon’s Heartbreak Hill: They were there to support their son, Max.

    The 25-year-old was aiming to complete the 26.2-mile course Monday for the first time.

    The young Vermonter was just one of more than 150 Green Mountain athletes to join 35,500 fellow competitors in running — and reclaiming — the 118th Boston Marathon.

    Max Svec, a hospital outreach specialist at Paul Newman’s The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for seriously ill children, has been happy the past two years to cheer on colleagues huffing and puffing to raise money for their Connecticut-based charity.

    Then two bombs exploded at last year’s finish, inspiring him to train in a demonstration of resilience and desire to raise nearly $9,000 for a camp that serves 20,000 children and families a year free of charge.

    “It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said in a post-run phone interview. “Heartbreak Hill is as terrible as everyone makes it out to be.”

    Svec credited his four-hour 24-minute 44-second finish to the support of a record crowd estimated at one million people.

    “There’s always a lot of pride in the marathon because it has so much history,” he said, “but seeing so many Boston Strong posters and other inspirational things, it seemed there was so much more spirit and love.”

    Svec’s parents and sister, Kathryn, a 22-year-old senior at nearby Wheaton College, joined his co-workers at the legendary heart- and hamstring-breaking hill 20½ miles into the run.

    “The crowd is cheering for everybody,” Richard Svec shouted to a reporter by cellphone as people around him shouted “GO! GO! GO!”

    The town manager, noting spectators “several people deep pretty consistently along the way,” nevertheless found his family “right at the rope” and just an arm’s length from elite athletes such as Shalane Flanagan, the top American woman who grew up in nearby Marblehead.

    “There are police and military everywhere,” he said, “and everything is orderly.”

    Vermonters didn’t have to travel to Massachusetts to see the marathon. Tapping the Internet, staffers at the nonprofit Girls on the Run of Vermont headquarters in Brattleboro were just a few of many workers who watched the event live on their laptops.

    What did the boss think of that? Executive Director Nancy Heydinger was encouraging both onsite colleagues and onscreen competitors, having run the race with her daughter last year.

    Standing at the start of the 2013 event, the 52-year-old Heydinger decided that marathon would be her last. Then she finished just minutes before two bomb blasts sparked world headlines.

    “I really wanted to go back and be there with everyone,” she said Monday.

    But Heydinger’s qualifying time was just over this year’s cutoff, giving her one more story to impart to her program’s nearly 3,000 third- through eighth-graders in 140 schools statewide.

    “The lesson for the girls is resiliency,” said the woman sporting her 2013 official yellow jersey.

    At Girls on the Run, that means participants “of all abilities, sizes, shapes and different facets of life coming together, making friends, having fun, learning about yourself, your goals and your values,” she said. “It’s a wonderful place to meet a challenge and celebrate.”

    And learn why boys have so much trouble concentrating when the national college men’s basketball championship takes over their computers each March.

    Said Heydinger as the marathon ran on her laptop: “How are we ever going to get any work done?”



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