|Williamstown's Art Runs Boston to Benefit Disabled Runners Group|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
03:57AM / Sunday, April 15, 2018
|Williamstown's Hank Art, left, finishes the 2013 New York City Marathon with Achilles International teammates Harald Vic, center and Robert Skarsbakk.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Qualified to run his 80th marathon at age 73, Hank Art shows no signs of slowing down.
Unless he wants to.
Art will toe the line in Hopkinton this Monday morning for his 16th Boston Marathon. But one of his most memorable experiences in a 26.2-mile event came a couple of hours to south, at the 2013 New York City Marathon.
"It was my personal record for my slowest marathon," Art recalled last week. "We started at 10 a.m. and ended up after 6 at night in Central Park."
That is because Art was running not for a time but as a guide with Achilles International, a New York-based nonprofit that helps mobility-impaired athletes reach their potential.
Art's partner that day was Harald Vic, a deaf and blind runner from Oslo, Norway. Together with Norwegian Robert Skarsbakk, Art helped Vic compete in his 20th New York City Marathon.
"We finished in the dark, but then again, all of Harald's many marathons are in darkness ... and silence," Art said. "It was an amazing demonstration of courage and trust. The guides who traveled from Norway are exemplars of the loving craft. My hat is off to them ... and to Harald. I feel privileged to have helped in a small way with their accomplishment."
Art called Vic an inspiration to everyone who saw him compete.
"He had a smile on his face the whole day and at times would go to the curb and high-five the kids," Art said. "He just so thoroughly enjoyed what he was doing.
"I think it was my most memorable marathon ever."
Art has other kinds of memories from the 2013 Boston Marathon, which he, along with many other runners, could not finish after a bombing near the finish line killed three people.
After his experience five years ago, Art reached out to the leadership at Achilles about revitalizing the organization's chapter in Boston, where Art realized there would be an acute need in the wake of the bombings.
Now he is a member of the board for Achilles, after serving as a guide for the group since 2007. And the Boston chapter is going strong, with a core group of about 20 runners with disabilities who participate in regular training sessions plus many more who join the group sporadically.
"I hesitate to use the word disabled because many of these people have abilities that far exceed the abilities of people who have two arms and two legs and have their full sight and hearing," Art said.
That said, runners in the Achilles program do have particular needs on a marathon course.
"Sometimes you have guiding teams of anywhere from two to four people with each disabled runner," Art said
"By mile 12, a lot of runners out there aren't thinking completely clearly. They're in the zone. There hasn't been a marathon I've been in where someone hasn't tried to cut through a group of guides and would have knocked down the disabled runner. The guides are there for the safety of everyone."
Art last week confirmed with Achilles Boston director Laura Buso that the group has enough guides for each of its athletes on Monday. He said he will still be available as a "standby guide," but his participation in the 122nd annual Patriots Day event will be as a qualified runner.
He will be serving the Achilles cause in another way.
"It struck me after interacting with them last year, when I didn't run as a guide or a registrant in the race, that since I am qualified for this year, why not use — for the first time in my life as a marathoner — the race as a way to make money?" Art said.
With the help of the folks in New York, he set up a fund-raising page
and a goal of $4,000 to help support the Achilles Boston chapter.
"They have a wonderful operation run by Laura Buso with a very active Facebook page where you can see all the activities they're having," Art said. "The main issue right now is financial stability so they can have a bit of a buffer and have money to support some of their athletes. They don't have money for [race] entry fees or things like that. They don't have T-shirts they can use as a team uniform."
And Art knows how his community — both in Williamstown and through the extended network of Williams College, where he is a professor — has supported Achilles International in the past. In 2013, Paul Lovegreen, the owner of Tunnel City Coffee, raised nearly $3,000 for the chapter, the proceeds of 84 Boston cream pies he baked and sold in a fundraiser organized just days after the marathon bombing.
"I don't want to put a hard sell on or pressure anyone, but if there are people who would enjoy being part of all this, the site is there, and I'd encourage people to be as generous as they would like," Art said. "It being the fifth anniversary of the bombing, there are lots of people in the Boston area who could benefit by having Achilles there, whether they were injured in the bombing or not.
"Achilles is open to people of all abilities. It's not for elite runners or people who want to go off and participate in the Paralympics or anything like that. It's for people who want to better their own lives physically and psychologically."