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Two Islanders inspired by Boston crowds: Frank Adipietro and Bill Lehr in the Marathon

Some athletes carry good luck charms or talismans when they compete. Islander Bill Lehr, who raced in the 126th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, didn’t have anything with him except his competitive drive and spirit. Islander Dr. Frank Adipietro had those two virtues, but also had something special in his pockets.

Not a rabbit’s foot or a religious medal, but … dog biscuits?

The world’s most famous race has acquired many traditions over the years, and on a bright, cool New England day, one of those traditions was in the form of a 12-year-old golden retriever named Spencer, who was back at his post after missing a race due to cancer. Fully recovered, Spencer was again at the 2.5-mile marker of the 26.2-mile course that runs through the streets of Boston.

“I heard he was sick but was back and I wanted to give him something and get a selfie,” Dr. Adipietro said. “ He’s always such a great sight to see. A great presence.”

Dr. Adipietro first ran the Boston in 1985 and then, starting in 2010, has competed in every race since.

Mr. Lehr is also very familiar with the course. He’s a veteran of hundreds of competitive races, including Boston and two Olympics, as well as being a fixture at the Island’s 10K.

Bill Lehr, giving his all during the 2022 Boston Marathon. (Courtesy photo)

He was in last year’s marathon, which was run in October due to pandemic protocols. The Boston race is unique, he said, because of the city itself, which turns out in the tens of thousands to cheer everyone on.

There’s a holiday atmosphere because the race is run on Patriot’s Day, a State holiday. “Every place is filled” along the course, Mr. Lehr said, and “everyone is really enthusiastic. The cheering crowd really helped me get though some of those hills, which were really beating on me.”

Dr. Adipietro and his family lived in Boston for a while, and the city is close to his heart. “I did a fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and first ran the marathon as part of their team.”

In years past he’s been part of a team from the Massachusetts State Police, who run for the charity Cops For Kids with Cancer. His friend, State Police Lt. Bill Coulter, got him involved. Lt. Coulter died of cancer in 2019, and is always in Dr. Adipietro’s thoughts as he runs.

His spirit is always buoyed by the crowds. “Being a holiday, all the kids are off from school, including all the college kids,” he said. “It’s a real party atmosphere.”

However, memories of the terrorist bombing near the finish line of the 2013 race, which killed three people and injured hundreds, are always present, he said. At the Boylston Street finish line, three stone pillars stand in memory of those who died.

He spoke of the emotional moment when Martin Richard finished the race this year. Martin is the older brother of Henry, who was 10 when he was killed by a bomb at the finish line. Their sister Jane lost a leg in the attack. “It’s the first time Martin ran the race,” Dr. Adipietro said.

Mr. Lehr said racing in Boston is always a chance to connect with other wheelchair athletes. “I saw friends from Kentucky and upstate New York,” he said. “But, I’ll tell you, these people  are out to win. They’re not just showing up. There’s prize money to be won.”

Mr. Lehr’s time for the 26.2 miles was 3 hours and 8 minutes. The wheelchair winner was Daniel Romanchuk, who posted a time of 1 hour, 26 minutes and 57 seconds. The winner in the women’s wheelchair division was Manuela Schӓar at 1 hour, 41 minutes and 8 seconds.

People with disabilities always strive to overcome long odds for respectability and policies that bring them equality. Back at his hotel after the race Mr. Lehr said he was pleased to see something on TV.

After a long hot shower, he was watching race coverage and noticed that at the bottom of the screen the names of Mr. Romanchuk and Ms. Schӓar were listed, along with their times. “That’s great for us,” he said, “for our division and for all the other athletes.”

Dr. Adipietro’s time was 5 hours and 30 minutes. The men’s winner was Evans Chebet at 2 hours and 6 minutes; the women’s winner was Peres Jepchirchir at 2 hours and 21 minutes.

Don’t let anyone tell you that times are not important to any competitive racer. But the main takeway of the day for Dr. Adipietro and Mr. Lehr was the joy of being on the course, and having Boston turning out to cheer for them.

“It was an incredible day,” Dr. Adipietro said.

“I can still hear them cheering,” Mr.  Lehr said.