BOSTON – The 122nd Boston Marathon included a familiar face among the runners, but this time around Larry Cole didn't take part in the race itself. Instead, the longtime Harwich runner rode along the route in a spiffy SUV as an Honorary Relay Team Captain.
“This is the 100th anniversary of the World War I-era Boston Marathon in 1918, which was all military,” the 84-year-old Cole said. “Last winter an announcement came out from the office of veterans services that they were looking for veterans and current active duty military personnel to run in the relay. I have a lot of veteran friends that are active, and somebody forwarded the email to me. I jumped on it and applied.”
Cole, a Korean War veteran who was stationed in Korea from March 1953 to May 1954, was actually on the front lines when the Korean Armistice Agreement took effect on July 27, 1953. When he rode along in the marathon on Monday, it was part of the Boston Athletic Association's recognition of the 1918 race, an all-military event in which 10-man teams representing each of the military branches ran from Ashland to Boston in relay fashion, passing a baton as they traveled.
According to the BAA (baa.org) 16 people with ties to the five military branches and the eight marathon cities were chosen to pass a baton during the 2018 event, with Cole, and Army veteran, and Howard Luckett serving as honorary captains. They were also designated Grand Marshals for the race.
“We're going to ride in an official vehicle, just between the elite women and the elite men, and just ahead of the wheelchair racers,” Cole said the week prior to the race.
Cole began running as a senior at Vermont Academy in Saxton's River, Vt., a private school in the southern part of the state to which he transferred from Keene High School in his New Hampshire hometown.
“I ran my senior year at Vermont Academy because I wasn't very good at baseball,” he said. “I wasn't good enough to play sports at Keene High. At VA you had to play something all three seasons and they provided coaches, equipment, and a schedule of games. I loved it. I ran the quarter mile.”
That was the last of his running career until he took on the corporate challenge while employed with GTE Corporate HQ and Laboratories. Ironically, it was ice hockey that held his passion.
“I was playing old-timer's hockey until about three years go, so I was in good condition,” Cole said.
Then, in the summer of 2005, Cole received a flier in the mail from the American Stroke Foundation bearing an invitation to sign up for their Train to End Stroke event.
“They would provide a coach and I'd raise money,” Cole said, adding that runners would travel to Orlando or Phoenix. “I went to a meeting in Yarmouth, met the coach and some of the runners, and decided to do it. I ended up running Phoenix in 2006 and two days later was elected selectman. I just kept running after that.”
In road races, he noted. Not for office.
Since then Cole has become a fixture in races local and off-Cape.
“It's nice, particularly when I get an award because I'm the only one in my age group,” he said. “I get a lot of support. I run about 45 races a year, so I see lots of people over and over again.”
Though he'd have liked to run the Boston Marathon one more time (he's run it twice), he's honored to have been chosen as an honorary captain.
“It's obviously very special,” he said. “I like the fact that they're commemorating something that occurred in history. This is a significant year. Nov. 11 will be the 100th anniversary of the armistice of WWI and the start of Veteran's Day, and it's nice that they're calling attention to it.”
Boston, he said, is a singular experience.
“When I ran it was on a waiver, and I finished much later than most runners, but the crowds were still downtown cheering,” he said. “They were very supportive. That's what I love about Boston.”