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Boston Marathon no sweat for Bell

Boston Marathon no sweat for Bell

Tom Bell has some very unique goals for someone who took up running only three years ago.

Bell, who graduated from South Medford High in 1987, has three goals in mind these days.

In no specific order, Bell wants to run 100 marathons in his lifetime, run a marathon in each of the 50 states and become a member of a group called 50 States and D.C., where membership requires a minimum marathon participation of 20 states.

Those are lofty goals for such a short-timer in the running game, unless you consider the story of Monday's overall winner in the Boston Marathon. Elijah Lagat of Kenya began running eight years ago on his doctor's advice that jogging could help reduce the overweight Kenyan's risk of a heart problem.

Thirty-four pounds lighter, Lagat cut through the windswept course Monday in 2 hours, 9 minutes and 47 seconds to win the Boston Marathon in his first attempt.

Packed somewhere behind Lagat among the 17,813 who battled through the 26.2-mile course Monday was Bell, who was one of 162 Oregonians competing in the Boston Marathon.

Other area runners competing were David Dzurec of Klamath Falls (4:10:00), Nathan Patla of Lakeview (3:00:19) and Leslie Allen of Grants Pass (3:55:44).

Much like Lagat, Bell took up running after wanting to tone down some of his bad habits.

The Medford resident said he used to spend a little too much time in the bars, having a few drinks and chomping down on chewing tobacco. Unhappy with that lifestyle, the helicopter mechanic made a change.

I quit doing all that and found I had a lot of time on my hands, so I started running, he said.

Eventually training for a Pear Blossom Run turned into Bell completing his ninth marathon in the past two years with Monday's official effort of 3:05:58. His net time from the starting line to the finish line was 3:05:02.

Bell, 31, said he had wanted to complete the marathon in under — hours but a throbbing hamstring about 20 miles into the race altered his approach.

That's the no-turning around point, Bell said of the 20-mile mark. Either you romp on in on it or you coast and focus on just finishing. I just focused on finishing.

That focus, however, never included Lagat and the leaders of the pack.

I didn't even see those guys; not even afterwards, said Bell. I started around the corner from them and probably could have hit them with a rock with a good throw, but that's about it. Those guys are incredible.

Cheering on Bell along the way were his wife Lori and children Dallas, 7, Morgan, 5, and Caleb, 2. That family support has helped drive Bell to compete over the past few years, and in part helped make him into a distance runner.

I read a study once that said kids who are involved in sports are less likely to be involved with drugs or drop out of school, said Bell. I want my kids to have that influence of seeing their dad participate in sports and hopefully they'll participate someday as well.

The family aspect of running with camaraderie and clean living helped attract Bell, but it was his own competitive nature that drove him toward setting such lofty goals.

I have that kind of personality where when I do something, I do it all-out, he said. I don't really know why I decided to run marathons. At first I enjoyed running long distances and the solitude of it all. Now I guess it's just the energy of running with all the positive people.

Bell has a good start on making his goal of 100 marathons, but he said he needs to branch out to more states if he's going to accomplish his remaining goals.

I just have to get away from Washington, Oregon and California, he said, noting that his only marathons outside those three states were in Alaska and Monday in Massachusetts. I have to get out, but it's hard to do without my kids. I want to run all these at least with my wife around and I'd like to have my kids there too.

Although Bell's work as a helicopter mechanic offers him two weeks off after every two weeks of work, it's the scheduling around the school year and his wife's available time that may make that desire difficult. Lori Bell works as a nurse at Rogue Valley Medical Center, and her husband views her presence at each marathon almost mandatory.

I definitely don't want to do it without my wife there because, hey, if anything happens at the finish line, she's a nurse, he said with a chuckle.

In reality, Bell said his faith in God has carried him to such promising results over the years.

I do everything for the glory of God, he said. That's basically what my family life is about. He's given me the ability to run 26.2 miles and not quit along the way. That's been very instrumental.