Homer man qualifies for Boston Marathon

Homer resident and Kachemak Land Trust board member Larsen Klingel qualified for the 2018 Boston Marathon without running a single mile. He was, however, pushed in a wheelchair by his longtime friend Andy Beardsley for all 26.2 miles.

The idea was Beardsley’s, who was inspired by a father-son team who competed in marathons as a wheelchair team. Klingel, who was born with cerebral palsy that requires him to walk with crutches, took a little more convincing.

“I wasn’t too keen on it, but finally he got me to do it,” Klingel said.

Beardsley’s goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon as a wheelchair team, but that’s where the pair came across their first obstacle.

“We couldn’t qualify in the wheelchair division because it was full for several years,” Klingel said. “(Beardsley) said heck with that. He said he would push me to qualify for the 50-and-over category for the normal race with the regular runners.”

A runner must complete a qualifying marathon in 3 hours and 30 minutes to get into the 50-60 age group in the Boston Marathon, which Beardsley would have to do while also pushing Klingel in a racing wheelchair.

The weekend of Nov. 12, Klingel and Beardsley were poised and ready at the front of the pack of the Richmond Marathon in Virginia, where Beardsley lives. Klingel sat in a specially designed racing wheelchair borrowed from a local private school, in which Klingel sat in a reclining position.

“It looks more like a dragster. I basically lay pretty much on my back. It’s pretty comfortable,” Klingel said. “You’re not totally on your back — it’s like being in a La-Z-Boy. It’s fairly comfortable as long as he doesn’t hit too many bumps.”

Throughout the race, all Klingel had to do was pass Beardsley a salt tablet every few miles, he said. While Klingel rode it out, Beardsley pushed a 160-pound Klingel in a 30-40 pound wheelchair. Despite the extra weight, the duo finished 255th overall out of over 4,000 runners and 12th in the 50-and-over-category, qualifying for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3 hours and 17 minutes.

“It doesn’t look very good when there’s people who are also trying to qualify and your friend goes zipping by them pushing you in a wheelchair,” Klingel said. “The really fast runners, as you go by, they’ll give you encouragement, but the people who are slower, you don’t want to go nah nah nah nah nah nah as you go by. I was threatening my friend to say, ‘See you at the finish line!’ as we went by, but he said he’d stop the wheelchair right there.”

Though the team qualified in time for the 2017 Boston Marathon, it is full in their category, so Beardsley and Klingel will have to wait until 2018 to make their appearance. In the meantime, they will most likely run another marathon together in 2017 to get ready, Klingel said.

“I can ride as many as my friend wants to push, but he just turned 53 so I don’t imagine he’s into running marathons all the time,” Klingel said.

Anna Frost can be reached at anna.frost@homernews.com.