It’s a dream. A goal. A challenge. A tradition.
The reasons vary, but the destination is the same: the Boston Marathon.
The world’s oldest annual marathon has its 115th running on Monday, Patriots’ Day in the Bay State. Fifty-eight runners from Hawaii, believed to be a record, will run in the 26.2-mile event. They qualified by meeting a time standard based on age.
But that was just the first tape to break. The next was the race to be one of 20,000 to register online when entries are accepted.
A number of Hawaii runners set their alarms for 3 a.m. last Oct. 18 to sign up when registration opened. The race filled up in a record-setting 8 hours and 3 minutes.
"I remember when I used to be able to sign up in March," said Angela Sy, 43, who is competing at Boston for the seventh time. "I’ve ended up doing Boston every year because I’ll tell people I train with if they qualify, I’ll go. And they keep qualifying."
One of them is Paul Dower, who began running five years ago. He started training with Jonathan Lyau’s running club.
"I was just training to do a 10K," the 58-year-old said. "I had never thought about running a marathon, thought that anyone who did was crazy. But the people I ran with, all they could talk about was marathon, marathon, marathon.
"All of a sudden, I was hooked and it was, ‘I gotta go to Boston.’ "
RUNNERS FROM HAWAII, BY ISLAND
BIG ISLAND (2)
>> On the web: BAA.org
Toni Mingo understands. She used to live in Boston, watched the races and was a volunteer one year.
"I had just started running then," the 39-year-old said. "Now I can’t believe that I’m going to be one of those runners I watched. I look back on that process and it’s pretty cool.
"My first marathon was New York City. That’s my favorite. I may change my mind after Boston."
It’s going to be a family affair for Mingo, who is traveling with husband, Darin — who has run Boston previously — and 8-month-old son Kaikea. Kaikea is a part of Toni Mingo’s marathon story; she was in her first weeks of pregnancy when she qualified for Boston at the Sacramento Marathon in December 2009.
"I didn’t know I was pregnant," she said. "I haven’t been able to train with everyone like I have in the past. They’re telling me to just go out there and have fun. With my husband and son there, it’s going to be one I’ll never forget."
Unlike the Honolulu Marathon, where the number of spectators thins out along the middle portions of the race from Kahala to Hawaii Kai and back, the Boston route is packed with up to 500,000 watching from Hopkinton to Copley Square.
The state’s contingent traditionally gathers at the "Hawaii House," an office/residence owned by Pete Thalman, on race morning. It’s a refuge from the mob scene up the road before race time, according to Kit Smith, a retired journalist who long chronicled local runners’ participation at Boston for the Honolulu Advertiser.
"Every serious runner’s goal is to qualify for Boston," the 76-year-old said.
Smith will be running for the fifth time at Boston. This will be William Gardner’s first.
"From what my friends tell me, the energy level will be different from any race I’ve done," the 42-year-old said.
The goal for many runners is to finish in a time that qualifies them for next year’s marathon. It will be easier to enter later this year for the 2012 race; there will be a new rolling application process based on how much a runner has come under a respective age-group qualifying time.
With a 3:11, Bel Wray is well under the 3:40 standard for women 18 to 34. The 33-year-old, running her fourth consecutive Boston, is hoping to break 3 hours.
Another Boston veteran is Mike Kasamoto. The 62-year-old is running his sixth.
"It’s just a fantastic race," he said.
It’s worth getting up early to register or crawling across a finish line in order to qualify.
After running in 2009 and qualifying for 2010, Stephen Williams was shut out from last year’s race when early registration filled up. He requalified last spring with a 3:19 in Los Angeles and "I took no chances for 2011," said the 64-year-old of registering within the first few hours it was open.
This is my third time to qualify and my second race," Angela Kwong, 47, said. I actually crawled across the finish line (in the 2009 Honolulu Marathon) to make my qualifying time.
"It is the Mecca for marathon runners. You want to be there."