Last May in the early out-and-back miles of the Vermont City Marathon, as the faster runners came back toward the pack, I noticed a familiar black-singleted figure speeding along, easy to pick out in that yellow hat. Looks like Gary Allen, I thought, but no, it can’t be, because he’d run the Sugarloaf Marathon seven days ago.

What was I thinking?

Of course it was Allen. He later explained that by the Wednesday after his 2:55:21 Sugarloaf he’d been feeling pretty good, so he started looking around for another marathon.

Burlington was handy, so he drove over on Saturday, crashed in the medical tent at the finish because he couldn’t find a room and ran 2:55:33 the next morning.

This feat probably illustrates several things, one of which is Allen’s amazing consistency as a marathoner. He has run 61 of his total 78 marathons under 3 hours, most recently, at the Boston Marathon (2:55:33).

That consistency is what has put Allen, 52, of Great Cranberry Island, among a most unusual band or marathoners: the few and proud who have run a sub-3-hour marathon in five decades.

Runners’ World writer Amby Burfoot has done the legwork and recently wrote on the phenomenon of these particular elites; check out the Facebook group. There are 10 such runners at present, including (the late) 1960 Olympic marathoner Derek Turnbull of New Zealand, who ran sub-3s from the ’50s to the ’90s; and Doug Kurtis, who has run 76 sub-2:20 marathons and nailed the five-decade streak (as did his brother Dennis) with a 2:54:01 at Boston. Allen points out that Joan Benoit Samuelson can become the first woman in the band when she next goes marathoning, possibly this fall.

Allen, the founder and director of the MDI Marathon, submitted his first sub-3 in the Paul Bunyan Marathon in Bangor in July 1978. He ran 2:51:03. How many people of a certain age are still running that close to their times of 30 years ago?

Allen suggests that his casual approach to training might help explain both his longevity and his speed (if 70-90 miles a week year-round can be called “casual”).

“I just run how I feel,” he said Friday, recalling his wooden-legged post-Boston jog on Tuesday. “I don’t get caught up in ‘needing’ to do this or that.

“Too many people think too much about training … I haven’t gone yet today, but if I’m comfortable and feeling happy out there, I could go two hours, and couldn’t care less that I ran a marathon four days ago.

“But I’m not saying that there’s anything that special here, except in how much I love running, and have loved it for a long time.”

Allen hardly ever does shorter races, feeling that he’s found his calling in the perfection and endless fascination of the 26.2-mile distance. Next up for the man in the yellow hat is Sugarloaf on May 16. Looking further ahead, “Amby bet me a bushel of clams I can’t make it six decades in 2020 at Boston.”

BOB SCAMMAN, 54, of Biddeford was among 600-plus runners whose Boston Marathon times were distorted by a finish-line computer glitch. Scamman’s correct time was 3:32:36, a Boston qualifier for 2011. … Congrats to Maine Running Hall of Famer Andrea Hatch, 66, who finished her 33rd straight Boston in 5:25:55. No woman has a longer streak. … Jeanne Hackett of Scarborough had a fine Boston, 3:15:54, to finish seventh in her 50-54 age division. …

Overheard bits from Boston Marathon weekend … “Does that Joan Benoit still run?” (spoken by middle-aged man to wife late morning on race day in the 50-floor Skywalk Observatory at the Pru, just as the lead women’s winners press truck was sighted in the distance). …

Medal wearer in Apple store on Boylston Street on Monday evening, pointing accusingly at another older guy: “You’re not wearing your medal!” Back Bay seemed to teem with more postrace medal wearers than ever this year. Possibly this was because of the bumper crop of entrants and finishers (more than 22,000). …

“Nice bike!” This was the immortal Bill Rodgers running on Monday morning, turning onto the Mass. Ave. bridge, to a young woman with a cool red retro bike. She brightly called back “Thanks!” It was not clear whether she recognized the four-time Boston winner. But the police officers on the other side of the bridge sure did, hailing “Mr. Rodgers” with evident affection.

 

John Rolfe of Portland is a staff writer and a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at:

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