For Stratford’s marathon king, all roads lead to Boston

Ercole Guidi, 75, just completed his fourth Boston Marathon and 18th marathon overall

STRATFORD, Ont. – There is an expression: “All roads lead to Rome.”

And while Rome may be the birthplace of Stratford’s Ercole Guidi, for the 75-year-old runner all roads lead to Boston and the Boston Marathon, the holy grail of running in which Guidi has competed four times.

On Monday, Guidi finished with his fastest time yet, winning the bronze medal for his third place out of 47 competitors in the 75 to 79 age group.

He is a veteran who has run a total of 18 marathons and his first marathon took place in Toronto in 2012.

“I started running to stay in shape; be active,” he says. “You don’t have marathons in mind when you start, but the atmosphere around racing is so great that something happens in your brain. You start training for a race. If you do that, you’ll start running almost every day, and then you’ll start to feel better and eat better. You choose a diet that is conducive to performance. And then you really start to need it.”

This was Guidi’s fourth Boston Marathon, but for him, “every time is like the first time.”

There are six major marathons considered “qualifiers” for Boston, the world’s oldest annual marathon, which celebrated its 128th anniversary on Monday. Among the 30,000 registered participants there are categories. For Guidi’s age group, the qualifying time for registration is 4 hours and 35 minutes. Guidi’s time was 30 minutes faster.

His first qualifying year was 2015. His time was 4 hours and 15 minutes. Nine years later he is even faster, with a time of 4 hours and 13 minutes.

For the past twelve years, training has been like a job for him. He owes his improvement to the daily work. “It’s an addictive activity. You don’t want to lose your form, so keep going.”

Once he committed, he started studying what to eat and realized that it’s not just a physical challenge, but also a mental challenge because even though there are gels and nutritional packs along the way, at some point your body on. of carbohydrates.

“It’s like a car running out of fuel,” he explains. “So you have to be mentally strong and train longer. By doing that you gain self-confidence.”

There are several hills during the 42km race, especially around the 30km mark.

“At that point you really have no energy left,” he said, which is why his training plans in Stratford, where the terrain is flat, include running up and down the hill in front of the Stratford Festival Theater repeatedly.

Guidi is motivated by his running community and says that no matter what marathon he runs, “in running circles, everyone talks about the Boston Marathon, and everyone comes from all over the world for it.”

A particularly iconic part of the race is called the “Scream Tunnel,” in which thousands of Wellesley College female students hold up signs and cheer on the runners. “I can’t repeat what’s on those signs,” he laughs, “but it’s almost deafening.”

After so many marathons he has seen it all. “I saw a man running with prosthetic legs. I saw visually impaired people running with their assistants next to them.

There were people running with a message on their shirt saying they were standing up for a lost spouse, or surviving cancer. If you look around you see all kinds of people, all running for their own special reason.”

Guidi also has a special reason.

More than the achievement of qualifying and completing this pinnacle of all marathons, with a personal best and winning the bronze medal, Guidi is most proud of the fact that his entire family is now running. His wife ran the 5K race in Boston the day before, and in 2022 he ran the Boston Marathon with one of his sons: “Can you imagine a father and son running the Boston Marathon together?” he asks.

Guidi has not only become an advocate of running and walking, he is also living proof of the health benefits.

“If you stay active, you will age better. I don’t feel as old as I do now.”

On most days you can see Guidi running around the river. “Almost everyone knows me because I run every day.”

Another Stratford runner, Gerry Thens, who has run the Boston Marathon six times, sent him a congratulatory message saying that “the roads of Stratford will never be the same.”