John Brown and his wife, Kay Pon-Brown, still remember their first Boston Marathon. It was back in 1990, and it got the couple hooked on the famed race: They’ve been back every year since.
“We were astonished by the exuberant runners and fans,” John said in a recent interview with Runner’s World. “We train hard to get a qualifying time, and then we run easier at Boston to enjoy the experience.”
Sadly, last year’s race proved decidedly less than enjoyable, as the bombs that killed three people and injured 264 more went off a mere eight minutes after John had crossed the finish line. Kay was still out on the course, and she, like thousands of others, was stopped on Commonwealth Avenue.
For hours afterward, runners weren’t allowed back in their hotels, and the Atlanta couple wandered separately, searching for each other.
“The local residents were wonderful, offering me food and drink,” Kay said. “One young woman rushed over to me, draped her jacket over my singlet-clad shoulders, and rushed away before I could thank her. It made me cry.”
They eventually reconnected, and despite the memories of that afternoon’s tragedy, they’re returning on Monday for their 25th-straight Boston Marathon.
As Runner’s World points out, there are no official records pertaining to married pairs, but “it seems likely they have the longest Boston streak for a couple.”
The couple began running marathons in 1988, nearly 10 years into their marriage. At first, Kay was more dedicated than John—she beat him for the first and only time that year—but he quickly got into it, and the following year, they earned their first Boston qualifiers.
Thus began a streak that, in light of last year’s events, has come to symbolize more than just their dedication to each other and the sport.
“We feel pride for the tradition and strength of the Boston Marathon and its organizers,” Kay said. “And the incredible Boston fans make us feel right at home every time we run Boston.”
Their love for the event may be genetic, as their son, Jason, joined them back in 2000, finishing in 2:47.47.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg