Boston to be Amherst man’s 100th marathon

Courtesy photo David Salvas is shown at the New York City Marathon last November, his 98th marathon. The Boston Marathon next week will be his 100th.

AMHERST – David Salvas’ initiation into running wasn’t promising, to say the least.

He was 30 years old, with a cigarette in one hand in a Ring Ding in the other, at Hampton Beach with a friend who was running.

“I can do that,” he said; he put his cigarette out and ran a quarter mile before he had to stop.

But Salvas kept at it, and five years later, he ran his first Boston Marathon. It was so hot, he walked the last 31/2 miles and wound up in the medical tent.

“I will never do this again,” he told himself – but he’s been running ever since.

On Monday, April 17, Salvas will run his 21st Boston Marathon and his 100th marathon overall. He has run marathons in Chicago, San Diego, Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Cape Cod and at Disney World. In Wolfboro, he did the Granite Man Triathlon.

Salvas’ best time was in Keene, at three hours, 10 minutes when he was 42, but his best running memory is carrying the Olympic torch in 1996.

In February, he ran his 99th marathon in Jacksonville, Fla., when the temperature was over 80, and an 8-foot snake crossed his path at one point. Before that were New York, Hartford, Conn., and Quebec.

Running and coaching have been a huge part of Salvas’ life. He coaches cross country and the indoor and outdoor track teams at Souhegan High School, and has coached adult marathoners for years, inlcuding four yearswith the Gate City Striders and many years for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

He has completed five half Ironman Triathlons, the last two finishing as an age-group winner. He climbed all of the 4,000-foot mountains in New Hampshire and ran the Mount Washington race a number of times.

He is also the founder of Amherst’s Crisman Memorial 5K.

During an interview at his home last week, the conversation veered toward Boston Marathon lore.

Where did the name “Heartbreak Hill” come from, for instance, since it isn’t a particularly steep hill? Salvas will tell you about the 1936 race when marathon legend Johnny Kelley caught up to another legend, Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, who later passed him and won the race. A reporter following Brown said it was “really a heartbreak for Johnny Kelley.”

Salvas is now 68 and clearly up for the big race, but he gets excited about all of them.

“They are all different and in different places,” he said, such as the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World that combines a half marathon on Saturday with a full marathon on Sunday.

“I’ve been lucky to get to meet a lot of elite athletes ,” he said, including Joan Benoit Samuelson, Frank Shorter and Bill Rogers.

In 2013, he was 90 seconds over the finish line when the first terrorist bomb went off. The next year, he got a taste of post-traumatic stress syndrome when, at Boston’s Mile 23, he started to cry. A man he learned later was a psychologist told him to move to the other side of the road and just focus on the finish line.

Salvas doesn’t expect to do the 26.2-mile course in less than five hours. He has a meniscus tear in his knee, and he hopes a cortisone shot last week, plus Advil, will get him through the race. After that comes surgery and then, he hopes, he’ll be back on the track.

“I don’t compete anymore,” Salvas said. “When they ask me about my time, I say, ‘Time? I’m having the time of my life!'”

His advice to new long-distance runners? Get into an ice bath as soon as possible after a long run and stay there for 10-15 minutes.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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