Randy Angel

Redondo Beach couple is on a marathon mission

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Jimmy Wills and Erin Beresini are all smiles one day before the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Photo by Annie Wills

Jimmy Wills and Erin Beresini are all smiles one day before the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Photo by Annie Wills

It took 86 years for the Boston Red Sox to shake off the Curse of the Bambino. Redondo Beach triathlete Erin Beresini hopes to rid her own Boston curse in three years.

Beresini and husband Jimmy Wills, who is also an accomplished triathlete, will return to Boston next weekend with one goal in mind – to cross the finish line at the 118th Boston Marathon.

Beresini was less than one half mile from accomplishing the feat last year when the explosion of two bombs forced the race to end prematurely.

“My goal was to finish Boston and not have to run another marathon,” Beresini told the Easy Reader soon after the bombings. “But this makes me want to run more marathons.”

Because she was not allowed to complete the 26-mile, 365-yard course, Beresini was granted an automatic entry this year without having to re-qualify. Wills qualified for this year’s race at the Santa Rosa Marathon last August.

“I’m going to run with her this year,” Wills said. “The main is thing is for us to finish. We’ve been there twice already. It means a lot to Erin.”

Beresini’s quest began in 2011 but the road to Boston has been tough.

After finishing the Redondo Beach Super Bowl 10K in 2011, Beresini felt good about her time. She arrived home, logged onto her computer, and entered her result into a pace-predicting calculator that said she should be able to muster a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon.

Jimmy Wills considers the Redondo Beach Super Bowl 10K one of his favorite races. Photo by Ray Vidal

Jimmy Wills considers the Redondo Beach Super Bowl 10K one of his favorite races. Photo by Ray Vidal

“I decided to give it a try so Jimmy and I signed up for the L.A. Marathon,’ Beresini said. “The morning of the race, it was only 50 degrees. I went out way too fast, it started raining and I got really cold. Then things just snowballed. I ran slower, got colder and developed hypothermia. I was one of the people who got dragged off the course at mile 24 and taken to the hospital. They took my shirt off to warm me up and took it to the finish line so my shirt qualified without me.”

Undaunted, Beresini and Wills signed up for the 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego where Jimmy paced Erin to a qualifying time for the 2012 race in Boston.

Pushing herself during training, Beresini developed achilles tendonitis one month before the race. Coupled with a cold that worsened on the plane trip to Boston, Beresini knew she was not in the best condition to compete.

“When we got off the plane, there was an email from the race officials,” Beresini recalled. “It said it was going to be the hottest Boston Marathon on record and if you weren’t in shape, not to run it and they’d let you defer to the next year.”

Although disappointed, Beresini felt relieved by not having to risk her health. She turned her focus to the support of her husband.

“It‘s hard to get through the training without an injury, let alone a marathon race,” said Wills, who finished the race at a social pace, meaning he would have to qualify again for the 2013 event.

Beresini said she had uneasy feelings during last year’s event starting from the moment they arrived in their room, booked on vacation rental website, Airbnb.

“It was a terrible place and real dirty,” Beresini said. The night before the race, Beresini developed a foot infection she believes came from the unsanitary shower in the couple’s room.

Triathlete Erin Beresini pedals her way through the bike leg at the XTERRA World Championships in Maui. Photo by Jimmy Wills

Triathlete Erin Beresini pedals her way through the bike leg at the XTERRA World Championships in Maui. Photo by Jimmy Wills

“I was looking for any doctor that would see me that late at night,” Beresini said. “I had heard about the antibiotic the doctor had prescribed but couldn’t remember where. When we were standing in line at Walgreens, I remembered it is a drug that is known to give athletes tendonitis. I thought, ‘No way, I’m running a race tomorrow. I’m here. I’m not coming back. I’m going to finish the race no matter what.’”

The morning of the race, runners gather at Boston Commons and take a bus to the race. Beresini said she continued to have an eerie feeling – and it wasn’t just the pain radiating through her foot.

By the time the race started, the pain in Beresini’s foot had moved through her leg and into her hip. She fought through the agony, determined to finish the race.

But police stopped Beresini and the other runners about o.3 miles from the finish line. She was sad when told that she would not be able to finish the race, still not knowing the details of a tragedy that killed three people and injured an estimated 265 others.

“The story of my Boston Curse continues,” Beresini said. “Two weeks ago I was going too fast trying to keep up with the boys at the iRun MB, trying to show off that I could do it and I got psoas tendonitis again. But it won’t keep me from finishing Boston this year.”

One thing is a given, she’ll have the full support of her husband. Wills and Beresini have been competing in the same events for many years, but none as special as 2007.

On St. Patrick’s Day that year, Wills completed the Catalina Marathon. At the end of the race, Wills reached behind into his Camelbak running pack, pulled out a ring and proposed.

Three months later, Wills and Beresini won the men’s and women’s division at the Redondo Beach Triathlon. In October, Beresini captured the women’s division of the Arrowhead Day at the Beach Triathlon in Hermosa Beach.

“That was an exciting year,” Wills said. “We both also qualified for the XTERRA World Championships in Hawaii.”

Along with finishing the Boston Marathon, Beresini said she has other sports goals. She would like to run the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race that starts in Squaw Valley and ends in Auburn.

Beresini also hopes to finish the 3-day Ultraman Hawaii Championship. She placed third at Ultraman Canada in 2011, and enjoyed the experience with Wills acting as crew chief and his father and a triathlon friend from college serving on the crew.

Wills said he tries to maintain a balance between training, competing and my work at Northrop Grumman.

Beresini’s experience as a high-level athlete has lead to a career in sports journalism. Her works have appeared in The New York Times, Outside Magazine, Triathlete Magazine, Inside Triathlon, and espnW. She is the former Senior Editor of Competitor Magazine and currently writes Outside Magazine’s “Fitness Coach” column.

Beresini has chronicled her experience in the new fitness culture of obstacle course racing where athletes from marathoners to weekend warriors run miles through mud and fire, crawl under barbed wire, scale ten-foot walls and avoid baton-wielding gladiators.

Her book, Off Course: Inside the Mad, Muddy World of Obstacle Course Racing (256 pgs., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is scheduled to be released in October.



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