National Guardsmen take boots to course

BOSTON -- If you think running 26.2 miles is hard, try doing it in boots.

“It was painful with these boots on,” Roy Silva said in the chute after finishing the Boston Marathon on Monday. “I usually keep in shape and I run, but not with boots. I’m amazed that I don’t have any blisters. It’s sore, but I don’t have any blisters. So overall it was a good run.”

A specialist with the Massachusetts National Guard, based out of Methuen, Mass., Silva was decked out for the marathon in standard issue boots, fatigues and a black National Guard T-shirt. His finisher’s medal hung around his neck.

“When I was running, I was saying ‘I’ll never do this again,’” he said with a laugh. “But I was committed to finishing it.”

Security measures put in place for 2014 after the bombings last year -- specifically, no bags and no unregistered runners -- meant an end to the traditional National Guard rucksack march, in which soldiers march the marathon course carrying 40-pound packs.

An unintended consequence, the ban created a minor uproar among some who saw it as the military personnel being unfairly punished. As a compromise, the Boston Athletic Association gave the Guard around 100 numbers for this year’s race -- but the packs still weren’t allowed.

“I was OK with it,” Silva, a carpentry teacher at Minuteman Regional High School in Lexington, Mass., said of the new security measures. “I think 26 miles is hard enough just running without any weight on your back. I’m just sad that because of what happened, sometimes for the safety of everyone we have to give [up] a little bit. It’s understandable.”

Captain Peter Kurek, who works in communications at Hanscom Air Force Base, said he decided to run Boston for the first time because he wasn’t able to help with the events of last year.

“I was on duty for that,” he said. “I wasn’t here, I was at headquarters [at Hanscom]. But for several days I wished I had been able to come down here.

“This was my opportunity to come out and show my support for the athletes. They’re as much a hero as we are. They come out here regardless of what the risk is.”

A native of Pittsfield, Mass., who now lives in Nashua, N.H., Kurek said the voices of the strangers lining the route helped him push through the burning he felt in his quads and calves -- which, he said, was worse in the boots than it would have been in sneakers.

“The crowds were very supportive of us,” he said. “Lots of chanting of ‘U-S-A, U-S-A,’ and so I want to thank the public for the support they showed me and the others from the National Guard who were out there today.”

When all was said and done, Kurek said he was feeling pretty good, all things considered. And he’s not planning on stopping with Boston.

“My legs are a little heavy, my feet are a little heavy,” he said. “I’m doing another half marathon in about two weeks up in New Hampshire, so hopefully my feet will heal by then. But I’m looking forward to doing that too.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.