If a tree falls on your ankle, will it keep you from running the Boston Marathon?
Not if you’re Rick Stefanovic and you have your heart set on making that left turn onto Boylston St. a 20th consecutive time.
Even during surgery on Dec. 4, when Dr. Greg Van Winkel inserted a plate and six screws into his broken left ankle, Stefanovic was asking when he could return to running.
He received that clearance on April 6, allowing just 12 days of training to build up his mileage for a return to Boston on Monday.
He didn’t waste a moment.
Stefanovic, 48, ran seven miles that day and followed up with the South Shore Half Marathon on Saturday. In all, he has tallied 37 miles, about one-third of the mileage he would typically accumulate in a week of training for Boston.
Ric Stefanovic - middle - training for the 2006 Boston Marathon.
Photo by Gary Porter/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“It’s going to be a whole different experience,” Stefanovic said Friday. “I’ll be able to take in the spectacle, maybe stop for a hot dog in the Newton Hills. I’m going to meet a whole different crowd.”
Over 19 previous Boston efforts, his times have ranged from 2:34 to 2:48, and he’s perennially in the top 20 to 30 finishers in the masters division. For two decades, he’s shown a remarkable consistency as one of Wisconsin’s best in the super bowl of marathons.
After training exclusively on an elliptical machine and stationary bike, Stefanovic ran a 1:49 in the South Shore, an encouraging sign. There was no doubt he would head to Boston and give his 12-day training regimen a test.
“I have the whole group of friends I would travel out there with, so there’s the camaraderie,” he said. “I enjoy the race and although I might not be tremendously competitive this year, I’m not wired up where 'if I’m not going to be competitive,' I don’t want to be there at all.
“I am going to start out very conservatively, probably seed myself further back in the crowd than what I’m qualified for. I think I can complete it if I have a walk-jog type of strategy and remain as oblivious as I can about the time.
“It’s number 20, which is why I would pretty much crawl it on my hands and knees of I had to, and I might.
“The one thing I regret is that I’m not faster than an apple tree.”
Stefanovic’s minimal training is just one of the compelling stories of local athletes headed to Boston.
Soldier on the run: Aaron Hunnel, of Appleton, trained through sandstorms and snowstorms for the opportunity to run in his first Boston Marathon. A staff sergeant in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, the 26-year-old earned an invitation from the Boston Athletic Association by completing a marathon at Camp Adder, in Iraq, in April 2010.
He told the Appleton Post Crescent: "If I was asked two years ago if I wanted to run 26.2 miles, I would have thought you were out of your mind. And even after I completed my first marathon, I thought to myself, ’This is the worst idea ever. I remember that nine miles into the marathon I had really lost my edge.’"
Running memorial: James Gefke, a North Shore firefighter from Glendale, will run Boston in full gear in memory of John Harrington, a role model and fellow firefighter. Harrington collided with a cement truck and was killed while biking on Kinnickinnic Ave. in May 2004.