Derm Holwell began running as a competitive hobby and qualified for his first Boston Marathon in 1991. This year, he will run Boston for the 30th straight year. This edition will be different for him, as it marks the first time that he has flown to the race without his family, due to the pandemic.
Holwell has been a part of the Mississauga’s Nomads run club for 16 years and another very exclusive club of quarter-century Boston marathoners, who have completed at least 25 editions of the race. This group only consists of 92 people in the entire world, and Holwell. “When did my first Boston in 1991, I only wanted to do it once, but after I finished I loved the race so much I wanted to go back the next year,” says Holwell. “After my second, I wanted to run under three hours, which happened on my fourth try. In 1996 it was the 100th edition of the race, and that’s where my streak began.”
There are a few years of the race that have stood out to Holwell, who turned 67 this year. “The marathons of 1996, 2004, and 2008 are meaningful to me,” Holwell says. “In 1996, it was the 100th edition of the race, and the year Boston expanded its field from 8,000 to 40,000 runners. It was the first year they featured chip-timing and course markers. It used to be that as you were coming down to the finish on Bolyston St., you had to stay in the order that you finished, and if you wanted your result you had to find it in the newspaper the next day.
“In 2004, the weather was 30 C, and my goal was to run a 2:58 marathon. I ended up finishing the race in 3:23, 25 minutes beyond my goal, and it wore me down,” says Holwell. “In 2008, which was my 18th Boston, I had battled prostate cancer the winter before the race. I was undertrained and in danger of losing my streak, but I still kept it active.”
Holwell has finished in the top 10 in his age category on three occasions in his 40s and 50s. “Being competitive with myself helps me keep the streak alive,” says Holwell. “I have this goal I set five years ago: when I am 75, I hope to run my 40th Boston Marathon, which would be my 100th marathon. The last mile of the race would be the 100,000th mile I’ve ever run.”
This 2021 edition of the Boston Marathon marks the 125th anniversary of the race. Although Holwell’s kids and grandchildren will not be making the trip to Boston this year, they will follow each step of his journey.
You can track Holwell or someone you know running the 2021 Boston Marathon here.
Update: Holwell finished in 3:42.