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He first ran Boston in 1974 as a BU student. 50 years later, he ran it again.

Mike Casciere was not the first person to cross the line in Monday’s 128th Boston Marathon. He didn’t place second or third or even fourth. He wasn’t in the top 10,000 finishers. By the time Casciere, 69, crossed the line, he was the 25,135 finisher in the race in just under six hours.  

Monday wasn’t Casciere’s first time running the world-renowned marathon. He’s run it several times before, along with over 20 other marathons.

But Monday was special. Monday marked exactly 50 years since Casciere first ran the Boston Marathon. And, this time, he was running for a much bigger cause: the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Mike Casciere standing in front of the George Sherman Union. Graduating from Sargent College in 1976, Casciere ran his first Boston Marathon during his sophomore year at BU. MATTHEW EADIE/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

Casciere was 19 years old and a sophomore at Boston University when he lined up in Hopkinton on April 15, 1974 for the 78th Boston Marathon.

Casciere, originally from upstate New York, had run two previous marathons before running in Boston. When he wasn’t taking classes at Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, he was running along Commonwealth Avenue from his dorm in West Campus.

He ran his first marathon in Rochester, New York on Sept. 3, 1973 — a race he called a “disaster of a marathon” due to the 93-degree heat and lack of aid stations.

Casciere said that he spent the final miles of that race questioning his decision to run a marathon. He initially set out to run a marathon as a way to get his mind off a breakup with his high school girlfriend that summer. As he approached the finish line, he recalled thinking that he “probably should never do it again.”

But like many marathon runners, Casciere discovered that one marathon is never enough. A few weeks later, on Oct. 28, 1973, Casciere headed west from BU to Framingham for the Bay State Marathon. There, Casciere finished in 3 hours, 12 minutes — qualifying him for the 1974 Boston Marathon.

As Casciere trained for Boston in the spring, he kept a training log written on a piece of notebook taped to the back of his door. The first entry was on Feb. 18, 1974, and was a 7-mile “long distance” run that took him 55 minutes and received a one-star on his makeshift difficulty rating scale. One star meant “fair.”

Mike Casciere’s 1974 training log. Casciere kept track of his runs almost every day leading up to the 1973 Boston Marathon. COURTESY OF MIKE CASCIERE

His training continued nearly every day in the leadup to the race — Feb. 28, 15 miles. March 1, 14 miles. March 2, 16 miles. March 3, 16 miles. March 4, 16 miles — and on and on. He took a few days off here and there for “skating” and a “pulled muscle,” but eventually Casciere was staring race day head-on.

The Boston Marathon — now in its 128th year and the world’s oldest annual marathon — has become a global spectacle for marathon running. One of the six major marathons, it attracts 30,000 runners and hundreds of thousands of spectators from around the world each year.

But in 1974, the race was not nearly as popular. Fewer than 2,000 runners lined up to run the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to the finish line on Boylston Street in Boston that year. In those days, there were no starting corrals or athletes’ village, no buses to the starting line or energy gel stations along the course — just a couple thousand runners trying to see how fast they could run back to town. Casciere was one of those runners.

He recalled his parents driving him to the starting line in Hopkinton, where he then picked up his runners’ bib, sat in the street and waited for the race to begin.

“You just kind of sat there,” he said. “Then the gun went off and we went off and that was it.”

2 hours, 53 minutes and 15 seconds later, Casciere crossed the finish line 403rd overall.

“I just wanted to get under three hours … I’m pretty tired,” Casciere told The Daily Free Press after the race in an article published on April 16, 1974, the day following the marathon.

After running a different marathon as a senior, Casciere graduated from Sargent College at BU in 1976. He went on to run Boston again in 1983, the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996 and three more times in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

Also in ‘99, he opened his own physical therapy practice in North Carolina. The commitment required to run the business “squashed any type of training,” he said, which forced him to take a break from marathon running.

In the fall of 2021, Casciere broke his 23-year-long hiatus. His co-worker, Carrie Jack, who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2018, asked him to help her complete the virtual 2021 Boston Marathon after they had completed a few previous shorter-distance races together.

“I did that because I wanted to prove to myself that MS didn’t define me. I had no idea that later on there would be another struggle,” Jack said, referencing her kidney cancer diagnosis last year.

It took the two of them over nine hours to complete the virtual marathon on Oct. 11, 2021. But they did.

“That type of courage and determination affected me a little bit,” Casciere said. “I started looking at 2024 realizing that it would be the 50th anniversary of my first Boston, so I started training.”

Casciere ran two marathons last summer but was unable to run under the 4-hour, 5-minute qualifying time for his age group. He planned on trying to qualify one more time in September 2023, before a routine physical revealed he had a heart murmur.

“That heart murmur turned out to be a severe mitral valve prolapse … which required surgery,” Casciere said.

Training stopped, and Casciere underwent surgery at the end of October.

“My long run this weekend was 150 feet, with a walker, 12 hours after heart surgery,” Casciere wrote in an Oct. 30 Facebook post on the Boston Marathon 2024 Facebook group page.

“But there was good news!” Casciere wrote. “I should be able to begin running again in 2 weeks, and I will be running in the 2024 Boston Marathon as a member of the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge Team!!!”

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Casciere said, stuck out to him as an opportunity to secure a bib in the marathon as a charity runner, while supporting cancer research and his friend Jack, who was declared cancer-free in March.

As Casciere began recovering from surgery and slowly returning to running, he also began fundraising for Dana-Farber’s Marathon Challenge. Ultimately, he raised more than $11,000 to support Dana-Farber.

Casciere’s wife Debra, friend Carrie Jack and her 12-year-old daughter Caleigh watching Casciere run the Boston Marathon on Monday. The three traveled from North Carolina for the race. MATTHEW EADIE/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

On Sunday, the day before the 2024 Boston Marathon, Casciere strolled around BU’s campus, sightseeing and reminiscing about his time living in Sleeper and Claflin Halls. He was accompanied by his wife Debra, Jack and Jack’s 12-year-old daughter Caleigh, who all traveled to Boston for the race.

“To be here and to have beaten cancer, to be able to watch [Casciere] and support him, and having done the fundraiser together, it’s incredible, it’s overwhelming,” Jack said on Sunday. “I’m nervous, anxious, because I want things to be good for him, but to me, we’ve already won.”

Casciere’s wife, Debra, said she sees how much running means to him, but was still worried about his health going into the race.

“The first thing I worry about is his health,” she said. “But I think he’s going to be okay with that. The doctors have assured us that everything’s going to be all right.”

Casciere said he “vividly” remembers crossing through Kenmore Square during his first Boston in 1974, with people cheering him on as he ran past them in his BU singlet.

On Monday, just as he had done 50 years prior, Casciere ran through Kenmore Square, then down Commonwealth Avenue, underneath Massachusetts Avenue, then took a right on Hereford Street and the legendary left turn onto Boylston Street before seeing Debra, Jack and Caleigh cheering for him before ultimately crossing the finish line.

“My whole running experience has been a very singular experience. It was my way of escaping the day-to-day hassles,” he said. “But for whatever reason this year … it just seemed that this was, I guess, the perfect time for me to let other people in on my running experience.”

Watching someone run the Boston Marathon is certainly different than running it yourself. But with Jack’s name on the front of Casciere’s Dana-Farber team jersey, she, in a way, did run.

“The finish line tomorrow is just sort of the cherry on top,” Jack said on Sunday. “It sort of feels like I’ll never be that person out there running, but a little part of me will sort of cross that finish line.”

Mike Casciere running the 2024 Boston Marathon. Casciere ran this year’s marathon for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — raising more than $11,000 for the charity. MATTHEW EADIE/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER
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  1. A long time friend (high school), Casciere has inspired many a runner. He mentions the singular nature of running, but maybe that’s what gets other’s attention. Like what does Mike know that I don’t that running long distances is a good thing? He was among those who inspired me to try it at age 57, as he joined me in the Utica (ny) Boilermaker 15k. It was a one off to appease my old friend. But I’ve been doing it ever since. The gift of healthy body, and a clear mind I attribute to Mike and a couple others. Beyond that, he and Deb are a total class act, all around.

  2. Sending you prayers, I was diagnosed in 2010 and seemed to go down hill quickly. In six years I could no longer work and had real problems with balance and joint pain. Brain fog was really bad sometimes. I took rebif and had a lot of problems and had to quit. I have been on techfadera (not spelled right) for a few years and have several side effects. I felt lost and decided to quit my meds due to side effects. Our care provider introduced me to Ayurvedic treatment. I had a total decline of all symptoms including vision problems, numbness and others. Sometimes, i totally forget i ever had MS. Visit Natural Herbs Centre web-site naturalherbscentre. com. I am very pleased with this treatment. I eat well, sleep well and exercise regularly. God bless all MS Warriors