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The Suburbanite
  • Meet Canton's original marathon man: William Cumler

  • When the Boston Marathon took place Monday morning, Canton’s William Cumler took note of the iconic 26.2 miler. “I ran the Boston Marathon, twice,” Cumler said of his 1968 and 1969 runs. “You got a certificate if you ran it in four hours or less. I missed it by five minutes the first time, that’s why I ran it twice.

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  • When the Boston Marathon took place Monday morning, Canton’s William Cumler took note of the iconic 26.2 miler.
    “I ran the Boston Marathon, twice,” Cumler said of his 1968 and 1969 runs. “You got a certificate if you ran it in four hours or less. I missed it by five minutes the first time, that’s why I ran it twice.
    “I ran a 3:46 the next year, got my certificate, and never ran it again.”
    Cumler was Canton’s marathon man, ahead of his time. But at the age of 84, he won’t be going the distance when the 2012 Canton Marathon hits town two months from today — June 17. Canton race officials are hoping for more than 5,000 entrants, from relays and a 10K up to the full marathon.
    Cumler recalls what it’s like to run the streets of Canton. He was a big part of the Canton Amoco Marathon, the city’s original distance race.
    That was back in October 1970. Cumler not only helped plan it, he was one of 479 entrants from 30 states and Canada who participated in the city’s first marathon.
    “I’m going to do a little bragging here — we were a sponsor,” Cumler, then the executive director for Canton’s downtown YMCA. “I even ran in the thing. I ran the half-marathon.”
    Cumler said Canton’s first race whetted runner’s appetites for further competitions. He said it went as smoothly as it could have back in the day, leading to a total of five Canton marathons through 1974.
    “I thought it was an excellent idea,” Cumler said. “Don Coen and his son, Hamilton Coen, whose family ran the Amoco gas stations around the area, was the main sponsor.
    “The Army National Guard came out and gave everyone in the race a ride to the starting line. We had the help of the (Stark County) sheriff’s office along the route, which ran from state Route 62 to downtown.
    “We had a great group of volunteer workers to see that everything went right,” he said. “And it did. Russ Harris, the physical education director at the Y, he would round up the volunteers and get them going.”
    Cumler needed no prodding to be involved in running. By the time he retired from the YMCA in 1989, he had logged more than 35,000 miles around town. He could be seen leaving the Y at 6:30 a.m. to do his five-milers with a wide group of friends and officials.
    In a Jan. 8, 1973, story, Cumler told Repository writer Fred Gerlich, ‘When I’m fit, I can tackle my normal duties with more vigor and stamina and I have more tolerance for problems.
    “I don’t really care whether I live one day longer (due to running) or not, it’s how I feel while I’m living that counts.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Cumler has lived well enough and long enough to see Canton make a second run at hosting a marathon