HAMPDEN, Maine — The Boston Athletic Association estimates there are approximately 500 runners who have completed 10 or more consecutive Boston Marathons.
Rick Lyons already is well established among that select group, for if he completes Monday’s 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston he will have finished 15 straight editions of the world’s oldest marathon, now in its 116th year.
“My goal is to run 20 consecutive Boston Marathons,” said Lyons, one of 202 Mainers entered in this year’s race.
The 59-year-old Lyons has completed 30 marathons since 1996, with a personal best time of 3 hours, 11 minutes at the Ocean State Marathon in Providence, R.I.
His PR for Boston is 3:22:48 in 1998, and he is coming of a 3:37.17 clocking there last year.
“Running gives me that spirit of competition that I like, and that spirit of competition within myself,” Lyons said. “For me now it’s how I can take my body as a 59-year-old man and stress it to running a 26.2-mile race.
“Running a marathon, as long as I’m in relatively good physical condition, is as much mental as it is physical.”
Lyons, a former basketball official and rules interpreter in Aroostook County, has been largely injury-free since taking up running in 1978. Relying on a regimen that includes 35-40 miles per week running on the streets and roads around Hampden — with a high point of about 60 miles a week when training for Boston — Lyons also trains with gym workouts and such cross-training endeavors as kayaking and canoeing during the summer.
It’s a regimen he uses not just to get ready for races throughout the year, but as an outlet from his day-to-day responsibilities as superintendent for SAD 22, which includes Hampden, Newburgh and Winterport.
“With my job it gives me a nice balance,” said Lyons, who schedules daily runs either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, depending on his work schedule. “Having a very multifaceted, fast-paced job with many commitments in the evening, I find running to be a time that really relaxes me.”
Lyons prefers to train on his own, using that time not only to look inward but to consider job issues free from distraction.
“I can think about a lot of things about the job and how I can strategize about the things that have come up,” he said. “To me that time is precious.”
Lyons not only sees distance running as a personal passion, but a chance to lead by example.
“We do a lot in this school district regarding workplace wellness,” he said, “and I think as a CEO committing to wellness sends a very strong message that it is important to employees and children.”
Lyons plans to spend some of his post-Boston time sharing that that message with local schoolchildren.
“I’ve got a couple of talks with kids planned after I come back from the marathon; I always go into classrooms and share with them the experience,” he said. “I feel like it’s a very positive impression you can give to your students and to your faculty and staff.”
Lyons hopes such a positive impression will be reinforced by another positive running experience Monday.
His Boston Marathon times have been consistent over the years, in recent races averaging in the mid 3:30s. That compares with the current age-group qualifying standard he has had to achieve each year, 3:45.
That will change for Lyons next year, as he turns 60 in November and the 2013 qualifying standard for that age group is 3:55.
“My goal Monday is A, to finish,” said Lyons. “But my real goal is to meet my qualifying time of 3:55 and I’m pretty confident I can do that.”
Should Lyons achieve his qualifying standard he would be guaranteed entry in next year’s race — that guarantee an additional perk for the few who have completed at least 10 consecutive Boston Marathons.
“I feel strong going into this race,” he said. “I’ve had a good year of training, I don’t have any injuries, I’ve had some good gym work and the weather should be good, so if I behave myself 3:30 is about where I should be.”