Dorchester resident Michael Besson completed his dream of running the Boston Marathon on Monday, finishing the 26.2-mile-long course in just over five hours. The blind, Haitian-born runner first told his inspirational story to the Reporter as he trained for the race last December.
At one point in his life, the 57-year-old Besson weighed as much as 500 pounds. But a lifestyle change to a plant-based diet spurred a dramatic weight loss and kindled in him a passion for fitness.
Painful childhood memories of being ostracized for his weight problem inspired him to run the marathon in support of The Play Brigade, a local organization dedicated to inclusion in sports and recreation for children with disabilities.
On Tuesday, the day after running the race, Besson said he was sore but “overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.” He thanked his wife, Nalida, and his guides, Julianna Malloy and Theresa Funk, for helping him achieve his dream.
“During this long marathon training season,” he wrote in a statement, “I learned that when someone wants to accomplish something, it calls for a lot of discipline and sacrifice. You also have to have a passion for what you are doing. Music and now running are my passions. When you have accomplished that goal, you feel a lot of emotions because you know you have worked very hard for it. That’s how I feel today.”
According to Besson, the positivity of the other runners and supporters made the grueling race easier. “When the bus brought us from Boston to Hopkinton, I saw how far away it was and even slept on the bus, but I told myself that I could run this distance. When I got off the bus and went into the tent in Athletes Village, I was happy because so many people appreciated me and my journey and were already congratulating me.
“When it was time for me to run, I started with a smile even though I knew it was a long route...so many people along the route were clapping and encouraging everyone and yelling my name because my second guide, Theresa, had my name written on her shirt, and that gave me extra energy. Even my fellow runners were encouraging me. I felt great. When I ran across the finish line I was so happy because I felt like my dream was accomplished.”
According to Besson’s wife, Nalida, he plans to write a book about his life and the journey to his marathon experience.