BOYNE CITY — On a cold and snowy morning this past Sunday, 68-year-old Ellis Boal of Charlevoix reached a combined 75,000 lifetime miles for running and cross-country skiing, finishing the amazing feat at Young State Park in Boyne City.
That is more than three times around the Earth for those seeking a comparison.
Boal, a semiretired attorney, openly admitted he doesn’t love to run, yet he has been doing it for most of his adult life both competitively and recreationally.
“The main thing about running is pain, that’s what you have to be able to handle,“ Boal said.
“It builds up gradually and becomes overwhelming.
“The nice thing about running,” Boal added. “Is when the gun goes off, everything else in your life gets set to the side and you’ve got one job, and that is to fall forward.”
It was appropriate that Boal reached the milestone with flurries in the air.
You won’t see him on a treadmill because he believes it is never too cold for a run. Boal remembers turning around only one time during a run, and that was during a blizzard after running through large snow drifts on Bell Isle Park in Detroit.
His friends and running partners Alan McCutcheon and Robert Grove — both of Boyne City — attribute Boal with the good advice for a runner to “always start out cold.”
He has kept detailed logs of his running and skiing, one for every year.
Boal described finishing third in his first competitive run with a chuckle, a 50-yard dash in the first grade.
It was not until Boal attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, that anyone noticed his talent.
Frank Sabasteanski, the varsity track and cross country coach at the time, informed Boal that he was “a natural runner.” Boal was urged to join the track team and eventually earned letters at Bowdoin for indoor track, Nordics, and cross-country running.
His more notable achievements are a 2 hour, 45 minute time at the 1982 Boston Marathon and a career best 2:36:42 at the 1986 Detroit Free Press Marathon.
Boal is primarily recognized locally for his work in politics and environmental activism. He also plays the guitar and has a Black Belt in the Korean martial art Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do.
He and his newlywed wife, LuAnne Kozma, reside full time at their home on Lake Charlevoix. Their property was purchased by Boal’s grandfather, Ayres Boal, on Dec. 17, 1912, exactly 100 years ago next month. Boal acknowledges he has been running less lately to spend time with his wife.
Boal plans to compete in three upcoming cross-country ski races here in Michigan each separated by only a week, starting with the Noquemenon 50K in Marquette on Jan. 26.
However, 75,000 is apparently not enough mileage. Boal expects to rededicate himself, log about 2,000 or so more miles per year and reach his goal of 100,000 total miles by age 81.