Desoto County News

Barber takes on Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon

Photo: Bob Barber of Hernando was among 30,000 runners in the Boston Marathon, held in Boston on April 15. (Bob Bakken/  

Just one week ago, on April 15, 30,000 runners were heading down the streets of Boston, Massachusetts taking part in the 128th official edition of the Boston Marathon, considered the world’s largest annual marathon.  

The event, part of the Patriots’ Day celebration, honors the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord. 

Among the runners was a former city planner for the City of Hernando. 62-year old Bob Barber, qualified for the Boston event. He said he’s been running for about five years, a journey that started as a means to get more active following a doctor’s check up.  

“I was constantly just sitting, sitting in a meeting, sitting on a plane, sitting here sitting,” Barber said. “So I started walking up and down the road just to move and I’d walk a half mile or mile. I did that for a period of months and kind of just kind of got boring.”

From there, Barber said he started running a mile without stopping. A mile became three and then more. 

“The day I was able to run three miles without stopping at a reasonable pace, it was just like, ‘this feels great,’” Barber said.  

The St. Jude Marathon was Barber’s first marathon in 2019 and it was eventful for the wrong reasons.

“I ran the marathon in four hours, pulled my hamstring and was out of commission for six months,” Barber related. “I had to have it rehabbed with a physical therapist. As soon as I got back to running good, I got back to running and kept running.”

He went back to running at St. Jude in 2022 and ran it in three hours and 34 minutes. That put him in line to qualify for the Boston marathon, but it didn’t mean he was automatically entered. His time just gave him the right to apply because the qualifying time is 3:50.

“In order to actually get it, I had to run a 3:43 time and I ran 3:34,” said Barber. “Anyway, in my second marathon I qualified on time, I applied, was accepted, and that was it.”  

Barber said the course for the Boston Marathon was incredibly hard, much harder than many other courses.  

“The first six miles are all downhill and it’s very hard to run downhill for an extended period of time because it’s hard on your legs,” Barber said. “It’s six miles down, then 10 miles flat, but over the next four miles you have a series of five hills. The last one is Heartbreak Hill and it’s a heartbreaker.” 

Barber finished the race in a time of 3:39.59, not a personal best, but by finishing, he accomplished one of his goals, which was to cross the finish line.  

Through all of preparation for the running of the marathon, Barber was not ready for the atmosphere along the route while he ran.

“Sensory overload really, 26 miles of people,” Barber said. “Three to four deep on the side of the road, everybody screaming continuously and it’s not an exaggeration. There’s a lull near a lake, but mostly it’s just sensory overload.”

Barber was not the only runner from DeSoto County participating in the Boston Marathon and both are from Hernando. Sharon Wright, age 46, also took part in the race and she finished the course in a time of 3:46.48.  

Barber said he will be back in Boston, having already qualified to take on Heartbreak Hill in the 129th edition of the Boston Marathon next Patriots’ Day.  St. Jude is also in his future this year, he said.