Dave Nerrows and son Harry at a 22-mile race in March. Courtesy photo

Boston Marathon unites Concord families on the (26.2-mile) road

By Beth Herman — Beth@theconcordbridge.org 

Some families play video games together. Others watch basketball. But this year, running in the Boston Marathon is a family affair for at least four Concord residents.  

Laurie Garrison and son James and David (Dave) Nerrow and son Harry will compete in the historic 128th Patriots Day road race.  

Here’s what motivates them to take part in the test of brawn and brain. 

Dave and Harry Nerrow   

Adventix LLC Founder and CEO Dave Nerrow, 57, didn’t start running until his mid-20s, but while attending Dartmouth College, he says, he learned a lot from friends on the nationally number two-seeded cross-country team.  

Since then, the co-owner of Needham Heights-based Fast:Splits — a sports retailer catering to endurance athletes — has more than compensated for a late start.  

That includes nine Iron Man competitions in Ireland, Phoenix, Lake Placid, Austin, and Hawaii, 75 marathons (New York, Nantucket, Boston, and more), a 100-mile road race, and “a bunch of 50s.  

“They kind of all blend together after a while,” he quipped.  

Watching his first Boston Marathon following a 1991 move to the city and having run the race 33 times — 31 consecutive — since then, Dave’s best time is 2:41, with a 250th-place finish.  

He admits he typically no longer needs to train for a marathon, though he’s doing so this year: “I can’t let my son beat me!” he said, laughing.  

Dave Nerrows and son Harry at a 22-mile race in March. Courtesy photo

The son also rises  

“I’ve always gone to marathons to support my dad,” said Harry Nerrows, 18. “It’s a family tradition.”  

Harry, the youngest of four siblings and a Concord-Carlisle High School senior and soccer player, has run with his dad since age 11, when he jumped in and unofficially ran the last 10 miles of the Boston Marathon. (Entrants must be 18.)  

Harry now trains with running coach and Concord resident Amanda Nurse. Father and son have run 45 to 55 miles a week in anticipation of this year’s race.  

With a January birthday, Harry will be the eighth-youngest runner and fourth-youngest male in the 2024 marathon, according to his dad, who obtained the stats from the Boston Athletic Association.  

Mind over matter  

“I was always a mind-over-matter type, whether it’s about school, running, or anything,” said Harry, who will likely attend Wake Forest University with an eye to math or engineering.  

“I really like endurance running as it gets to a point where it’s so much more challenging to your mind than your body — a mental battle,” he said.  

Harry believes some people put limits on themselves, whether it’s about running or other pursuits. He credits his dad for teaching him to live differently.  

Dave and Harry Nerrows at the 2017 Boston Marathon, where Harry, then 11, jumped in and ran the last 10 miles alongside his father. Courtesy photo

“My dad [has been] running marathons all these years without fail, with no indication when he’s ever going to quit,” he said. “Why do I ever need to place limits on myself?”  

When Dave turned 50, he engaged in “the birthday run,” meaning he set out to run 50 miles on that sleeting day. “I got up and ran five- and 10-mile loops in Concord,” he recalled. “I started my run when Harry got on the bus. I finished when he got off the bus. He couldn’t believe I’d been running all day.”  

Later that year, Harry did his first 10 miles at the Boston Marathon. “Maybe there was a connection between pushing through to achieve something unique that Harry wanted to achieve as well,” Dave said.  

Laurie and James Garrison  

Concord residents Laurie, 51, and James, 21, have always enjoyed a close mother-son relationship, including on family trips to Martha’s Vineyard. Next week, the retired Sun Life executive and the Boston University junior will compete in the Boston Marathon — as they did in 2023.  

A runner since high school, Laurie lamented she never had time to enter the iconic race before retirement.  

“I was always so busy working whenever the Boston Marathon was coming,” she said. “I envied others and wanted to do it, but just never had enough time to train.” When her days opened up, she decided it was a goal worth attaining.  

James Garrison and mom Laurie Garrison ran the 2023 Boston Marathon. Courtesy photo

James, a former CCHS hockey player, wanted to join her. Last year, they were thrilled they finished the race.  

“We trained starting for this year’s Boston Marathon in December or January,” James explained. “We do two or three shorter runs of four, five, or six miles during the week, with long runs on the weekend of eight miles, building up to 20.” 

James runs non-competitively in Boston while attending BU. Until all this began, the longest distance he had run was the Chilmark Road Race, a 5K on Martha’s Vineyard — which his mom also ran — just after high school.  

Like any other Saturday  

Laurie Garrison and daughter Emma, a supporter, at last year’s Boston Marathon. Courtesy photo

Two weeks ago, with training at its apogee, Laurie admits she had a particularly punishing 20-mile run.  

“It almost killed me,” she confessed. “I usually don’t have pain, and I didn’t then, but I was very tired going into it. It’s both the physical and mental parts that need to be involved in marathon running.”  

To make it through, she told herself it was just like any other Saturday run.  

“There is a definite physical challenge,” James said. “But if you have a stronger mindset about it, you will get more out of yourself physically.”  

Concordians registered for the 2024 Boston Marathon. Data via the Boston Athletic Association

He said that during runs, he pushes past any pain by focusing on the overall benefit: “During the Boston Marathon, it’s pretty easy to do that because so many people are cheering you on. It’s easy to tell yourself to just keep going.” 

A recent 20-mile run went by quickly for him; he found it meditative. He sometimes listens to music or concentrates on school or his job at Fiorella’s Cucina. 

James said the memory of finishing last year’s race will provide the incentive he needs for this one — that and the fact that dad Chris and sister Emma, the latter flying in from Seattle, will be in his cheering section.  

The Garrisons — who have family and friends affected by cancer — qualified for the marathon by aligning with the Cam Neely Foundation, as they did last year.

Funds they raise are used toward cancer care, including housing for families of cancer patients receiving treatment in Boston.