Smiles And Sunshine

Meet Paul McNeil: Inspirational Worcester Legend Will Run Boston Marathon Monday, Redefines Boston Strong

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Monday is the greatest day in Boston every year – Marathon Monday. Last year two dingleberries thought they could scare people into not running this year by trying to instill fear in all of us. They obviously failed miserably, because this year’s race will be the biggest of all time.

One of the thousands of runners who will take the long journey through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, Boston, followed by the infamous right onto Hereford, and left onto Boylston Street, will be Worcester’s own Paul McNeil, a 35 year old father of three. I was friends with his sisters throughout high school, but only recently did I become Facebook friends with Paul. However, I’ve literally seen him transform himself on my Facebook feeder, from a guy who ripped butts like a champ and never exercised, to a warrior who will be conquering the world’s most famous marathon on Monday.

The phrase “Boston Strong” has been cheapened as people say it almost instinctively now, without thinking about it’s true meaning. However, Paul is the definition of Boston Strong. His story is truly inspirational to me. He is the face of Boston’s redemption. Paul was kind enough to sit down for an interview with us.

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1) Tell us about your background – did you run or play sports in high school? When did you start smoking? Were you a party animal?

I played baseball and basketball at (Doherty) high school. Peeked at JV. Was pretty good in JV. Rode the bench junior year for varsity. Quit all sports senior year, started smoking and partying hard. I was a serious party animal back in the day. In my older days as a father I have toned it down but I will still party if I have the night off from kids or if I go on a vacation without them. Quit cigs June 30th. Haven’t had one since.

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2) Why did you start running?

Started running because friends of mine said that I should try it to take my mind of cigs.

3) Was it difficult to start running?

The first day I could only run one mile. Started running in August. My first race was Labor Day 5 mile in Charlton (Old Home Day 5 miler). Finished in 41 minutes, 84th place. Did a bunch off 5k’s after that. Finished top ten a couple of times.

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4) What obstacles have you overcome during your training?

I hurt my calf muscle for a week early in training. When I first started running I had a lot of pain now not so much.

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5) You’ve run most of the course already, what are your thoughts? Do you have a plan going into the race?

Course seemed fairly easy until mile 17. I run about a 8:45 per mile through 22. 

6) Have you trained with anyone? If so had it made it easier for you?

Trained with my cousin, whose brother is a police officer who is also running. It helped a lot. I ran 4 days a week in Framingham 8 miles on my lunch break. Two days rest. Long run Sunday morning with Central Mass striders and my cousin in Worcester. Central Mass Striders running club helped me a lot. 

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7) When you first started running did you have the marathon in mind?

I always wanted to run the Boston marathon. But I knew I couldn’t qualify. My cousin is a police officer in Framingham. He go me my number. I raised $2500 in 48 hours with help of my Facebook followers.

8) This was a shitty winter, did you have trouble getting in your long runs? Get sick at all?

I ran in snowstorms people gave me the finger and beeped their horn at me. I didn’t give a shit. It made me fired up. I never got sick. I always say running makes me not get sick, running has made me lose 25 lbs, running has cured my depression and helped my severe anxiety. In a way it saved my life.

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9) What do your kids think of what you’re doing? Will they be watching the race? If so, from where?

My oldest daughter is 12. She is very proud. She made me feel bad about cigs and my dad was on my case. They made me quit. My family will be at the finish line 15 deep my friends will be scattered along the course. My other two kids are 3 (boy) and 5 (girl). They mimicked me running. My oldest is not from my wife she used to mimick me smoking. 

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10) Were you inspired to run at all because of what happened in boston last year? Where were you when you heard about the bombings?

Last year I was at work when the bombs went off. My family and oldest were a block away. I was scared and crying. I hate terrorists more than anything in the world. We should have just killed that loser.

11) On a scale of 1 to 10 how pumped are you for this? On a scale of 1 to 10 how nervous are you?

On a scale of 1-10 I’m excited 10++++++++. I have never dreamed bigger. It will be my biggest accomplishment of my life. I am so nervous I can’t sleep. I dream of it everyday. I will be shaking for the next three days. I’m starting to get extra nervous

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12) Anything else you wanna add? Shoutouts or thank you to anyone in particular?

I would like to thank my wife for putting up with all my bullshit along the way and for picking up my slack as a father while I was training. I can’t fucking wait for Monday. I dream if crossing the finish line. I will pound my cheats point skyward like big papi and then probably cry. 

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I decided to write this blog on Paul McNeil because he’s been an inspiration to me. Quitting cigarettes is one of the hardest things anyone can do, especially if you’ve been a smoker for nearly 20 years like Paul. But he is living proof that will power can always overcome physical “impossibilities.” He quit smoking to honor his daughter. I remember the first time he posted that he ran a mile on Facebook how proud he was of himself. Then I saw every day how he would go out for longer and longer. On Monday he will cap off this amazing transformation by reminding Terrorist #2 that we will not be deterred by their disgusting actions.

Paul is a living reminder that the the terrorists didn’t win. Yes, they ruined last year, and forever impacted the families of people killed or injured in their horrific acts. But all they have done is inspire people like Paul to run the world’s greatest race, which is exactly what they hoped wouldn’t happen. So while moron #2 rots in a jail cell, and moron #1 rots in hell, Paul will be just one of thousands of people who will be reminding them that everything they did was for nothing.

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I urge you to share this remarkable story on Facebook, or wherever, to let people know that it is never too late to start living a healthier lifestyle. With the right motivation, a solid work ethic, and by not accepting excuses from yourself, any able bodied American can do what Paul has done. I will not be in Boston on Monday because someone has to make sure my magical turtle doesn’t run away. But if you are, make sure you’re cheering loudly when this guy runs by:

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He needs your support, and he has earned it. Monday, Paul McNeil redefines what it means to be Boston Strong.

Feel free to share your thoughts to keep the conversation going.

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