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Vince Rigitano poses at the Boston Marathon finish line on the day before the 2014 race.

Boston Proud

Marathoner makes emotional return to Beantown

By Mike Pearson, News staff

Vince Rigitano believes in the motto, “Life starts where fear ends.”

That’s why he chose to return to this year’s Boston Marathon, despite last year’s horrifying acts of terrorism.

It was an emotional return for the Stoney Creek resident at this year’s race, especially when he arrived at Boylston Street, the scene of the 2013 bombing that killed three and injured at least 264 others, according to CNN.

“There were so many people; they wanted to be there; they wanted to take pictures to see where everything happened,” said Rigitano, 60. “People were emotional. Some people had fear of what happened last year. But overall there was excitement too, and celebration.”

At the exact spot of the explosion sat a tribute to those killed in the bombing: a pair of shoes, two bunches of flowers and a memorial book.

Rigitano, who had already finished the race when the bombs detonated in 2013, made a steady improvement on his time this year.

Rigitano shaved 11 minutes off last year’s mark, clocking in at 3 hours, 24, minutes, 54 seconds. This year marked his sixth appearance in Boston. He hopes to run the course at least 10 times before he’s through.

“Boston was an unbelievable experience this year because of what happened last year,” said Rigitano. “Going back there, the memory of what happened was still fresh in everybody’s mind. I saw some people kneeling down, praying. Some of them I saw almost crying, which I could understand.”

Along with tributes to those killed or injured in 2013, this year’s race swelled with more than 8,000 additional runners.

Rigitano was impressed by the appreciation shown by the people of Boston, who thanked the runners for returning. Despite the events of the previous year, the security and the welcoming atmosphere made Boston feel like the safest place on earth, Rigitano said.

After riding the subway and getting lost temporarily, Rigitano asked a police officer for directions. The officer went above and beyond the call of duty by boarding the subway train with Rigitano to direct him to exactly where he needed to go.

Due to the increased field of runners, this year’s marathon was divided into four waves. Rigitano was part of wave three, which is determined by each runner’s  qualifying time.

This year, Rigitano wore bib number 18,576, which represents his qualifying rank out of 36,000 entrants. Rigitano crossed the finish line in the 7,784-position, passing more than 11,000 higher seeded runners along the way. For his 60-64 age group, he placed 44 out of 1,112.

As good as those numbers are, Rigitano is striving to break the elusive three-hour mark.

At one point, he was on pace to crack the three hour, 15 minute-pace, but lost time on the course’s infamous Heartbreak hill.

In the end, he still met his goal to finish between 3:15 and 3:30. 3:15 is his personal best at Boston. His personal best marathon overall is 3:08.

With fewer hours of training due to the harsh winter, Rigitano had less time to train this year. Another factor was a broken toe, sustained just two weeks before Rigitano ran Hamilton’s Around the Bay Road Race.

Next month, Rigitano plans to take part in a relay event for the Sulphur Springs Trail Run in Ancaster. He runs with a group of eight athletes known as the Getaway Runners, all of whom are over 50.

Along with his annual trips to Boston, Rigitano hopes to compete in marathons across the world, including New York and Chicago. Last year, he ran in Germany’s Frankfurt Marathon.

A native of the Calabria region of Southern Italy, Rigitano once dreamed of competing in the 1,500-metre event at the Summer Olympics.

His aspirations were put on hold when he was forced to leave school to help support a family of eight children. He immigrated to Germany, and then to Canada, where he found success in the business world, launching Primo Sleep Mattress Gallery on Gray Road in 2010.

Looking ahead to retirement, running will be a big part of Rigitano’s life for as long as his legs will carry him.

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