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Ex-Smoker Now Blazes Along Marathon Trail

Ed Peters presents a compelling inspiration for people looking to make a change. Peters smoked two packs of cigarettes a day until age 51, when he quit and took up running. Now 59, he has run more than 100 marathons, including at least one each in all 50 states, and will compete in his first Boston Marathon on April 18.

“I realized I needed to make a lifestyle change,’’ said Peters, a Norwalk resident. “My doctors gave me a few warnings, and I didn’t have as much energy. I said smoking is not a long-term thing. I needed to switch things around.”

He has, and in a big way. Last year, he ran “22 or 23” marathons. For his 100th marathon, he ran the Bartram Forest 100 in Georgia. He finished 100 miles in 31 hours and 27 seconds. “I’m more amazed than surprised,’’ said Ed, who works in a video production business in South Norwalk. “If someone had told me 10 years ago that I’d run 100 miles and I’d run 100 marathons, I would’ve said, 'You’re crazy,' and given them odds.”

Peters said he ran when he served in the Army nearly four decades ago but didn’t enjoy it. “It was only because I had to,’’ he said. When his physician issued health warnings, it spurred him to get moving. His first race was the Minuteman 5K in Westport in 2003. “I really enjoyed it,’’ he said. “I was surprised.”

Later that year, he ran the Fairfield Half Marathon and his first marathon — the now-defunct Mystic Places Marathon. At a marathon in 2005, he found out about the 50 States Club. Runners in the group have completed, or are attempting to complete, the 26.2-miled distance in each state. Peters become the 320th person to do it. The club now has 2,412 members.

Peters received an invitation to run Boston by a client who works for Poland Springs, one of the race sponsors. Most Boston runners have to qualify. Peters is not particularly swift, but that has never been his focus. “If not for the slow runners, there wouldn’t be any fast ones,’’ Peters said.

His training regiment is not unlike most long-distance runners. He cross trains by biking and weight trains three times a week. His long runs are on weekends. Most of them just happen to be marathons.

So far, he says he has no injury issues. “Non-running people have more problems with their knees and joints,’’ he said. “I know five or six people who have had knee replacements. They’re all non-runners.”

One of his greatest treasures is helping other runners. Last year in a race, he met a first-time marathoner who had hit the wall at about 20 miles. With the woman’s parents and friends waiting for her at the finish, Peters helped her complete the race. “It’s not going to make a difference to me if I run 10 or 15 minutes slower,’’ Peters said. “It’s very gratifying to help someone in a situation like that.”

Peters doesn’t know how much longer he’ll run. “As long as I can,’’ he said. “As long as I feel good and I’m not hurting myself, there’s no reason to stop.”

Have you ever run the Boston Marathon? What has been your experience? Start the discussion below!

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