In 2013, Michael Amster was running the Boston Marathon when it was rocked by a terrorist bombing. The runners were stopped out on the course. Michael’s top priority was to connect with his son Adam, who was also running the marathon. Once he learned that Adam was unharmed, his attention turned to a gentleman who was wearing a Project Purple singlet, who he had met briefly at another race, and who, more importantly, had a phone. He needed to let his wife know that he and Adam were safe. The two men struck up a conversation. Michael remembered that this was Dino Verrelli, Project Purple founder and chairman. After Dino offered the use of his phone, they parted but promised to reconnect at a later time. Out of a chance encounter, a friendship was born. This year, Michael will be running Boston as his third marathon on the Project Purple team.
As a long-time Massachusetts resident, Michael Amster was very familiar with the Boston Marathon. Anyone who lives in the Bay State knows that the third Monday in April, also known as Patriots’ Day, is Boston Marathon day. Watching the historic race each year has become a spectator sport for the millions of people who live in the area. In the year 2000, Michael decided that he would like to compete in this celebrated marathon. Though he would essentially be starting his training from scratch, Michael explains, “You cannot be around Boston and not get drawn into the marathon experience!” For the first time in his life, in his 50th year, Michael Amster would be running a marathon.
Michael did not consider himself to be a runner. He did some running simply to condition himself for other sports. From the time he was a boy through his college years, Michael played tennis and soccer. He continued to play tennis into adulthood. Though running had previously been a means to an end, once Michael committed to running the Boston Marathon, he discovered that he truly enjoyed running. Whereas he would sometimes brood over a tennis match that went poorly, with running, Michael did not do that. In racing, Michael only had to depend upon and compete with himself. He learned that running actually had a calming effect and provided him with positive feedback. To his surprise, he discovered that he was pretty good at it.
Michael began running around the same time that he started his environmental and safety consulting business, M.B Amster and Associates. He found that his schedule afforded him flexibility to fit in his training. During this period of professional transition, running became a social outlet for him. Michael joined a local running group called the Heartbreak Hill Striders where he formed new friendships with fellow runners. Michael enjoyed the training structure as well as the social and motivational benefits of belonging to a running club.
Charities have always had a huge presence in the Boston Marathon. Michael got his first Boston number through a charity and ran well enough to then wonder, “What do I have to do to qualify?” Qualifying for Boston was now his goal. The fall after his first Boston Marathon, Michael traveled to Italy to run the Venice Marathon. This was when he ran his first Boston Qualifying time.
Since becoming a runner, Michael has competed in countless races. He has run the Mt. Washington Road Race, has completed two full and several half-Ironman races. He has finished a 50k trail ultramarathon. The 2015 Boston Marathon will be Michael’s 30th marathon and his 14th time running in Boston.
Even though Michael has run qualifying races for Boston many times, he has always chosen to partner with charities. He explains that charities play a huge role at Boston. Many people choose to participate by representing various charities at the race, making their training and racing efforts even more meaningful. Running for a charity is a chance to do something to help others while pursuing one’s own goals. When discussing the Boston marathon with other runners, people often ask, “What charity are you running for?” Participants are proud to be able to run for a charity team. Michael had run for other charities in the past, but when he discovered Project Purple, he felt that he had finally found a home. Because Project Purple is a runner-specific charity, Michael says, “They really understand runners and are so supportive of us.”
Michael’s interest in fundraising for Project Purple is personal. Michael lost his mother, Marilyn Gordon, to Pancreatic Cancer in 2002. She had become ill in the summer of 2001. Though her initial symptoms were vague, Michael had a premonition that whatever was ailing his mother was very serious. Marilyn received her official diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer in the fall of 2001. Her condition declined rapidly and she passed away on April 22, 2002.
Michael was devastated by the loss of his mother. Michael’s father had passed away when he was only 9 years old. Marilyn had worked when she needed to during Michael’s childhood. When circumstances allowed, she enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom who could focus on caring for her children. Michael describes his mother as “a very wise woman and the family matriarch” who worked hard to make sure that her children were able to have a normal childhood experience in the absence of their father. Marilyn remarried five years later, which improved their home life immeasurably. Michael remembers his mother as a woman who made sure that her children lived full lives and enjoyed a variety of activities. Michael recalls how his mother was very supportive, although a bit surprised, when he started running. She took a great interest in his marathons, though she never got the opportunity to see him run. Michael has dedicated his running to his mother. He is pleased that the funds he raises for Project Purple go towards helping other families who are facing a Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis.
Michael ran with the Project Purple Boston Marathon team in 2014. He enjoys running with his son Adam, who has also run for Project Purple. After Boston, Michael went on to run the Marine Corps Marathon for the Project Purple team. Marine Corps proved to be a difficult run because he pulled a muscle three and a half weeks prior to the run, and then soon found out that he had developed shingles. It was touch and go as to whether he would be able to even run and then even complete the race. In the end, Michael’s grit and determination, and a little help from Adam over the last 10 miles, pulled him through.
Now Michael is preparing for the 2015 edition of the Boston Marathon. The New England winter this year made it very challenging to train. Michael says, “It has been terrific to run with Project Purple. It is great to be part of a team and to identify with the other people who are also running for the cause.” Michael enjoys the camaraderie of the team, and appreciates how Project Purple encourages people to get together for training runs and other team events.
Please support Michael’s fundraising efforts by donating at his crowdrise link: