Pesky Pole Marathon (
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VIDEO: Have Pesky's Pole - Will Travel
(, 2011)


Johnny Pesky and Neil "the snail" Bernstein
To contribute to the Pesky Pole Marathon, online, go to
Donate to the Jimmy Fund

Neil "the snail" Bernstein, finishing the 2005 Boston Marathon, in the first "Pesky Pole Marathon." (Photo from Boston Globe online.)

Neil "the snail" Bernstein, starting the 2007 Boston Marathon, in the second "Pesky Pole Marathon." (Photo from Boston Globe online.)

Neil "the snail" Bernstein, wore Pesky Pole headgear as part of his costume on Heartbreak Hill in Newton. (Photo from Boston Globe online. Second, and top ranking, of Pesky Pole Marathon in "funny scenes".)

A Boston Marathon Scavenger Hunt (Illustration from Boston Magazine online. 4/13/12.
   On Patriots' Day, 2014, endorsed by Johnny Pesky, Swampscott resident Neil "the snail" Bernstein will run his ninth annual "Pesky Pole Marathon". He will run the entire 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon wearing a miniature Pesky Pole, as pictured, above, in support of the Jimmy Fund.
   Neil ran his first, and the first ever, Pesky Pole Marathon in 2005, finishing in a net time of 4:13:18. In 2007, "the snail" ran his second Pesky Pole Marathon. His goal in 2007 was to break 4 hours. Under the windy conditions, he was happy to improve by over 2 minutes, finishing in 4:10:45. in 2008, with even less time to train, he still managed to knock 2 more minutes off, finishing in 4:08:25. This year, the snail is still in worse shape than he was in 1999, during his first "bandit" run, so don't expect any records this year. He hopes to finish, in one piece, in under 4:30. BTW, in this context, Neil is sometimes referred to as the "pesky pole guy".
   "It is always so incredible to see the looks on the faces of the kids at Dana-Farber," said Johnny Pesky, Red Sox legend and recipient of the Jimmy Fund Award in 1999, who lived in Swampscott. Pesky continued, "I really like this crazy idea - Neil's Pesky Pole Marathon run. I encourage Red Sox and Boston Marathon fans to support the run, with contributions to the Jimmy Fund. Your generosity makes a difference in the lives of these kids."
   The Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is a place where children and their families find hope. Dana-Farber is on track to conquering major forms of cancer within this decade. Home to many of the world's groundbreaking discoveries in cancer research and treatment, Dana-Farber is uniquely primed to transform this vision to a reality.
   Neil began his Boston Marathon career as a "bandit," pacing a good friend, in 1990 and 2000. Since going "legal," in 2002, Neil has been both the oldest and, four times, the fastest marathoner from Swampscott.
   Inspired by the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 and Mark Bellhorn's Pesky Pole home run, Neil decided that it would be great to run the 2005 Boston Marathon with a miniature Pesky Pole on his head, and the pole was completed just one day before the marathon. That year, Neil was second fastest in Swampscott, in his first Pesky Pole Marathon. In recent years, Neil has run 1-3 marathons each year.
   In 2006, the snail also ran a 50-mile trail run, in Willowdale State Forest, Ipswich. In 2007, he attempted the Arkansas Traveller 100 Mile trail run, but had to drop out with a sprained ankle, after 15 hours and 58 miles. Of course, he participates in dozens of races every year, mostly on the North Shore, competing for the North Shore Striders, for whom he volunteers to help organize local races.
   In 2007, the snail was influenced by two books. First, from "Born to Run," by Christopher McDougall, the snail was inspired to train and race primarily in Vibram Five-Fingers - and is still going strong. In addition to the usual shout-out, feel free to give him a HIGH-FIVE as you see him pass. The transition was tough, but the snail qualified for both the NY Marathon and the Boston Marathon while running in Vibrams. Second, inspired by, "The China Study," by T. Colin Campbell, the snail has metamorphised from a pedestrian vegetarian to a mostly plant-only diet, so much so that spring gnats probably constitute a substantial portion of the snail's non-plant consumption. Don't ask unless you are ready to hear the long version.
   From the technical details department: The miniature Pesky Pole itself was constructed from the following materials: yellow painter's hat (received at the New York Marathon, in 2004), yellow plastic book cover, plastic ball, wire hangar (for vertical support), plastic wire ties (for "circular" support), ribs (from Gatorade bottles) and safety pins, tape and thread (to hold together the bits and pieces). In 2007, Sponge Bob Square Pants' image was surgically removed from the top of the hat (to allow for better air circulation).

     Due to the security restrictions put in place for the 2014 Boston Marathon, there were some doubts about whether the "Pesky Pole" would be allowed to participate. Fortunately, the Pesky Pole is exactly 17" tall, the maximum size for a prop, and it does not extend beyond the "perimeter" of the snail"s body - so it should be OK. Whew!

     More about the Pesky Pole:
     Pesky Pole on Wikipedia.
   To contribute to the Pesky Pole Marathon, online, go to
Donate to the Jimmy Fund

If you prefer "snail mail," send a check to:
The Jimmy Fund
10 Brookline Place West, 6th Floor
Brookline, MA 02445-7295.
Please make the check out to "The Jimmy Fund", with "Pesky Pole Marathon" on the memo line. Thank you for your support.