Home / Articles / Culture / Veteran runner John Stoller on crossing the finish line
By Erica Jackson Curran / April 14, 12:00 AM
Veteran runner John Stoller on crossing the finish line

Right On

Photo by Samantha Murray

The first time John Stoller ran the Boston Marathon, it was sort of an accident. A casual runner, he had planned to jog alongside a friend for a few miles and then stop in Wellesley, but he kept challenging himself to run farther until he finally decided to just finish the race.

“When I got to Hereford and Boylston and made that turn onto Boylston, it completely blew me away,” Stoller says. “That’s where the crowd is the most packed… Some people say you take that turn and still have a third of a mile to go, but it’s almost like you’re in the Olympics and running into the stadium. You can really savor it.”

For the 2008 race, inspired by that pivotal point on the route, Stoller designed a T-shirt with plans to sell it to help him meet his fundraising goal. Thus his Boston Marathon-themed apparel company Right on Hereford Left on Boylston was born. Stoller’s shirts are now sold at local retailers including Marathon Sports and City Sports as well as at the John Hancock Expo.

In homage to the company’s charitable roots, $5 from every Right On Left On purchase made by a charity runner goes to the charity of their choice. Following the bombings at last year’s event, Stoller decided to take it a step further, partnering with Marathon Sports to create a Boston Strong T-shirt that raised more than $140,000 for The One Fund.

In 2013, Stoller crossed the finish line just a few minutes before the bombings. His family, luckily, had decided to watch in Brookline rather than their usual spot on Boylston. “We heard the first explosion,” he remembers. “It sounded like a truck or something and we knew it was something really bad. Hundreds of us huddled up about a block and a half away. I can still hear the sirens. It immediately brings back that day.”

He adds, “The Boston Marathon is so unique, and for what happened last year to infringe on that and violate the basic goodness of what the event is about, it made it that much harder to understand how something like that could happen.”

Stoller says he’s excited to put the events of last year behind him with this year’s Marathon. “I think everyone who runs it knows that they’re part of something special,” he says. “They know that Boston is the place that the elite runners go. It’s just viewed as the marathon… It’s a special thing to be part of and you feel lucky that you’re healthy enough to do it. I’m going to keep doing it until my body isn’t able.”

1. Stay calm and enjoy it.
2. Turn your music down, listen to the crowd and make eye contact with as many people watching as you can.
3. Don’t get rattled if something goes wrong or you drop your iPod, or someone spills something on you. Just stay focused.
4. Fuel your body. You have to force yourself to eat and drink even when you don’t want to.
5. Reward yourself after you cross the finish line. I reach for a King-size Twix bar.
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