TRAVERSE CITY — He's known as the "Bayer Aspirin Marathon Man."
It's a moniker Gary Lake picked up last year after he and his wife appeared in a national television ad touting the benefits of Bayer aspirin.
The 66-year-old Honor resident will run his 44th marathon Monday when he toes the line in Boston — his 10th marathon since suffering a heart attack in February, 2004. That medical episode ultimately led to fame last year when he was featured in a 30-second Bayer ad.
The thrust of the ad — a marathon runner in "absolute perfect physical condition" is felled by a heart attack "out of the blue" and then takes two Bayers until help arrives — has turned Lake into somewhat of a celebrity.
"It's amazing how many people, strangers, see me and say, 'You're the Bayer Aspirin Marathon Man, aren't you?'" Lake said. "Yes, I am."
Actually, Boston and Bayer are linked in his story.
"In 2011, I ran the Detroit Free Press Marathon and finished second in my age group and qualified for Boston," Lake said. "I called my friend, the former race director of the Free Press Marathon, because the entry deadline for that spring's Boston Marathon had closed in September and this race (Detroit) was in October. That would mean I would have to wait until 2013 to run Boston. She said she didn't know anyone on the Boston staff, but said she just received an e-mail from a casting agency looking for runners that have had heart issues. People who know me know I'm crazy, meaning I did not change my lifestyle after the heart attack. I kept on running.
"I e-mailed the casting agency and told them my story. They said thanks, but casting had already closed. If they thought they would need my story, they would keep it for future use. Well, three weeks later they called me back. 'Are you interested in doing a commercial? Can you do a Skype interview the following morning?' We did two Skype interviews that week and they ended up flying us to Los Angeles to make the commercial."