On Race Day...Be Like This Mysterious Boston Marathon Runner

🏃‍♀️You've heard of the Boston Marathon, right?

🥇The most famous 26.2-mile marathon in the world.

📅On Monday, April 17, 2023 (it's one week away), an estimated 30,000 participants will run 26.2-miles from Hopkinton to downtown Boston. Let taper week begin!

😲While I've never ran this race, a mysterious Boston Marathon finisher helped me out when I ran my first marathon 26 years ago in a powerful way.

Here's what happened...

Evan Jensen ran his first marathon 26 years ago in Park City, Utah.

My first marathon: Can I run 26.2 miles?

My stomach was already in knots, and the Park City Marathon in Utah hadn't even started.

But my mind was racing.

  • What am I doing here? 
  • I think this was a big mistake. 
  • Run a marathon...are you crazy?

Meanwhile, all the other runners lined up at the start of the Park City Utah Marathon seemed chill, confident, not worried about the 26.2-mile battle about to begin.

But I wasn't...

  • Did I do enough training to go the distance?
  • How much water should I drink during the race?
  • Would the heat and mountain elevation become my worst enemy?
  • What if I can’t finish and have to drop out?
  • What are my chances of qualifying for the Boston Marathon?

To make matters worse...I somehow forgot to pack running socks before boarding a plane to get to Salt Lake City, Utah.

I had no choice but to wear a pair of my dad’s paper-thin black dress socks. 

Now there was even more to worry about.

  • Would painful blisters be the thing that takes me out of the race?

The only marathon runner I actually knew...

I didn’t know anyone at the starting line, and I really didn’t know anyone who had run a marathon before.

Until now, my closest connection to long-distance running was the story my parents told me about a guy they knew who ran the Desert News Marathon.

And it wasn’t exactly motivational.

In their account, their friend had to practically crawl his way to the finish line, trailed by race officials threatening to pull him off the course.

Was that how this was going to turn out?

26.2 miles of suffering...followed by more suffering trying to recover.

  • Anxiety
  • Worry &
  • Self-Doubt...

...were trying to stop me from doing something BIG.

I had to do something, or just go home...

A guy wearing a Boston Marathon finisher T-shirt shared some veteran advice with Evan before the race.

Advice from a mysterious Boston Marathon guy

While standing at the starting line full of pre-race jitters and surrounded my more experienced runners, I noticed a guy...

  • Wearing a Boston Marathon finisher shirt.
  • He was lean and fit. 
  • And he seemed completely at ease with the idea of running a mountain marathon that would take a couple hours to finish.

I had to do something to stop my mind from buzzing with catastrophic thoughts about how running a marathon would turn out for me.

So I walked up to the mysterious Boston Marathon guy, feeling like a groupie at a Taylor Swift concert, and tapped him on the shoulder.

"What was the Boston Marathon like?" I asked him.

He talked about the race:

  • Running from Hopkinton to downtown Boston
  • The course lined with thousands of people
  • Running up Heartbreak Hill
  • And finally crossing the finish line

And then he served up some advice to calm my first-time marathon jitters:

“You got this. Take it easy when the race starts. Drink some water at the aid stations. And keep moving, even if you have to walk, and you’ll make it.”

A mysterious Boston Marathon finisher shared some important advice with Evan at the start of the Park City Marathon. When he hit the wall, the same runner showed up just in time to push him to the finish line.

The surprise pick-me-up after hitting 'The Wall'

OK. The mysterious Boston Marathon guy's advice sounded like a good plan to run 26.2 miles.

Because, I really didn't have one before that.

Unfortunately, I was too excited for those words of wisdom to sink in.

  • When the race started, I charged ahead to the front of the pack.
  • I stayed with the leaders for the first six miles
  • I blew through those early aid stations without drinking anything.
  • Then the Utah desert started heating up. 
  • I kept running, but could tell I was headed for a total breakdown.

Then it happened...I hit 'The Wall' & the telltale signs included:

  • Painful cramping. 
  • A crazy-tight hamstring. 
  • Vomiting.
  • Fatigue. 
  • Stiff-as-a-corpse lactic acid buildup.
  • And the kind of melancholy dread that feels like you're deadweight sinking in quicksand with nothing to grasp on to.

I sat down at an aid station, watching runners cruise by feeling TOTALLY DEFEATED, not sure if I could get up.

And then I heard a familiar voice...

“Hey man, you can’t just sit there.”

It was the Boston Marathon guy.

He was smiling and looked just as fresh and full of energy at the 20-mile mark as he did before the race even started.

“You can do this. It’s just an easy 10K to the finish line. Follow me, and I’ll get you there.”

I tried to convince him that I was too exhausted to continue, but he wouldn’t accept any of my excuses.

I got up out of the chair and started shuffling.

For the next six miles, the mysterious Boston Marathon guy maintained a slow and steady pace:

  • He ran just fast enough to force me to keep on running.
  • He asked me questions about my job, school, family, running.
  • Every time I complained about some ache or pain, he offered another dose of encouragement.
  • When the finish line was finally in sight, he said goodbye, ran ahead of me and disappeared into the crowd of finishers.
See a runner struggling to get to the finish line? Take a minute to encourage them to keep going.

Encourage other runners like the Boston Marathon guy

I’ve never forgotten the generosity of the mysterious Boston Marathon guy.

He could have easily left me behind and cruised his way to the finish without me.

But instead he slowed his pace and pushed me beyond what I thought was possible. 

I never did find him in the crowd at the finish line to thank him properly.

But I decided I could pay it forward every time I meet runners with:

  • A wave
  • A smile
  • A word of encouragement
  • Running a few miles with you if that's what it takes to help you reach your goal.
  • And maybe slightly insane optimism in even the worst circumstances

The next time you're thinking about:

  • Going for a run when you don't feel like it
  • Signing up for a race outside your comfort zone
  • Unsure about training or taking care of an injury, or
  • Struggling to reach the finish line...

Here's some advice I learned from the mysterious Boston Marathon guy and running many marathons and ultras over the years...

  • Don't give up.
  • Keep going.
  • Slow and steady wins YOUR race.

Are you running the Boston Marathon or cheering on someone who is?

Let's cheer on every runner stepping up to the starting line to run 26.2 miles at the 127th Boston Marathon.

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Evan Jensen
SANDY, Oregon
2 Following

I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM...


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