On April 18, over 27,000 runners toed the line of the 2015 Boston Marathon. Of those runners, 370 Utahns made the trip to this world-renowned event. Every runner had a story that led them to Boston.
Here are stories from six of those Utah runners:
Brian Beckstead: ‘Running double-Boston’
As Brian Beckstead stood at the start line, he looked ahead to a course that he had run before. In fact, he ran it just minutes before, but in the other direction.
That morning, as other runners boarded a bus that would take them to the start line, Beckstead stood on the finish line at Boylston Street, and began his 26.2 mile journey to the start line, to embark on his third “double-Boston."
Beckstead began running double-Boston’s in 2012 when he noticed there was nearly a five-hour difference between when he had to load the bus, and when he would start his race. “I had to load the bus at 6:30 a.m., and I didn’t start until 11 a.m.,” he said. “I wondered what I was going to do with all of that time, so I decided to run to the start line.”
Beckstead said that he loved the experience so much, that he promised himself he would do it each time he ran Boston. He completed the challenge in 2013, and again this year.
“This year was fun,” he said. “Every year I meet people who are also doing a double Boston, and this year, I saw two guys ahead who were walking. I talked to them and asked if they were doing double-Boston. They told me that they were doing ‘quadruple Boston,’ and had started at 5 p.m. the night before.”
This year was fun. Every year I meet people who are also doing a double Boston, and this year, I saw two guys ahead who were walking. I talked to them, and asked if they were doing double-Boston. They told me that they were doing 'quadruple Boston,' and had started at 5 p.m. the night before.
As one who traditionally runs ultra-distance races, 52 miles is nothing new to Beckstead, but he is quick to point out that running a double-Boston is no easy feat. “Running to the start is always the most difficult,” he said. The course to the start has more uphill, and there are no aid stations or spectators to cheer you on. However, as I neared the start line, I was able to see the start of the wheelchair division. Seeing athletes who are competing with challenges like these, really gave me perspective. It was very humbling.”
Beckstead finished the double-marathon in just under 7 hours and 40 minutes, having run the second half 10 minutes faster than the first half.
Catey Ball: Mother of 10 runs first Boston
Catey Ball began running only a handful of years ago, as a means to stay healthy and fit for her growing family — a family that would eventually grow to 10 children.
Ball competed in many distances and grew a particular love for the 26.2 mile distance of the marathon.
“I was never very fast, and never dreamed of being able to run a marathon under 4 hours, let alone the 3 hours 40 minutes I would need to run to qualify for Boston,” she said.
It was in 2013, when a fellow Nuun Hydration teammate of hers encouraged her to try to qualify.
“I didn’t really think running that fast was possible, but as I stood at the start line of the 2013 St. George Marathon, I thought I’d just go for it.”
She ended up qualifying with two minutes to spare.
Ball signed up for Boston just nine months after giving birth to her tenth child.
“Boston lived up to the hype,” she said. “The entire city shuts down, and the spectators are amazing!” she said.
Two spectators in particular, helped Ball complete the challenging race.
“While heading into Newton Hill, my IT band started acting up, and I was in serious pain. I looked to the side and caught the eye of a spectator who looked directly at me. He said, ‘Don’t you quit. You know you got what it takes.’”
Coupled with his words, and the thought of her family, she pushed on. “My children were so supportive,” she said. My daughters painted their toenails blue and yellow, and my older children downloaded the tracking app on their phones to show support.”
As Ball rounded the final corner, she heard a familiar sound: it was a whistle from her husband, Aaron. Tears welled up, and she knew she was almost finished.
“Boston is not like any other race out there,” she said. “I hope I get to do it, again.”
Travis Wood: Wounded warrior
In 2007, Cedar City resident, Travis wood was severely injured in Afghanistan when landmines destroyed his vehicle. He suffered multiple injuries, including severe spinal cord injuries, a crushed pelvis, three broken ribs, a punctured right lung, broken sternum, burns, and the loss of his right leg above the knee.
Out of all the marathons that I have ever done, Boston has the most profound energy. The power that the people give you, as they scream your name from mile one to the finish, is awe inspiring. Words cannot really describe it.
The extent of his injuries led doctors to believe that Wood would never be able to participate in activities that required physical activeness. It was these doubts that fueled the injured warrior’s desire to prove them wrong, and he began competing in marathons, as a wheelchair athlete in the handcycle division.
“I started marathoning to prove to myself that I can still do things that the doctors said I couldn’t,” Wood said. “I fell in love with competition and competing in marathons gives me that sense of completion. Participation in something that only a small population actually do, is similar to how the army was for me.”
The 2015 Boston Marathon would be Wood’s third time competing in the event, but this time he had a goal to finish in the top five. He gave it all he could and ended up with a third place finish.
“Out of all the marathons that I have ever done, Boston has the most profound energy,” Wood said. "The power that the people give you, as they scream your name from mile one to the finish, is awe inspiring. Words cannot really describe it.”
Wood participated as part of the Achilles Freedom Team, which helps raise money to help veterans injured in combat regain mobility and become physically active.
Rachelle Wardle: Running for recovery
In October, 2009, Rachel Wardle lost her younger brother, Trevor, in a tragic car accident. In an effort to help cope with the loss, she began running. She soon found that not only did she enjoy it, but she was quite good at it.
Once I hit elite status, I began to have severe anxiety, and worried constantly about gaining weight. I began getting injuries, and using painkillers to help manage pain. It was a vicious cycle.
She was able to run a series of sub-3 hour marathons, that would signify elite marathon status, putting her in the ranks with some of the fastest women in the nation.
Wardle was winning races right and left, and enjoying what came from being at the top of her game. But it all came at a cost — a cost that she kept secret from those who knew her best.
She was suffering from drug addiction, as well as other demons that had plagued her for years. She found herself battling addiction to alcohol, narcotics, and suffering from eating disorders.
Running was once her escape, but was now becoming an addiction.
“Once I hit elite status, I began to have severe anxiety, and worried constantly about gaining weight,” she said. “I began getting injuries, and using painkillers to help manage pain. It was a vicious cycle.”
Seeing where her addiction was heading, Wardle decided that she needed to get help.
She took control of her life, and that meant getting back to the simple love of running, and saw the Boston Marathon as the event that would help her do that.
“This year, running Boston was not about breaking any records,” she said. “I ran the race without a goal at all. It was the first time in my life I've ran a marathon just for fun and it was absolutely liberating. I smiled, laughed, and soaked in the entire 26.2 miles. It was, for me one of those races that you never want to end. I felt truly blessed to be there with my family and friends.”
Janae Jacobs: Running for a cause
Janae Jacobs is known by her thousands of followers, as “The Hungry Runner Girl,” where she blogs about running, food and family.
She has competed in countless races, but 2015 would be her first Boston Marathon, and she would be running in support of two charities that are dear to her heart: Stonyfield Organic, and Girls on the Run.
Jacobs was selected along with eight running mom bloggers to represent Team Stonyfield at that Boston Marathon, and fundraise for Girls on the Run.
“Since running my first marathon five years ago, I always wanted to run Boston, and Knowing that I could help make some sort of difference in another person’s life made my Boston Marathon experience that much more amazing. I think that anytime we are reaching outside of ourselves we are able to benefit from any experience more than if we are just focusing on ourselves.”
Jacob’s efforts paid off, and she was able complete the marathon in a time of 3 hours 12 minutes, despite the rainy conditions.
“The Boston Marathon is unlike anything else I have ever experienced. Running teaches me over and over again that I am stronger than I think I am. I was taught once again this last Monday while running 26.2 miles that our bodies are miraculous and that it is extremely important that we take care of them."
Scott Keate: Running with family and friends
Scott Keate crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:35.03, which was good enough to be the top Utah finisher.
But he did not do it alone.
As Keate readied himself for the race, he found himself among some of the fastest runners in the world — runners like Meb Kefezighi and Shalane Flanagan.
He felt grateful to be at such a prestigious event, warming up with such phenomenal athletes.
“I didn't know what to expect with this race,” Keate said, “So I decided to do something different — I decided to run a mile with 26 people who have loved and supported me most along the way. ... These are people I trusted would inspire me to run listening to my heart.”
He began the first mile with friend, and fellow elite runner, Fritz Van De Kamp, who he traveled with to the race. Van De Kamp picked up the pace, and Keate continued on with his list of supporters.
The next two miles, he would run with his mom, then his dad. “I heard my mom say, ‘Just have fun! Run your happy pace!.' I could hear my dad cheering for me the same way he has my whole life. I could always pick his voice out of the crowd when I was running around the track. I always wanted to make him proud.”
The next miles would be spent running with each of his five siblings, many cousins, and even his aunt, Julie, who he lost to cancer. “I felt her presence so strongly, and I felt her pushing me up the hills.”
He mentioned running with friends and teammates who he ran with in high school and college.
And then there were each of his four children. “At mile 23, I heard my daughter Makayla say, "I love you, Daddy!" as she so frequently does. I heard her sharing her poems. I saw her diving for a frisbee. I was passing people and still feeling strong.”
At mile 25, he ran with his wife, Melanie. “I chose to run with her near the end of the race and during a mile that is often the most difficult for me,” he said. “I really leaned into a relationship that has been so supportive for nearly 20 years. I felt so much love for her. The crowds were screaming and I loved sharing this time with Mel.”
The last mile, he saved for himself. “I tuned in to the reason I run, and I allowed myself to feel the support from an awesome group of people who were cheering for me in the wind and rain. I thought of the many people who were supporting me from home. I felt strong and ended the race accelerating.”
"If you ever decided to take on a race, I recommend running the race with people you love."
Do you have a story from Boston? Share in the comment section.
Arianne is a mother of six young children. Her downtime is spent running the trails of the Wasatch Mountains and beyond. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or search her Facebook page A Mother's Write or follow her on twitter @arimom6.