The shadow of last year’s bombings hangs over Monday’s Boston Marathon, but the 14 Galveston County runners competing in it are focused on the present. They are trained and ready to run the historic race, many for the first time.
They are all more concerned about the challenges the course from Hopkinton, Mass., to downtown Boston throws at runners every year than they are the possibilities of the violence that destroyed last year’s marathon.
“I’m sure it’s going to be the safest race ever,” Galveston runner Steve Whitcher noted.
Extra security measures will pose some inconveniences for runners and spectators, but Whitcher doesn’t expect them affect his race adversely.
“My primary concern is to make sure I don’t get caught up in the crowd at the beginning and go out too fast,” he said.
“I’m not worried at all. I know they’ve locked down their procedures,” Aaron Gray of Galveston added. “A lot of races have — we could see it this year at the Houston marathon.”
Almost all of the 36,000 runners participating in the 2014 Boston Marathon qualified by running a previous marathon in a time that puts them among the country’s fastest marathoners. Approximately only 10 percent of marathon runners ever qualify for Boston, making it one of the most prestigious running events as well as the most historic. Now in its 118th running, the race is the country’s oldest marathon.
Gray earned his entry to Boston by completing the 2013 Chevron Houston marathon in 2 hours, 58 minutes and 25 seconds.
He has since shaved three more minutes off his marathon time, but is planning to cool his jets a bit in Monday’s race.
“I’m going to take it easy, because I’m looking ahead to Ironman Texas next month, where I’d like to get on the podium,” Gray explained. “If I run a 3:10 or 3:15 in Boston, I’ll be happy.”
One particular challenge for the 14 runners representing Galveston County will be the terrain, which has far more hills than any of the local training spots.
“I’m not too concerned about it, because in Galveston we have “virtual hills” when it’s windy,” Gray said. “The wind can slow you down 20 to 40 seconds per mile. Whether it’s wind or hills, you just adjust and watch your heart rate.”
Whitcher, who is also training for Ironman Texas, is aiming for a pace just slightly more relaxed than the 3:16:50 he ran at the 2013 Galveston Marathon as his Boston qualifier.
“I’d like to requalify for Boston, which for my age group would be 3:25, but I’d like to run 3:20,” he said. “My training has gone really well.”
While Gray and Whitcher are making their Boston debuts, Dickinson runner Leno Rios, 43, is a veteran of the race.
He will be making his third start on Monday, with the goal of finishing in less than three hours, as he has done in five previous marathons.
“This year, I’m going for redemption,” Rios said. “Boston hasn’t been my race. In 2004, it was 88 degrees, and I got dehydrated and didn’t finish. 2005 was a disappointment, too, and last year I didn’t go because of injuries. After missing last year, it’s going to be an honor to be there this year.”
Monday’s race will be Rios’ 38th marathon, and he isn’t making plans for any more.
“I’ve had a lot of fun training other people, and have gotten 12 people to sub-three hour marathons. I’m hoping to do more of that in the future.”
Both Rios and Whitcher have been involved in local training groups, while Gray’s schedule lends itself more to solo runs on the Seawall. Gray will also be making the trip to Boston on his own.
“My big race for the year is the Ironman in Kona, and my family thought they’d much rather go to Hawaii than to Boston,” he said.
Galveston County runners competing in the 2014 Boston Marathon