Monday morning about 30,000 runners will take part in the 120th Boston Marathon.
Whether they’re weekend warriors or Olympic athletes, the 26.2-mile race will be a highlight of their athletic careers.
As 82 South Sound athletes made their final preparations last week, I caught up with two runners: A Boston rookie and a veteran.
Cory Woodard, 47, of Shelton is running Boston for the first time. Mickey Allen, 60, of Tacoma is running it for the 16th time and for the 15th year in a row.
Woodard never really thought of himself as a runner until two years ago.
In 2014, his wife joined Fit Life Studio’s running group in Tumwater and he decided to join her.
“I didn’t know anything about (the running group) and I was really fortunate to meet Tessa (Effland),” said Woodard, a quality control inspector at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Effland owns Fit Life and runs a training program for the annual Capital City Marathon. Woodard credits her with supplying the training program and motivation that pushed him all the way to Boston.
Woodard has run three marathons and was fast enough to qualify for Boston each time. He needed to run faster than 3 hours, 25 minutes.
When he qualified in the 2014 Capital City Marathon, Effland suggested he should run Boston. Woodard thought just sneaking under the time standard didn’t warrant flying across the country for another race.
“It wasn’t that big a deal,” Woodard said.
He found more inspiration from scanning the race results. He finished third in his age group, and liked seeing that he was faster than younger athletes. “If I can beat high school kids, well, that’s kind of an ego boost,” Woodard said.
After Woodard broke the Boston time standard by nine minutes at the 2015 Capital City Marathon, he approached Effland.
Not only did Effland train Woodard for the race, but Fit Life is sponsoring him. The running group is covering the cost of the trip for him, his wife and 12-year-old son.
Woodard isn’t sure he’d have made the trip this year if it wasn’t for the studio’s backing. “I suppose I would sometime in the next few years if I could continue to qualify,” he said. “It’s amazing. She (Effland) is a really a super and generous person.”
Woodard will spend a week in Boston and hopes to finish the race in 3:25 or better, a time that would qualify him to run again next year. But he’ll appreciate the experience no matter how fast he runs.
“I’m not the type of a guy who gets too excited about stuff just because I don’t want to get my hopes crushed,” Woodard said. “But I realize this is the biggest race in the country, maybe the world. And I get a chance to do it. It’s going to be outrageous. I can’t wait.”
There are several reasons Mickey Allen, a general contractor from Tacoma, makes a point of running the Boston Marathon each April.
First, he’s fast. Really Fast. The 60-year-old can beat his 3:55 qualifying standard by almost an hour. Second, he has family he enjoys visiting nearby in Connecticut. He also has a group of running friends with whom he enjoys making the trip.
And then there is the legendary crowd-lined course. “The crowd is phenomenal and so supportive,” Allen said. “It’s just an amazing atmosphere for a race.”
Allen ran Boston for the first time in 1982, when he needed to run faster than 2:50, much faster than any of the qualifying standards today.
While Quick Mick, as he’s known in running circle, has always lived up to his name, Boston might have been a one-time experience had he not decided to go back for the 20th anniversary of his first race. In 2002, he ran his slowest race but enjoyed the experience so much he’s made a point of coming every year.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll do this,” Allen said. “I suppose I’ll know when it’s time.”
He and group of local runners compete in the master’s team competition. The top three times from each team are used to determine the winner. Allen’s team’s best finish came in 2005, when they were 14th out of 75.
“There are a lot of big clubs there and some great runners,” Allen said. “So if we’re in the top third, I feel like we’ve done pretty well.”
This year’s team, Tacoma Fleet Feet Run Club, consists of Allen, Tony Phillippi, Pete Stackpole, Vince Davis, Chris Warren and Brett Wittner. Between them, they’ve logged 592 marathons, according to their Marathon Maniacs profiles.
Allen helps coach runners for Boston and hears from time to time runners worrying about the race’s infamous Heartbreak Hill.
“I ran into some women who were worried about the hills a few years ago,” Allen said. “I said, ‘You run Pearl Street all the time. There is nothing in Boston that’s tougher than Pearl Street. … Don’t worry about the hills and just have a good time.’”
In fact, that might just be the best advice for all Boston participants, Allen said.
“Enjoy the experience,” he said. “Not a lot of people get to do it. So just have fun.”