SPRINGHILL – It takes heart to get to the Boston Marathon.
There’s the determination and training needed to qualify. Then there’s the ongoing support of friends and family to stay motivated.
And for Sheldon Morris of the Valley Road area, there was a bathroom break that helped him qualify for this year’s Boston Marathon.
A runner for several years, Morris moved from 5 and 10k races in the summer of 2013 to half-marathons and, finally, his first full marathon in Yarmouth. Certified as a Boston Marathon-qualifying course, Morris says he was hesitant but entered with the goal of trying to qualify for the world’s most familiar road race.
And he was just one of 12 participants.
“I was actually running a little late registering, and they held up the start of the race for me,” he said. “Four of us ran together as a group and right away I felt like I need to go to a washroom. I had scouted the course the day before, so I knew there was a beach area up ahead, so I told the runners I was with I was going to sprint ahead and then we’d catch up with each other.”
Quickening his pace, Morris pulled ahead from the group. Then the feeling he needed a break passed, leaving him with a decision: hold back and wait for the group or keep going.
“I was ahead, clocking good time and I had a good pace. I went for it,” he said. “It was one of those days where everything went perfect.”
Crossing the finish line in Yarmouth, Morris’ time – under 3 hours, 15 minutes – qualified him for the Boston Marathon in his age category, 40-45.
He had no doubts he was going.
“I knew I was going,” he said. “So, we started tucking a few dollars away and I started a training plan.”
The infamous bombings that took place during the 2013 Boston Marathon had spurned the urge for Morris to qualify for the marathon, he said. The act of terrorism, and the acts of heroism that followed immediately after, resonated with him. When he arrived, the community-drive to take back the marathon from the horrific event created an unexpected feeling in Morris.
“I was mentally relaxed,” he said. “I can’t figure it out. I think it was just there was so many people represented in the race, and everyone making it so friendly, it relaxed me.”
Trying to navigate a map of the cities buses and subways to register and pick up his runner’s bib, one local Boston resident approached Morris, asked him if he was a runner and then promptly became his guide, Morris said.
“People were really representing their community. It didn’t matter where you were from, they were taking Boston back. It was terrific.”
This year’s Boston Marathon drew upwards of 36,000 runners – pacing themselves shoulder-to-shoulder, leaving the gate in four waves of 9,000 people. Surrounding them was over one million fans. It was a stark contrast from the 12-runner qualifier in Yarmouth Morris ran last year.
“Everything was amazing. The fans cheering you on; stands with water and Gatorade, kids holding out wrapped up Lifesavers as you run by. Everyone saying ‘You can do it’ and ‘Thank you for coming.’ The smell of barbecues. And high-fives. I was high-fiving people all the way.”
Qualifies for next year
Maybe it was the terrain, maybe it was the sea of runners or a phantom memory of a leg injury he sustained earlier in the year, but Morris says the last 16 km of the race were hard on him, but he still ran a good race, crossing the line at 3:13, and qualifying him for next year’s marathon.
His first Boston Marathon, however, will always be his favourite.
“Any time you do something for the first time is always the best,” he said. “I knew it was going to be the best. I was there with my wife and family. My mom and dad came to cheer me on. I went to a Red Sox game with my dad. We went to a Boston Bruins game. And I ran the Boston Marathon. It was a weekend I’ll never forget.”