Wake-up calls in the predawn darkness often are part of the process for avid runners like Greenwood resident Brian Wilson.
Four times a week, Wilson meets Chris Hardin, his former Center Grove classmate (1995), to run the country roads near their Greenwood neighborhood. Depending on factors such as weather and work schedules, they’ll cover anywhere from eight to 20 miles.
The tranquility of those early-morning contradicts the epitome of long-distance running, which Wilson and Hardin are about to experience. Today, they’ll be among the estimated 30,000 runners taking part in the 122nd annual Boston Marathon.
Eight Johnson County athletes will run in the marathon. They range in age from Purdue sophomore Riley Turk, 20, to 69-year-old John Wooley.
“I’m very excited. It’s the most exciting race that you can qualify for and be in,” said Wilson, an assistant chief pilot for Indianapolis-based Aire Corr Inc. “I just started running in 2013, and as I’ve worked to get faster I’ve had a goal of running in the Boston Marathon.”
Qualification standards vary depending on age and gender. Previously achieving the standard in another marathon (26.2 miles) allows runners to submit a registration but does not guarantee entry into the Boston Marathon.
Due to restrictions in how many runners can compete, the fastest applicants in their age and gender group are selected.
Repeated runs on the hills of Morgantown Road in front of their alma mater have been part of the training Wilson and Hardin endure in preparation for the challenging inclines on the Boston course.
The most famous of those, Heartbreak Hill, is 20 miles into the race and rises 263 feet above sea level.
Hardin, a dentist in Indianapolis, will be running his first Boston Marathon and fifth marathon overall. He’s competed twice in the Dances with Dirt Gnaw Bone event in Nashville, Indiana, and been part of the field for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on two occasions.
The contrast between the venues will benefit him in the biggest race of his life.
“Boston is a road race, so that’s similar to the Monumental race. The marathon in Nashville is hilly, so it will help me with that,” Hardin said. “Honestly, for me, I already feel like I’ve accomplished what I want to accomplish. I just want to remember the race and have fun.”
Turk isn’t benefiting from familiar surroundings during his training. A mechanical engineering major at Purdue, he’s spending his spring semester in Evansville interning for Toyota.
Working 40-hour weeks in a city he’s still learning his way around has altered Turk’s training.
It’s also made him adjust his goals. Once hoping to cross the finish line in a time of 2 hours, 45 minutes, Turk said he would be satisfied making it in under three hours.
Reaching the pinnacle of marathon running at such a tender age promises to be an unforgettable experience.
“I’ve watched it on TV the last couple of years, but to be part of it will be overwhelming,” Turk said. “It’s not the biggest, it’s not the fastest, but the Boston Marathon is definitely the most prestigious.”
In September, Turk broke the 3-hour barrier at the Holland (Michigan) Haven Marathon with a time of 2:59.13. Coincidentally, the following Monday was the first day of registering for the Boston Marathon.
Turk is running with friend and Purdue classmate Patrick Martin. The two will fly to Boston on April 14 in order to prepare for the race. The goal is to run together, though Turk expects Martin to eventually pull away and finish before him.
Not that he’ll lack any number of people to run with.
“I’m actually looking forward to being around people constantly,” Turk said. “There are always going to be people to run with, and when you’re with people you can relax.”
The Boston Marathon attracts about 500,000 spectators every year.
Hardin is making the event a mini-family vacation as his wife, Nicole, and their four children — ranging in age from 8 to 13 — plan to be interested observers during the race. Wilson’s wife, Deborah, is also attending.
The marathon, part of the city’s Patriots’ Day celebration on the third Monday of every April, promises to be a treasured lifetime memory — one worth every early wake-up call and layer of clothing worn to combat the bitter cold temperatures in the middle of winter.
“Obviously, it will hit home when we’re closer to the race, but it’s starting to become more tangible,” Hardin said. “There have been times when it’s hard getting up at that hour in January and February, but it’s worth it.”
When: 8:40 a.m. today
Johnson County runners: Jared Campbell, Chris Hardin, Susie Howard, Riley Turk, Jyoti Verderame, Brian Wilson, Amy Withem, John Wooley