By Ang Gilchrist
Despite brutal temperatures reaching 89 degrees, two local residents completed the Boston Marathon held last Monday, April 16. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, dating back 116 years, with runners representing over 80 countries around the world. Although open to any athlete 18 years or older, the individuals must qualify on a certified course in the prior 18 months before the marathon and complete a stringent application process to receive an invitation. On average, 20,000 runners begin the marathon, but far fewer are able to complete the course. For many runners, qualifying to run the Boston Marathon is an achievement in itself.
Gordon resident Roberta Jacobson has been running marathons for over 10 years and credits her passion to watching her sister run a marathon. Five years ago she began focusing on attaining her qualification into the Boston Marathon, and in May of last year, Roberta reached her goal. She completed the Lincoln, Neb. National Guard Marathon with a qualifying time, earning a spot on the starting line of this years run. Jacobson made her trip to Boston a mini-vacation, accompanied by her husband, Merlyn, and children Joe and Denie. They were able to enjoy playing tourists for a couple of days before her big day.
As Jacobson began the marathon, she wasn’t sure she would finish what she had strived to achieve for so many years, stating, “at mile two I was ready to quit that race.” But she pushed herself through the physically demanding challenge, taking advantage of every ‘spray tent’ she passed. She said that the crowd of spectators was so supportive along the route, offering her ice, fruit, water, gatorade, pretzels, and liquorice, along with spraying water with hoses and sprinklers, helping to maintain her body functions and temperature.
Jacobson said her most memorable moment occurred as she began the 23rd mile of the 26.2 mile run, when her family appeared “out of nowhere” to cheer her on and yell encouraging words of support. She said the next thing she knew, her husband was running beside her...in his jeans! Mind you, it was 89 degrees at this point in the day. Although his run was short, it was a much-needed boost for Jacobson.
Shortly after, Gordon resident Mandy Packett joined her and the two women ran the last three miles of the Boston Marathon together. Jacobson explained that she and Mandy have been running together for years and that Mandy and her husband, Heath, actually planned their family vacation around the Boston Marathon so that she could be there to support her friend. Jacobson finished her first Boston Marathon in 5:20:20, a time that she intends to shorten in the future.
“I’m grateful I had the opportunity to run the marathon,” said Jacobson. She admitted that she isn’t super-athletic, but she does enjoy running and tries to complete one marathon a year. She also competes in half-marathons and marathon relays, which involves 4-5 runners each covering a leg of the marathon. According to Jacobson, there are a lot of runners within our community and anyone can set their mind to running a marathon, “Believe in yourself, set your goals, and achive them!”
Rusty Bellina of Hay Springs has maintained a true passion for running marathons, and said he was up to the challenge of completing the “largest marathon, top in the world.” He just ran the 2012 Boston Marathon in 4:52:14, finishing 22nd out of 83 runners in the 70-74 year age group. Bellina said that of the 83 runners, only 72 completed the marathon, the others dropping out because of the extreme heat and health issues. When asked what was his most memorable moment of this run, he said it was crossing the finish line, stating, “this is not a race, it is an experience.”
Running in Boston marked the competion of Bellina’s 74th marathon. Bellina travels throughout the world to run, accompanied by his wife, Dee. He has finished marathons in all 50 states, along with Athens, Greece, London, and Berlin. His next marathon will be May 5, in Provo, Utah. He is looking forward to spending some vacation time with his wife in Stockholm, Sweden this July, where he will be running the marathon celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Summer Olympics. Bellina has a total of nine marathons scheduled for this year and he said he plans on running marathons, “As long as I can.” After 24 years of coaching and teaching, he retired from the Hay Springs School District in 1996. In his spare time, he is a volunteer coach with the Hay Springs track team.
Congratulations to both runners on completing the most prestigious marathon in the world.