Illinois Runners in Boston Take in Experience


Running the Boston Marathon is on every major runner’s checklist of things to do. It’s been called the most important marathon in the world and draws some of the biggest attention of any race. That was the case before the events that marred last year’s marathon finish, this year everyone surrounding the marathon made sure to put their best foot forward and bring Boston back to where it should be. A number of Chicago runners went to the east coast for this year’s race and both those new and experienced with the course said it was something to always remember.

“With the crowds, the people, the amazing support along the course, it was more than I even imagined it would be,” Eric Wallor of Palatine, a first time Boston runner, said.

Wallor, who spent most of the weekend in Boston, said he felt support for runners and everyone involved with the marathon from the first moment he walked through the city’s Logan International Airport. The 31 year old said there were signs sporting Boston Strong throughout the city both before and during the marathon. He especially noticed the workers at the Expo who he said went above and beyond what was expected, doing whatever necessary to welcome the runners into their city.

Like Wallor, Champaign’s Chase Rogowski made her first appearance at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Rogowski took part in a number of events on Saturday and Sunday before the marathon. She went to a church where all the runners were blessed before their race and received one of the scarves handed out that were hand woven by people across the country show their support. Rogowski said at one point during the marathon she was so overwhelmed after seeing runners from Team Hoyt, the team that centers around the father-son duo of Rick and Dick Hoyt who ran their 32nd and final Boston Marathon this year, that she began to cry a little while running.

“They always say Boston is every marathon runner’s dream, and it really was,” Rogowski said. “Seeing that many runners and average citizens supporting you is amazing.” Rogowski said she did her part to join in on the Boston mentality. During each marathon she runs, the 23 year old writes “Chase Me” on the back of her legs. Rogowski said after finishing she had a number of people approach her saying it helped them push through the final stretch.

Even for Boston veterans like CARA’s Executive Director Wendy Jaehn this year was something special. This was her third Boston Marathon, and while there was heightened security Jaehn said the feeling overall was that of resilience and support. Starting the race, Jaehn said her legs felt heavier than normal and pretty tired. That, coupled with the race-day heat that was impossible to train for with the Chicago winter, could have made for a slow race. Regardless, Jaehn said the support from the crowd powered her through and she finished with her fastest Boston time to date and as the first woman from Illinois to finish in 2:56:23.

All three runners said they had to adjust their focus during the race. At the beginning the three said they were focused on their goal times for the race, but once the race began it was impossible not to be swept up in the experience. Wallor, who was the second male from Illinois to finish, said he had trained all winter for a 2:24 finish. While he missed his goal time Wallor said the experience was all worth it. Wallor said there were fans lining nearly every inch of the 26.2 mile course, something he said he hasn’t seen before.

Rogowski and Jaehn both said they started the race thinking purely about how quickly they could finish, but along the course their focus switched to enjoying everything around them. Jaehn, who said she is someone who is always focused on getting the best time she can, couldn’t help but take in all the spectators and give high fives along the way. She even joked that by mile ten she was dancing to the YMCA. Rogowski said she was heeding the advice of others to make sure she didn’t take the course lightly and prepare for the hills, but after running through communities like Newton she couldn’t help but take it all in. She said while in a perfect world she would have set a PR, she knew that with her inexperience with the course a sub-3:15 would be just fine. She accomplished that with a 3:10:06, one of her faster marathons.

“Everyone in Boston wanted to take care of the runners and make sure they had a good time,” Wallor said. “Even random people on the street would come up to you. People after the finish were giving congrats everywhere, this year being so important and special. Everyone was giving congratulations.”