A Somewhat Forgettable Time
While Having an Unforgettable Time


The dual connotation of time. This year’s Boston Marathon ran on connotation, from the many meanings of run, to spirit, to emotion, to success, to achievement, to victory.

The 26.2 mile parade of exaltation and exuberance didn’t quite go as planned for me. My GPS watch refused to lock into the satellite so I was forced to intuitively track my pace, just as I did the last time I traversed the sacred Boston course 26 years ago.

Though it didn’t seem so at the time, that was a comparatively minor setback, both in my world and that of this great marathon in general.

The past two years I had qualified and made the eight hour drive from Central Pennsylvania to Boston, but never made it to the starting line. In 2012, I chose not to bake in the 90 degree April heat and took a deferment, though I ran a marathon that fall to justify my spot. Then in 2013--what some say was fortuitous--I came down with the flu on the drive to Boston and left for home on Marathon Monday just as the race was starting. I recall telling my wife I’d never come back again.

Just over eight hours later, after the bombings, I knew I had to go back—for Boston and for me.

Enduring a Labor Day weekend marathon steam bath in State College, I re-qualified, made the cut-off for the field by a mere 10 seconds, then battled a horrific winter. I felt like Job, metaphorically speaking--until I caught myself — until I remembered that this marathon wasn’t just about me, but about running and about those who support us runners, those innocent bystanders who lost lives and ways of life simply by being there for their running loved ones.


And I had the nerve to think of myself as Job.

Still, I dwell on what I didn’t do and what I could have done: my typical marathon postmortem.

Along with my watch, the mid-April sun, and temperatures in the mid-60s made for a terrific day for spectators, but a little too much too soon for runners who’d been logging long runs in tights and gloves for the past four months. And the Newton Hills seemed longer than a quarter-century ago. But I ground it out, about six minutes slower than I had hoped, but good enough to earn a qualifying spot next year for when I hope the crowds are just as enormous, just as enthusiastic, and just as energetic--and I can enjoy them.

As the throngs cheered for me, those I passed, and those passing me, several thoughts crossed my mind. I wanted so much to tap into their contagious energy, but I couldn’t, at least not as I had hoped. Perhaps the surrealism of the moment made me too insular. I’m running the Boston Marathon, in 2014! Why am not into this more? The question was lost. No discomfort, tightness, nausea, or other pain would come close to the inexplicable suffering of those of a year ago. This is nothing! I got this. Yes. I HAD it okay, but I wanted to SEIZE it more than I did.


Nevertheless, I can say I was there: Boston 2014, a marathon that shall live forever as the race that not only demonstrated the resiliency of running, the event itself, and Boston as a city, but of the United State and the values we hold true, regardless what irrational zealots try to do to scare us and disrupt what we treasure and hold precious.

We won, the Marathon won, and Freedom won. On Patriot’s Day.

I’m grateful to have been a part of it and earn that cherished medal, one nearly twice the size of the two I earned in the late '80s.

So I accept that my running time wasn’t memorable, but the time I had running is a memory that I will many times rewind and savor for all my life.

Gary Ishler has been running consistently for over 39 years and has a marathon PR of 2:54. Check out his blog, Negative Splits, at