EDITOR’S NOTE: We are all so proud of Andy’s accomplishments, and especially his drive and tenaciousness to go for what he wants. Here’s the story about his journey of running and taking it to the next level to run in the Boston Marathon in April, 2023.
By Andrew Jenck
Running Boston was an ambition even before I could run marathons. Post-academics left me aimless, yet I was motivated to flow into those 26.2-mile races. The journey began in February 2020 with the Three Capes Relay, the worst possible course for newbies. A great race to test endurance and split among a group, but the uninitiated will find themselves dehydrated, fatigued, and stretching their aching muscles mid-race. COVID shortly followed, and running became more of a tool of escapism, less for training. Hard to have a destination when the paths are closed. Unbeknownst to me, an opening would appear towards the year’s end: I became roommates with a kind, smart woman who would later be accepted at Boston U. My motivation was renewed, a time window created: two years to qualify for Boston, so my friend could see me in the world’s oldest marathon.
My first traditional 26 was Portland in fall 2021. Endurance held for 75% before my lack of sufficient fluids took its toll; 7 minutes above the cutoff and needing medical assistance upon finishing. My parents recalled that my eyes were rolled back as they wrapped ice around my legs. Having my own water supply, as I learned, was crucial; aid stations weren’t enough. This was tested at Three Capes 2022, where I carried two small bottles of water and pickle juice (to avoid cramping) and hydrogels. The results fared much better, giving me confidence that any course would be doable after conquering the Capes. My strategy was solidified at Eugene Marathon that spring — achieving the sub-three hour qualifying time. Within a year, I flew to Massachusetts.
Many ask how I sustain myself for such long distances. That’s easy: make the training harder. Running is almost a second job, having to plan the routes, mileage, and regimens. Often changing up my pace and cramming runs into already crammed schedule, it’s as much of a mental workout as it is physical. The marathon is the day: everything revolves around it from meals, prep, and recovery. I can briefly set aside my responsibilities and just run.
You sense the different energy from the start, as a sea of runners flow before you. The sight was mesmerizing even as I focused on my pacing. Initially concerned hype had me jump the gun, I paid attention to my body, feeling the energy flowing through me, containing enough as I strode through the crowds. Here I would welcome the hills with open arms, allowing for a natural way to slow down and readjust my speed when needed. I’d analyze the crowds to see any cracks I could skid through without cutting anyone off. It was quite a sight see other runners fling their warmups mid race over the residence’s fences.
Fueling me, in addition to my electro gels, were the enthusiastic spectators. High-fiving the crowds upped the adrenaline, going through at times 300 yards of people. The atmosphere was exhilarating. You start from the more humbled Hopkinton through forested areas along the river, and several towns towards the patriotic city. The presence of Heartbreak Hill feels closer as the crowd encourages your perseverance. I made mental notes of the course’s toughest slope, easing my enthusiasm to avoid combusting, and upon arrival, leaning into the hill, adjusting my form, and keeping my heart unscathed. Once seeing the Boston skyscrapers and historic buildings, the feeling sets in that you are closing in on the finish but still reeling off the landscape and cheers.
Just as Doc Brown was ecstatic after the lightning hit the clock tower, I was overjoyed upon finish. None of the heavy rain could damper my joy; I had a grin all through the escort to the meet up section. The stone aesthetic of Boston was a fitting metaphor for how sturdy I had become. Embracing my friend, who had cheered me on, had made the goal complete.
A few days after, I walked along a park near my apartment. Finally, I could sit on a bench and take in the sights of my running route. Seeing the local high school students practicing for their own sports, made me wonder what ambitions they hoped to accomplish. I also reflected on my origins as a runner, seeing the school’s track, and how I went from a lap to the oldest course in the world. One thing I’ve learned in my pursuit: when you’re aimless in an abyss, reenergize yourself, find what you want, and then break through the barrier.