“Ultimately we are runners; we deal with all kinds of adverse conditions” – Jun Zhao, 2018 Boston Marathon finisher.
Profound words from the heart of a champion, qualities that define the very fabric from which the Ann Arbor Track Club and its talented membership are cut.
Having battled the elements at this year’s Boston Marathon, Ann Arbor Track Club members, Jun, Sean Kearney, Tom Bourque and Michael Young share their experiences and the forces that drive them to achieve.
Zhao, 55, began his running career in 2012 when he ran the Detroit International Half Marathon in honor of a friend living in Canada who was tragically killed in a car accident. Captivated by our sport and quickly lured by the marathon distance, Jun excelled quite rapidly and ran his first Boston Marathon in 2015 on a cold, wet, rainy day which in hindsight proved to be quite tropic in comparison to this year’s frigid, monsoon-like conditions.
Though Jun was hoping for better weather, he affirms, “Boston is always special for me. It’s the amateur’s Olympics, and the atmosphere along the whole 26.2 miles is unbelievable; it feels like the whole of Boston is coming out that day to cheer us on.”
Jun adjusted his goals relevant to the conditions and paced a friend in need of support until the final mile whereby he “sprinted for the finish” achieving a sub-four time of 3:59:38 which included a “two minute pit stop” for his friend, making his body “really feel cold from standing around in the rain.”
Back for the fifth time, Sean Kearney describes his 2018 race as his most “interesting” Boston Marathon experience while detailing in the same breath, “the waves of headwinds and water that slammed into us made us question our own sanity.”
Kearney, 36, went on to add that “once you looked around and read the determination on the other runners’ faces it was inspiration enough to push forward.”
While the ten year veteran noted that this year’s weather was the toughest he’s ever faced and that his only goal was to finish, Sean humbly knocked out a 2:51:30 and most assuredly will be back, no matter future challenges posed.
“Boston has a rich tradition and the town and crew are more supportive than any race I’ve run; I am thankful to be able to participate.”
While 61 year old Tom Bourque had the privilege of running three Boston Marathons on “beautiful spring days,” not the deluge of precipitation or debilitating injury could stop this seasoned, lifetime AATC member and fellow Nasty Boys Glee Club running group constituent (of which AATC President, Mitch Garner is also a part) from running through the 2018 Boston Marathon finish line, 4:11:28.
“The rain and wind never stopped,” Bourque recalled, “just got harder at times. It was cold, especially when walking, but I was never worried about hypothermia. I wore three layers on my legs and three layers on my torso. I had two pairs of gloves, but they were soaked. The fans were awesome; I heard ‘you got this’ probably five hundred times.”
And finally, nine-time Boston Marathon finisher, Michael Young, 61, conveyed in very clear and simple terms, “The race was hard; I ran very much by feel.”
Further elaborating, Young noted, “It rained 100% of the time with downpours, headwinds and wind gusts that made it feel like a monsoon; I was so cold that at several points I couldn’t feel my legs or hands.”
Nevertheless, not only did Michael achieve his modified sub three hour marathon goal, 2:59:53, he won his age division, nine minutes and twelve seconds ahead of his competition.
To say, “They’ve done us proud,” might be perhaps the understatement of the year, but so be it.
Congratulations Jun, Sean, Tom and Michael; what an inspiration you all are and wonderful portrayals of what it means to be a runner.