Noel Colina was prepared to run his seventh Boston Marathon back on April 20, when the 124th running of the iconic athletic event was set to take place.
COVID-19 changed those plans, forcing the Boston Athletic Association to reschedule for September with the expectation that quarantines and social distancing would be in the past. Colina had his plane tickets reserved for a trip to Boston this month when he learned that the event would be canceled again.
But it wasn’t exactly canceled. Marathon runners are now competing in a virtual Boston Marathon all week. It allows athletes to run the 26.2-mile race on their preferred home courses.
On Monday Colina, 60, ran his marathon, and an online app put out by the Boston Athletic Association allowed him to track and automatically report his distance and time. Instead of the 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton, Mass., to Boston, Colina’s 2.5-mile loop around Tracy Boulevard, Schulte Road, Sycamore Parkway and Valpico Road added up to the total race mileage after he ran it 10 times, with an additional loop of 1.2 miles on Central Avenue added to make up the full 26.2 miles.
“It’s good to bring it here to Tracy. It’s one way to bring running and Boston here,” Colina said after he finished the course on Monday. “It is my training ground for all of my Bostons. I usually use this loop. I’m very familiar with it.”
He identified each lap with the cities and landmarks that he would have run past on the way to Boston. At the start/finish line near the corner of Tracy Boulevard and Schulte Road his wife, Faith, and family friend Andrew Priela-Soto, provided his water and kept track of his progress. He was aiming for a time around 3:30:00, which would have been faster than any of the times he has actually run in Boston, his fastest so far in 2015 when he finished in 3:35:16.
Colina’s plan was the leave the starting line at 7 a.m., which would have put his finish sometime around 10:30 a.m. After he looked at weather forecasts, though, which had temperatures closing in on 80 degrees in the early morning and reaching the mid- to high-90s by 10:30 a.m., he moved his start time to 5 a.m. For the last half of the run he had his co-worker and running partner Jacob Garlant help him keep up his pace so that Colina could finish in 3 hours, 38 minutes.
“What’s nice about this virtual is it’s personal. It’s really you against yourself,” Colina said, though he did miss having the huge crowd and competition he usually sees in Boston. “You don’t have anybody to push you, but Jacob pushed me from mile 13 to the last lap.”
Also pushing him on his last lap were Brad Harrison and Dave Cutforth. Cutforth completed his own version of the Boston Marathon on Saturday, running his local training course around the Glenbriar neighborhood until he reached 26.2 miles.
Cutforth, 44, ran his race in 3 hours, 17 minutes, close to his actual Boston Marathon time from 2018 when he ran it in 3:18:29. He had qualified for the 2020 event by running the Modesto Marathon in 3:00:32 back in March 2019, and looked forward to running again in Boston, only to see the live event cancelled.
He missed the ambiance, crowds and terrain of the Boston course.
“It’s not as flat as Tracy. It has lots of hills. It has tons of spectators. It was kind of weird running around with not many people around,” he said.
“It’s a lot harder doing a virtual run without all of the support on the course and having all of the water stops and everything like that.”
He did get to run past his house, though, where he family provided water and energy gel to keep him going.
“That was the cool part, going around the neighborhood, knowing the place intimately.”
He also had friends from the Tracy Running Club join him on his final lap.
“Noel actually came out for the last two miles and brought me water and ran with me. A couple other friends were on bikes and provide motivation to get me to the finish.”