This story ran in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner on May 30.
On a good day of travelling, it takes about seven hours to make it from McLeod Hill, where 35-year-old runner Josh Dick was raised, to the Boylston Street, near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
For Dick, a software designer in the city, another journey – an inspirational one – took just over seven years to get to Boston, a process that started because he wanted to lose some weight and embrace a healthier lifestyle.
“I was never into sports,” Dick explains. “I played a little basketball in my early teens but I never had any knack for it or the desire to do that sort of thing. Then, I picked up running completely out of the blue and basically fell in love with it.”
Fast forward to this spring and Dick, competing in the 2015 Fredericton Marathon, clocked a time of 3:06.37 in the 42.2 km event, enough to finish eighth overall but more significantly, qualify for his first Boston Marathon next spring.
“I just hope to improve from one race to the next,” said Dick, who still calls Fredericton home, with his wife Lisa and two young sons.
His Mother’s Day marathon performance was a fine reward for patience and long runs with pals Andrew Titus, Nat Couture, Bernie Doucet and Ken Kent over the years. It essentially started in July 2007, when after several gruelling experiences at long adventure races in 2004 and 2006, Dick evaluated his personal fitness levels and opted for a change.
He caught the bug quickly and after two months, tackled the 10-kilometre distance in the 2007 Fredericton Fall Classic and several months later, ran the Not the Honolulu half marathon.
Confidence gained in those events prompted him to run his first full marathon in the spring of 2008, where he finished 82nd of 124 finishers in a respectable time of 4:17.59.
He’s never looked back. The next year, he was 76th of 134 runners in 4:02.34 and he cracked the four-hour barrier in 2010 when he ran 3:45.28 and finished 81st of 179 competitions.
He ran the half at the Fredericton Marathon the next year (1:33.20) and did not take part in 2012.
However, he set a new standard of 3:18.16 in 2013 when he was 32nd of 174 athletes and last year was clocked at 3:21.07 when he ended up 26th out of 221 finishers.
It got even better this year.
For example, he trained for the Vermont 100 (a 100-km endurance trail race) last July, an event he is also attending this summer. That added stamina played a role in developing strength and speed required to shave 10 minutes off his personal best this May.
So did the weather, as an annual 24-hour orienteering event in Halifax that he usually takes part in was cancelled on the eve of the Fredericton Marathon, leaving him with fresh legs.
“Six weeks before Fredericton, I decided to see if I could qualify for Boston and was training for a 3:05 time,” Dick said. That was the time he thought he needed as a 34-year-old to make it.
So when he crossed just shy of two minutes slower than that standard, he was happy with his performance and only slightly disappointed. Sort of a making-progress, get-em-next-time mindset.
Yet, when he got home to check the official results, he saw there was an asterisk by his name, indicating he had indeed earned the invitation. That’s because Boston recognizes ages on race day 2016 – and Dick turned 35 three days after Fredericton – meaning his qualifying time was actually 3:10 for the 35-39 age category.
“It was a long time goal but I was never that focused on actually going for it,” he said. “It was in the back of my mind and I thought that when it was convenient, I will give it a shot. I was not really expecting to get it this year but I managed to pick it off.”
Up next is the return trip to Vermont, a probable run in the Fall Classic and of course, training for Boston.
In the midst of it will be long runs with his friends, and continuation of an 18-month distance challenge with Titus, which Dick says he leads by just 10 kilometres.
“I like the challenge of it,” he says about running. “It is not easy but it is nice to challenge yourself every day and once every few months, put down a benchmark run and see how it felt and how it compared to previous runs.”
Kevin Barrett His column appears every other Saturday. If you have a suggestion for a feature story, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit barrettkevin.wordpress.com.