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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Qualifying for Boston Marathon was Yorktown Man’s Dream Come True

Yorktown’s John Burcher crosses the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. (The Burcher Family)

YORKTOWN — John Burcher had waited years to cross the famous Boylston Street finish line, but in 2024, he finally achieved his dream of running in the Boston Marathon.

Burcher competed in track and field in high school but stepped away from the sport after graduating. When he joined the military, he slowly got back into running and began to enjoy it, participating in 5Ks and half marathons, and realized he might have what it takes to run a full marathon.

To qualify for the 2024 Boston Marathon, Burcher needed to earn a time of 3 hours, 25 minutes in a qualifying marathon. He earned his best time at the 2023 Newport News One City Marathon, with a 3:17:32.

“The hardest part about Boston is simply just getting to Boston. I’ve been trying to get to Boston for about five years. I went from a 3:30 personal best to a 3:17 personal best. The other issue with the Boston Marathon is that the association always gets way more applicants with qualifying times than they actually have spots for,” Burcher said.

Officially qualifying was a moment that Burcher will never forget.

“It was an absolutely incredible moment. It’s one of those things where you could make it 25 miles and break your ankle at the last minute. As I was running past a friend of mine that was cheering me on at the One City Marathon, I looked at him and I said ‘dude, I’m going to Boston’ and he said to me ‘just finish this one’ because I could have just tripped and stumbled and that would have been it,” Burcher said.

Burcher on the course at the 2024 Boston Marathon. (The Burcher Family)

So, at the age of 51, Burcher began preparations and his training regimen for running the Boston Marathon in 2024.

“The cycle just starts over again with ‘you qualified for Boston, well guess what? Now you have to train for Boston.’ I’m an active runner so I stay fit all year round, but you do have to amp your training up. You get long runs in, you try to run as much as you can, and you just build up to it,” Burcher said.

Burcher approached his training on a 10-week schedule. He planned different mileages during the week and ran six out of seven days.

“Running 50-60 miles a week takes time. I run almost every day of the week and some of these runs are an hour to two hours or more. When you are in the peak of training for something like the Boston Marathon, your Saturday is not a free day, you are going out for a 20-30 mile run that is going to take you three hours to complete,” Burcher said.

Burcher was excited to compete in Boston.

“The marathon is not an easy one to run. It’s slightly downhill at first, but starts to go uphill towards the end. You are already tired, hot, and you are running with zero cloud cover. It was not my best marathon race and I really had to make the conscious decision to slow down or end up like one of the people I would pass who is laying on the side of the road heavily cramped up,” Burcher said.

Patriots Day, celebrated annually in Massachusetts, recognizes the impact of the Battles of Lexington and Concord during the Revolutionary War and is celebrated each year on the third Monday in April. The date of the celebration coincides with the running of the Boston Marathon, an annual event since 1897. The marathon starts in neighboring Hopkinton and ends in downtown Boston.

Burcher recalled some of the more prominent parts of the race course. Most notably, the thousands of packed streets along the course.

“Boston Marathon weekend is truly an all-marathon celebration and the spectators are all there for you. Most of the marathons I’ve done were all local marathons, Boston far surpasses them. There is not a point on that 26-mile course that is not filled with people. Every single town along the way, every person in that town is on the sidewalk cheering and screaming for you,” Burcher said.

Post-race, John Burcher proudly dons his finisher medal. (The Burcher Family)

He officially crossed the Boston Marathon finish line with a time of 3:47:02.

“When you make that right on Hereford and left on Boylston and you see that finish line across the road, you just say ‘I did it, I did it, I did it.’ You are feeling the excitement and you are throwing your arms up in the air in celebration. As I ran across that yellow finish line, it was just celebrating years of hard work,” Burcher said.

As to his running future, Burcher is undecided. For now, it is enough to have accomplished his dream.

“For me, it was the overwhelming sense of ‘I did it, I’m running the Boston Marathon.’ If you are a marathon runner, Boston is on your bucket list. Boston was the one I was always trying to get to. Would I do another one? Do I try to run New York or Chicago? I’m not sure, but I finally accomplished Boston.”

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