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Miserable marathon ends in sweet success

May 08, 2018 10:22AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Wearing bib 17999, Hillcrest High teacher and coach Shannon Hurst ran the 2018 Boston Marathon. (Photo courtesy Marathon Foto)

By Julie Slama  |  Julie@mycityjournals.com

It was a lesson in perseverance — and not just the Boston Marathon itself.

Hillcrest High School healthy lifestyles teacher and coach Shannon Hurst not only had to stand in the pelting rain in near freezing temperatures and headwinds up to 25 miles per hour for 50 minutes before her wave of runners started the 26.2-mile race, she also had to run in it for more than four hours.

But the lesson in perseverance begins before then.

After trying in 2015 to qualify for the Boston Marathon at the Deseret News Marathon and falling six minutes off the qualifying time, Hurst didn’t give up.

“I did my first half-marathon in 2008 or 2009 and enjoyed it, so I decided to do a marathon,” she said, adding that it wasn’t until her sophomore year in college when she took up the sport. “Then, I did my first marathon, Top of Utah Marathon, in Logan. I’m a pretty competitive person so, like most runners, I wanted to run Boston and put it on my bucket list."

Hurst trained for her qualifying Boston Marathon time of 3 hours and 35 minutes and set her eyes to achieve that time at Ogden’s Marathon in May 2017. She beat the time by three minutes.

“I registered for the Boston Marathon and then, I got an email back, saying, ‘Sorry, we have too many qualified at that time so we changed the time to a faster one’ so I didn’t qualify,” she said about the Sept. 27, 2017 email. “I felt defeated, discouraged and here was one of my biggest goals and I had fought through a hamstring injury for the past two-and-a-half years and thought I qualified and then I didn’t. I thought, ‘I’m done.’”

Hurst did take some time off running and then resumed with a couple easy three- to five-mile runs during the week and 12-mile runs on the weekend, fitting those in around her first love, basketball. She was a stand-out player at both Granite High and Snow College and as a 5-foot-6 guard, settled into basketball practices for the teams she plays on in two leagues.

She also was on the coaching staff of Hillcrest High School’s cross country team last fall.

Fast forward to March 12, 2018 — about one month before the prestigious marathon on April 16. Hurst received an email saying she was one of the 10 Uber-sponsored runners who ran qualifying times and weren’t able to get in the marathon. 

“It was crazy. I honestly wrote them back and asked, ‘Is this a joke?’ There are so many scams. I even Googled the official to make sure he was tied to it. I was told, ‘It’s for real.’ Then, I was beyond excited knowing I achieved my dream,” she said.

Hurst, who had coached Hillcrest as head basketball and junior varsity coach for six seasons and now is on the coaching staff of the school’s unified soccer team, took the realistic approach and hoped her basketball and recreational running would provide the endurance she needed to carry her through the race.

“I hadn’t been training for the marathon so I didn’t stress much. I didn’t do more to prepare. I just thought that I worked hard to get here so, ‘let’s just do it,’” she said. “Up until the month before, I had never been east of Wyoming, so it was all going to be a new experience.”

With wisdom from other Canyons District Boston Marathon alumni as well as friends and fellow coaches to “soak it up” and “enjoy the minute,” Hurst thought she was prepared.

But she, like the others, had to be prepared for the foul weather. She had a pair of running shoes to warm up and wait around in before the third wave of runners started. The shoes got soaked and heavy from the downpour and mud outside of Hopkinton (Mass.) High School, where runners hung out by the pre-race canopy.

“I wore the ones around the athlete village and they were just weighed down with mud,” she said, saying she changed to a second pair before her race. “I started running with a poncho and after seven or eight miles, I shed that. I never did shed the three lightweight coats I had on.”

Shoes and clothing at the start and along the race were gathered by the 9,500 volunteers, who lined the course, Hurst said, and then donated to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters in the area. She said that even in the rain and cold, spectators lined up the entire course to cheer on the runners. 

As the runners followed the course that passed through eight towns to wind to the finish line, Hurst said she didn’t take much notice.

“I caught glimpses of the names, but I was just trying to get through the race. It was just miserable. I do not like being cold and I was cold and wet for more than four hours. I was hoping it would let up, but it continued to beat down,” she said.

According to letsrun.com, the 122nd Boston Marathon had a 50 percent greater dropout rate than last year. This year 1,220 runners, of the 27,042 who started race, did not finish.

“I struggled. I asked, ‘Why do this?’ But I never went there and thought to quit. I knew the worst I’d do was to walk, which I did by the water stations for 30 seconds so I could stop and stretch my hamstring. I knew I would finish,” she said.

Not only did runners have to deal with blisters and chaffing because of the rain, but Hurst said there were athletes being treated for hypothermia. Letsrun.com reported 91 runners went to the hospital.

As Hurst crossed the finish in four hours four minutes, she raised her hands over her head, knowing she endured a grueling race.

“I found my parents and my younger sister and changed into a set of dry clothes. I was one of those 26,000 runners who suffered in the rain and cold. It’s almost a cooler achievement to say I did that while running the Boston Marathon. It definitely wasn’t fun until it was over,” she said.

Hurst also admits that after the race, she had enough.

“I wasn’t about to walk the two miles to where the car was parked,” she said, adding that the family splurged for an Uber ride for the marathoner. “We went to the hotel where I took the hottest shower I’ve ever taken in my life.”

When Hurst returned to Hillcrest, she proudly hung her medal and race bib in her school office.

Her basketball teammate, Whitney Lott, who coaches the sophomore girls basketball team at Hillcrest, said Hurst “is a machine. She just doesn’t stop. Her dedication to running and fitness has been relentless for as long as I’ve known her. She likes doing hard things, and she involves others in her passion, which is inspiring.” 

Hurst has no races on her docket to train for right now, but when she does race, it may be a half-marathon.

“I enjoy those more,” she said, adding that Boston may have been her last 26.2-mile race. 

“At first, I didn’t succeed. I failed to meet the qualifying time. But I worked hard and went after the goal,” she said, adding that she’d want students to know: “You can do a lot if you set your mind and work toward that goal.”
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