Runners from Kirksville visit the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the eve of the race. Pictured, from left, Royce Kallerud, Robert Keough, Paul Yoder and Sonya Clark.
With more than a dozen marathons between them, faculty members Royce Kallerud and Paul Yoder are no strangers to the exuberance of crossing the finish line after months of hard work and preparation, but completing the 118th Boston Marathon was nothing like their previous competitions.
Kallerud, chair of the Department of English and Linguistics, and Yoder, associate professor of education, were among a small contingent from Kirksville that competed in the world’s oldest marathon, April 21. For a race already steeped in tradition, this year’s event took on even greater significance, as it was the first marathon since the bombing that claimed three lives and injured more than 250 people.
“After the bombing last year it became, for me anyway, a statement that we are stronger than terrorism,” Yoder said. “I felt that qualifying and running in the Boston Marathon was my way of declaring that we are all stronger than those who try to beat us down—whether that is with words or bombs.”
Kallerud started to realize there was something special about the event before he even left Missouri.
“Almost everyone on the plane from St. Louis to Boston was wearing a Boston Marathon shirt or jacket, and then in Boston, there were more than a million spectators cheering on the runners,” he said. “Running the race was like running through a 26.2 mile-long stadium filled with rabid fans.”
The Boston Marathon was something Kallerud and Yoder each wanted to do, even before last year’s bombing. Both men entered the sport within the last five years, starting with 5K runs in Kirksville. In that time, Yoder has gone on to compete in nearly 10 marathons, while Kallerud, who turned in the faster time—3:02:38 to Yoder’s 3:39:23—has competed in four.
“My goal was to enjoy the absolutely fabulous day, the crowds, the atmosphere and the fact that getting to the race was my goal,” Yoder said. “I wanted to enjoy every second I was on the course. So while the time wasn’t my best, the experience was a personal record beyond words.”
In addition to years of tradition, the Boston Marathon is also known for its fun atmosphere. It is not unusual to see participants stopping to join the crowd for a beer or doughnut, and spectators have various ways of showing their support along the route. Yoder received a good luck bracelet from a young girl, and even stopped to participate in the Macarena with about 20 spectators to a blaring chorus of Boston’s unofficial anthem, “Sweet Caroline.” Kallerud made personal use of the supportive crowd. At the starting line he recruited a fellow runner to write his name on his arm with a Sharpie, which led to spectators cheering him on by name as he made his was through the course.
While both men had successful runs, two of their more memorable moments came in times surrounding the marathon.
“Going to the finish line with the other runners from Kirksville the night before the race really put the event in perspective and made me feel fortunate to be running this year,” Kallerud said.
For Yoder, a highlight was the train ride back to his hotel. The only runner in his car, he received a high-five from all the other passengers. As the train neared his stop, an elderly woman approached and gave him a hug, her voice cracking as she said, “Thank you for running for our city.”