Written and submitted by Justin Scholl – Boston Marathon Finisher
“I feel it’s important to document life’s experiences and journey, especially when you get to do something great and rare. I am a brewer for Samuel Adams. My company offers this great opportunity to be able to run in the Boston Marathon each year. Every year in October/November-ish you can place your name in a lottery to be selected to run the Boston Marathon. For the last 2 years I have put my name into the lottery. In 2016, I was like the 56th alternate and had no chance of running. So, in 2017 I signed up again and was chosen as the 5th alternate and was told there would be a chance of me being called up to race. The date that was given to me that I would know if I would run had come and gone. I thought to myself oh well no big deal I will apply next year. On February 2, 2018 I received an email stating that I was being called up and would in fact be running the Boston Marathon. The second I registered I quickly did the math in my head; “Holy sh#t this gives me 8 weeks to prepare for the most prestigious marathon in the world!”. I knew I had to make a change to better help my aerobic capacity as well as help recover quickly from runs; and I had Boost Oxygen to help with that. The shock, nerves and mental games automatically kicked in. At the same time as the, “I’m screwed” kicked in so did the positive thoughts of oh my God I’m going to race in the Boston Marathon and my wife and daughter will be there to experience it. I’m going to stop the story there for a moment and give some back-ground story.
My name is Justin Scholl, I have been married for 10 years and very soon it will be 11 years with hands down the most amazing woman on earth my wife Amanda. We have an 8-year-old daughter Rylie. Through out my life I have always been athletic and competitive. In the last 2 years I have gotten into the sport of OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) and I run a regional team called the Lehigh Valley Spartans. So, most of my training has been focused on OCR and pushing myself in that sport. Last year I qualified and attended the OCR World Championships in Canada. The team that I run is about 470 members and growing. My daughter has been in love with OCR since day one and has run over 12 races in the last 2 years. Racing is our thing; my wife wants nothing to do with racing. However, each race there she is cheering me on and giving me a kiss as soon as I cross the finish line and telling me how proud she is and how good I did. I have a huge support system for the crazy goals I set forth or the adventures I seek out to be apart of. I am a big family man when it comes to my wife and daughter and I want them to experience everything I get to do. This paragraph is important so you all understand what I have standing behind me. They always say that behind a strong man is a stronger woman and that hands down is my wife.
Now, that there is some back story lets get back to the marathon experience. I received the email I was called up and I registered to race. I was super pumped to be able to race in Boston and knew that I would take the training seriously. I had just received my brewing certification in Advanced Brewing Theory and my parents told me as a graduation gift they wanted to buy me new shoes to race the marathon in and train in. Off to the local running store Emmaus Run we went. I was fitted and chose a pair of Brooks shoes. They fit great, feel great and I love them. The excitement is building. Two days later I went to the one local gym that my OCR Team has a partnership with. We were holding an event in two weeks and was trying to visualize the course and set some stuff up. I set up a bunch of different sized box jump boxes. Jogged across them, after the last box when I came down my knee went to the left and the rest of my leg went to the right. I was on the ground crying in pain and in my mind, I saw all chances of racing in Boston just disappear. It hurt, and it hurt BAD, a few teammates came in after seeing it and were talking to me to see if I was ok. I told them yeah, I’m fine, it’s no big deal and continued working out on the rig since it requires no lower body strength. Inside I knew I wasn’t fine and was doing everything not to continue to cry. After about 15 minutes I told them I was going to leave. Turns out I suffered a Grade 1 LCL sprain to my Left knee and I could barley walk with out a limp or supporting my body weight with my arms by holding on to something, anything. When I am injured I always just try to put on a show and say its not that bad to my family in friends. I would never let anyone know just how much it hurts or how scared I was. In this instance it hurt extremely bad and I truly was not OK. I was told that I was looking at 3 weeks to recover with no running no working out nothing. Again, I did the math in my mind and well shit this gives me now 5 weeks to prepare for the biggest marathon. I slowly started testing the knee out. On the day of three weeks after the injury I went for a run. Nothing crazy a simple 4 mile run and was able to average a 7:34 pace. The knee felt great and I felt great. After my injury started healing up, I would use Boost after every run to start the recovery quicker and help recover faster. I knew that having maximum oxygen in my system would allow me to run more often and help me build my mileage. With the short amount of training time I had, building mileage was essential.
After the 4 miles and feeling good, I knew it was time to start to prepare for this race as much as I possibly could. First and foremost, I want to explain, I am not a marathon runner, I have never run a marathon before or even a half marathon before. I am an OCR athlete and while I have competed in 17-mile races before it’s not a constant running event. I am an OCR athlete, so I knew I had to get back to the trails to keep training but also feel in my place. Even though I was training for a marathon I couldn’t let my OCR training suffer. SO, I called a buddy and we did a 4.5-mile trail run. The next day myself and a teammate went back to the same place and did a 9-mile trail run. I knew this was pushing it, however I didn’t care I wanted to see what I could handle how quickly. I knew that with 5 weeks to prepare for a marathon I would be screwed anyways, so what the hell right. There is one motto I have lived my life by since I was 17. That motto is simply this, “Go big or go home” if you’re going to do something do it to the best of your ability or just give up. Anything I do I put my personal best into. Am I a professional athlete? Simple answer Hell No, I am simply a competitive guy who wants to compete at the level that I can do well at. After those 2 back to back runs, I still felt great. After feeling well, I knew that I could start pushing the mileage. I started doing 10 miles then 13.1 miles. I knew in my mind that if I could do a half marathon without stopping holding a 10-minute mile pace for 13 miles that I would be ok and would be able to finish the marathon. With the short notice I received and the injury I sustained my goals changed from a time limit to finishing the marathon without destroying my knee or legs for the upcoming OCR season. My first race of the season is a 15-mile Spartan Beast in NJ 13 day after Boston in which I am running competitively. Again, I am not a marathon runner I am an OCR athlete.
I ran the half marathon and completed it in 2:10 minutes and was either plus or minus 7 seconds off a 10-minute mile pace. Once the run was over my hip flexors were tight, but the knee felt great. Throughout my athletic career I have always had hip flexor issues and just muster through the pain. It’s normal for me and I am used to it. My half marathon run was 3 weeks to the date from the start of the Boston Marathon. I know what many of you are thinking! You sir are crazy and that’s not how to train. You are correct, and I agree with you, however I didn’t have a choice and I had to get mileage up quickly while being able to recover. In my training plan I have one larger run coming up which will be on April 6th, I will do 16 or 17 miles and allow myself 10 days of recovery with some shorts runs in there to ramp down prior to the race. Knowing myself and my body I know I will have no issues completing this race as that’s the goal and under 5 hours. Yeah, I know 5 hours isn’t the best time for a marathon however with having 5 weeks to train and recovering from a knee injury I think that’s somewhat respectable. As I am writing this it is March 24, 2018 and I am sitting in my kitchen just typing and reflecting. The remainder of this journey will be written after the marathon. I guess wish me luck, its going to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and well shit let’s be honest life isn’t about waking up and going to bed every day, life is about the experiences you make and the memories you make and being able to enjoy life. That what I intend on doing with the Boston Marathon. Take it all, enjoy the race and enjoy my family. Hopefully the rest of story goes the way I want it to lol.
Today is April 12th, 2018 and each day within the last week the weather has gotten worse and worse. It is looking like the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon is going to have some shitty weather. Within the last 7 days the weather has gone downhill more and more each day. Currently as I look at my phone we are looking at 56 degrees, rainfall around and inch and winds coming from the ESE at 20-30 mph. Yes, everyone that is a head wind. The weather looks to be like an amazing day. I have a very good feeling that this story is going to get much more exciting in the next 96 hours. My wife and daughter have received their VIP tickets to the Finish Line Grandstands and picked up their raincoats. The three of us are preparing as much as possible. Saturday we are taking our Boxer puppy Simcoe down to my wife’s parents house and we will be Boston bound Sunday at 2am. I will try and write some more of this journey each day that we are in Boston. Once the races is completed and we are back home I will finish the story of the actual race.
Well the marathon and my journey is over so let me go back through everything I was able to experience along this trip. We got to Boston early Sunday morning and went right to bib pick up and the expo. On the train ride into the city the winds had picked up and it started raining, freezing rain and snowing. I should have known at this point that it was going to be bad. I just didn’t know how bad. Bib pickup for the marathon was hands down the easiest bib pick up and shirt pick up that I have ever been apart of. Every race company in OCR and just in general should talk to the B.A.A. and take some damn good notes. It literally took me 3 minutes to get my bib and shirt. We hit the expo for a bit as I had to stop by some stands and talk to some folks for reviews I am doing and just some normal face to face stuff. We left walked around the city had some dinner and went to bed nice and early. Before bed, I got all my gear out, foam rolled, hit up some Boost Oxygen and just relaxed in the hotel.
RACE DAY – Alarm was set for 5:00am and bus to the subway left at 6:30. I got taped up with Rock Tape and all dressed. Hit some Boost again as it would be the last time I could use it prior to the race. Grabbed the subway and went into Back Bay Boston. As I came out of the subway I heard this horrible sound and my mind put 2 and 2 together. Yup it was the damn rain. I had a three-block walk to gear check and my feet were soaked. Not a great feeling physically or mentally. I quickly popped into a breakfast shop and grabbed some breakfast after checking my post-race gear. Hung out with some other athletes in my wave and then made the walk to the buses. Got on the bus to Hopkinton and we started the hour journey. I had a woman from Chicago next to me and we talked the whole time. We talked about our families and races and it was a good thing to help calm the jitters. We pulled up to the drop off area at the Athlete’s Village. Once the bus doors opened and we were told to get off. That moment of shit just got real hit, and it hit hard. I walked to the tents and changed into my race shoes and fresh socks. Having warm and dry feet felt amazing! Hanging out in the tent with all the athletes was that bad due to the body heat. Over the PA system I heard all yellow bib jerseys can make their way to the start line and corrals. I left the tent ad about 30 seconds after that my feet were completely soaked and I started to think to myself, this is the dumbest thing I have ever done.
The 0.7 mile walk to the corrals was littered with clothing as athletes were shedding gear as we got closer and closer to the start line. I was wearing Brooks shoes, Balega socks, 2XU compression pants, North Face hat, SA Company face shield, Under Armour long sleeve compression shirt, Legendborne Jersey, Rain coat and some gloves. We finally entered the corral area and we were told due to the weather they would not beholding anyone, and we could just head to the start line and begin our journey back to Boston. This was an amazing thing to hear as I was 15 minutes ahead of schedule, so I would have been just standing there in the pouring rain for 15 minutes. I walked to the Start line and once I say it I started my race. Now given my circumstances I had a goal of 5 hours. That may not sound like much to some of you, however training for a marathon in 5 weeks I think that’s respectable.
The first marker came, and it was 1k, then Mile 1. When I race I do all kind of mathematics in my mind as to where I am on the course and what is left and that started to countdown already. The rain had come hard and the winds were straight in your face. I’m not going to lie it was miserable. I thought to myself, why the hell did I sign up for this shit? One thing I will say about the entire race was unless you run it, you will never truly understand the atmosphere that the spectators put out there. Folks lined up offering, oranges, Swedish fish, pretzels, water, twizzlers and beer. Yes beer, there was a ton of beer offered on the course. Mile 1-6 for me was rough as it takes me a few miles to get going and the weather didn’t help. At mile 4 I experienced the greatest part of the race. I came up on a blind runner and her guide. As I passed her I told her she was doing great and to keep going. A woman passed her on the toher side and said, you are an inspiration for running the Boston Marathon.” The blind woman replied, “The Boston Marathon what the hell are you talking about? I left my living room 5 minutes ago.” Was great to see how people were making the best of the situation and that this woman truly had a sense of humor. Along the entire course as we passed military and police all you heard were thank you and we love you guys. The atmosphere on the course is something that unless you run it, you just won’t understand. I am truly grateful to be able to understand what every runner will experience and go through. Mile 7-9 felt warm and the rain had subsided, and it truly felt like perfect race conditions. I hit my zone in those miles and had a great feeling about the race.
As I was passing medical tents I saw them packed and people waiting outside, and I knew the medical threat was real and no joke. I could feel myself getting colder and wetter. I hit the half way mark and was on pace to finish better than I thought. I hit the infamous scream tunnel and that is just insane. At this point it was POURING and there were still easily 1,000 girls out there screaming, cheering, high fiving and kissing runners as they went by. There are times in this race where the mental aspect creeps up on you and hearing all the cheers helps to push you through. As we passed Kilometer marks and Mile marks, I was amazed to see how many people where handing stuff out to runners. Cowbells galore and folks just yelling and screaming while partying and enjoying the day. I hit mile 16 and this was the farthest I ran in my training. From mile 16-20 I hit the wall mentally and honestly had thoughts of pulling out. I knew I had so many people tracking me and gave me words of encouragement that if I pulled out I knew I would have let them down. I pushed through and kept going. I kept telling myself I came this far I can’t stop and I must finish this race. At this point in my mind I thought I was losing pace and behind schedule as so many of the timing clocks weren’t working due to the weather.
I hit heartbreak hill and told myself I am losing the rain coat and sweatshirt as they were completely soaked. I know my body and I knew I wouldn’t get hypothermia in the last 6 miles. As I crested Heartbreak Hill I removed my bib which took about 5 minutes as my hands just wouldn’t work due to the cold. I got rid of my raincoat and sweatshirt and was down to my racing jersey. Just one problem, I physically couldn’t get my bib back on. I stopped and asked some spectators to help me. They obliged and ended up finding out they had ties to my hometown. The one guy asked if I wanted a beer. Being a brewer, my life revolves around beer. I remember saying hell yes!!! They handed me a beer and got my bib back on me. Once I finished the beer I took off and felt amazing. Legs felt great, so I picked up the pace knowing it was only a simple 10k to the finish. Literally about 1 minute after getting rid of the raincoat and sweatshirt the downpours hit and hit like crazy. I’m a small guy and the wind was blowing me around the rain was pelting me in the face, I couldn’t see cause my glasses were soaked. My pointer fingers had become human windshield wipers. I knew I just had to keep going and pick up the pace. I picked up the pace until around mile 24. That’s when things started to hurt and lock up on me. I knew I had to keep going. One of the guys I work with caught me and talked with me and told me to let’s move man. I told him to just go as I would be fine and finish. The rains came, and they came hard from that point to the finish. It was like trying to run in monsoon. With all the buildings in Boston the winds were horrible and right in your face pounding you nonstop. Just ahead was the Mile 25 sign and I looked up and saw the Citgo sign!!!! I yelled out that the lord. Well to keep it clean that’s what I said. We turned right onto Hereford St and up a small hill. The road was completely covered in people’s rain coats and clothes. When I say covered I mean you couldn’t see the street. Then the infamous left onto Bolyston street happened. I could see the finish and I could hear the crowd. Never in my entire athletic career did I ever see that many people cheering and screaming for every athlete. The atmosphere was simply electric. There is no way any person on that course didn’t feel it. As I approached the grandstands I started to look as my wife and daughter had VIP seats and I knew they were there. I wanted to find them and see them. There it was, the finish line. I crossed it hands pointing up. I just finished the damn Boston Marathon. As I crossed the finish line, 30 feet away, were my wife and my daughter. I remember hearing my wife say “Rylie there’s dad!”
My wife and daughter support me in everything I do when it comes to racing. My daughter races OCR and my wife is always there. I have this tradition that as soon as I cross the finish line I give them both a hug and kiss. 20 feet after crossing the finish line, there they were. I ran over to them and gave them both a hug and kiss. Everything was ok now, or so I thought. As I walked to get everything and head to the family meeting area, my legs started to lock up, feet hurt, hips were bad, and I started shaking from the cold. That 3-block walk was almost as bad as the entire race. As I grabbed my bag from gear check I looked at the line to change and it was around 150 people deep. I made the decision to say screw it and just go find my family. I mean I have already been wet and cold since 7:30am what’s another hour. I found my wife and daughter and we headed to the subway. Took the 40 min subway ride to the hotel. Once I got into the warm shower I didn’t want to leave. From what I heard on the course and online, many folks are saying that the 2018 Boston Marathon will go down as one of the worst if not the worst condition wise.
Overall, this was one of the worst most amazing experiences of my life. I conquered the race and beat my goal by 42 minutes. I had little to no time to train and was injured with in that time. The entire journey has been amazing experience. You always hear the stories about the race, the traditions, the fun, the heartbreak, the agony and the joy. I have also heard that unless you have run the race you truly won’t understand exactly what folks mean. I now can relate and understand just exactly what they mean, I also agree that until you run the race you truly won’t understand. I accomplished something that is historical, amazing and something so many people want to be a part of. I live my life by one motto, it may be cheesy to some but it’s what I go by. It’s simply this, “Go Big or Go Home.” I always try to go big, I sign up for things and then think about them. When I was given the opportunity to sign up for the Boston Marathon I thought, sure why not. What’s the worst that can happen. This is an experience and memories that will last my entire life and then some. I know it’s something my daughter will remember as well. Regardless of how bad the weather was, this is something that I am truly glad to have been apart of. Now that the marathon is over it’s time to start my race season.
If you ever get the opportunity to do something great and amazing, jump at the chance!!!!”
Justin founded and formed the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) group Lehigh Valley Spartans. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram: @LehighValleySpartans or click on the logo to visit the website: