iRun because I cannot say no to a second slice of chocolate cakeEmily Shandruk , Vancouver, BC

iRun to stay fit and release those running endorphinsLiliana Plava , Calgary, AB

iRun because I want to qualify for Boston and raise money for charities near and dear to my heartChristine Gracel , Calgary, AB

iRun because it makes me feel good, allows me to spend time with my friends and gives me a feeling of accomplishmentHelen Kolodziejzyk , Calgary, AB

iRun but not enoughMichael Shaw , New Westminister, BC

iRun because I never thought I would be able toGary Morris , Winnipeg, MB

iRun to challenge myself, physically and mentallyKathleen Keenan , Brampton, ON

iRun because people around me inspire mePina Bevilacqua , Caledon, ON

iRun therefore I amDuncan Walsh , Nottingham, UK

iRun because I liveGeorges Schneller , Laval, QC

iRun to be free and enjoy our beautiful countryCheryl Carter , Clearwater , BC

iRun for overall wellbeingTrish McCourt , Halifax, NS

iRun because it makes me a better person, a better wife, a better mother and a better friendNathalie Joncas-Caissie , St-Antoine, NB

iRun because it makes me feel powerfulCarlene Paquette , Carp, ON

iRun because pecan pie, french fries and beer are chasing meTeresa Sterling , Ottawa , ON

iRun because it’s in meMichael Foley , Stittsville, ON

iRun because it reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I have doneJames Sauve , Ottawa, ON

iRun for meKiza Francis , Ottawa,ON

iRun to prove to myself I canLesley McGougan , Brampton, ON

iRun because all the ladies are chasing my sexy runner’s bodyChris Baker , Etobicoke, ON

iRun because I can and I’m gratefulTerry SanCartier , Gatineau, QC

iRun because when I run I feel most aliveMeghan Lynch , Ottawa, ON

iRun to unleash my inner athleteAdelle Densham , Avonmore, ON

iRun because it cleans up my life, because I drink more water, sleep better and eat healthier foodsRobin McIntyre , Ottawa, ON

iRun because of the peace and strength it brings meMichelle Jordan , Ottawa, ON

iRun because I need it to soothe the soul, keep me in shape and for overall wellbeingBeth Neil , Lombardy, ON

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sonsKeith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are freeCassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn’t Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it’s cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly!Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brainMarie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every kmSteph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

iRun and run, and run, and run, and nobody can stop me Andrei Lucaciu , Ontario

iRun because the wall is meant to be broken Jonathan Bird , Ontario

iRun because it has saved my life John Marshall , Alberta

iRun for the challenge to go faster and farther Steven Matejka , Alberta

iRun to my happy place and some days it’s very Doreen May , Alberta

iRun because food tastes better afterwards Patrick Houston , Alberta

iRun because I can’t dance Mario Javier , Ontario

iRun so I don’t say never ever again Linda Klaric , Manitoba

iRun because it makes me whole Denis Ladouceur , Quebec

iRun because it gets my husband out there Tricia LaLonde , Alberta

iRun away from the negative and towards the positive Teri Lepard , Alberta

iRun because running is like breathing to Stephanie McEvoy , Ontario

iRun because I love the solitude Janene Tailleur , British Columbia

iRun for the moment when both feet are off the ground Catherine Anderson , British Columbia

iRun to someday win the race Lindy Dunlop , Yukon

iRun to stay ahead of the weight gainMyra Abstreiter , Alberta

iRun because otherwise I’m grumpy Alexandre Charest , Quebec

iRun because I get foot rubs afterward Kate Howerton , British Columbia

iRun because iLoves my man Beverly Huang , Alberta

iRun because not everyone can Olivia Harvey , New Brunswick

iRun to get to know myself, my strength and my spirit Lisa Groulx , Ontario

iRun whenever I feel the need to escape Iona Hillis , Ontario

iRun because it’s like flying, only lower Glenn Johnson , Ontario

iRun because it makes me feel powerful Sarah Kallaghan , Alberta

iRun because I’ve lost 80 lbs and running has become fun Cheryl Kelly , Ontario

iRun because there is no finish line Claire Kilgour , Ontario

iRun so my daughters know that they can, too Shelley Kirkpatrick , New Brunswick

iRun because it reminds me of how strong I can be Monique Lavoie , Ontario

iRun because it’s a great way to see the world Sherry Mahoney , British Columbia

iRun because my heart tells me to William Martin , Manitoba

iRun to prove to them that iCan Catherine Smith , Manitoba

iRun because it’s fun when it’s done Sue Matte , Ontario

iRun because I am not as clumsy I thought I was Hanna Baer , Quebec

iRun see where my feet will take me todayMegan Dolinskas , New York

iRun for the cool t-shirts! Pina Bevilacqua , Ontario

iRun because I want to be a role model for our six kids Catherine Empey , British Columbia

iRun to inspire my kids to tryGlen Johnston , Nunavut

iRun so I can eat ice cream Sandy Bolan , Ontario

iRun because I want to live to be 100! Colette DeJean , Ontario

iRun for health, i Run for life Pat Cheung , British Columbia

iRun because it gives my day a boost of energy Sara Campbell , Nova Scotia

iRun because it’s better than almost everything else Nathan Carey , Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn’t Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it's better than almost everything else Nathan Carey , Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn't Peter Cicalo , Ontario

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou , British Columbia

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sons Keith Bradbury , Newfoundland

iRun because endorphins are free Cassandra Chouinard , Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn't Heidi Abbey-Der , Saskatchewan

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew , Ontario

iRun because it's cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter , Alberta

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie , Ontario

iRun slowly! Jason Hoffman , Manitoba

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brain Marie-Claude Gregoire , Nova Scotia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every km Steph Mansell , Quebec

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe , British Columbia

iRun for my heart, so it runs for me! Cathy Brzoza , British Columbia

iRun to inspire my children! Wendy Bowen , Manitoba

iRun because it sure beats the bus Robin Robbins , Alberta

iRun for the challenge and to remember to fully live Pascale Synnott , Québec

iRun to kickstart my day Sharon Strueby , Saskatchewan

iRun for me! Judi Wearing , Saskatchewan

iRun because it's a great stress release Brooke McKenzie , Yukon

iRun because i love to Mirella Petriello , Ontario

iRun because it helps me see things more clearly Jennifer Pitts , Ontario

iRun to eat Maureen Tritscher , Alberta

iRun to correct years of sedentary living! Mike Scott , Ontario

iRun away from the abyss Charlene Thomas , Ontario

iRun all the livelong day Pierre Saint-Laurent , Québec

iRun to challenge my perceived limitations Cassandra Williams , Ontario

iRun to maintain a strong physical and mental state Tammy Rainville , Ontario

iRun so that I can live longer and stronger Derek MacPhail , Ontario

iRun to feel great Kathryn Rachar , Saskatchewan

iRun because I like to be healthy Melanie Oickle , New Brunswick

iRun to eat more, especially sweet potatoe fries Joanna Skomra , Ontario

iRun for the fresh air and adrenalin Charlyn McGregor , Saskatchewan

iRun for the individual pursuit Robert Pelletier , New Brunswick

iRun to satisfy the irresistible urge Tim Nixon , British Columbia

iRun because I love the sense of accomplishment Amber Moase , Nova Scotia

iRun to challenge my mind, body and soul Sonia Mendes , Ontario

iRun because walking is too slow Barry Knapp , Ontario

Obsessive Runner - Andrew Chak

Re-qualifying Success at the Boston Marathon


Boston Marathon - Medal - 474 - cropped

The goal was simple: to re-qualify. With the blessing of entering a new age category, I had an additional 10-minute buffer to honour this great race and to prove that I belonged in it. Getting to the Boston Marathon marked the end of a long journey and I was determined to cap it all off by taming the course to my goals.

As my wife and I arrived into Boston for the marathon weekend, the city had been unmistakably transformed into a running mecca. Welcome posters lined the airport luggage carousels, running advertisements blanketed entire transit stations, and marathon banners were draped over city lamp posts.

And then there were the jackets.

To the uninitiated, Boston looked like it was hosting a convention of people wearing unusually gaudy athletic jackets. To the marathoners, the distinct colours of each year’s Boston Marathon jacket represented the legacy of runners returning year after year. This wasn’t just a race – it was a homecoming.

The expo served as our first stop and we were welcomed with enthusiasm. Volunteers celebrated my “first Bawston” as they handed me my coveted bib. I stared at that bib with a bit of disbelief. Was it really mine? Was that my name on the packet? Did I really have to run another marathon in a couple of days? With a rhetorical “Yes” to myself, it was time to get ready to race.

The School Bus Field Trip

Boston Marathon - Hopkinton

Race day dawned and I was like an excited little kid getting ready for a field trip as I boarded a school bus to the Hopkinton start line. Instant connections were made with runners from all over the world as we shared qualifying stories and lamented the anticipated heat of the day. I tried my best to conserve my energy, but the excitement in the air was contagious.

As we arrived into the tented area of the Athlete’s Village, there was finally a sense of calm. It was two hours before race start and it was time for a final bagel, banana and porta potty visit. As I was about to leave the village for the start corrals, there was a burst of excitement as I stumbled into a couple of familiar faces.

Sherab and Ray are a couple of runners from the Toronto area that I met through social media. Whether I bump into them in real life or see their training postings online, I have been inspired by their training regimen and constant cheers.

Seeing them reminded me of the smorgasbord of support that I had received to get me here: from the cheering poster that my wife and kids made, to those who pushed me on speed workouts and pulled me through long runs, to the many, many generous words of encouragement posted to my social media profiles. Little did I know how important theses moments of support would be for me to run this race.

Beckoned to Start

Boston Marathon - Hopkinton - Lawn

The race marshal beckoned so it was time to head towards the start corral. Hopkinton’s small town charm was displayed via the landlocked locals who choose to sit out on their lawns to cheer us on. It was a beautiful sunny day for spectating but it was nervously warm for running. With a shot from starter’s gun, it was go time.

Given the Boston Marathon’s course profile, my race strategy was to take advantage of the downhill first half and run it 1-2 minutes faster than the hilly second half. The first 5K went as expected with a slightly fast start due to a big elevation drop in the first mile. The sun was shining, the crowds were out, and people were cheering my homemade nametag – life was good.

0-5K / 22:53 / 04:35 min/K

The Boston Marathon course takes runners through a tour of several small towns with the volume of spectators building to a crescendo in the city. Stretches of quiet would be overtaken by cheers as we entered each local area. The course itself required constant attention in navigating efficiently through the many rolling hills, twists and turns but my pace kept on point.

5-10K / 23:22 / 04:40 min/K

The next 5K were relatively flat and I eased off on the pace. The sunshine complimented the beaming support received from the heartfelt crowds. As a world-class race, the Boston Marathon offers hydration stations at every mile. However, as a world-class spectacle, the Boston Marathon locals offered up everything from orange wedges, to freezies, to cold-water soaked paper towels, to beer. It was the richest buffet of support that I had ever seen at any race.

10-15K / 24:10 / 04:50 min/K

We were now headed into Natick and the race started to have more of a big-town feel. Rows upon rows of spectators greeted us and outstretched hands of little future runners were happy to give us all a high-five. One of the most memorable sections featured a series of individual trampolines with kids bouncing up and down to motivate us on. Spurred by these pleasant distractions, I was able to keep my pace dialed in and I looked forward to crossing the half-marathon mark.

15-20K / 24:06 / 04:49 min/K

Passing the halfway point was an important milestone as it meant that I could start counting down the kilometers to go. My calves were thankfully cooperating as there were no signs of them cramping despite my left soleus being quite knotted only a few weeks prior. My half-marathon split, however, was a minute slower than I would have liked, but I rationalized to myself that I was saving it for the hills of the second half.

21.1K / 1:39:47

Boston Marathon - Scream Tunnel

Although I anticipated what the next section was going to be, it still hit me as a complete surprise. I was in a quiet section of the course, but I could hear a distinct, high-pitched roar from a kilometer away. These were the screams of thousands of women forming the Wellesley College Scream Tunnel and it was the most fun I’ve ever had while being yelled at. Despite the cheers, my pace was starting to falter but I wasn’t sure if it was from fatigue or from just wanting to linger on in this magical tunnel.

20-25K / 24:27 / 04:53 min/K

A marathon is 26.2 miles but at this point in the race I had wished that it were 26.2 kilometers. The downhill portion of the race was over and it was time to start climbing through the Newton hills. As soon as I began climbing, my quads sent me an unnerving message: it was over. The combination of the heat, downhill, and a lack of training volume caused my quads to cramp up in ways I had never felt before. Although the pursuit of a goal time ended here, this was where the race would truly begin.

25-30K / 27:05 / 05:25 min/K

The next few kilometres were erratic. I don’t remember much except that it was hilly. My legs felt like glue was being poured into them and I had to keep them moving to avoid becoming permanently stuck. The heat was getting to me but I was thankfully distracted through the pursuit of different flavoured freezies as generously provided by the locals. My pace slowed to a crawl as I climbed Heartbreak Hill but the most emphatic cheers of the crowd helped to power me through.

30-35K / 31:58 / 06:25 min/K

With the worst of the hills behind me, I gained some confidence to pick up the pace of my legs again. The students of Boston College provided the strongest support of the day as they would systematically cheer runners by name. My greatest anticipation, however, was in knowing that I would be seeing my wife, my brother and friends along the course soon. Seeing their friendly faces buoyed my spirits and caused me to run my fastest splits in this latter part of the race. With their well wishes behind me, it was time to get to the finish.

35-40K / 28:32 / 05:42 min/K

Boston Marathon - Shuffling

The momentum of friendly faces, however, was only a temporary reprieve. My legs yielded to depletion and I was reduced to a murmur of a shuffle. Every step was a concentrated effort of defying the urge to stop. As I turned onto Hereford St., I was overwhelmed at the thousands of faces cheering for all the runners – cheering for me.

My body desperately wanted to shut down but I imagined each of those anonymous faces as representing every person who has supported me along the way to get to this race – to get to this finish. I could feel the goodwill of family, friends and my many running supporters tracking me online and I could hear their voices through the sea of spectators.

As I turned left on Boylston St., the finish line came into sight. The grandstands overflowed with encouragement for runners to give it one final push. My shuffle persisted and I barely resembled the runner that started this race. My initial goal of running a re-qualifying time was necessarily changed to celebrating the success of simply getting here. Success was already realized a year and a half prior when I ran my most perfect marathon to qualify, and today, success would be realized by crossing a finish line and becoming a Boston Marathoner.

42.2K / 3:41:35

Boston Marathon - After

For those of you who have journeyed with me to this point, please accept my sincere thanks. You are the ones who have cheered, paced, liked, and commented to keep this runner going to achieve what was once a dream. You are the ones who have re-qualified success for me and I hope that someday, somehow, that I can return the favour.

With thanks,


Browse all articles from Obsessive Runner

Follow Andrew on Twitter: @andrewchak on Instagram: @andrewchak



May 15th, 2016


5 Responses to “Re-qualifying Success at the Boston Marathon”
  1. Krista Hicks Says:

    Great job Andrew and very well said!
    You might have caused me to tear up when you mentioned seeing your lovely wife and family when running was becoming tough for you! Really proud of you!

  2. Charlotte Flewelling Says:

    You inspire us as much as we inspire you. It’s the give & take that makes running a wicked sport.

  3. Alice Says:

    Congratulations Andrew!! Your hard work and dedication to the sport is most inspiring. I always look forward to your posts especially on those days where I just don’t want to move. Keep it up!

  4. Colleen Berry Says:

    Great Job! Now you are familiar with the course. Return and conquer (them there hills) again and again. Each year is a new experience.

  5. Jennifer Bartos Says:

    Congrats Andrew! This was a great recount of your day! loved it! You inspire always! Cheers! Love that you included your family and so great to hear about your experience! Thank you for this!

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