University sophomore runs Boston Marathon

By Adam Terese

A University student was among the thousands of runners who gave their all Monday for the Boston Athletic Association’s 2005 Boston Marathon.

According to the official Boston Marathon Web site, runners from all over the world participated in the marathon. 10,894 of the 11,342 who participated in the men’s race finished the race. Johnathon O’Hagan, sophomore in LAS, was one of the 4,012 people in his age group to finish the 26.2-mile standard marathon length race, completing the course in three hours and 35 minutes.

“Running gives me a release from everything and gives me space,” O’Hagan said.

A runner since his sophomore year in high school, O’Hagan wasn’t thinking about the Boston Marathon when he ran in the Chicago Marathon, a qualifier for the race in Boston. O’Hagan set a goal of finishing under three hours. He ended up finishing in three hours and seven minutes-longer than his personal goal but three minutes faster than the minimum qualifying time for Boston of three hours and 10 minutes.

Katie Dau, sophomore in LAS and friend of O’Hagan, said his determination and constant practice make him a good runner for the marathon.

O’Hagan said many people were somewhat discouraging about his chances after he qualified for the Boston Marathon, but that a strong encouragement came with an e-mail from an old coach.

“I talked to my high school coach, and he told me I should go for it,” O’Hagan said. “He was one who really pushed me to do it.”

O’Hagan didn’t begin training for the marathon until after winter break. He said it was very difficult to train with two jobs, volunteer and schoolwork.

Carrie Kagawa, a sophomore in LAS who ran in the St. Louis Half-Marathon this year, said training for a marathon is demanding.

“Boston is like an ultimate challenge,” Kagawa said. “You have to really want to do it and in certain ways, prioritize your life around it.”

With no one else aiding in training, there was no other motivation than from himself, O’Hagan said. In order to keep himself running through the longer training runs, he said he remembered pretending there were fake runners competing with him.

O’Hagan said the actual race in Boston was quite different than what he expected.

“I remember the 40-minute bus ride from the finish line,” O’Hagan said. “It was intimidating. I remember thinking ‘How am I going to run this?”

He began in the front, taking in the entire overwhelming scene, he said.

“I was so excited. I just wanted to scream ‘Boston!'” O’Hagan said.

O’Hagan said the competitors around him made the actual race easier than training.

“The people around you (at the marathon) help make the long distances seem less,” O’Hagan said. “They seem to help make the long distance easier and less daunting.”

O’Hagan said he ran at a good pace until about halfway through the race, when he “hit that wall.” His body couldn’t take any more. Things got worse when he got to what he referred to as the “infamous Heartbreak Hill,” a steep incline between mile 20 and 21-about 6 miles from the end of the race. He said he was not as prepared as he could have been.

“I was told it was all downhill from there, but there were more hills after it,” O’Hagan said. “After you’re already dead, they throw another hill at you … I don’t remember that part of the race because I was in so much pain. It felt as though my legs were shredding apart.”

O’Hagan said his shortened training time and the many hills played a part in his decreased performance – he finished 28 minutes slower than his finish time in Chicago. He said the idea of not wanting to be a failure and the thought of not giving it all kept him going.

O’Hagan might have not reached his goal of improving his time from Chicago, but said that he was, in the end, happy about the experience.

“I was disappointed with my performance at first,” O’Hagan said. “But I just heard I was in the top 25 percent, so it’s pretty amazing … to be able to say you did Boston, it was just a big goal of mine. I had to get through it.”