At 6:28 a.m. on a recent Thursday morning Pete Heyboer pulled his Subaru into a parking lot near the helipad at Logan Health where he works as a physician.
“You know, I think I’m going to risk it and leave the headlamp behind,” Heyboer said as he laced up his running shoes and zipped up his jacket against the freezing April morning.
Pete set off with two companions in the dim pre-dawn, moving swiftly along his standard loop: from Logan Health toward Flathead Valley Community College, along the bike path to Reserve Drive, across to Whitefish Stage Road, down the switchbacks into Lawrence Park and back. A precise seven miles run in a brisk 50 minutes, a shade over seven-minute pace.
“You know I think this is the first morning run I’ve done without the headlamp,” Pete commented during the run. That Thursday was the first time the sun peaked over the mountains by 7 a.m. in months.
Pete’s morning regimen was part of a winter-long training block leading up to the Boston Marathon, the oldest continually held marathon in the world, which will take place on Monday, April 18. It will be his second time running the prestigious event, and his 12th marathon overall.
“Oh-dark-thirty runs kind of come with the territory,” Pete said. “It’s not always perfect. Sometimes I get behind on writing charts or something and sometimes I do need to dial back on running to focus on work and family.”
“Between having a little injury and so much going on this winter, it’s not going to be my best race ever, but I’m just excited to be there in the home of marathoning and experiencing the atmosphere again,” Pete added.
In between his work at the hospital, getting his kids to school and to soccer practices, ski outings and feeding the dog, Pete has managed to hit the mileage he needs to get ready for his 26.2-mile journey, about 45 miles on a good week.
Pete’s biggest asset in balancing training with the rest of life is his wife, Jenny, who will also be running next week – her 14th marathon but first Boston.
“We do the best we can to respect each other’s running time and both being runners, we appreciate how important it is,” Pete said. “If one of us says ‘I really need to go for a run today’ the response is just ‘OK, I’ve got the kids, go for it.’ We understand how important it is not just for physical health but for mental health and enjoyment we both get out of it.”
Jenny’s desire to run the Boston Marathon stretches back 18 years, to her first time running a marathon in Chicago.
“I blindly signed up for Chicago running with a charity group and not knowing anything about it,” Jenny said. “I knew nothing about the Boston Marathon but specifically remember someone at the finish line saying they’d qualified for Boston and I wondered what that meant.”
As one of the biggest, most famous footraces in the world, Boston limits the field by requiring a majority of roughly 30,000 participants to qualify based on an age-graded time. To further limit participation, just getting a qualifying mark isn’t enough — the race allows hopefuls to register based on how far below their qualifying window they are, i.e. those who have run 10 minutes faster than needed get to sign up before those who have run 9 minutes faster.
“I thought qualifying was wildly unattainable for me as a woman in my 20s,” Jenny said. “But then as I got older, the standards got a little easier and after I had a really good marathon in Spokane and placed third in my age group I realized I could go after this Boston thing if I had really good training.”
What followed was a series of great races paired with “so many little Boston upsets.”
In 2014 Jenny ran two marathons and got what she thought was the qualifying time for her age group, only to learn that Boston had adjusted all qualifying times down by five minutes.
The following year she ran her fastest time ever, 3:38:13, under the 3:40 needed to qualify, only to miss the registration signup by 13 seconds — the race filled up when everyone two minutes under the cutoff had entered.
The final disappointment came with COVID — after shaving seven minutes off her best time at a race in Utah and signing up, the 2020 Boston was canceled in the early weeks of the pandemic.
“I was so disappointed after working for so many years to get there,” Jenny said. “I’d run six races trying to qualify and had so many little upsets, that this one was pretty heart breaking at the time.”
Finally getting to the 2022 event is both a relief and the culmination of thousands of miles and years of training for both Jenny and Pete. Both acknowledge that the race won’t be their fastest, but the experience will be one of a kind.
“It’s so hard to train for a spring marathon in this climate. Some of my long runs have been down the North Fork Road in blizzard conditions,” Jenny said. “My perspective is focused on how much I’ve worked just to get to Boston. I’ve thought about this race for 18 years and now I get to run it, however that looks. I want to reflect on how I got here and absorb the energy from the people around me and the people on the sidelines.”
Running Boston as couple will be an added perk. It will be the third marathon they’ve run together, but the first of this magnitude.
“It’ll be good to do this one with Pete,” Jenny said. “But you know, runners are not fun people before a race. We’re anxious, we worry about everything, we can’t tie our shoes correctly, but it’ll be fun to experience that with Pete. We supported each other equally to get there, so it’s fitting we’ll be doing it together.”
Jenny does clarify, they will not actually be running together — they’ll part when the shuttles to the start line leave and rendezvous at the finish. Assuming a good day, Pete will finish around 3 hours, in time to watch Jenny cross the line.
Adding to the family affair, their oldest son, Will, is also going to Boston. He’ll get to run in a 5k the day before the marathon and will be on hand to see both his parents finish.
“He’s pretty stoked on running and I think seeing the culture at Boston will be so exciting for him,” Pete said. “I mean seeing crowds five-people deep for the whole 26 miles is so cool. Whether that fuels him to want to adopt this sport for himself, we’ll see, but we know that we teach our kids the behavior we model and hopefully we’re modeling running as a healthy lifestyle as well as something really enjoyable.”
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