Rockwall streets will be a little quieter Monday because some of the runners who pound the pavement on a regular basis during the pre-dawn hours will be missing.
They will be running a route Monday that begins in the rural New England town of Hopkinton and follows Route 135 through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley and beyond.
The runners — 11 representing the Rockwall Running Club (RRC) — will join about 30,000 other participants in the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon and one of the world’s best known road races.
Along with Barrett Hopper, RRC founder and coach, team members are Nelly Budrow, Mary Courtin, Lea Ivy, Ronnie Jones, Katrisha Milligan, Jim Pultorak, Greg Rankin, Michelle Valera, Carrie Varner and Tina Waynick.
During an RRC-sponsored send-off breakfast at Rockwall’s IHOP restaurant early Sunday morning, the runners were presented posters that illustrated their “journey to Boston.” The posters featured steps that marked the number of years they had run in the Boston Marathon.
All had multiple steps except one. Courtin’s poster had one step — 2017. She is the only member of the group who will be running her first Boston Marathon.
Courtin, a 34-year-old Rockwall dentist, will be running her fifth marathon. She posted her Boston qualifying time when her third child was 6 months old.
“I was training in between my nursing schedule,” she said.
She has multiple concerns.
“I have never traveled to a race before. They have all been local,” she said. “So, I am not sure if I am more nervous about the Boston Marathon or that I am going to forget something that I really need for the run.”
Most of the other runners don’t talk about the race itself.
Instead, they talk about the challenges they have faced while training – mostly on the streets of Rockwall – and the unity that runs deep in the Rockwall Running Club. And almost every runner points to Hopper.
They stress how his leadership has helped them prepare for a 26.2 mile run and whatever may come after they cross the finish line.
Hopper elaborated on the challenges this year’s Boston Marathon team has encountered.
“This was supposed to be the year for a record number of RRC members to run Boston, but it was not to be,” said Hopper, a former Rockwall resident who now lives in Shreveport, La.
“This Boston represented some challenging obstacles for the group, from new jobs, relocations, broken relationships, new marriages, injuries, 100-mile endurance races, travel, other members failing to qualify or choosing to opt out, multiple training plans and coaches, and more,” he said.
Hopper said he calls this group “my Gideon soldiers,” a biblical reference to a small, but brave, army that overcame great odds and battled to victory.
For the 49-year-old Hopper, the Boston Marathon will be his 18th marathon and will represent his 129th mile in races the past five months – two marathons, three half marathons and the 11-mile Kilgore-to-Longview run.
Pultorak, 47, is one of the veteran “soldiers.”
He has run 15 marathons. He ran his first Boston Marathon 10 years ago and is back for his sixth start in Hopkinton.
This year has been marked by a highlight — marriage. He has also had job changes and surgeries.
“Still,” he said, “I’m back to the start in Hopkinton with a selfless team that challenges, supports and encourages all of us to do our best. This is a team that has gone through a lot of personal challenges, but has used running to hold it all together.”
Pultorak said he doesn’t know how many more marathons he has left, but he will follow Hopper’s advice during the Monday run.
“I will run it like it’s my last one,” he said.
Another veteran is Varner, a 57-year-old Rockwall resident and Dallas paralegal. She’s doing what she loves to do — run. Rretirement is not in her plans.
“This is my fifth Boston, and each one is as exciting as the other,” she said. “So grateful for Coach Barrett and RRC. We have an incredible team. I plan to stick around as long as the good Lord will allow.”
For Ivy, a 43-year-old registered nurse, this will be her 17th marathon and fourth Boston Marathon. She doesn’t see her Boston Marathon days ending any time soon.
“I swore last year would be my final Boston, but here I am,” she said. “Going forward, I plan to run every year that I qualify. It’s that special. I am delighted and honored to be running with RRC. They are an amazing group of people who support each other like family, in running and in life.”
Rankin, 50, also talked about his recent marriage. And he has a new job, vice president of marketing for Gmac Family Financial, which is owned by a fellow RRC member and former Boston marathoner himself, Gregg MacInnis.
Rankin’s excited about running Boston in a new age group. And he mentioned that this could be his last marathon.
“This will be my last marathon as I want to do other things in the spring going forward,” he said.
Tina Waynick, a registered nurse at Texas Health Dallas, will be running her 12th marathon and fifth Boston Marathon.
“I have had my own challenges over the past year and am grateful for the support and friendship I have in RRC,” she said. “I have only lived in Texas three years, but have been blessed to be surrounded by an amazing group of people that encourage me in running and in life.”
Valera, 39, will be running her 17th marathon and second Boston Marathon.
Yes, Valera said running is a big part of her life, but it’s not her priority.
Valera pointed out that she’s a wife, mother of two children and is very close to her huge family. And she has been a pediatric nurse for 16 years.
“It’s countdown as the Boston Marathon approaches” commented Valera, a Rockwall resident. “I am managing to stay calm, strong, positive, taking each day one at a time and keep moving forward. Being in RRC’s winning circle has kept the fire inside my heart to keep doing what I’m doing, be myself and stay enthusiastic and, most of all, have a positive attitude in life.”
Her outlook and how she deals with challenges are based on what she has learned from Hopper and her father.
“When Coach Barrett mentioned about the obstacles we have faced during our training days, I thought about my dad who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November 2015,” she said. “Last year, March, was his big surgery, before my first marathon in Boston. I managed to control the controllable and let God be in control of what I couldn’t control.
“My dad’s positive attitude and enthusiasm about his surgery and treatments helped him fight and conquer the cancer, on top of the diabetes and other issues.
“I learned so much from him and continue to learn from his strong will, perseverance, faith and joy he brings out to people around him. He’s always smiling and sees the positive from adversities and obstacles he faces each day. He is a big supporter of my running, especially on the races.”
Jim Hardin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.