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Christian’s Sports Beat: Overcoming the challenge

Caleb Brown, an assistant coach for Marshall University’s track and cross country teams, finished 251st out of 26,411 runners to finish last month’s Boston Marathon. Courtesy photo
Caleb Brown, an assistant coach for Marshall University’s track and cross country teams, finished 251st out of 26,411 runners to finish last month’s Boston Marathon. Courtesy photo

The last time I caught up with Caleb Bowen, the assistant coach for Marshall University’s track and cross country teams, he had just won the Marshall Marathon last November.

By virtue of that performance, Bowen qualified for last month’s Boston Marathon, in which he was the first West Virginian to cross the finish line.

Bowen finished the 26.2-mile race in 2:42:48, which placed him 251st overall, out of 26,411 runners that finished the tough trek.

It was a week after the race that I was able to talk to him, and the 23-year-old coach was still beaming from his efforts. “Going into the race, I didn’t have any expectations, I just wanted to get the full experience and try all of the traditions that Boston has to offer. The race itself was fun, more so, just being around all of the other runners and talking to different people,” Bowen said.

Joining him on his journey was his dad, Charley, who had run the Boston event twice before himself, but this time was cheering for his son along the race course.

When I think of the Boston Marathon, I think of Heartbreak Hill, which the runners must survive late in the race. For Bowen, it seemed to be a matter of just fighting through it, “I wanted to die. I literally wanted to stop and drink as much water as I could. I actually stopped almost at the top of the climb. I took a couple of steps and the crowd started cheering me on and that got me going again.”

Bowen’s pace over the 26.2-mile course was 6:13 per mile.

I am a distance runner for the Hurricane Middle School Redskins’ track team competing in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races, and I try to learn every time I compete. For Bowen, the marathon taught him a few things. “I learned I need to train a lot better. I need to be more focused on my preparation for a race of this magnitude. When I do it again next year, I will put a training schedule together and stick to it. Knowing what I know now about the Boston course, I will also run more hills and work on getting more fuel (food) into my body during the race.”

The Boston Marathon is always held on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday of April.

I have found that heat isn’t my friend during a race, and, during the Boston Marathon, Bowen faced temperatures that reached near 80 degrees, with clear skies and a beating-down sun.

Bowen’s memories of the heat still linger. “The heat affected me lot more than I thought it would,” he said. “I drank a whole lot more water early on, just to help me for the latter parts of the race. But I got so dehydrated around miles 16 and 17, which I think is what made the hills much harder for me. I also got sunburn, as there is no shade anywhere on the course. Which probably led to my dehydration.”

The first Boston Marathon was held in 1897.

When I get done in a race, my mind immediately starts thinking about the next one on the calendar. I had a feeling what Bowen’s next marathon was going to be and wasn’t surprised when he told me, “I plan to run the Marshall Marathon again in the fall. Heck, let’s see if I can make it two in a row. The upcoming cross country season will help me with my training, running with the team, but I am going to run during the summer, which will be a key.”

Before running cross country for Marshall, Bowen ran track and cross country for Hurricane Middle and High schools.

So is Boston on the young coach’s running agenda for 2018?

Bowen said it is and should be memorable.

“Next year is going to be special, because my dad has also qualified for next year, so it is going to be awesome to run it together.”

Now that will make a great column topic, don’t you think?

Christian Deiss, 13, of Scott Depot is a student at Hurricane Middle School.


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