St. Simons resident Johnathan Roberts recently performed a feat that has never been performed before — he watched the Red Sox win a postseason game at Fenway Park the same day he completed the Boston Marathon.
The double dip was made possible when this year’s marathon was delayed due to COVID-19, pushing the race from its traditional date in April to October for the first time in its long, storied history.
Roberts was one of four Glynn County residents to run in the 125th Boston Marathon on Monday, marking the 10th and final marathon he plans to run. The 39-year-old capped his career with a time of 2:49:25 — a pace of 6:29 per mile.
“The Boston Marathon is especially challenging,” Roberts said. “It’s got this series of hills from Miles 16-21 known as the ‘Newton Hills,’ and the final hill claims the moniker ‘Heartbreak Hill.’ It’s a half-mile, continuous uphill climb at a point in the race where all you want to do is be able to take a break. That’s where the success or failure of the race usually lies.
“It was cool this year, my family was watching just before those hills began at Mile 16. That was a tremendous boost of energy for me to get to slap their hands as I was going into that grueling part of the race.”
It wasn’t until about nine years ago that Roberts began running marathons. A friend asked him to join along in running the Jacksonville Marathon, and Roberts acquiesced.
In the five months of training Roberts did leading up to his first marathon, he quickly discovered he relished the preparation process.
“I agreed to do it and quickly found that I loved the training, the solitude and the peacefulness of the training cycle, and the testing of physical limits, and the progression to see improvement.” Roberts said.
Now, Roberts runs consistently year round before getting into more concentrated training three months leading into a race. In the time since his first race, Roberts has run marathons in Albany, Savannah and Chicago in addition to three treks through Boston.
As a matter of fact, the first Boston Marathon Roberts participated in was the infamous 2013 iteration of the race. Just before 3 p.m., two bombs exploded near the finish line of the marathon, killing three people and injuring at least 264 more.
“That was very, very... that was just one of the most surreal experiences of my life,” Roberts said. “I was back in the hotel, a block away from the finish line, when we heard the explosions. We could see the smoke, and see all the people running everywhere.”
Though shaken, Roberts continued running. He ran a qualifying race in Albany before returning to Boston in 2015.
Two years removed from the bombing, a somberness still hung in the air during race time, along with 30-mile per hour headwinds and pouring rain. Yet there was also a quiet sense of pride.
“It felt different after the bombs, but it was a testament to the resiliency of the city of Boston and the Boston Athletic Association for the way they carried it forward,” Roberts said. “Very similar to this year after the pandemic put everything on hold… Very similar in taking each moment and relishing it because of what had happened in the year or two before.”
Enhancing the 2015 experience for Roberts was a bonding experience he shared with his sister-in-law Laura, who also participated in the race.
“We started at different times, but at Mile 20, I saw her in the crowd of runners, and we ran the last six miles step-by-step and finished at the exact same time in these brutal conditions,” Roberts said “We felt like we brought out the best in each other in those last six miles.”
Roberts hadn’t returned to Boston since, though he did technically run in the 2020 Boston Marathon. Due to the global pandemic, the marathon was held virtually last September.
Instead of running through the streets of Hopkinton, Roberts raced 26.2 miles around Stillwater on St. Simons Island.
But as the in-person Boston Marathon returned, so did Roberts. One of the 216 runners from Georgia among the field of more than 15,000, Roberts and his contemporaries were a part of history by running in the first Boston Marathon not to be held in April.
Still, the Boston Athletic Association did everything in its power to make it feel like spring. What it couldn’t change, the Red Sox clinching a spot in the American League Championship Series, only added to the experience.
“The Boston Marathon was an incredible experience,” Roberts said. “The city of Boston still made it feel like the Super Bowl of running, thousands of spectators lining the street from start to finish. F-15 fighter jets flew over the starting line just before the official gun signaled the start of the race.
“The race was even more meaningful because I decided months ago that this would be my final marathon making a total of 10 in the last decade. My emotions were high as I tried to enjoy every part of the process. I am thankful to God to have the ability to run and participate in this amazing event.”