After qualifying for one of a limited number of entries in the prestigious Boston Marathon, Parksville’s Gordon Chilton could rightly be called a runner outstanding in his field.
Which is sort of how the 61-year-old engineering technologist got started running.
“When I was living on the Sunshine Coast in my early 40s, my wife made a comment that I was out of shape and needed to do something,” said Chilton. “We had an acreage, and I just started running across the field. My attitude was, ‘I’m not in that bad of shape.’ In about 100 yards I was out of breath and I thought, ‘Maybe I am.’”
He’s been running ever since, and on April 16 he’ll join approximately 30,000 runners at the starting line in Hopkinton, Mass., and commence the 26.2-mile (42 km) run through Boston’s suburbs to the finish line downtown.
Due to the overwhelming popularity of the Boston Marathon, which has been run since 1897 and which is the world’s oldest annual marathon, entry is limited to a select number of runners who must meet minimum time standards in a qualifying marathon.
Chilton hit his mark at the Tunnel Marathon in North Bend, Wash., in late July of 2017. His time of three hours, 49 minutes and 50 seconds was more than five minutes better than the Boston qualifying standard of 3:55.0 for men 60-64 years old.
Which was fortunate, as the actual Boston Marathon limit for runners in his age group left him just over three minutes under the adjusted qualifying mark.
“I actually wanted to make my (Boston) travel plans as soon as I saw I was five minutes ahead (of qualifying),” said Chilton. “My wife said, no, you should wait until you hear back.”
In September he received a letter from the Boston Marathon organizers informing him he had qualified, and he quickly applied for what will be his first appearance in the race.
“I’ve never run with 30,000 people before,” Chilton said. “I think the last one I was in had 300.”
After his start in that field some 20 years ago, Chilton eased into running by going out with his dog and doing shorter runs, usually on trails rather than roads.
“I got into more of the road running when I started running into bears on the trails,” he said.
“You try to corral the dogs, but they want to go chasing the bear. You’re not sure if you should go find them or run the other way.”
His first marathon was the Elk Beavers Marathon, held specifically for first-timers by the Victoria Harriers running club. He said his first two marathons went fairly well, so he entered a third in Bellingham, Wash., and admits he went in a bit overconfident in his ability.
“That one made me feel bad,” he said. “Because I thought I could do anything, I went out too fast. I finished, but could barely move.”
That proved a valuable lesson in pacing, and he has become proficient at distance running despite keeping his workouts to three days a week and entering only a few select races — mostly trail runs rather than larger road races. And he still runs with a dog; Morgan is his current training partner.
He will travel to Boston with his wife Darlene this month. As far as goals or expectations, they will have nothing to do with his time or finish place. Just last week, he learned that his sister-in-law, Lisa Korthals Chilton, died after being buried in an avalanche near Whistler.
“The BAA (Boston Athletic Association) has called this the Year of Service,” Chilton said. “I plan on running focusing on the memories of Lisa and praying for her husband, son, family and friends. Rather than focusing on a specific finishing time I want to focus on the experience and joy of running the Boston Marathon.”