Monday, which is Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts, will likely feel like a holiday in more ways than one for ultrarunner Jim Willett from Newmarket, Ont., who ran Around the Bay in Hamilton on March 31 and is now 11 days into his 875K run from Hamilton to Boston. (He crossed into Massachusetts from New York State yesterday.) Having covered at least 60K per day for two weeks to get there, hopefully the marathon distance feels like a break, relatively speaking.
On Wednesday Willett posted on Instagram from Albany, NY. “Not everyone can measure their dreams in miles and days. But luckily I can. 600K in 10 days. I’m getting closer to the Boston Marathon with every step.” We caught up with him yesterday. He confessed he was dealing with a quad injury and moving more slowly than planned, but was looking forward to reaching Boston.
This will be Willett’s first Boston Marathon. Qualifying at all three of the marathons he raced in 2018 (he ran 3:06 at the Toronto Marathon in May, 3:09 at the Reykjavik Marathon in August and 3:08 at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October), he took it a little easier at Around the Bay with a big multi-day ultra coming up (averaging 4:50 kilometres). Willett is 45. He had to beat his qualifying time of 3:20 for this year’s Boston Marathon by at least 4:52.
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How big is your dream? Does it scare you? Here’s what I know about chasing down a dream… The journey is probably going to be long. Sometimes the path ahead will seem endless. And at times you’re going to suffer. If you want it enough, though, you’ll be willing to endure. Not everyone can measure their dreams in miles and days. But luckily I can. 600 km in 10 days. I’m getting closer to the @bostonmarathon with every step. #dreamchasing #hamiltontoboston
Willett likes to have a little fun with what he wears to races, as a glance at his Instagram will show. But his decision to use his run as a sock fundraiser for the homeless is completely serious. He has participated in research on blisters, and he knows how important good-quality socks are for protecting overall health. “I wanted to make sure people were getting socks that would stand up to wear and tear, and those are more expensive,” he told us. The merino wool sock company Darn Tough has agreed to match his fundraising in kind. Willett has already surpassed his original goal of $5,000, but if you’d like to make a donation, click here.
Covering 875K in 13-14 days struck Willett as highly do-able, considering his race resume includes the Gobi March and Atacama Crossing. Willett’s passion for big ultrarunning goals are informed by his experience as a cancer survivor. In 2014, four years after undergoing treatment for colon cancer, he set an FKT (fastest known time) on Ontario’s Bruce Trail of 10:13:57 in 2014, beating Cody Gilles’ previous record from 2012 by a day and a half. (Gilles is also a cancer survivor, and helped pace Willett on the run.)
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The first step in getting where we wanna go is deciding we’re not gonna stay where we are. 🔶🔷🔶 This mural in #syracuse came into view just as I passed 400km on this run. After a tough grind in the cold, rain and mud yesterday, it was a perfect reminder. #keepmovingforward
Regarding the ATB-to-Boston project, Willett says: “I thought it would be cool to connect the oldest race in North America with the second-oldest race in North America. In previous years it was always three weeks between Around The Bay and Boston, but this year it’s only two weeks. I thought that would be interesting, and looked at the map. I ran three marathons last year, and qualified [for Boston] at all of them, so here we are.”