1. introduction: The story you already know.
So how did he do it? Did he just get lucky, as some have since asserted? Um, sure. Maybe -- maybe -- you can get "lucky" during a game and hit one or two three-pointers. But six in a row, in the first varsity game he ever played??? I guess "luck" is one explanation. Or . . . perhaps . . . the fact he would regularly stay after practice, long after the "real" players had left the floor and he was done with all of his managerial duties, and practice his own shot . . . maybe that had something to do with his success on his big night.
This was a kid who did not speak until he was five years old. Yet he had the self-confidence to go out there during his one chance, and he showed the world what he was made of. Wow.
2. Aftermath: The story few know.
I have written this for years . . . distance running (and especially ultrarunning) is really the "fairest" sport out there. It is as close to a pure meritocracy as you will find in sport; the harder you work, the better you do. Period. Attitude, discipline, and determination mean far more to your chances of success than "natural" talent, your socioeconomic status, or even how old you were when you first started speaking.
When, a few years ago, I heard Jason became a distance runner and wanted to run the Boston Marathon, I figured it was a really cool story and that he would surely take the "celebrity" route to get into the race, following people such as Will Farrell (who ran a 3:56 in 2003), Mario Lopez (5:41 in 2002), and Tedy Bruschi, former Patriots' linebacker (5:26 in 2012). None of them ran official "qualifying" races; rather, they used their celebrity and money to get into the race. (Note: Don't get me wrong; I do not think there is anything wrong with a race designating a selected number of its spots to raise a lot of money for charitable causes).
Although he surely could have taken this same path, J-Mac chose the only path he had ever chosen when confronted with a challenge: he worked his butt off. After training all year in 2012, Jason toed the line at the Rochester Marathon (on September 24th). He didn't just qualify, but he realized his goal with a smoking 3:01 finish. That qualified him for the 2014 Boston Marathon. (He had to wait until the 2014 race because his marathon was a few weeks after the "qualifying window" had closed).
(J-Mac bringing it home in blazing fashion in Rochester...)
Fast-forward to April 2014, the most eagerly-anticipated Boston Marathon in the race's history, given the bombing in 2013 and the "Boston Strong" movement that emerged from that unspeakable tragedy.
While many runners who qualify for Boston are just "happy to be there" and train much harder for their qualifying race than for Boston itself, that apparently just is not the way J-Mac is wired. He trained even harder for Boston than he did for Rochester...
Unfortunately, the race conditions for Boston '14 were far from ideal: the temperature reached into the 70s, which -- while ideal for the millions of spectators who lined the course -- is far from ideal for the runners themselves. (In my experience racing marathons, the "sweet spot" is about 45-50 degrees).
So, given everything above, do you think J-Mac used the weather as an excuse and let it affect his performance?
I didn't think so either: he ran a blistering 2:57!!! (That equates to 6:45/mile for 26.2 miles). Wow, redux...
3. We can all be like J-mac.
"Luck," I humbly-suggest, had nothing to do with any of these events. Rather, Jason tapped into his inner lion, that confident voice inside all of us . . . the one that says "we've got this." The one that says "there are no limits."
Jason McElwain's success was not an accident. He worked his ass off for it. He was not born with any special athletic gifts or abilities. Quite to the contrary, the odds were stacked against him from the beginning.
Think about Jason when you pursue your goals this year, whether you are running your first marathon, trying to qualify for Boston, running your first ultra, trying to win a 100-miler, or trying to get into the Badwater 135. If you really -- truly -- want to reach those goals, you can. It is completely within your power . . . you control the outcome . . . you just need to know how to get to Carnegie Hall.
Good luck to all of you with your 2016 running goals. And for those of you who will be at the Long Haul 100 this weekend in Wesley Chapel (Tampa area), Alex and I will see you in a few days!!