It was a very sobering moment. The second I crossed the finish line this year, there was an announcement that it was exactly this moment in time, five years ago, that the bomb exploded. —Ron Castleton, on running the Boston Marathon this year
SALT LAKE CITY — In 2006, the Salt Lake Marathon was Ron Castleton’s first 26.2-mile race.
This weekend, he’ll run the race again as part of his plan to run his 100th marathon by October of this year.
He has a lot of reasons for embracing marathons, including the fact that the events challenge him, bring him joy and help him sustain a healthy lifestyle.
But five years ago his running of the Salt Lake Marathon was more than the reward for all of his hard work. It was an act of defiance.
In April 2013, two brothers set off two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people, including 8-year-old Martin William Richard, and severely injuring 16 others, just a few minutes after Castleton crossed.
“I waited for a friend who was struggling for about 15 minutes,” said Castleton, who finished his fourth Boston Marathon on Monday. “We crossed the finish line, and then we went about two blocks away, where you grab your gear bags, and we were just changing our gear when the bombs went off.”
It was terrifying.
It was infuriating.
Six days after the bombings in Boston, he lined up at the start line of the Salt Lake Marathon and ran to reclaim what many felt the terrorists attempted to steal.
“Salt Lake was the first major marathon after the bombing,” he said. “We collectively wanted to band together and say, ‘We’re not afraid. We’re moving on. We’re all runners, and we’re all strong. Boston strong. Runner strong. We actually talked about this, and we said we’re not going to let this deter us from living our lives and doing the things we love to do passionately.”
Castleton considered skipping the Boston Marathon because the weather was so challenging. “It was funny because the last time I ran Boston was 2015, and it rained then,” he said, adding that he learned some lessons about running in driving rain that helped him finish this year. “I was more prepared this time. I ran a slower time, but I don’t have anything to prove.”
The conditions were described by race officials and regulars as the worst they’d experienced in 30 years. The temperature at the start was in the 30s, and there was constant, frigid rain, high winds and, at times, snow. He was surprised at the number of spectators lining the streets of the marathon, cheering runners on in what is a bucket-list race for most of them.
“It was definitely challenging out there,” he said. “The rain was persistent, and the winds were headwinds. The temperatures were cold, so I was more focused on keeping myself as dry as possible to keep my core as warm as possible. That’s the secret in running in conditions like that.”
Moments after crossing the finish line Monday, he heard an announcement that sent a wave of emotion through his shivering body.
“It was a very sobering moment,” he said. “The second I crossed the finish line this year, there was an announcement that it was exactly this moment in time, five years ago, that the bomb exploded.”
Castleton is running with a bit more gratitude this weekend, and his goals on Saturday when he joins nearly 7,000 other participants in a half dozen distances and events will remain modest.
“I have another marathon in a week,” he said, laughing slightly at the obvious absurdity of three marathons in three weeks. “I want to take my time and not push it. Mt. Charleston is a faster race. In fact, that’s what I used to qualify me for Boston this year. I want to do well next week.”
The Skyline High graduate said the races are his reward for consistent training.
“I know the course for Salt Lake is not really a PR course,” he said. “I’m just going to take my time and enjoy it.”
The Salt Lake Marathon’s Quality of Life Expo begins at 11 a.m. at the Salt Palace Convention Center’s Hall 4 on Friday.
On Saturday, the bike tour starts at 6 a.m., with the wheelchair and handcycle race starting at 6:20 a.m.
The Marathon and Half-Marathon start at 7 a.m., and three-time Olympian and Army Major Chris Fogt will be the official starter for the race. He will be participating in the Marathon’s Flag Relay with Team Red, White and Blue.
The 5K will start at 7:10 a.m. at Library Square, with the 10K skate starting at 7:25 a.m. and the 10K run starting at 7:30 a.m., both at 900 East 400 South.