Belchertown’s Alec Walker negative splits first Boston Marathon

  • Belchertown graduate Alec Walker runs the Boston Marathon just before Mile 17. It was only his second marathon ever, but Walker finished in a little over three hours. COURTESY SARAH ANDREWS—

  • Runners race to the finish line in the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Runners race to the finish line in the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • Runners finish the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson) Winslow Townson

  • Fans cheer on the third wave of runners at the start of the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Hopkinton, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne) Stew Milne

  • Wellesley College students cheer as runners from the 123rd Boston Marathon pass by on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Wellesley, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Wellesley College students cheer as runners from the 123rd Boston Marathon pass by on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Wellesley, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Wellesley College students cheer as runners from the 123rd Boston Marathon pass by on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Wellesley, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • The third wave of runners starts the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Hopkinton, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne) Stew Milne

  • Peter Guza, of North Andover, Mass., waves as he starts the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Hopkinton, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne) Stew Milne

  • Runners cross the start line of the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Hopkinton, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne) Stew Milne

  • Runners cross the start line of the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Hopkinton, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne) Stew Milne

  • Belchertown grad Alec Walker after finishing the 2019 Boston Marathon. He qualified last May and negative split Boston on Monday COURTESY STEVE WALKER—

Staff Writer
Published: 4/15/2019 8:33:37 PM

BOSTON — Why not run the Boston Marathon?

Alec Walker had to ask himself that after the Belchertown High School graduate qualified in May. The 21-year-old University of New England runner finished 10th overall in last year’s Maine Coast Marathon. He texted Belchertown cross country coach Bill Wheeler and quickly received his answer.

“I told him if you’re qualified for Boston, you have to do it,” Wheeler said.

It was a no-brainer for Walker despite the heavy rain forecasted for Monday.

“It’s always been a dream of mine, so no matter what the weather brings me I’m going to find the motivation somehow and finish it,” Walker said.

It took 3 hours, 10 seconds for Walker to finish Monday. He just missed qualifying for next year’s Boston Marathon after the Boston Athletic Association tightened its qualifying standards.

“It was definitely very mentally taxing. The qualifying race was pretty flat,” Walker said. “Boston, miles 16-20 are pretty grueling.”

Thankfully Walker had a plan. He communicated with Wheeler, who ran the Boston Marathon three times, throughout his training process. They met over Walker’s Christmas break, where Wheeler passed down the advice his father and uncle gave him: Boston doesn’t start until Mile 16.

“It’s a 10-mile warmup,” Wheeler said. “You’ve got to keep it under control.”

Walker returned to western Massachusetts over the weekend so he could ride the Greater Springfield Harriers’ Boston Marathon bus to Hopkinton on Monday. He and Wheeler went on a short run Sunday to reinforce the game plan.

It worked. Walker ran the first half of the marathon in 1:30:52 then closed in 1:29:38.

“He negative split Boston,” Wheeler said. “That’s a feat in and of itself.”

The finish wasn’t completely smooth, though. Walker slammed into a wall after 23 miles.

“I’m very mentally tough and have the grit and determination to run the longer distances. I feel like it’s something not a lot of people have, the will to keep going,” Walker said. “Over the course of a marathon, while talent does play a role, you’ve gotta grind it out. You’ve gotta be willing to hurt.”

He looked at the remaining distance as the start of its own race.

“I’m a 5k runner by nature. I can run a 5k in my sleep,” he said. “I got this. The turn down Boylston was insane.”

Even though he didn’t qualify to return next year, Walker has time to make it back. He’s finishing his junior year at New England majoring in medical biology.

“It’s a new distance for me. It’s kind of an adjustment,” Walker said. “The running community as a whole has this really good camaraderie to me.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.



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