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Caleb Masland of Blowing Rock, center, runs the Boston Marathon on Monday. Masland finished 119th overall.

Photo by Joshua Niforatos



Originally published: 2014-04-22 17:56:29
Last modified: 2014-04-22 17:57:14

Strong in Boston

by Anna Oakes

Caleb Masland of Blowing Rock bounded across the finish line on Boston's Boylston Street on Monday, glancing up to see the gold laurel wreath atop the head of the Elite Men's group champion. He couldn't immediately recognize the winner, who was being interviewed.

Masland then caught a glimpse of the man's shoes -- a special model worn by Masland's fellow Skechers Performance Division athlete, Meb Keflezighi. He knew then that the decorated U.S. distance runner had done it, becoming, at age 38, the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983.

"I was just really excited, high-fiving everyone around me," said Masland. "His story is basically one of putting in a lot of hard work and not giving up. It was just a great thing to see he was the winner of the race. He really earned it."

There were many other reasons for high fives. Masland finished 119th overall out of 36,000 entrants in the Boston Marathon, the world's oldest annual marathon. The 32-year-old Masland completed his third Boston Marathon in two hours and 32 minutes, nearly six minutes faster than his 2013 time.

And Masland -- who was there one year ago when the Boston Marathon bombing shook the nation and the international running community -- said this year's event was one of celebration.

"It ended up being, for everybody involved, an opportunity for taking back the race ... (to) prove it was going to be the same marathon that it's always been," he said. "It was a very celebratory event, everybody was very positive, and the crowd support was just amazing this year."

Masland works full time as a coach, writing weekly training plans for about 85 runners around the world. Including himself, there were 12 runners participating in the Boston Marathon from his team, "Team Wicked Bonkproof" ("bonking" is a term referring to when distance runners stall or run out of gas mid-run).

"This year and last year I had people that I coached running the race. It was a really great weekend for all of us," said Masland. He said he was never hesitant about returning to this year's race, despite the 2013 attack that killed three people and injured hundreds of others.

"In fact, within a few hours that evening I said that I was going back. I was planning on it pretty much for an entire year, looking forward to getting back there," he said.

A number of changes to the event were evident this year. Athletes were prohibited from bringing baggage into the athletes' village. A greater number of volunteers worked to secure the runners' access areas, and members of the military guarded the village and lined the racecourse.

"We could definitely see more of a security presence throughout the day," Masland noted. "But people weren't being hostile at all toward anybody; there really wasn't an overbearing presence for security. They still let the crowd be right up close to the action, to the course. It was really important to let Boston have the atmosphere it always has."

This year's crowds of spectators were the largest Masland has ever seen at the event.

"The amount of people there for the race was definitely more than in previous years," he said.

Masland said he plans to run the High Country Triple Crown events again this year and is planning to run a marathon in the fall, including a possible return to the City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh, where he placed second last year.

Also running in the Boston Marathon were several athletes who train with Blowing Rock-based ZAP Fitness and Ray Russell, who also ran the 26.2-mile course in 2010 and 2011.