Leonel Monascal is heading back to the Boston Marathon a year after his first run in the prestigious race was punctuated by violence.
Monascal had finished the 26-mile course more than an hour before two bombs exploded near the finish line. He and his wife, Diana, were back in their hotel room when they saw the first news bulletins about an attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
On Monday, Monascal will return to Boston to be among the people who will proclaim that the spirit embodied in the 118-year-old Boston Marathon is stronger than any terrorist act.
“We don’t run away from those types of situations. We face problems,” he said. “A lot of people, the runners and spectators, didn’t run away from the bombings. They ran to help people.”
Monascal added that the people who are returning after being injured last year are a powerful inspiration. He cited a recent news report that a young woman who lost a foot in the bombing planned to be there.
“If she’s there, there’s no way I can say that, ‘Oh, there were bombers last year, I won’t be there, it’s too scary now,’” Monascal said. “That situation could be anywhere. You take precautions and move ahead.”
Monascal, 50, an industrial engineer at Exel Logistics in San Jose, qualified for this year’s race by finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon in 2 hours, 59 minutes, 3 seconds — well within the 3:30:00 standard for his age group. He said that running among thousands of elite athletes was inspiration in itself.
“The energy, where there are thousands of people around you, you thank God for letting you be part of a big event.”
Boston is just one date on Monascal’s calendar for 2014. His true passion is the triathlon. He has the Ironman in Boulder, Colo. coming up on Aug. 3, a combined 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and full marathon. There, he hopes to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, in October.
“The longer the distance, the more challenging it is, and the better I perform,” he said. “A 12-, 15-hour event, you have plenty of time to think. It’s just amazing, the feeling. You have time to think about a lot of stuff and see what your limits are.”
Monascal will often combine his training with his commute to San Jose, riding his bicycle for part of the trip or sometimes the entire way. He also trains with a group that meets in Tracy on Sunday mornings, including Noel Colina, who was also at last year’s Boston Marathon but won’t participate in this year’s race.
“Part of the secret of life is not only to be active, but to exercise the mind and have friends,” Monascal said. “It gives you that accountability, 6 a.m. on Sunday, rain or shine, you’ve got to be there. And it’s fun. It makes the miles pass by fast.”
Mountain House marathoner has hometown connection to Boston
SunDuk “Sunny” Kim’s first Boston Marathon will be a special event for her on a few levels.
Kim, 35, of Mountain House, was born in South Korea and grew up in Boston. She attended Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, Mass., along the marathon’s route from Hopkinton to Boston, and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music composition at the New England Conservatory in Boston, less than a mile from the finish line on Boylston Street.
She remembers how the city was always transformed on the day of the race and how she wanted to be one of the runners heading to the finish line.
“I went to the Boston Marathon and watched them all the time,” she said. “That was my goal, to qualify for Boston.”
She said that the bombing last year struck at the hearts of all runners. She ran 26 miles on her own that day in remembrance of the people who died and for those who lost limbs in the attack.
“It’s just really sad. Going back, I feel so lucky,” she said.
Kim has always loved to run, but it was only about five years ago — after she and her husband, Sang Yeo, moved to Mountain House and their daughter, Nikki, was born — that she began running long-distance races.
She has logged 74 races representing 1,023 miles since 2008, including 16 marathons. She ran the 2011 Napa Valley Marathon early in her pregnancy with her son, Micah, before taking a break.
Kim qualified for the Boston Marathon with her finish at the Santa Rosa Marathon on Aug. 25, with a time of 3:27:55, ahead of the 3:40:00 qualifying time.
For Kim, the Boston Marathon is just the first half of the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. After running in Boston on Monday, she will be among 400 Boston Marathon runners to run another marathon on April 27 along 26 miles of coastline from Big Sur to Carmel.
Kim teaches piano at the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts in Tracy, and she said that her profession and her passion for running go together.
“It’s so nice to be out there running. You see all the beauty and a lot of nature,” she said. “For me, it’s related. It’s very inspirational. I look forward to running the trails more in the future.”
Experienced runner lured by Boston’s love for marathon
Going into her fourth Boston Marathon, Tracy’s Betty Topping is still amazed at how much the race means to runners and spectators alike.
She knew before her first Boston Marathon in 2009 that people in the cities along the 26-mile route between Hopkinton, Mass., and Boston have a profound love for the historical event, which coincides with Massachusetts’ Patriots Day, a state holiday.
“You high-five kids along the way. They treat everyone who runs by like a superstar. It’s definitely lured me back,” she said. “You’ve been told of the experience, but you never realize it until you’re there, and it’s awe inspiring.”
Topping also ran the Boston Marathon in 2010 and 2012, but she missed last year’s race. Fueled by the memory of the bombing at the 2013 finish line, Topping intends to channel her anger at the terrorists into determination to honor the 118-year-old tradition.
“It stabs you in the heart when you see something like that. My family has been in that very spot watching me,” she said. “It’s such a great event, because it’s all about the fans, and the fans were attacked.”
Topping, 44, a food broker for Advantage Sales and Marketing in Pleasanton and a 12-year resident of Tracy, has run 24 marathons since 2005. The 2009 Boston Marathon is still one of her all-time favorite runs.
In 2010, she went from Boston right to the Big Sur Challenge, a second marathon along the California coast within a week of the Boston Marathon. She will run both races again this year.
Topping didn’t have as much fun at the 2012 event. That day was notable for Boston’s record heat. It was her husband, Sean’s, second marathon and a difficult run for even the experienced runners.
“That was not a fun experience, but he made it through and that’s all that matters on that one, that he crossed the finish line with me,” she said.
Topping qualified for this year’s race in December with a time of 3 hours, 23 minutes, 47 seconds at the 2013 California International Marathon in Sacramento. She needed to run that race in 3:45:00 to qualify.
Topping and her training partner, Janice Kesterson of Oakdale, who ran the Boston Marathon with her in 2009, made their plans for Monday’s race well over a year ago, before the 2013 event took place.
She said that Kesterson, 60, is one of the top runners in her age group.
“It means an awful lot to be running it again with Janice,” Topping said, adding that she hoped to help Kesterson meet her goal of running the marathon within 3:30:00.
Tracy runner achieves goal by qualifying for first Boston Marathon
This year’s Boston Marathon signals Adam Duran’s achievement of a lifelong goal.
“It’s the Olympics for marathoners, to get there,” he said, adding that serious marathon runners are always asked if they’ve been to the Boston Marathon.
“Everybody wants to know that. That’s one of the first questions,” Duran said. “My big day was qualifying. It validated me as a runner.”
Duran, 48, tried four times to meet the time standard for the Boston Marathon before he qualified May 26 at the Mountains to Beach Marathon from Ojai to Ventura.
His time of three hours, 23 minutes, 22 seconds was just under the Boston Marathon qualifying time of 3:25:00 for the 45 to 49 age group.
“After this run I got emotional, and I got emotional off and on for weeks and months,” Duran said. “I’d wake up at night thinking, ‘I can’t believe I qualified.’ It meant that much to qualify.”
Duran, 48, a 12-year Tracy resident and a correctional officer for Santa Clara County, sees running as a natural endeavor. His passion for the sport matches his high-energy personality.
“Everybody grew up running. It’s a natural thing for humans, to walk, then run,” he said.
He explained that he learned to love running long distances during his law enforcement training, as a complement to a stressful occupation.
“It helps me decompress, totally. It’s just a special gift that I’ve been blessed with,” he said.
Now Duran looks forward to taking off from the starting line with the world’s elite runners.
After last year’s bombing at the finish line, the Boston Marathon gained a new layer of meaning, he said. He watched the news on the day of the 2013 marathon and knew that what he was seeing would change the nature of the event.
“Every runner, every American, I feel, was a victim,” he said. “It was an emotional time, and it will be an emotional thing just to be there.”
Duran, who is traveling to Boston with his wife, Isela, looks forward to being part of a crowd that will take a prominent place in the 118-year history of the event. He said this year’s theme, “Boston Strong,” is meaningful even for a first-time Boston Marathon runner.
“It’s special to be there, to be a part of the comeback. We were hurt, but we were never down.”
Contact Bob Brownne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4227.