Britton Deerfield track coach safe after participating in his first Boston Marathon
Jay Yockey’s family and friends were able to monitor his movement through the Boston Marathon course on Monday, April 15, via the race’s website, but when the afternoon turned ugly, their most important question was, “Is Jay okay?” There was no website with that information, all they could do was wait.
Yockey, Britton Deerfield track coach, was running in his first Boston Marathon.
“I was standing outside the Park Plaza hotel getting ready to walk in and heard the explosions but didn’t know what it was,” said Yockey. “I had been done for almost two hours.”
Exhausted from the grueling race, he met up with other runners to celebrate. While everyone was sharing experiences, Yockey noticed a story on the television about two bombs being detonated.
“We were all shocked,” Yockey said. “That’s when we realized it was at the finish line. It’s really surreal. We said, ‘Did this just happen?’”
Yockey immediately contacted his mother and father to let them know he was all right. Within minutes he started receiving messages from friends, family and co-workers wondering if he was okay. Because cell phone service was so poor, Yockey communicated only with his immediate family, and had them spread the word that he was fine.
“The hotel went on lock-down,” said Yockey. “Security was tight around the whole city.” Conflicting reports about whether the airport was operational was challenging for Yockey. “I called US Airways and they said, ‘Yes, your flight is still scheduled to go off at eight,’” he said.
Yockey decided he needed to leave for the airport immediately in case of delays. Everything was on time, and the rerouting of traffic made it easier to get to the airport.
“It was the fastest I’ve ever gotten through TSA,” Yockey said about his trip through airport security.
For many people recent discussion of the Boston Marathon now centers only on the terrible deaths and injuries from Monday. It was a devastating end to a momentous day for Yockey and all the runners participating from the United States and around the world.
“It was a perfect day for a marathon,” said Yockey.
To run the Boston Marathon hopeful participants must be 18-years-old by race day and qualify by meeting an age-group specific time standard achieved during a recognized marathon event.
“I ran the Toledo Glass City Marathon last April,” said Yockey. “It was my first one. Each marathon is a learning experience.”
Yockey, the Britton Deerfield track coach, was among the 26,839 runners who started the race on Monday morning. His running career started on the Blissfield High School cross country and track teams and continued at Adrian College. At the Boston Marathon, he finished in the top 25 percent of men in the 18 to 39 age group with a time of 3:04:48, the 2,597 male runner out of 10,638 to cross the finish line. The time it took Yockey to finish also qualifies him to run the Boston Marathon in 2014.
Last year at the Glass City Marathon Yockey came home with a ninth place finish and a running time of 2:48:13, which qualified him for Boston. Training for the Boston Marathon began seriously in December 2012.
“I ran every single day,” Yockey said.
Because he was living in California at the time, Yockey trained all winter, averaging 75-85 miles a week and 9-10 miles a day. Once a week, usually on Saturday, Yockey would run 20 miles or more.
Researching the course, Yockey knew the hilly Boston terrain was much different from what he was used to in flat southeast Michigan. To condition himself for the strain on his leg muscles, especially his quads, Yockey took spinning classes. He also spent time with his sister in Claremont, Fla., during spring break this year, running the hilly terrain there to prepare.
“It wasn’t enough,” he said. Those hills were killer.”
“I was very fortunate to be in wave one corral one. I averaged six minute miles for my first 17 or 18 miles,” Yockey said of his pacing. A slightly slower pace of six and a half minute miles, Yockey believes, might have made a difference for him by the end of the race.
“I got to mile 23 and I just could not move,” he said.
With nearly 27,000 runners on the course, and huge numbers of spectators, the Boston Marathon has a very unique feel, which resonated with Yockey.
“I thought it was great. The crowds were awesome,” Yockey said. “I’ve never seen anything like that at a marathon. The support that came out from every city is amazing.”
Although Yockey was a little disappointed in his race time, his accomplishment was put in perspective on his way to the airport. Seated next to the race directors for the Houston Marathon, they questioned him about his time for the day and his experience.
Yockey recalled the men saying, “For this only being your second marathon and your first Boston, you did fantastic.”
Now back to his normal routine, Yockey has many memories of his special weekend.
“The city of Boston itself will stand out most in my mind. You could tell it was just something special,” he said. “People were kind and welcoming all throughout the whole day yesterday, even after the incident at Copley Square.”
“That city stuck together,” said Yockey.