SARASOTA, Fla. (April 24, 2015) – Most days see Carlos Jimenez in a classroom teaching business students.
Not this past Monday.
The assistant professor of accounting at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee was a world away from financial statements, carrying values and debt instruments.
Instead, he was on foot, slogging through Greater Boston along with 30,000 other runners as part of the 119th Boston Marathon.
It was the 45-year-old Palmetto resident’s first time in the famed race, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious.
So how did he do? Not badly, at 3 hours, 24 minutes and 11 seconds – fast enough to qualify him for next year’s marathon within the men’s 45- to 49-year-old category.
“I made it by 49 seconds, the qualifying time,” he said. “And I did it without stopping. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
The fact that Jimenez, who started teaching at USF Sarasota-Manatee this past fall, would even run in the race at all is surprising. He first had a slew of obstacles to overcome.
Unlike many long-distance runners, Jimenez didn’t take up the sport until five years ago when faced with higher life insurance premiums for being overweight and out of shape.
He resolved at that point to get healthy. Back then, the 5-foot 10-inch Jimenez tipped the scales at 205 pounds. Now, he’s a lean 170 pounds thanks to his new-found obsession.
Then there was a flu and ear infection that sidelined him just a couple weeks before the starting gun.
He beat back the flu easily enough, but the ear infection persisted, triggering worries about whether he’d be able to make the 1,220-mile flight to Logan International Airport in Boston.
“I thought about backing out, but the week before my doctor cleared me to travel on the plane,” he said.
Jimenez, his wife, Mariana, and mother-in-law, Pilar, arrived in Boston two days before the race. They took in the sights, including MIT and Harvard, and relaxed so Jimenez would be well-rested for the grueling contest.
Then on race day, yet another obstacle emerged: A cold, drizzling rain coupled with stiff head winds set in. Jimenez braced for a long, chilly day.
As the hours ticked by, he said, he felt surprisingly strong, and his confidence swelled.
It turned out he’d need that strength for what awaited at mile 20.
Runners know it ominously as “Heartbreak Hill,” a nearly half-mile ascent and where many report hitting “the wall.” It’s where bodies give out and heart-broken runners withdraw just five miles shy of the finish line.
Jimenez, however, chugged up and over the long slope, weary and cold, but strong enough to continue without stopping.
When he finally crossed the finish line, he scanned the crowd for his wife to share in the moment, but was unable to spot her.
“That was the hardest part,” said Jimenez, whose thighs ached and throbbed, making it difficult even to walk.
He said he shivered so violently from the cold he could barely dial a cell phone to connect with his wife. The two met up later at a receiving area and fell into an embrace.
In some ways, the Boston Marathon proved to be the hardest of the six marathons Jimenez has run.
Having conquered it, he hasn’t decided whether to return next year – though that option remains open to him – or tackle another long-distance run elsewhere.
“Whatever I decide, I’m looking forward to my next race,” he said.
It certainly was the most serious of the races he’s run so far.
“In this one, you’re running with the best runners in the country. They mean business and they’re very excited about it,” he said. “You have to bring it because they’re bringing it too.”