Higdon and Porter, both avid runners, had competed in other marathons, but the key to this race was to finish under the required times set by the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), the organization that established the Boston Marathon in 1897.
The two men finished just under the strict time requirements for the oldest annual marathon and a race widely regarded as one of the most prestigious road races in the world.
Higdon, 36, finished the 26.2-mile race with a time of 3:14:42, placing #25 in his age division (35-39). Higdon beat the qualifying time of 3:15 by 18 seconds and kept an average pace of 7:26/mile.
Porter, 40, completed the race with a time of 3:18:18, placing #15 in his age division (40-44), with an average pace of 7:34/mile. Porter needed an average pace of 7:38 to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
By posting qualifying times at the Jacksonville Bank Marathon, Higdon and Porter qualified for either the 2011 or 2012 Boston Marathon, which is held each year on the third Monday in April. Since next year’s marathon is “sold out,” the men plan to run in the 2012 Boston Marathon.
Higdon says there were several points during the race that were very difficult, but the worst part was the last 6.2 miles. “Had it not been for my family being there, I do not think I would have accomplished my goal. When it got really bad and I wanted to quit, I just kept telling myself that my wife and kids didn’t get up at 4 a.m. and drive to Jacksonville to see me quit. I knew that I was running the pace I needed to but was not real sure I would make it. When I turned the corner on the track and could see the race clock I knew then that I had made it, but that it was going to be close,” he recalls.
Porter says the weather was a chilly 42 degrees with misting rain at the start, coupled with a north wind of 10 mph. He noted that the runners were shaded from the wind most of the time, but the last five miles back to the finish was into the wind.
The race started at 7 a.m. and Porter decided to start out at a pace of 7:45/mile for the first couple of miles. “After that, I settled into a pace a little over 7:30/mile,” Porter says. “I felt pretty good through mile 15. I developed a cramp in my side at mile 16. From then on out to the finish I was in a state of fatigue and pain. You get to a point where you have to believe in your training. I just thought it is easier to hurt for another hour than go through the training again.
“At mile 23 I knew I was going to be able to finish the race in time to qualify. I just kept trying to push through the pain and get to the finish. When I finally got to the finish line, Nat was waiting and said, ‘book your tickets, we are both going to Boston.’ It was a great feeling to know that we both qualified,” Porter says.
Higdon began his training for the Jacksonville Marathon on Aug. 15. The 20-week plan consisted of five days of running with an average of 35 to 45 miles per week, logging 58 miles in his biggest training week.
“The Boston marathon is the pinnacle of marathons. It is the oldest and most sought after race for marathoners. My only goal for this race will be to have fun and enjoy the race with Joe, and spend some time in Boston with Heather, Higdon says.
Porter completed a 16-week training program to ready himself for Jacksonville, using a training plan designed by Bart Yasso. The plan consisted of five runs per week using “hill repeats, tempo runs, some 800 meter repeats and a weekly long run. The plan peaked at 50 miles per week with a long run of 22 miles,” says Porter.
“We did sign up for the race with the goal of qualifying for Boston,” Porter says. “I completed the Snickers Marathon back in March in 3:29:33. After that race, I felt like a (Boston qualifying) time was obtainable. I ran the Snickers at an 8:01/mile pace.
“The Boston Marathon is one of the five major marathons in the world. It is the only one to have a qualifying time in order to gain entrance. If you get into marathoning, you certainly are aware of the prestige and difficulty of being a ‘Boston Qualifier.’ It is the Everest of mountain climbing. I do not have a goal in mind for when I run the actual Boston Marathon. I will probably take in sights and sounds of the race and simply enjoying being there,” Porter remarked.
The marathon duo both credit their families and friends for encouraging them to pursue the lofty goal of running in the ultimate race.
Higdon commented, “Once again, I had great support from my family and close friends, Heather, (his wife), and children, Nathan, Stuart, and Hanson, as well as (the Porters), Jami, Kate and Will Porter.”
Porter added, “Both of our wives and children made a surprise visit to Jacksonville to cheer us on. They saw us at mile 12, 16 and the finish. It was uplifting to have them cheering us on.”