Science teacher helps heal city with his first Boston Marathon

Ron Hoofnagle crossing the finish line.

Ron Hoofnagle crossing the finish line.

Boston was supposed to be filled with a euphoric sense of fulfillment on April 15, 2013. After two bombs went off at 2:50 Eastern Standard Time that killed three bystanders and injured hundreds of others, happiness was the last thing that crossed anyone’s mind. Nearly instantaneously, firemen, policemen, fans and even runners rushed to the aid of the wounded to begin the uniting of a city that will never again be the same. A unity that can now simply be referred to as “Boston Strong.”

As that city has rebounded, Cedar Falls High School’s very own science teacher Ron Hoofnagle was able to help with the healing for Boston and all the world’s confidence in community as he joined with thousands of runners this week in the 2014 Boston Marathon for the first time. “My daughter was pushing me really hard. She said Boston might be a once in your life thing, and you can’t just skip it.”

Running since ninth grade, Hoofnagle participated in the Wrightsville Beach Marathon in North Carolina over spring break of 2013. There he qualified for the Boston Marathon. “My bucket list said, ‘Run a marathon,’ so I hadn’t planned to do another one, but then the bombings happened, and I decided I wanted to be a part of the marathon this year. I wanted in,” Hoofnagle said.

The 26.2 miles throughout the city of Boston took seven months of training. Once he was officially approved, Hoofnagle started tracking his miles and what he put into his body that would serve as his machine. A 20-week workout program, starting in December, saw the science, math and engineering teacher record a cumultative total of 950 miles, or the equivalence of over 36 marathons.

Ron Hoofnagle

Ron Hoofnagle

Going in, Hoofnagle had his eyes on three goals. The first was to soak in the scenery and history of the Boston Marathon. As far as times go, he wanted to achieve a three hour 30 minute marathon, and if he could, possibly eclipse three hours and 15 minutes. “The first goal was the one that really ended up meaning something. A million people came out and watched us. I had lots of times, going up hills that I was ready to stop and walk, but with that many people screaming for you, I wasn’t going to stop.”

Averaging just over a seven and a half minute mile, his second career marathon ended with a time of three hours and 26 minutes. “I’m extremely happy with how the day went,” Hoofnagle said.

Nearly the entire course was jam packed on both sides with people screaming, cowbells, posters and offers of helpful things such as water and Vaseline and comical things such as cigarettes and kisses from the girls of Wellesley College. “I couldn’t have imagined that many people out there cheering me on. It was such an experience.”

Last year, with about 5,700 runners yet to finish the race and with the clock reading 4:09,  the two bombs exploded with the finish line in sight on Boylston Street. Just this week on Monday, as Hoofnagle was about to cross the finish line, he saw his fellow runners express their emotions. “There were people just walking around and taking in the moment, people were sobbing, and it forced me to get a little choked up too. Everyone knew the significance of the very spot they were standing.”

The first of the 36,000 participants to finish was American Meb Keflezighi with a time of 2 hours 8 minutes and 37 seconds, a personal best for the 38 year old. “Meb” as he is commonly referred to as, become the first American to win the Boston Marathon since 1983. Putting an American on top was a fitting ending to the unity of the United States and particularly Boston, allowing “Boston Strong”  to truly show it’s meaning. “There was one girl who collapsed at 26 miles, and a group just picked her up and ran to the finish line,” Hoofnagle said. “That really showed how together everyone was and truly showed the marathon was more than just a race.”

Hoofnagle, who said he will run the Boston Marathon again at some point, acknowledged what thousands of other participants felt. “I wanted to be a part of showing the terrorists that they’re not going to scare us away from living our lives. I wanted to be apart of that comeback.”


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