- October 14, 2021
Craig Williams awoke at 3:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, with one goal in mind: run the 124th annual Boston Marathon.
The only catch is that the world-famous marathon had been canceled because of COVID-19. However, he — along with all the others who qualified — still had the chance to run virtually. So, instead of in Boston, he ran the full, 26.2-mile run in the Lakes of Windermere community where he lives.
Williams chose a thin swath of green space that stretches three blocks for the run.
The course length was only eighth-tenths of a mile, meaning it would take him 33 laps to finish the 26.2-mile run. Despite running plenty of marathons in the past, this run was different.
“It was marathon No. 41 or 42, so I kind of had that routine down now, but not the routine to run solo around the neighborhood — that was a first for me,” Williams said. “This was a great experience. All my other marathons have been in a race format, so doing one virtually is a first for me.”
Before Williams could take the course, he was met by friend and fellow runner Kelley Duell — with whom Williams runs in a local group called The Loopers — who surprised him outside with traditional signs one would normally see during a big marathon.
After setting up signs and a water station along the route, and after having Duell play a recording of the national anthem before giving the official start, Williams embarked on his journey.
“I already know where to go, so doing this in my neighborhood was very familiar,” Williams said. “Running down that street — with just a little bit of starlight and street lamps — was totally normal and felt good. I had a plan to run a 3:40 marathon, so I had my pace all figured out.”
After the Boston Marathon was postponed to Sept. 5, Williams slowed his training — he works with his coach, Brendon O’Leary from the O’Leary Racing Team, routinely.
But when the marathon was canceled and moved to a virtual format, Williams realized he didn’t want to waste the time and effort he already had invested.
On race day, Williams flew through the first 16 to 18 miles. As the sun rose, it got warmer, and all of a sudden, people were out walking their dogs.
“With about three miles to go — that’s when I started to feel, ‘Oh boy, I have three miles to go — that’s five more laps — can I do it?’” Williams said. “The legs were a little heavy, but I pretty much stayed on pace the whole way.”
By the time he passed the finish line — where he was met by his family and friends — Williams had burned 2,101 calories, and his pace (3:38:42) was good enough to beat his goal.
While the run scratched an itch the native Australian has had since he was a child, the bigger perk was the money Williams raised for The ALS Association Greater New York Chapter.
Williams’ devotion to raising money for the organization is a cause that hits close to home, and is the main reason he got into running marathons in the first place. A decade ago, Williams’ brother, Paul, was diagnosed with ALS before succumbing to the disease in 2010. That’s when Williams joined the organization to raise money and run the New York City Marathon at the end of the year.
Being able to run for himself — his next race is the Space Coast Marathon in Cocoa — and for a greater cause is what Williams said will keep him running for as long as possible.
“Running — I think — will always be a part of my life,” Williams said. “But I’ll keep going as long as I’m injury-free and fit, and I’ll keep raising money — I just raised over $2,000 for this one I did for Team ALS.”