An Elite Experience for Boston Marathon Runner

The Friday before the 2019 Boston Marathon, Trevor Zimak received an email from the Boston Athletic Association (BAA). He was invited to start with the Boston Marathon Elite Men. He qualified with a time of 2:20:04 at the Grandmas Marathon, which put him in the first corral of wave one. But, as luck would have it this year, Trevor was offered an opportunity that very few runners are offered. He was offered elite status in the Boston Marathon.

Trevor said “Sign me up!”

Hello 2019 Boston Marathon Athlete! Congratulations on being invited/selected to participate in the 2019 Boston Marathon’s Elite Men’s Start (EMS)!

— Boston Marathon Elite Athlete Coordinator, BAA —

Enjoying Boston

Trevor and his partner, Theresa Thibert, flew to Boston on the Saturday before and settled into their hotel. They scored tickets to watch the Bruins defeat the Maple Leafs in the Game 2 of the NHL Eastern Conference First Round.


April 14, 2019

On the day before the race, Trevor and Theresa made their way to the beautiful Fairmont Coply Plaza Hotel to register and attend the Elite Athlete Technical Meeting. They arrived at the front desk and were greeted by very friendly staff. Then they were escorted to the elite athlete hospitality room.

Pampering in the elite runner’s hospitality room

The elite hospitality room had everything a marathon runner could possibly want. They told Trevor to ask for whatever he needed for a successful race. There was a pre-race smorgasbord of Gatorade, pop, protein bars, gummies and gels. There was even a large bowl of York Peppermint Patties. Trevor saw some elite women athletes from Japan eyeing the bowl. They had never had a York Patty before. Trevor encouraged them to try one. And from then on, they were hooked on the chocolate and mint treats.

Trevor picked up his bib and Theresa received her guest pass

It was here at the Fairmont Coply Plaza that Trevor picked up his race bib. Elite athletes have their names, not the numbers, printed on the bibs. They also registered Theresa for her special credentials so that she could watch Trevor cross the finish line. Her badge allowed her access to the VIP tent, Grand Stand, and restricted road barricade areas.

Trevor Zimak’s bib at the 2019 Boston Marathon.
Photo courtesy of Theresa Thibert

Elite runner pre-race technical meeting

At the technical meeting, Trevor was told of the schedule and processes for race morning. Elite athletes have their own tables on the race course to place their water bottles and nutrition, so they don’t have to carry it during the race. The pre-race warm-ups and start line times were choreographed down to mere minutes. There was no room for error during the precious minutes before the start of the 2019 Boston Marathon.

Was Trevor ready for the race the next morning?

He had had some difficult times during the past year, including a stress fracture in October 2018. He wasn’t able to get as much training in as he normally does. Was he ready for the 2019 Boston Marathon?

Trevor had certainly come a long way on his journey to Boston Marathon Elite status.

Trevor’s other passion is fishing.

During the summer months, if Trevor isn’t running, he is out fishing. He has won numerous fishing tournaments. He has won the Shebandawan Fall Bass Classic for 6 years straight, setting a two day tournament record in summer of 2018. Trevor also placed 5th in the Fort Francis Canadian Bass Championships and 8th in the Nakina Bass Derby.

Trevor Zimak’s other passion is fishing. Photo courtesy of Trevor Zimak.

A boating accident almost ended his running career.

In 2007 Trevor was tossed out of a boat when a large wave struck. The boat motor’s propeller caught and tore up his foot. He had surgery to piece it back together, but he still has rods and metal plates implanted in his ankle and calf bone. Trevor had undergone physiotherapy, but had not run for 3 years after the accident. He gained weight and admits that he wasn’t very active during those years.

Trevor makes his comeback.

Then a colleague asked him to be their team’s anchor in the local Kamview Trail Half-Marathon Relay. Trevor accepted and started to train. That first 5 km run found Trevor gassed and struggling. He was out of shape and had to take walk breaks. But Trevor was determined to make a comeback and started to do 800 meter sprints and track workouts. The Half-Marathon Relay, where Trevor ran the final 7 km loop, was in October 2010. Trevor was beaten by his rival, a track coach from a local high school. This sparked Trevor into action.

Trevor was determined to restore his health and running.

Trevor improved his nutrition, started going to the gym and set a goal for himself to run the local 10 mile road race in under 60 minutes in May 2011. He ran 3 times per week and intensified his gym workouts. He ran that 10 mile road race in 59:16, successfully under his 60 minute goal.

Trevor Zimak approaching the finish line of the Firefighters 10 Mile Road Race. Photo courtesy of Marty Mascarin

The next year, Trevor wanted to run that same 10 mile race in under 55 minutes. He joined a local running club, the Lakehead Masters Running Club, and trained hard. Trevor was just shy of his goal in 2012, running the 10 miles in 55:10. He wanted to improve and be faster.

Trevor is driven to be fast!

Trevor progressed rapidly, until he was so fast that he had no one to run with at the Lakehead Master’s. He then joined the Lakehead University Cross Country Running Team in the Summer of 2013 looking for faster people to train with. He ran the 2014 Fire Fighters Ten Mile Road Race in 51:27, second to Gilbert Kiptoo of Kenya.

2015 was another year of injuries for Trevor, but he was able to come back and achieve a personal best in the 2016 Fire Fighters 10 Mile Road Race with a time of 50:53. Trevor also placed third in the Hamilton Around the Bay 30 km in 2016 with a time of 1:40:07. He has been training and running on his own since July 2018.

Trevor trains hard with a lot of miles.

Trevor has been running about 100 miles per week. He usually runs twice per day. But, recently he has only been able to get in one run per day while training for the 2019 Boston Marathon. Healing from a stress fracture, his focus this year was on quality miles, not quantity. So, for 3 months, injured, he did 2 hours of work on an elliptical machine. This allowed him to get his cardio workouts in without the pounding on his healing injury.

Two hours on the elliptical was mind-numbing boring, but I got it done.

— Trevor Zimak —

When he was back to running, Trevor started on the treadmill and did the occasional pool running workout. Trevor made sure to get at least one long run of 30 km per week done. This 30 km run included at least 20 km worth of harder effort. Again, his focus was on quality miles, not quantity.

Trevor’s 2019 Boston Marathon Training

Before the 2019 Boston Marathon, he had 8 weeks of road training. This consisted of gradually increasing his long runs and 2 other main runs per week. He was also in the gym doing weights and strength workouts. During other days, he would do 70 to 80 minute smaller run workouts, such as tempo runs, fartleks and ladder speed play runs. However, given the circumstances this year, he was not able to train to his usual standards of at least 400 miles per month.

April 15, 2019: Race Day.

Trevor and Theresa woke up early to catch the 5:30 am train to the start area. They walked 1 km to the hotel hosting the elite athletes. They had a bit of time before catching the 7:00 am elite bus to the starting line. Motorcycle security escorts rode in front and behind the buses. The security was top notch. Trevor and Theresa felt safe.

Pre-race rituals included stretching and napping

The elite athletes were escorted into a church where yoga mats lined the floor. Some athletes were using the mats to stretch, some to nap. Trevor was surrounded by runners such as Des Linden, Edna Kiplagat, Lawerence Cherono, Lelisa Desisa and Kenneth Kipkemoi. After borrowing some glide from one of the Kenyan runners, Trevor found a mat in the Canadian corner next to Krista Duchene.

Trevor with Yuri Kawauchi, winner of the 2018 Boston Marathon. Photo courtesy of Theresa Thibert.

Torrential rains before the race

Outside the weather was wet. There was a torrential downpour of rain, which stopped around 9:00 am. Although the rain had stopped, the runners would be running in high humidity during the race.

The elite athletes made their way to the start line.

The announcement was made and all the athletes lined up inside the church to march out to the start. Crowds cheered and clapped as the athletes approached their corral. The media were there snapping photos completing the feel of celebrity status that these top runners deserved.

Pre-race warm up at start line.

The runners then had exactly 7 minutes to warm up before lining up to start. The elites were just ahead of the wave 1, corral 1 runners, separated by a wall of security people. There was room to move about and jog to warm up in this area. Runners in the other corrals did not have this luxury, as there was barely room to move due the large numbers of people in these corrals.

The 7 minutes seemed like 70 minutes

— Trevor Zimak —

Trevor listened as they announced the top male and female runners. He glanced over and noticed he was lined up with some of the top runners, like Cherono and Lelisa. Without saying a word, he slipped behind the top runners towards the back of the elite pack.

Then all went quiet. You could hear a pin drop. Trevor was trying to focus on his run ahead. He kept telling himself to not be distracted by all the events going on around him. “Don’t go out too fast. Relax.”

Then the count down started and the gun went off.

The 2019 Boston Marathon had started at 10:00 am.

The first mile

Trevor found himself at a pace of 4:47 at the first mile marker. He was only about a meter behind the top runner grouping. “Too fast”, he thought. “Focus. Just get into rhythm. Just run and don’t trip

10 km in

The road was starting to dry out when Trevor hit the 10 km marker. The lines on the road were slippery, he noted. The weather was changing quickly. It was starting to heat up. With the higher humidity from the rains, Trevor was feeling it. The humidity made the run uncomfortable, although he was running at a comfortable pace.

Trevor started to cramp

He started to develop cramps and side stitches. He tried to relax, take deep breaths and do few side stretches. Nothing seemed to help. He kept running, digging his fingers in under his rib cage to put pressure on his diaphragm. It felt like knives had been jammed under his ribs. He kept digging his fingers in for 32 km. At one point he bit his cheek and tongue from the pain, spitting out blood. He ran as best as he could. He didn’t give up. It was the Boston Marathon. He had to keep going.

Trevor’s spirit lifted with cheers from the crowd

When he reached Wellesley College, the loud cheers and 800 meters of high fives took his mind off his cramping.

Then came the Boston Marathon Hills

The next challenge was the 4 hills of the Boston Marathon, including Heartbreak Hill. Trevor noted that these hills are everything they say they are. They are long and tough. They slow many a marathoner.

Rows of spectators were cheering loudly

Once he reached the Beacon Street and Brookline Town signs there were rows upon rows of spectators. The loud cheers and energy of the crowd kept Trevor motivated to continue his pace. He was roasting in the heat and humidity. The cramps were excruciating. He wanted to stop. But this was Boston, so he pushed forward.

Only 3 km to go

With only 3 km left to go, Trevor was determined to maintain his position. His competitive side kicked in and he would not let anyone pass him. The crowd was roaring loudly with cheers now. This lifted Trevor’s spirit.

Theresa was waiting at the finish line

Theresa was keeping tabs of Trevor’s progress on the marathon’s app. She could see his times as he passed each of the major markers along the course. But, she didn’t know exactly when he would be within sight. Theresa was positioned in the Grandstand right at the finish line. The wait and not knowing when exactly was nerve-wracking. She wanted Trevor to be happy with his finishing time. He had trained so hard, investing a lot of time during his training, and deserved to finish well. When he was within sight, her adrenaline spiked. She yelled his name out. She cried when he crossed the finish line.

Trevor approaching the finish line.

Trevor finished the 2019 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:33:59.

Trevor finished the race with a very respectful time, but not what he had hoped. The first half of the marathon was better than his last year’s time by 4 minutes, so that was good. He was happy with his performance with the first half. However, the second half of the race was tough, with cramping and hills, Trevor slowed down. His second half was 10 minutes slower than the first.

Theresa and Trevor after the 2019 Boston Marathon. Photo courtesy of Theresa Thibert.

Trevor works to be the fastest he can be with the training he can do. He pushes himself in everything he does.

— Theresa Thibert —

Future Plans

Trevor plans to continue his training. His next race will be the 2019 Firefighters 10 Mile Road Race in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He is hoping for a personal best and, possibly, to beat the race record for his age category. Trevor and Theresa are also considering running the California marathon in the Fall. This would be Theresa’s first marathon.

Trevor will also be out fishing in his boat this summer.

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