La Grande resident Joe Hewitt wanted one more opportunity to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Hewitt, 34, had done so twice in the last seven years, recording times in the Eugene Marathon in 2011 and 2013 that were good enough to get him to Boston. The first time, an injury kept him from competing in the Boston Marathon, and work obligations prevented him from going two years later.
“I put it on the back burner,” Hewitt said of training for another marathon.
He gave it one more shot when his wife, Chelsea Hewitt, decided she wanted to run a half marathon. Chelsea ran the Zeitgeist Half Marathon in Boise, Idaho, in November 2017, and then the couple trained together for the Coeur d’Alene Marathon, which took place May 27 — Joe running the entire 26.2-mile race, and Chelsea the 13.1 half marathon.
Joe won the Coeur d’Alene Marathon in a time of 3 hours, 2 minutes, 7.8 seconds, and as an added bonus, qualified a third time to go to Boston next April. Chelsea was second in her division in the half marathon, which she ran in
1 hours, 40 minutes, 18 seconds.
“It was the farthest thing from what I expected,” Joe said of winning the race. “It was really cool. My mom and dad were there. Chelsea was already done (with the half marathon) and at the finish line. It was really awesome.”
Hewitt said he spent the majority of the race in second place. Jacob Wimpenny, the eventual second-place finisher, pulled away from the pack early, according to Hewitt, and was well out in front most of the race. Hewitt distanced himself from the pack within about five miles of the start, and was alone in second.
He never envisioned he would catch the race leader.
“In my mind, I was like, ‘First place is out of the question.’ I ran 95 percent of that race in second place by myself,” Hewitt said, adding his main intent at that point was to maintain his speed. “I wanted to hold sub-seven-minute miles. I was making sure I was on pace.”
As he forged ahead, race watchers told him he was gaining on the leader.
“I didn’t put much credit into it,” Hewitt said, but then at about the 24-mile mark, “there was one race official who said, ‘The lead runner is right there.’ I started slowly reeling (Wimpenny) in. I could tell he was fading fast.”
At the last water station, which Hewitt said came with about 3/4 of a mile remaining, Wimpenny stopped rather than just taking a drink on the run, as many runners do.
Hewitt passed him at that point and never looked back. He finished the race 2 minutes, 44 seconds ahead of
Wimpenny, according to race results on www.sportstats.ca. class="Apple-converted-space">
“I was stoked that I won and really surprised,” he said. “I’m proud of it, for sure.”
Hewitt’s winning time in Coeur d’Alene placed him under the threshold of 3 hours, 10 minutes for a 35-year-old at the 2019 Boston Marathon, which will be his age by the time of the race.
Hewitt, who was a college runner at Eastern Washington University, said he put together a training plan and spent about three to 3-1/2 months training for the Coeur d’Alene race.
“One really long run every week, one tempo run for four to six miles and one track workout every week. In-between days would be shorter days,” Hewitt said, adding he would train probably six days a week. “The most important run is probably the one weekly long run.”
His long runs topped out in the final weeks before the marathon at about 22 miles, then he tapered down with about two and a half to go to allow his body to recover for the May 27 race.
He did so with his wife alongside, who was preparing for a half marathon in Coeur d’Alene. Chelsea, 30, was a former three-sport athlete at Union High School and former volleyball player at Eastern Oregon University.
“We could do our long runs together,” Chelsea said of training with her husband. “I’d run half of what he did and then jump on a bike.”
Chelsea ran her November race in Boise in 1 hour, 40 minutes, 11 seconds, according to www.aasportsltd.com, and was fifth in her age division. In Coeur d’Alene, just over six months later, she ran right on pace with her previous time, and her second-place finish was just 48 seconds behind the winner in the 30-34-year-old female division.
“I just wanted to be faster than my first one,” she said. “When I started training for it I had to take a few weeks off because of a knee injury. I didn’t have any expectations (of how I would place).”
Chelsea said because there were several races being run at the same time, it was tough to be sure where she was in the pack, but she was aware she was close to the front.
“I knew there were only a couple women in front of me overall. I had that in the back of my mind,” said Chelsea, who was the eighth-fastest woman overall, regardless of division.
Joe said one of the best parts of the Coeur d’Alene race was competing on the same course as Chelsea at the same time.
“I’m super proud of my wife,” Joe said. “I have a running background (but she) was never really a runner. She played volleyball, basketball and softball. I’m sure the (women) who placed ahead of her had run competitively.”
Chelsea said the race layout even allowed them an opportunity to see each other at one point. The runners ran the same course out to a midway point before returning to the finish line. The half marathoners ran it once. Those running the entire 26.2 miles did so twice.
“It was fun to be on the same course. We passed each other at one point. He was coming back in on my first out-and-back,” she said.
Chelsea indicated she isn’t sure if she has run her final half marathon.
Joe, meanwhile, will sign up for Boston when registration opens later this year. His hope, in what will quite possibly be his final 26.2-mile venture, is to go out with a bang and top his best-ever time, which was 2 hours, 53 minutes, 30 seconds in the 2011 Eugene Marathon.
“Boston is where I’m going to try to set my personal record,” he said.