You Better Run: St. Johnsville’s Geesler, 63, in hot pursuit of a Boston Marathon qualifying time

Boston Marathon finish line

The 127th Boston Marathon is scheduled for April 17.

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YOU BETTER RUN – It’s time for “John Geesler: The Prequel.”

I wrote about the 63-year-old Geesler of St. Johnsville in this space on Jan. 31, a few weeks after he had completed the Across the Years ultramarathon, a six-day race in Glendale, Arizona, that started on Dec. 28, 2022, and concluded on Jan. 3, 2023, during which Geesler piled up 311 miles.

At one point during our conversation, I took him off path to inquire whether he was going to run the Boston Marathon again, and he said yes. With Boston coming up in a few weeks, on April 17, it’s time to revisit Geesler’s experience from last fall, when he ran in the Mohawk Hudson Marathon on a mission to run under 3:50.

What does that have to do with Boston? The 3:50 was important to Geesler because, for men in his age group, it’s the cutoff for qualifying for Boston.

Best I can tell from the official results from the MHR Marathon on Oct. 9, the part of “The 3:50 guy” was played by Tim Hodson of Newark, Delaware.

He stepped into the pivotal role for John Geesler’s personal drama, as someone whose intention was to run a 3:50 and thus could serve as sort of a pacesetter. If your goal was 3:50, stick close to this guy.

Here’s the thing: Geesler doesn’t even have to qualify for Boston anymore, by virtue of his membership in the Quarter Century Club, which recognizes runners who have finished at least 25 straight (he’s up around 35 at this point).

The QCC people are exempt from the qualifying standards, as long as they completed the Boston course within the overall cutoff time the previous year.

But as a matter of personal pride, Geesler really wanted to hit the standard last year.

“They sent out a thing asking how many people have had to use a waiver and how many have qualified for every one,” Geesler said. “And there’s really only a handful of people who have qualified for every one.

“And it’s not to put them down. These are really good runners. They’re better than me. But they’re old. And even though the qualifying time does get slower as you age, most people haven’t qualified for every one

“I wanted to continue to qualify for every one.”

So he took three shots last year, to no avail.

“Well, as I said, my running hasn’t been going good,” he said. “All I needed was a sub-3:50 to qualify. Piece of cake. Then I did three marathons in a row that were over four hours, or close. I didn’t qualify.

“So this last fall, I did Mohawk Hudson. I thought, ‘Well, the way my running is going, I’m looking at like a five-hour marathon. But I’ll give it one more shot.’”

The MHR Marathon course is point-to-point from Schenectady to the Corning Preserve in Albany.

It mostly sticks to the bikepath along the Mohawk and is considered a relatively fast course, so it’s a good race if you’re looking for a Boston qualifying time.

With a very specific target in mind, Geesler’s strategy was to try to stick with the 3:40 pacer so that he’d have some wiggle room at the end.

“Lo and behold, halfway through, I’m still there,” Geesler said. “I would lose him a little bit, but I’d fight back. Fifteen miles, I was still with him, and I thought, ‘If I can hang on for a little longer, that’s going to give me a good cushion.’

“So, 18 miles. And I started to fade, and I knew I couldn’t come back. I started getting slower. I hit 20 miles, and they had a clock — because I don’t wear a watch — and I needed 10-minute miles for the last 10k.

“But I don’t know if I’m doing 10-minute miles. I’m really getting slow. So at 5k [left] there was another clock. I still need 10-minute miles. I thought, ‘Whoa, I’m cutting it close. I’m going to be down to the wire.’”

The good news at the time was that The 3:50 Guy hadn’t caught Geesler yet, so that was comforting.

Until a half-mile left.

That’s where The 3:50 Guy went past Geesler, and Geesler knew he didn’t have enough gas to pull off his usual closing sprint.

“So I hear him cross the line, they say, ‘Here’s the 3:50 guy, he’s 10 seconds ahead of pace.’ And I thought, ‘That’s not enough.’

“I crossed the line … 3:50:13. That’s clock time. But it didn’t take me long to cross the [starting] line in the beginning. So I have to find out what gun [chip] time was … gun time: 3:49:56.

“I made it,” he said, chuckling. “Four seconds.”

So he didn’t need to rely on the QCC waiver for Boston.

“I wanted to at least have that, just simply for myself,” he said. “But, boy, that was cutting it close. It wasn’t a great run, but I was thrilled with it.

“It made my day.”

Contact Mike MacAdam at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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