Runners step together to conquer Boston

Photo courtesy of Tara Eckman
Tara Eckman, left, Ashley Downes, Blayr Kramer and Dave Fuhs posed for a photo after finishing the Boston Marathon on Monday. The four runners from Jasper ran most of the race together.


BOSTON — Blayr Kramer fell behind fellow Jasper runners Tara Eckman and Ashley Downes on the 23rd mile of the Boston Marathon yesterday. She kept pushing, feeding off the energy of the crowd. Chugging through the final stretch, she neared the finish line and noticed two women waiting for her.

“As loud as the crowd was erupting in that moment, and I saw two girls (Eckman and Downes) that had pulled over to the side to turn back and wait for me for a few minutes so we could all cross together,” Kramer said. “The tears flowed, and it was overwhelming. It was awesome.”

Kramer, 35, Eckman, 43, Downes, 33, and Dave Fuhs, 66, all of Jasper, conquered the 26.2-mile foot race that spans eight cities and towns and plan to return to the contest for years to come. Kramer, Eckman and Downes all crossed at 4:02:01, and Fuhs finished about a minute later at 4:03:06. All four locals ran most of the race together.

Yesterday marked Kramer and Downes’ first Boston Marathon.

“The energy of the city is incredible,” Downes said. “If I could compare it to anything that people back home would understand, it was like running in the Jasper Strassenfest Parade for four hours.”

Fuhs has competed in the race five times, including the 2013 race when two bombs were detonated near the finish line, killing three and injuring several hundred others. He said running with the three women yesterday made the race very special for him.

“First of all, I really appreciated that these three young ladies were willing to slow down and run with an old man,” Fuhs laughed as Eckman assured the reporter that this wasn’t true. “Today was really more special for me because of these three young ladies — because they included me in their day and we had a lot of fun together. This is my fifth time to do Boston, and my wife said, ‘Dave, I don’t remember you having quite so much fun before.’”

Downes estimated that more than 25 of the Jasper runners’ family members came to cheer them on.

Fuhs added: “It’s a different feeling for me to come here after ‘13. When I was here last year, coming into the finish line, my heart just hurt as I thought about what happened the last time I was there. This time, I felt it again, but it’s healing, and I think the people here are healing.”

After the race, the four feasted on big, thick, juicy cheeseburgers. Not what you might expect from a group of normally healthy eaters who just ran nearly 30 miles, but it was a celebratory meal that marked the end of a successful day.

Downes remembers when she first looked into running the Boston Marathon several years ago. Back then, she was a recreational runner, and initially balked at the possibility of qualifying for the race. (Unlike other marathons, to compete in the Boston Marathon, runners are required to meet a certain time specific to their age group and gender in certified qualifiers to compete)

She thought there was no way she could ever run that fast, for that long or that far. But she did just that when she qualified for Boston at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in 2015 alongside Kramer and Eckman, and she did it again yesterday when the three crossed the finish line simultaneously.

“I think my message to people is that if you set your mind to it and you put in the training, you can do it,” Downes said. “If you want to do it, go for it.”

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