The Chicago marathon already has one winner.
William “Billy” Boland, an Air Force captain and ROTC instructor at Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology, was the first of some 70 troops to cross the finish line Friday in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon’s satellite race at a NATO base in Kabul.
Boland finished in 3 hours, 19 minutes and 2 seconds.
“It really was awesome,” Boland, 28, said in a phone interview from the base. “I’m really looking forward to getting back to the United States and being able to run another marathon at a much lower altitude and with much cleaner air. I think it’d be kind of fun to see how fast I could do it then.”
The race was organized by Virginia Army National Guard Capt. John Paul Zimmermann, who has run 10 Chicago marathons and hopes to run 50 in Chicago by 2050. It began before dawn Friday in Afghanistan, which was Thursday night in Chicago.
Knowing that he would miss Sunday’s race because he is stationed at the base, Zimmermann contacted race officials a few weeks ago, who sent him four boxes of official marathon T-shirts, race bibs and medals.
Runners set up a 10-lap course through the base, winding through streets lined with concrete barriers, concertina wire and armored military vehicles. Troops from several countries — including Italy, France and Poland — took off from the starting line after the Chicago marathon’s director blasted an air horn over the phone.
Although Boland has run several shorter races, the race was his first marathon. Despite the challenging conditions — the base is more than 5,000 feet above sea level, and Kabul’s air quality is notoriously poor — he said he cruised through the first 17 miles or so.
But by the last few miles, he said, he was struggling just to put one foot in front of the other. The worst part of each lap was running past the area where the base’s sewage is collected, he said.
“I just kept going,” said Boland, who lives in Lake View East. “I didn’t really know what place I was in, but I figured I was pretty close to the lead and I didn’t want to give that up, so I just kept trucking.”
Boland, who has been in Afghanistan since April, ran the race while wearing a tan T-shirt with the names of eight U.S. troops and an American contractor from his unit who were shot and killed by an Afghan military pilot shortly after he arrived. His memories of them gave him extra motivation while he was training, he said.
Another Illinois serviceman, Jorge Valdez, 34, of Chicago, also ran the race, officials said.
The race raised about $12,000 for St. Jude Children's Hospital, Chicago marathon officials said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun