The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 23, 2014

Herd staffer completes Boston Marathon

Former Marshall cross country runner Travis Epling helps Boston ‘take finish line back’

As Travis Epling watched the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings as they were unfolding, he couldn’t help feeling a connection.

Not because any of the victims were close to him — although Josh Holley, Epling’s former cross country teammate at Marshall, was there, thankfully unharmed by the attacks. Still, the fact that the tragedy happened during the world’s most famous running event gave it extra meaning for him.

“I ended up being kind of a spokesperson for Josh until we knew that everything was OK,” Epling said. “Then we had to keep watching to know what was going on. It really hit home, because I am involved in running.”

Epling was on Marshall’s cross country team from 2004-07, so running has been part of his life since he was a small kid growing up in Point Pleasant. When the Boston tragedy occurred, and as he witnessed how the city rallied around itself, he knew he wanted to be part of it in some way.

He ran his first marathon in 2012 in Huntington, and his time qualified him for the Boston Marathon. What better way for him to be part of Boston’s celebration of perseverance and resilience than by competing?

“After the events of last year, I wanted to go up and be part of this because this was a special marathon,” he said.

Epling was one of more than 35,000 runners at the start line for Monday’s 118th running. In the storied history of the event, this might have been the most historic — and Epling was a part of it.

“We got here Friday afternoon, and it has been amazing to see the way the city has embraced it all,” Epling said via phone Monday afternoon. “It’s amazing how the city wrapped its arms around everything. The atmosphere was just electric up here. They normally have 500,000 spectators, but I think they said there were well over one million.”

Epling, the assistant director of athletic development for Marshall’s Big Green Scholarship Foundation, said he and the other runners were almost treated like rock stars by the jubilant city. He didn’t have to pay for a subway ride, and he and the others were often met with cries of “Take the finish line back!”

The first bomb was detonated near the finish line on Boylston Street.

The rough winter that hung around until as late as last week afforded Epling insufficient opportunity to train. He did credit his friends in the 5:15 Running Club — so named because that’s the time they meet regularly at Ritter Park to train — for helping him get in shape for the race.

Epling completed the 26.2 miles in 3:00:14 — a little slower than he would have liked, especially after he ran the Huntington race in 2:47. He said he felt confident with his time halfway through, but the second part of the course did him no favors.

“They call it Heartbreak Hill for a reason,” he said.

Epling was not alone among runners with Marshall ties. Two of his former teammates, John Davis and Straten Schemel, also ran. Davis, a Spring Valley alum now living in Texas, ran it in 2:48:36, while Schemrel, a graduate of Ritchie County High who lives in Atlanta, did it in 3:36:48.

Epling’s time automatically qualifies him to return to Boston in 2015. He wasn’t ready to make that commitment just a few hours after the race.

“You can’t ask somebody who just ran 26.2 miles if they would do it again, because right now I would probably tell you no,” Epling said. “But it will be hard to pass it up.”

— E-mail: gfauber

@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter

@GaryFauber.

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