Seventy-five-year-old Prentice Neal laid on his death bed battling lung cancer when he made his dying wish to his 51-year-old daughter.
Kathy Yeager visited her father to bring him a medal she just won in a race when Neal asked her to promise to do something Yeager thought she could never do — run the Boston Marathon.
“When I die, I want you to promise to do that for me,” Neal told her.
Yeager was a new runner who just finished the longest race of her life, a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) run. She would have to run 26.2 miles in 4 hours or less to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but she responded with a simple, “OK, I’ll do it, Dad. I promise I’ll do it.”
That was in February 2013. Neal died two months later.
Yeager ran her first marathon at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon that November with her her son, Zane, who was the first to introduce Kathy to running when he picked it up for weight loss. She came in at 4:36, more than a half-hour off the Boston Marathon qualifying time.
The Nashville resident put in 3,500 miles of training the following year on her quest to keep the promise she made to her father. She ran the Monumental Marathon for a second time in 2014, crossing the finish line in 3:55:00. She made it to Boston. Yeager ran one second faster in the 2015 Monumental Marathon to qualify a second time.
The 55-year-old took her first trip to Boston last year to fulfill her promise, and it was an emotional race for her. She did not get to enjoy the scenery and crowd like Columbus resident Rhandi Orme did during her first Boston Marathon because Yeager was so focused on achieving her goal.
Orme, 39, usually is the one who has a hard time enjoying the environment while she runs, but running in her first Boston Marathon a year after the bombings caused her to take a different approach.
“I’m usually just like, ‘Game on.’ I want to get a place in my age group, but I thought, ‘I’m not going to do that today,'” Orme said. “It was such an emotional weekend. I gave high-fives and fist-bumped kids. I took an ice pack from some stranger because I was hot. I lived in the moment. It was one of my slower marathons, and I didn’t care.”
Both Yeager and Orme are headed back to Boston to run their second marathons on Monday. Orme will be looking to find a happy medium of enjoying the atmosphere while still running a decent time. Yeager will be running her second and final Boston Marathon more for herself this year. She will still be thinking of her father, but said she wants to enjoy the experience a little more this time around.
Another 39-year-old Columbus resident, Andy Mann lll will be running his fourth Boston Marathon for charity this time. Mann and his wife Jackie adopted their 7-year-old daughter Alicia from Congo last April. He is running this year’s marathon to help raise money for Congolese kids in need of education, clean water an other amenities.
Mann also will be running in Boston alongside his twin brother James, who will be running his third Boston Marathon.
“Running is one of the things I’m most passionate about, as far as hobbies,” James Mann said. “To share that with your brother and best friend, and to do that in such a national historical and awesome event is just really cool.”
James already has broken three hours in a previous Boston Marathon and said this year, he will be more relaxed instead of focusing on time. Mann lll is using this year’s Boston marathon to get back in marathon shape after being forced to take a brief time off from running.
Most of the runners from the Columbus area traveling to Boston have been there before. In fact, Cummins worker David Venable, 56, has run in more than 10 Boston Marathons and will be competing again this year. He also works with the Mill Race Marathon in town, which is a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon.
Tyler Stilwell, 34, will be competing in his first Boston Marathon after only picking up running for exercise back in 2011. He described it as a bucket-list race and plans on coming back to enjoy it again in the future, especially since this year will only be a 30-hour round-trip for him. He will be rushing to get back to his pregnant wife, who is nearing her due date.
David Herr, 57, from North Vernon also will be running in the Boston Marathon.
“Boston is one of those races where it’s kind of a culmination of all of that hard work and training,” Mann lll said. “Boston is one of the most iconic races. The atmosphere in Boston for race weekend is just electric.”
On the air: NBC Sports Network, 8:30 a.m.
Columbus-area runners: David Herr, Andy Mann lll; James Mann, Rhandi Orme, Tyler Stilwell, David Venable, Kathy Yeager
The Mill Race Marathon is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. This year’s Mill Race Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K is Sept. 23.
Runners can register by visiting millracemarathon.com