Former Columbus East football player Zane Yeager decided that something in his life needed to change the day after ending his football career with a sectional semifinal loss to Whiteland in 2010.
Yeager battled with low self-esteem, had little to no drive within himself and was not happy with the person he was to that point. The 260-pound lineman wasn’t looking to play football in college anymore, so he also wanted to lose some weight.
Yeager took a shot at losing weight the best way he knew how — running. He put on his running shoes and ran two laps around the track.
“That was the most I could do,” Yeager said. “It was almost like I was embarrassed because I started doing these drills. There were other people at the track running and doing their thing. I started doing these drills so people would think, ‘Oh, that was just his warmup.’ No, that was the whole thing. That was the workout, but it progressed from there.”
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Yeager took that 800-meter start and flipped it to running a mile each day, then a mile-and-a-half and eventually ran his first three-mile race that same year. Eight years later, Yeager has about 10 marathons, one 50-kilometer race, a 50-mile and a 100-mile race under his belt.
Now, the 24-year-old Indiana University graduate student weighs around 170 pounds and is one of five local runners set to compete in Monday’s Boston Marathon.
Yeager’s self-esteem is higher than ever, and he is completely comfortable with the man he has become.
“It’s a little crazy looking back on it and for it to happen in such a short amount of time,” Yeager said. “I think, ‘Wow, that was only eight years ago that I was doing that and to kind of have that mindset to constantly be in grind mode and to put in the work for pretty much eight straight years.’ To see where it’s put me in such a short amount of time, it makes me hopeful and really looking forward to the future in terms of what I can do moving forward.”
Yeager qualified at the 2016 Mill Race Marathon, where he completed 26.2 miles in just under 3 hours.
The other four Columbus runners traveling to Boston are 19-year-old Paul Bean, 40-year-old Joe Calandro, 57-year-old Kevin Meyer and 48-year-old Lisa Stadler.
Bean, a freshman at Purdue, was a Hoosier Hills Conference champion cross-country and track runner for Columbus East and continues to run with the Purdue running club. Bean, Calandro and Stadler all qualified during the 2016 Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis.
“I think it’s going to be pretty amazing,” Bean said. “I just hope I’ll be able to take in the atmosphere and the entire race before it’s over. It’s a lot different course than the last marathon I ran.”
Calandro wrestled at Jennings County and said he’d never run more than five miles before he picked up running nearly four years ago. He started running as a way to stay in shape and thought it would be fun to run a half-marathon before pushing himself to a full marathon just to say he completed one.
“Then, I got to thinking, if I’m going to run a full marathon and do all that training I might as well try to qualify for Boston,” Clanadro said. “That’s what I set my mind into doing, and I got it on my second try.”
Calandro’s first try was six weeks prior to the Monumental Marathon at the Mill Race Marathon. He finished near a minute-and-a-half under the qualifying time, and he wasn’t sure if that was going to get the job done, so he ran it again.
Just because a runner hit the qualifying time for Boston doesn’t necessarily mean they will get invited to the race. If there are too many registered qualifiers, they will take the fastest times that fill the slots, which leaves some qualifiers on the outside looking in.
Stadler has experienced that, missing three of her five qualifying years. This will be Stadler’s second Boston Marathon after running her first one in 2014.
Stadler enjoyed the atmosphere and everything surrounding the event, and said she is excited to be back for a second time. One of Stadler’s best memories while running in Boston was running past one of the universities where people were holding up “hug me” and “kiss me” signs. Stadler said she could hear the cowbells and loud screams well before she got close enough to see them. She gave out a friendly hug as she ran past.
“It was surreal with millions of spectators. It was something like I never experienced before,” Stadler said. “It was amazing. A lot of the crowd support and the people along the course, I felt like a rock star. The first time I ran it, I did run with the intent of enjoying it and just kind of soaking it all in. I really want to do that again this year. There is a lot to see.”
For Yeager, qualifying for Boston is a big milestone for him, but running means much more than just marathon racing. It’s given him a piece of his life that he didn’t know was there, and qualifying for Boston is just one of the many gifts that running has given him.
“It really gave me an identity and gave me a purpose as to say, ‘This is who I want to be, and this is what I want to do,’” Yeager said. “It really transitioned away from the aesthetic purpose. I didn’t care about the six-pack abs anymore. I didn’t care bout the appearance of how I looked. It transitioned more into just a love, a passion. That’s what I think running has done more than anything for me is definitely just given me that identity.”
When: 8:50 a.m. Monday; 9:32 a.m. (elite women); 10 a.m. (elite men)
Local runners entered: Paul Bean, Joe Calandro, Kevin Meyer, Lisa Stadler, Zane Yeager