Iowa State gymnastics head coach Jay Ronayne and assistant coach Katie Minasola recently ran in the Des Moines Marathon, each with a unique purpose in mind as the miles went by.
Ronayne’s mind was fixed on a number: 3:25, meaning three hours, 25 minutes. That was the time Ronayne needed to finish in to accomplish his life-long goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
“I grew up 45 minutes from Boston,” Ronayne said. “My parents took me to the race nearly every year of my life. We’d always watch the finish and we’d go to the Red Sox game on Patriot’s Day. Right after the game, it was a family tradition that we’d watch the end of the marathon.”
Ronayne, an experienced marathoner, having completed three prior to his run in Des Moines, had never finished one in under 3:28. The eighth-year Cyclone coach used the challenge he was facing as an opportunity push his gymnasts in the offseason.
“I told them I’m an average athlete, but that I had this huge goal,” Ronayne said. “If I could do this, then imagine what they could do.”
Right from the start, Ronayne got a rude awakening, realizing just how lofty his goal was. Prior to the race, he found a pace team that was set to finish the run in 3:25, just in time to qualify for Boston. While he may have found the pace team prior to the start, Ronayne said he wasn’t with them for long.
“We started off and they took off and left me in the dust,” Ronayne said with a laugh. “I thought, ‘Ok, well I might not get this goal today.’ I lost sight of them and they just were gone.”
As Ronayne pushed through the race, and watched his clock, he knew he was picking up time along the way, but his pace team remained out of sight. That is, until he reached the 16th mile.
“I came down a hill and all of a sudden in the distance, I saw my pace group and then I had a target,” Ronayne said.” I was able to run up to them. At two miles left, the pace guy said if anyone has a 3:25 goal, just stick with us and you’re going to make it. He asked if anyone had Boston qualifier in mind and I think I was the only one that raised my hand. He said that if you feel like you’ve got it, go for it now. I thanked him for his help and I took off and just tried to pass anyone that I saw in front of me. Honestly, it was really, really painful but I was able to finish in 3:23. It was very self-satisfying.”
With registration for the 2014 Boston Marathon already closed, Ronayne has his eyes set on the 2015 race.
Minasola’s focus for her half-marathon was on running for a friend. When Minasola was coaching at Michigan State, she made a pact with two student-athletes, Nicole Argiros and Kathryn Mahoney, that when those two were done competing, they would run a half-marathon together.
In December of 2010, Mahoney fell while performing a vault in practice and was paralyzed from the waist down.
“I did it in honor of Kathryn,” Minasola said. “Those were the two girls that I wanted to do that half marathon with after they were done with gymnastics. After she hurt herself, I still wanted to do this for her.”
Minasola finished her run in a time of 2:12.40 after setting a pre-race goal of 2:15.