Elite local runners face the Boston Marathon

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Monday marks the 117th Boston Marathon. It's one of the most respected marathons and the oldest running marathon to date.

To get into this race, runners must qualify.

Needless-to-say, the Boston Marathon attracts the most elite runners to its course, the best of the best.

Some of those runners come from the coast and they're about to face the most high profile 26.2 miles.

"I'm doing Boston because it's an ultimate race," said 39-yea-old Tracey Ashall of Long Beach.

"I guess you want to call it the Mecca of distance running," said 53-year-old Tim McDaniel of Biloxi.

For some, this year's Boston Marathon will be a first.

"It's a race I've always wanted to do. It's been a lifelong goal to qualify and I finally did," said 31-year-old Joey Begg of Long Beach.

For others, it's the second time around.

"Last year was all nerves and this year, I'll go see if I can beat my previous time," said 29-year-old Josh Ord.

For 57-year old Leonard Vergunst, the Boston Marathon has become a routine.

"This will be my 8th time to run the Boston Marathon," said Vergunst.

While many runners aspire to simply qualify for Boston, Vergunst has a loftier one. He hopes to come home from Massachusetts with a medal.

"Well, I've finished in the top 100 in the field several times," said Vergunst.

Keep in mind, the Boston Marathon has a field of 30,000 runners each year, and get this, he runs the 26.2 miles at an average pace of about 6 minutes per mile.

This year's race will be his 61st Marathon.

"I love running, it's just part of my routine every morning. I get up and I run. It's just part of my day, one of the things I look forward to in the morning--going and getting that run," said Vergunst with a smile.

His perpetual passion is evident. There's a reason he keeps coming back to Boston, and a reason why Boston is a bucket-list race for thousands of runners.

"Boston is the pinnacle marathon. You can't just show up and give them money and run the marathon. You have to earn the privilege," said 55-year-old Tom Pfleeger of Gulfport.

"I think it is the challenge that we all love. It's not easy. But hey, when you achieve things, nothing is easy in life and this is what my challenge is," said Ashall.

For McDaniel, qualifying was a triumph, but life got in the way of him going to Boston, until now.

"I've run three marathons and I've qualified three times, but Hurricane Katrina took care of one year. So my house had been gutted, so I couldn't participate that year," said McDaniel.

This will be Josh Ord's second Boston Marathon. His advice for first timers is simple.

"Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience of 26 miles," said Ord.

"Heck, I started I'm going to finish. I mean it's your mind over your body," said Pfleeger.

As we speak, anticipation is building for these runners, who have made the journey.

"I'm nervous, but I'm also extremely excited," said Begg.

"It's just a culmination of your running career," said McDaniel.

"When you cross that finish line, it's an exhilarating experience," said McDaniel.

The road to Boston is one less traveled, but for these local runners, that journey has made all the difference.

To track the runners on the Boston Marathon click HERE.

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