The nearly 27,000 people who ran in Monday's Boston Marathon were doing so for a variety of reasons. For Hollywood, Pa. resident Joe Guilyard, it was about health, gratitude and the inspiration of the people who helped get him there.
"It's like you're in the SuperBowl, and I was a player. It was fantastic," Guilyard said. "The crowd was screaming from one end to the other. It was the thrill of a lifetime.
"Everybody there was living their dream. They were getting to run in the Boston Marathon."
Wearing the number 10,228, Guilyard finished with a time of 3:34:27 on the 26.2-mile course.
"It was a very tough marathon," Guilyard said. "It was one of the toughest courses that I ran."
"'Heartbreak Hill' almost broke my heart," he added, referring to the famous hill along the last stretch of the marathon that can deplete a runner's energy and has left many a participant unable to finish.
Guilyard has not always been a marathoner, but circumstances in his life led him to take up the sport. He explained the history behind his journey from non-runner only a few years ago to someone who now has a number of significant marathons under his belt, the pinnacle of which has been his participation in Boston. The journey began six years ago, when he was diagnosed with diabetes and had to take insulin three times a day.
"I had Type II diabetes, and the doctor told me I'd have to take the shot the rest of my life," Guilyard said.
His wife, Beverly, was naturally concerned about his health. She prayed for him and also made the suggestion that he take up walking to help him lose weight and maintain stable blood sugar.
"And that's what I started doing," Guilyard said.
At first, he couldn't do much. But as he continued to walk, he began to lose weight and started feeling healthier. After a while, he added short bursts of running into his daily routine. That was about four years ago. Within three months, he was able to run three miles without stopping for a break.
"I found out that 30 minutes on my (workout) machine lowered my sugar as well as the shot. I started doing that, then I started walking and running. I was 50 years old," Guilyard said.
He lost 53 pounds over the first two years, all the while continuing to add to his running time. His daily average is now twenty miles a day, either outside in good weather or on a treadmill indoors.
"In the winter I run on a treadmill. I listen to 70s music and I'm running as fast as I did in the 70s. I feel great! I feel young. Then I walk by a mirror and it's ruined," he said laughingly.
Guilyard started training and participated in a number of marathons before getting his chance at Boston.
For his 50-54 age group, he needed to finish a qualifying race in under 3:35:59 in order to run in the Boston Marathon, which is held every April in Massachusetts on that state's Patriots' Day, a civic holiday to commemorate the anniversary of the first battles of the Revolutionary War. He had run in 17 marathons before he finally qualified at the Steamboat Marathon in Scranton this past October, finishing with a time of 3:26:00.
He said it was frustrating because in some of those marathons, he missed the qualifying time by only a few seconds.
"I tried to qualify for Boston 17 times. On the 18th time I qualified, and I wouldn't have been able to do that without my wife's support," Guilyard said, adding that he now has no symptoms of diabetes.
"If you work and have support, you can get your dreams. With the support of God, family and friends you can do a lot of things."