Back in the 1990s, Glen Witt’s kids were running on the cross-country team for Midlothian Middle School, and his oldest son, Ryan, invited his dad to run the course with them.
“How long is it?” Glen asked.
Shouldn’t be a problem, he thought.
“After one mile, I was just dead,” Witt recalled. “Couldn’t go any farther.”
He had to walk to the finish line and said to himself, “I’m going to get in shape, and I’m not going to let this happen again.”
So, he started running after work and on weekends, often with some combination of his and Patty Witt’s six children, all of whom would run cross-country and track through their high school years and some well beyond.
“It was a great opportunity for father-daughter and father-son time,” he said. “It was really a great experience for me.”
In the years since he started running, Glen Witt also has become pretty good at it. So, come Monday, Witt can add another great experience: running the highly competitive Boston Marathon with three of his sons. All four qualified in the past year to run in Boston. His youngest daughter, Amy, blazed the family trail to Boston by running the world’s oldest annual marathon last year.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Witt said. “It’s really family time for us.”
Witt, 60, an engineer at the DuPont Spruance plant for 37 years, lives in Midlothian. His sons live out of state: Kurt and Ryan in Utah, Jason in Ohio. Witt has been a faithful runner for the last 24 years or so, keeping in shape so he could keep up (mostly) with his kids, which was a challenge considering they’re pretty fast. Ryan, Jason and Amy all ran for Brigham Young University; the Witts are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“One of my favorite childhood memories is running miles at Midlothian Middle School with my dad during the winter so I could be ready for the spring track season,” Ryan Witt wrote in an email. “We would go to the track at night, turn on the lights, jog for 20-30 minutes, and talk about life. Since he was just getting into running, he would have to work a little harder to keep up.
“Normally dad would ask a question and then listen while I did most of the talking. Turns out this was one way dad stayed involved in my life as a teenager. That pattern of running together, talking and listening has continued over the years and has allowed dad to develop a close relationship with me and my brothers. Running the Boston Marathon will be today’s equivalent of running with dad at the middle school track.”
Glen Witt said he typically runs a few miles several times a week. He’s run a half-dozen half-marathons and a bunch of 10Ks, including the Monument Avenue 10K most every year, sometimes with his children. A few years ago, his kids challenged him to try a marathon. He ran the Richmond Marathon about 10 years ago, and his time was good enough for his age group to qualify for the Boston Marathon. But he wasn’t interested.
He said he considered his marathon running career “one and done.”
“I did it; I can check it off the list,” he said.
But he also told his children, “If you would like me to run a marathon with you, I’ll do it.”
Jason Witt invited his father to run a marathon in Michigan last Memorial Day, but Glen said he hadn’t been training for a marathon and he didn’t have enough notice to prepare. Jason ran and qualified for Boston and followed up, telling his father he should run a marathon and qualify for Boston so they could run together there.
Jason talked to his brothers, and they all agreed to run the Mt. Nebo Marathon in Utah in August with the idea of trying to qualify for Boston. Glen signed on, too. Glen ran well enough to qualify, as did Ryan and Kurt, who received an assist from Jason, who ran with them, refilling their water bottles and providing energy snacks along the way to save them from stopping. They all ran under 3 hours.
Glen finished with a time of 3:20 — just two minutes slower than his only other marathon result almost a decade ago, which apparently is pretty characteristic.
“A word that I would use to describe my dad is ‘consistency,’” says Jason. “In a way, he has been training for the marathon distance over the past 20 years since he has consistently been running 6 to 10 miles, two to three times a week for the past 20 years. The real key to being a successful distance runner is not to simply train really hard for a few short weeks or months, but the key is to be dedicated and consistent over many years.
“This is the reason my dad has experienced a lot of success in his personal life, career, family and in running. His example of consistency is one I hope to emulate. I would love to be able to run as good as him when I’m 60.”
By virtue of their faster qualifying times, Kurt, Jason and Ryan will start in the first wave of runners Monday in Boston, about 25 minutes before Glen starts in a second wave.
I joked, “Won’t they be surprised when you pass them at the 20-mile mark?”
Glen laughed. “I would be VERY surprised, and they would, too.”
Kurt says sharing the Boston experience with their dad is an opportunity for the brothers to “celebrate” their father and show their gratitude for all of his hard work, dedication and support he has given them through the years.
“My dad is pretty good at running,” Kurt wrote in an email. “However, he is an even better husband and father.”