In a crowd of more than 30,000 runners, Cal Poly alum Landon Woollard placed in the top 100 at the Boston Marathon on Monday.
Woollard ran two hours, 26 minutes and 41 seconds to finish as the 75th male and 92nd overall at the world’s oldest annual marathon.
His mile pace was just shy of five-and-a-half minutes for the entire 26.2-mile race.
Woollard had run just three marathons before Boston; his first was the San Luis Obispo marathon during his senior year at Cal Poly in 2018.
His fastest time before Monday’s race was at the California International Marathon (CIM) this past December, where he ran a massive 12-minute personal best in two hours and 28 minutes.
At the time, he said he wasn’t even doing full marathon training.
“I was training for a six-mile Turkey Trot,” Woollard said. “I didn’t expect to do that well.”
Nonetheless, his CIM performance gave him renewed confidence for Monday.
Woollard was aiming to break 2:24 on Monday but slightly fell off-pace on Boston’s deceptively brutal course — which starts with a downhill stretch but finishes with 10 miles mostly uphill.
He ran his first half-marathon in 70 minutes, putting him on pace for 2 hours and 20 minutes. He slowed down by several minutes at the end of the race but “hung on” for the last six miles and still finished in the top 100.
As he crossed the line, race volunteers handed him a celebratory banana and gatorade.
“It was a long way to go for a banana,” he said, laughing.
Woollard is a high school math teacher and cross country coach in Redding, California. He created his own training plan, and mostly does his workouts alone, but he sometimes joins his high school athletes for easy training runs.
Woollard credited his high school athletes for helping motivate him throughout the marathon.
“Just knowing that some of my kids were tracking the race and watching my splits was super encouraging,” Woollard said.
Woollard has also completed several 50-mile trail races (called “ultramarathons”), but after his performance at Boston, he plans to continue road racing.
“Next year at CIM, I might shoot for 2:20,” he said.
There was no spot for Woollard on Cal Poly’s Division-I cross country team when he was a freshman, so he joined the Cal Poly Distance Club — which competes against mostly Division-III schools across California and the country.
Woollard said he thinks the Distance Club gave him a healthy balance between running and school, and that he’s glad he wasn’t able to compete at the Division-I level.
“Running wasn’t my life,” Woollard said. “It was just something I enjoyed to do, and the club gave me the room to stay competitive while keeping it in the space where it was just for fun.”
Current Cal Poly graphic communications freshman Kevin Manni, also a Distance Club member, raced at Boston on Monday as well, running just under three hours for the marathon.
“I felt a great sense of accomplishment since I know most runners my age would never even consider running a marathon until they’re much older,” Manni said. “At my age, I still have the chance to achieve even greater times.”
Several other Cal Poly alumni also raced at Boston, including Woollard’s friend Nate LeTavec, who ran 2:44:33, and Thomas and Matthew Busse, who finished in 2:55 and 2:56 respectively.
But out of the group, it was Woollard who came back to California with the most impressive finish.
“Walking away from that crowd, just having experienced that energy, the history of that race, I would encourage anyone who wants to run marathons to make their way [to Boston] at some point,” Woollard said. “I guarantee once you’re there, you’ll want to go back.”