An Austin man knows how it feels to lead the pack at the Boston Marathon.
Derek Yorek, a 31-year-old former professional triathlete who starts work at Jack & Adam’s Bike Shop next week, led the first 5 and a half minutes of Monday’s 26.2-mile race. He rubbed shoulders with last year’s winner, American Meb Keflezighi, and this year’s victor, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia.
“It was amazing – a little intimidating, but I’ve never been particularly scared in a race,” Yorek said Friday by phone from Galveston, where he’s watching friends compete in the Ironman 70.3 triathlon. “I’ve never been a timid person. That was amazing, everything I wanted it to be.”
The first mile flew by in 4:38. Yorek says he could have led for longer, but he didn’t want to interfere with the lead pack’s race so he got out of the way.
Then things got progressively worse. “I was pretty much done by Mile 8,” Yorek says. He saw his mother and sister at Mile 14, and they gave him the boost he needed to get to the finish. “The weather was miserable, the wind was miserable. It was absolutely the worst.”
Yorek says he was “totally out of shape” going into the marathon. He’d been injured and unable to train hard, then crashed his bicycle during a race at The Driveway in Austin three weeks before the event. The road rash was still peeling from his legs when he lined up at the start.
He qualified for Boston with a 2:30:59, which put him in the first wave with the elites. Before getting injured, he had hoped to run around 2:22. (Desisa, the winner, finished in 2:09:17.)
That didn’t happen, but he still logged an incredible experience and accomplished his two main goals – to lead for a short stretch so his two daughters, ages 5 and 2, could see him on television, and to finish.
He crossed the finish line on Boylston Street in 3:04:57, more than 30 minutes slower than his personal best time.
Since “Runner’s World” wrote an article about what he did, Yorek says he’s gotten negative feedback from some people who think he didn’t respect the race or that he’s teaching his children the wrong values.
“I never was really trying to stir the pot,” he says. “I just wanted the girls to see Daddy on TV.”
It was Yorek‘s first Boston Marathon; he says it’ll be his last.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I ever wanted to accomplish – I wanted to lead a little while, get out front, feel that, see what that was like, have friends and family to see me, then finish the race.”
Yorek grew up in Fort Worth and ran track and cross country at Adams State University in Colorado. From 2007 until 2011 he lived in Austin, where he worked at RunTex and raced for Jack & Adam’s Bike Shop. He lived in Fort Worth recently, but is in the process of moving to Austin.