HIBBING — The last time Dan Scally ran competitively was two years ago at Grandma’s Marathon.
The Hibbing native had one purpose in mind — qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Scally did that, running a time of 2:57, so he was ready to pack his bags and head for Boston for the April 2020 event.
Not so fast.
COVID-19 crushed his dream, and now, Scally’s time is running out.
Scally is 36-years-old, and his marathon days might be coming to and end, but dreams are never easy to give up.
That’s why Scally will give it one more shot Saturday when he takes part in Grandma’s Marathon, the 26.2-mile run from Two Harbors to Duluth.
Scally won’t be in the 2021 Boston Marathon, which is slated for Monday, Oct. 11, but this marathon will allow him a chance to qualify for the 2022 run.
Scally will have to run at least five minutes faster than the qualifying time for his age group. That time is 3:05.
Missing out two years ago was difficult to swallow.
“I finally qualified and ironically, that’s the year it got canceled,” Scally said. “I am getting older, and I feel like my marathon days are winding down. I may have to switch to shorter races, like 10-milers or half marathons.”
Once that Boston Marathon was canceled, Scally had a hard time training, let alone staying in shape.
He needs something to run for, and that was taken away during the pandemic. He didn’t have the motivation he needed to get out and run.
“It was interesting,” he said. “More people had the time to get out and exercise, so they picked up bikes and running shoes to do outdoor activities. For me, the uncertainty of when I could get into Boston made everything uncertain.
“There was no motivation factor, no date to look at. Basically, I wasn’t training.”
When Boston finally did set that date, Oct. 11, they also shrunk the size of the field in half, making it harder for Scally to get into the event.
“I knew I was on the fringe to get in,” Scally said. “I started to train, thinking about October. I registered for the race, but I missed it by 30 seconds. That put a damper on my training.
“For me, I like to run. It’s getting out there and having some time to unwind, but I wasn’t doing those intense, speed work and interval workouts. There was no date. No calendar to race.”
Once the organizers of Grandma’s decided to make their return, Scally had a reason to train, but he didn’t pull the trigger on signing up until 2 ½ months before the registration deadline.
He had a reason to train, but not at his normal pace.
He had to do some intense training in a shorter period of time.
“I was rushing my training, so I was trying not to get injured,” Scally said. “I’ve been training 40- to 50-miles per week.”
That regimen put a lot of wear-and-tear on Scally’s body.
“I could tell that I was upping the mileage too fast,” he said. “Typically, I’m training five to six months before a big race. I was crushing a lot of speed, interval and distance workouts, and I could see the check-engine light turning on.
“My legs were sore. I had hip pain. I had to be smart and disciplined enough to tone it back, and take some of that pressure off of me.”
Scally said he’s ready for the race, but once he gets to the starting line, the biggest issue will be starting too fast.
Scally is well aware of that. He will settle into the pack and try to run 6:50 miles.
“It’s basically not getting out there too aggressively,” Scally said. “It’s about being smart, paying attention to my watch and not starting off too fast.”
Even if Scally follows that strategy, he’s still not sure what’s going to happen.
“I could be all over the map,” Scally said. “I could get out there and run 20- to 30-minutes slower than my personal best (2:57). This is my 11th marathon, so I have some level of experience.
“I could have a personal best, but that would be a huge shock to me. It’s going to be exciting getting out there and racing for the first time in two years.”