Jim Gregory always finishes what he starts. Whether that is caring for children as a social worker or running the Boston Marathon.
Maybe you’ve seen the guy with the Mohawk and beard running down your street, or on the trails at South Germantown Park, or the track at Northwest High School. That guy is 46-year-old Jim Gregory, and for his age group — men 45 to 49 — he is one of the top marathon runners in the world. He is currently ranked No. 4 in the United States.
In the last four years, Gregory has run six marathons, but he’s only finished five. He intends to change that on Monday, April 15, as he competes in the Boston Marathon for the second time. Last year, he entered the Boston Marathon, but the bad weather and injuries during training led him to drop out before finishing.
On Monday, Gregory, a social worker who has dedicated his life to the welfare of abused and neglected children, will be running as a member of a team of healers. Healers put together and supported by Hylands, Inc., the Official Cramp Relief Sponsor of the Boston Marathon. Gregory was selected to be a member of Hylands Team of 18 health professionals to run the Boston Marathon. The 2019 team was hand-selected from more than 500 applications received from runners across the country.
“Last year was my first year qualifying and being accepted to run in the Boston Marathon,” said Gregory, who had previously run the Marine Corps Marathon and the Buffalo Marathon. “The weather last year was horrendous,” he said, “and my lead up to the Boston race last year was just terrible. I was plagued with Achilles tendonitis in both feet, and it wasn’t the best lead up to a marathon, and the weather was awful. I had made it to the halfway point and started getting hypothermia and didn’t finish.”
After last year’s disappointment, Gregory decided that he wasn’t to going to apply to run the Boston race this year, but rather he was going to focus on the other five World Marathon Major events which include marathons in Tokyo, London, Chicago, New York City, and Berlin. Indeed, he ran the Berlin Marathon in September of 2018 finishing with a time of 2:48 minutes.
But his focus changed when Gregory came across an ad for the Hylands Healers team. “I thought to myself; I am a social worker. I work in child welfare. I am not sure if that really fits with the healers theme. But, I figured why not apply.” He did and eventually got an email saying that he was being considered for the team. In January, Gregory was notified that he’d made the team. “To me, it means a lot more than just qualifying by time and being accepted — this team is bigger than that. Being a part of this Healers team is so much more than running.”
Running has been a large part of Gregory’s life since he was a young boy growing up on a small farm in rural Indiana. “I started running when I was about six years old,” said Gregory. “I lived on the farm with my grandparents and my father.” He said he started running coming back from the fields with his grandfather. “My grandfather and I would go back to the fields with tractors and do our chores and tend the crops, and we would come to the foot of the hill near the gate for the cattle. He would have me get off the tractor and open the game and shut it. One day, I just took off and raced him up the hill on foot as he drove the tractor. Ever since that day I have been in love with running. It is a wonderful memory that I made with my grandfather. He is 99 and still alive, healthy, and kicking. He will probably be around past 100. He’s been a great influence and inspiration in my life.”
Gregory continued running track and cross country in high school and walked on to his college cross country team for a few years. “I got in the best shape of my life. The whole running bug had bitten me,” he said. After college when the grind of real life begins, he stopped running for a few years until he moved to Washington D.C. area almost a decade ago. At that point, he began running again and ran his marathon, the 2015 Marine Corp Marathon. “I ran a 3:28,” he laughed. “I had no idea what I was doing. My coach tried to prepare me but there was no way he could prepare me for ‘hitting the wall.’”
A former foster child, Gregory chose his field of work to give back to the system that gave him so much at a young age. “I work at a national level as a Child and Family Program Specialist,” he says. “We work to help make service delivery and practice better for children and families.” In his 20 years of experience in the field, he has found that running helps him to recover from the stress of his job and to act as a more effective Healer. “I’ve experienced many things and seen many things,” he says. “Over the years, I’ve learned so much about what running gives back to me that allows me to give so much to those who I work directly and indirectly with.”
He said that the team aspect of preparing for this year’s Boston Marathon has harkened back to his days on the cross country teams, although it is very different in that they don’t try together every day like a school team. The team is made up of 18 people of different ages, from all around the country.
“The team is made up of folks from all walks of life, including physicians, nurses, paramedics there are all kinds of different disciplines, but all are healers,” said Gregory. “There is a team coach who helps those members who may not already have a coach. He comes up with a training program, and he’s in constant communication with the team members, through phone calls and texts.”
The team connects with each other through a private FaceBook group page, where they support one another's journey to completing the Boston Marathon. “Every person’s journey is unique and individual,” said Gregory, “but they all lead to the same starting line and the same finish line. It has been an incredible and powerful experience to not only go through the rigors of training for the Boston Marathon, but also supporting teammates in getting to the starting line, being healthy, and running for a goal time.”
What is Gregory’s goal for the race? “After last years’ experience and the number one goal for this race is to simply start, and finish. I need to go back and finish what I started because I always finish what I start. The second goal is to be supportive of my other teammates as they are on the course running their race.”
“The biggest piece of being on this team is how supportive we are of one another,” he said. “That is the major take away from the team aspect. The way the team members support one another and yet recognize that each of us is on our own journey to get there.”
Gregory’s journey had taken him through much of Germantown on daily runs. He said he has been training all around Germantown. He’s been running the trails at South Germantown Park and the Maryland SoccerPlex, and up and down Germantown Road and all through the Germantown neighborhoods. For longer runs, he says he will drive down to DC and run in areas devoid of tourists.
As he prepares for the big race, he’s hoping to inspire others to pursue their goals, no matter what. “I hope to encourage others out there that even they can juggle work, life, and training, and be successful in running,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, your race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, foster child, biological child, rural or urban city dweller — if you can set a goal, you too can run the Boston Marathon.”
Photos courtesy Jim Gregory. Video courtesy Hylands, Inc.