A Vegas FanBoy in Austin – A Boston Marathon Blog (part 2 of 2)


Mark Jimenez

You won’t find somebody more passionate about running then our very own Michael Higgins. If you come into the Centennial location on a Saturday then chances are you’ve been helped by Michael. He’s been with Red Rock Running Company longer than I have, having worked for the previous owner as well. He is genuinely excited to talk all things running, and the Boston Marathon Unicorn is his spirit animal.

Recently I had the opportunity to cruise around Austin at a running convention with Michael. I kid you not, watching a kid on Christmas day was less exciting than watching Michael shake hands with four different Olympians. My favorite moment was when I was talking with the folks at the Hotshot table. I didn’t know that I was talking to an Olympian. I look up and Michael is practically running to the table.

“You want a shot, Higgins?” I asked, referring to the Hotshot anti-cramping shots.

“No!” he answers, “I want a picture.” 

I had been talking with Olympic medalist Gabby Thomas the whole time. Oops! Watching Michael’s face as he talked with her and told her how he had been cheering for her during the Olympics was quite the experience. 

Michael & the RRRC Crew with Gabby Thomas

Michael met 4 Olympians in Austin, and talked with countless other runners. The word I’m going to use to describe Michael is passion. You’re going to see it over and over in this blog.

I’m happy to bring you a different perspective on running the Boston Marathon today. This one comes from our very own Michael Higgins. If you haven’t met him, please come in on a Saturday. Chances are you’ll find him there (unless he’s racing!).

I asked Michael when running the Boston Marathon became a goal for him. He related the story of his daughter running Cross Country at Arbor View, and how he told her to focus on the little things. For four years he told her to focus on the little things and improve. When Michael told his daughter that he wanted to qualify for Boston, but he wasn’t sure if he could, she gave him his own advice: focus on the little things. There’s something about our own advice being thrown back at us by our children that makes parents doubly sure to meet our goals!

Michael set off to qualify for Boston. Having come up 2 – 5 minutes short in a few races, he was determined to qualify. A friend told him the Mesa Phoenix marathon was a good race to BQ (Boston Qualify). He made changes to his diet and speed work that he felt he needed to get those extra 2 – 5 minutes back, and in 2017 he took on the challenge. He trained hard for 12 weeks and felt confident going into the race.

He was on pace for a 3:10 marathon but started to cramp up a bit in his hamstrings around mile 20. He had to stop and have a medic work on his hamstrings, but amazingly was still able to run a BQ time (2017 standard) of 3:21:03.  He was full of emotion as he crossed the finish line, and his first phone call was to his daughter letting her know that he did it! Tears were rolling down his face. He had finally qualified for Boston!

Thinking that his buffer wouldn’t be enough, Michael signed up for another race in 2017, the OC Marathon. He crushed it, running a 3:14:33.

Michael’s first Boston experience was special. He ran in the famous 2018 race that was hampered by horrible weather. His experience is below, in his own words. 

I went to the Expo the first day it opened. I will never forget going into the room to pick up my bib! As soon as the lady handed it to me, the tears started running down my face. I just couldn’t believe that I was there after so many “almost”. I was overwhelmed with every emotion possible, but I honestly wanted to make my parents proud. They both have passed, but I know they have been with me EVERY step and I didn’t want to let them down. 

Morning of the race was a bit stressful to say the least. It was rainy, head wind, and extremely chilly. Once I arrived at the Runners Village, you can see everyone just standing around trying their best to stay dry and warm. There wasn’t much warming up as no one wanted to get their race shoes soaked before the start. As I was lining up, I kept my sweatshirt on under the poncho I was wearing. The biggest regret I have was not listening to my daughter. I saw her just after the 5k mark and immediately took off my sweatshirt and poncho as I was too hot. She told me to at least keep the poncho and I ran off telling her I didn’t need it! WORSE DECISION EVER!!! Those next few miles the rain came back with that head wind, making every mile very miserable. I missed seeing so many iconic symbols on the course. I was able to finally see my daughter and girlfriend at mile 20 right after heart break hill and they gave me the extra push I needed to finish this race. I just had 6.2 miles to go, but that was truly the ultimate battle to finish. I knew I wasn’t going to give up, but my entire body was numb. I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes. It was ALL HEART those last 6.2 miles. I honestly don’t know how, but I did it. I crossed that finish line!!! Immediately I was taken into the med tent as I was close to hyperthermia, but I just wanted to get to my family! 

Michael with 2018 Boston Champ Des Linden

At first, I was honestly pretty upset with my time, because I knew I was better. I was better than 3:27:19!!! Knowing that the 2018 Boston Marathon is known for the worse weather they ever experienced. Thousands didn’t even race and/or dropped out due to how bad the weather was. I however didn’t, I finished the course. I EARNED that medal for completing the Boston Marathon. I now look back at my time and know that I am definitely better but given the weather I did amazing!!

So many memories from my first Boston, good and bad (weather), but below are the ones that stand out the most! 

The second you land in Boston; you are treated as an elite runner. It is almost like the entire city gives you a giant hug! Everyone from the person walking by, your Uber driver, police officer, and all the volunteers are AMAZING!! 

I want to mention the volunteers at the med tent when I crossed the finish line. After maybe 12 steps from crossing the finish line, I felt this arm grab me. A male volunteer grabbed me and immediately took me into the med tent as he knew something wasn’t right with me. Wrapped me in a heated blanket, while assisting getting the wet clothes off me. He sat me with about 10 other runners in front of a heater, taking my vitals and treating me for a mild hyperthermia. 

On the course, I was just passing the 17-mile marker when I noticed my shoe was untied. I looked at my hands knowing that there was no way I was going to be able to tie my shoe. I ran another minute or two and decided I needed to at least try to tie my shoe. The second I attempted to bend over and tie my shoe. This little old lady with an umbrella ran over saying “no no no, I will tie your shoe”! She handed me the umbrella and tied my shoe. Asked if it was too tight or too loose, of course it was fine. She then asked me if I was ok to complete the race and I told her “Yes, this is my first Boston. I am not going to quit!” She then told me to stay strong. As I handed her the umbrella back, she grabbed me and gave me a giant hug! She said, “You can do this Vegas”! Instantly I started crying as I couldn’t believe that this lady was so kind and helped me tie my shoe. This just shows how incredible the crowd in Boston really is!!”

Michael at Boston Packet Pickup

Michael ran the Covid-cancelled Boston in 2020 virtually, and also ran in 2021. The 2021 race was his return from not 1, not 2, but 3 knee surgeries. Here is his story.

I was training for 2019 St. George Marathon, doing some downhill training from Mt. Charleston when I noticed after my 18 mile long run that something was wrong. After a few days, swelling didn’t go down, so I went to my Physical Therapist. He then told me he believes I may have the beginnings of a torn meniscus but stated he could get me to the start line knowing I will need surgery afterwards. I was determined, so of course I said get me to the start line. I ran the St. George Marathon and completed with an ok time, but not where I wanted to be. I came back home and immediately looked for a surgeon. 

Had my first meniscus surgery November 2019. I was back out running in almost 4 weeks. I had almost all my speed back about 10 weeks post-surgery. I was feeling great, then on a 16-mile training run for Boston 2020, my knee buckled on me after about 6 miles into the run. I went back into the same surgeon, and he told me that there was a little flap that is showing. He told me that I really need to think about not running anymore. After 6 weeks, I told him I wanted him to do the cleanup and scheduled the surgery. April 2020, I had my second meniscus surgery, and this is when he discovered that I had a piece of cartilage floating that came off the arthritic part of my knee. After waking up, my girl friend told me the bad news. He informed her that my running career was over. 

After several months of the swelling fluctuating and becoming extremely depressed over my situation, my girl friend did some research. She found this new age technology and convinced me what is the harm of speaking with the surgeon. She scheduled the appointment as she wasn’t taking no for an answer. I will forever be grateful for her making this appointment as the surgeon I met with this time was exactly what I needed. He listened to my story and was impressed with what I was accomplishing at my age. He flat out told me that I was not built like other 51-year-olds. He said its very rare that people qualify for a partial knee replacement, but I am an excellent candidate due to all the other parts holding my knee together are extremely healthy. He told me that the surgeon in him has to tell me I should stop running, but the believer/athlete in him this is why we are doing it!! I knew then, this was going to be a different experience. 

In November 2020, I had my partial knee replacement. I knew the road to recovery was going to be long and my patience was going to be tried. After 3 months, I was cleared to run on the treadmill ONLY. I wasn’t able to even think about running outside until June. I ran for less than a mile as all the emotions just rushed through my mind. I didn’t know if I was going to know how to run or if I could get back to the shell of what I once was. After A LOT of treadmill running, I ran outside for the first time 6 months post-surgery. As awesome as it was outside, I still felt like a baby learning how to walk. After several weeks, I began training for the Boston 2021. 

Michael post-surgery

His first race back was Boston just a little over a month ago. It was an emotional experience for him, to say the least. He was able to finish the race after 3 knee surgeries and one surgeon telling him that he’d never be able to run again. There is no quit in Michael Higgins.

Michael with his surgeon, wearing his Boston medal

Come in to the store on a Saturday and chat with Michael. He’ll be glad to tell you all about his experiences and swap stores with you. You will literally feel the passion he has for running and how running changes lives. He is a great ambassador for all things running, and I’m proud that he works at Red Rock Running Company!

Every Run is a Good Run