CAMBRIDGE — Scott Irwin is keenly aware of the Boston Marathon’s popularity.
For most, it is the pinnacle. For many, it is a white whale leading to stress fractures or distress.
When it came to qualifying for the Boston Marathon, Irwin hoped the third time would be the charm.
He completed qualifying marathons to be considered for Boston twice only to have runners in front of him selected.
The event has a cutoff time for each age group to qualify for the race. And because it can only have a certain number of runners, not all who qualify are selected to run the race. And so twice Irwin completed a race before the cutoff time but was not selected.
In a third qualifying race, Irwin, a 37-year-old who recently moved to Cambridge and works in Janesville, posted a qualifying time with more than eight minutes to spare.
Finally, his efforts were good enough to be selected to run in the 2020 Boston Marathon.
“There is some anxiety with it,” Irwin said. “The first two years I qualified, I beat it. That was disappointing. This year, I ran it and finished with a large enough cushion where there wouldn’t be an issue again.”
For the 2020 race, the field was expanded from 30,000 entrants to 31,500 entrants. Despite expanding the field, there were 3,161 runners who met the time criterion but did not make the field.
But little of that mattered much anyway as the coronavirus pandemic responsible for infecting people with COVID-19 forced the Boston Marathon to postpone its annual mid-April race to Sept. 14.
No problem, right?
Well, here is another kicker — Irwin and his wife, Kristen, who hails from Lake Mills, had planned to begin their family around the Boston Marathon, so that Kristen could be there to support Scott. But now the couple is due to have their first child two weeks after the marathon.
“I’m not going to Boston,” said Irwin, who has run seven marathons in his career. “If I’m going to have my wife go into labor with my first child while I’m in Boston, I’d be a dead man. She tells me I should go, but I know if she goes into labor and I’m not there I’ll never hear the end of it.”
Irwin will have to wait to run the crowded streets into Boston past Fenway Park on Patriots Day before truly earning his “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston” shirt. In the meantime, he has other races and training from Petra Kilian of Speed Cycling Online to keep himself busy.
First up for Irwin is the USA Triathlon National Championships in Milwaukee set for Aug. 8-9. Should that be postponed or canceled, there always will be virtual training.
“I’ve done the Silver Circle Sporting race series; you run it on your own and submit your time for the six weeks you’ve been doing it,” Irwin said. “IronMan has done a virtual series, too. They’re doing these to help people stay active and stay connected.”
And to stay on track for lifetime achievements.
With a newborn in the equation and uncertainty surrounding how the pandemic will impact the Boston Marathon in 2021, Irwin will need to make a decision.
After his first three attempts at running in Boston were foiled, he certainly knows it is not as simple as signing up.
“So now the question becomes,” he said, “when do I start qualifying for 2022?”