Charlotte County resident juggles graduation, Boston Marathon

Published 1:00 am Friday, May 19, 2023

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Many college students find it difficult to balance school, work and extracurriculars. However, one Charlotte County resident found time to run his personal best at the Boston Marathon while preparing for graduation.

Jacob Barker is a Longwood University senior who reached his goal of participating in the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 17. There, he completed the race in two hours and 42 minutes and 26 seconds placing him in 804th out of over 26,000 runners.

Running is a pastime for Barker, who has been participating in marathons since 2019 and in overall races since 2015. He said the culture of this Boston Marathon was something he hadn’t experienced in previous races.

“Crowds were everywhere even though the weather was cold and rainy,” he said. “We passed colleges and courtyards along the way and the energy was great.

It never felt like work which helped me run a faster time.”

A love of running 

Barker’s interest in running started in 2015, when he was in eighth grade trying out for track and field at Central Middle School. Even though he didn’t make the team, that didn’t stop him. He continued to work and train and ended up going to regionals twice in high school for track and field and cross country.

Once he started at Longwood, he wasn’t on the track team but kept running recreationally. He ran his first marathon in November 2019, finishing in three hours and 32 minutes. His second was in 2020 in Halifax, where he ran three hours and 26 minutes. Then in March 2022 in Newport News, he ran a marathon in two hours and 50 minutes. Being under three hours, this qualified him for the Boston Marathon as well as being 36 minutes faster than his personal record.

In November 2022, he participated in the New York City Marathon. He completed it in three hours and nine minutes. He was hoping for much faster, but he, unfortunately, was battling the flu at that time. Luckily, he was able to make a much better time at the Boston Marathon.

Training for this marathon wasn’t the only thing Barker had in his schedule. He is graduating this year from Longwood University with honors after completing a 22-credit hour semester to get ready for graduate school. The Longwood senior also tutored for kinesiology and served as president of the Association of Medical & Professional Kinesiology.

“It requires a lot of discipline,” said Barker. “I trained with a former classmate to run 70 to 80 miles a week. It was very intense and took a lot of concentration and time management.”

Looking beyond Boston Marathon

After his success at the Boston Marathon at his personal best, Barker has plans to keep running. He hopes to keep improving his time and participate again in the Richmond Marathon four years later as his time could put him in the top 20. He also plans on running closer to home for the High Bridge Trail Ultra 50K in June.

With his final time, Barker qualifies to return to the Boston Marathon next year and he definitely plans to go back.

“Going to the Boston Marathon meant a lot,” he said. “Growing up in a small town like Charlotte County and going to Longwood it’s great to represent these places in the marathon.”

As for his career, the Longwood senior will be taking a gap year to work at Amelia Physical Therapy and gain experience. Then he plans to continue his education at Old Dominion University or Virginia Commonwealth University to earn his doctorate in physical therapy.