Capitol City Marathon: Lacey's Klimek a marathoner on the rise

Lacey’s Josh Klimek, a cross-country runner at The Evergreen State College, finished second in the Capital City Marathon in 2012, competed in Boston Marathon in April

mwochnick@theolympian.comMay 19, 2013 

Lacey’s Josh Klimek goes on his regular lunchtime run near the Department of Ecology campus where he works. Klimek, a former cross-country runner at The Evergreen State College, finished second in last year’s Capital City Marathon, his third 26.2-mile race. He ran in the Boston Marathon in April and finished 83rd.

STEVE BLOOM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Josh Klimek’s experience in running marathons is limited.

He’s a veteran runner, but a newcomer to the marathon.

All of the marathons the 29-year-old Lacey resident has run can be counted on one hand – the Seattle Marathon in 2006, last year’s Capital City Marathon, and most recently, last month’s Boston Marathon.

Today’s Capital City Marathon will be Klimek’s fourth, but he’s quickly becoming a household name in South Sound running, especially after finishing in 83rd place in Boston.

“I have a feeling my future has more marathons in it and becomes more of a regular thing,” Klimek said.

For Jesse Stevick, who has won the Capital City Marathon six times, including last year, he knows exactly where the top competition will be Sunday for the 32nd edition of the event, which starts at 7 a.m. next to Olympia’s Sylvester Park.

“I usually never have any idea who will show up,” Stevick said. “(Klimek)’s definitely what I’ve been thinking about as far as competition.”

Stevick and Klimek crossed

paths in January 2012 when Klimek joined Guerilla Running, an Olympia-based running group that includes Stevick in its membership.

Stevick barely won last year’s Capital City Marathon. He edged Klimek at the finish, winning in 2 hours, 35 minutes, 33 seconds. Klimek closed in on Stevick down the stretch, finishing second in 2:35.40, making it the closest finish in the event’s history.

Klimek was thrilled with his time and surprised by his runner-up finish, but he also accomplished what he set out to do – finish in a Boston Marathon-qualifying time. He did that by more than 30 minutes.

On April 15 – with wife Amber and sons Orion, 5, and Onyx, 3, in attendance – he achieved his lifelong goal of running in his first Boston Marathon.

It was a time of personal triumph, but also heartbreaking tragedy.

He finished 83rd out of more than 23,000 participants with a personal-best time of 2:29.55. Hours after he finished bombings near the finish line killed three and wounded more than 250.

The event’s aftermath angered Klimek, but he vowed it won’t stop him from competing in the Boston Marathon in the future.

Capital City organizers will hand out special Boston ribbons to be worn during today’s races.

“It’s nice to see the response from the running community and how everyone is doing a lot of work to reclaim what is good about running and good about the community,” Klimek said.

Klimek’s path to marathons wasn’t blazed overnight.

A 2002 graduate of Centralia High School, he ran at The Evergreen State College, qualifying for the NAIA cross-country championships.

Competitive running became less of a priority to Klimek after he graduated from college. Life got in the way.

He married his girlfriend, Amber, the couple started a family, and he had a pre-existing hernia injury fixed. But he still ran one to two races a year “to maintain I was a runner,” he said.

His competitive itch re-emerged in 2011, when he was running races at his most comfortable distance – the half-marathon (13.1 miles).

He has run in nearly two dozen. For good measure, he also ran a 50-mile trail race in July that took nearly 8 hours to complete.

While Amber Klimek is not a runner, the couple share athletics as a hobby. She is into CrossFit, a high-intensity fitness routine that mixes Olympic weightlifting and aerobic exercises.

Amber and the boys support Josh at many races, including watching him run at the Boston Marathon. They caught a glimpse of him running near the 4-mile marker.

She explained that the two of them have a competitive rivalry and that “we take things a little differently than most couples,” she said.

“Whenever we’re together, we’re discussing his running and my CrossFit, and it’s a very competitive discussion,” Amber Klimek said.

“I’m hoping that competitive drive kicks in (for Josh today).”

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 mwochnick@theolympian.com theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick

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