Not many high school athletes go on to national contests.
Justin Garrard, a 2005 Centre graduate, has been setting records in distance running since junior high and continues to compete.
His latest accomplishment was running in the 125th Boston Marathon on Oct. 11. He placed 71st overall and 63rd in the men’s division, with a time of 2 hours and 29 minutes. At least 15,378 runners participated.
Justin qualified for the event by finishing at 2:25 in a January marathon.
“This was the big thing I’ve been working toward for a long time,” he said Thursday. “I didn’t do as well as I hoped, but I was happy to be there. I’m still sore, and I’ve been walking a lot to stay active.”
Justin qualified for state competition in cross country for three years in high school and finished second his senior year. He set a school record in the two-mile run his senior year and finished second in the state.
“His determination was evident then already,” his high school coach Alan Stahlecker said. “No one else put in the effort that he did. He had great workouts. That’s what it takes to be a distance runner.”
“He just never quit,” his father John Garrard of rural Antelope said. “People don’t realize the time involved. He’s very dedicated to the Lord. He is a good role model.”
During five years at Ottawa University, Justin set six school records in track and field. He was named an NAIA All American.
He competed in the Sunflower State games in Topeka in 2010 and won first-place medals in the 5k, 3000, 1500, and 800. He was named male athlete of the year.
Justin excelled in academics as well. He graduated magna cum laude from Ottawa in May 2009 and was a four-time Academic All American.
He was an assistant coach there for two years, earning an MBA degree in business.
While continuing to compete in distance running, he coached at various colleges and universities after leaving Ottawa.
He resides at Carbondale, Colorado, where he is assistant director of operations at Ascendigo Autism Services, a nonprofit that provides skills and inspiration to those with autism and related conditions.
Justin lost his wife three years ago, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his running career. He runs 90 to 95 miles a week when he is training for a race.
He considers his running ability as a gift.
“Even though it’s important, things like family and faith are 10 times more important,” he said.
He’s not sure where he will compete next, but he has no plans to quit running. The Boston Marathon was his 12th marathon, and his time qualified him to run in more.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to connect with a lot of people,” he said. “I’ve been blessed.”