PICKENS COUNTY — Bill O’Shields has been running for the past decade but his training, conditioning and endurance are all about to be put to the ultimate test as he heads up to Massachusetts to compete in the Boston Marathon.
The race itself was first held in 1897 with 18 registered participants. One hundred and twenty years later, more than 30,000 runners have registered for this year’s marathon, including O’Shields.
“It wasn’t just a matter of signing up,” said Shields during an interview. “I had to qualify first.”
Runners in O’Shields’ age bracket need to be able to run a full marathon (26.2 miles) in under three hours and 25 minute to even apply to be included in the race. O’Shields made it in three hours, 11 minutes and 49 seconds — just over seven minutes a mile.
“This (Boston) is a personal goal for me,” he said. “It’s about turning my life around. It wasn’t too long ago I was on a very different path.”
Born and raised in Dacusville, O’Shields, a self-proclaimed former “troubled youth,” credits his faith and running with getting his life back on track.
“I was a smoker for 21 years,” said O’Shields. “I definitely got into some trouble my teenage years. But I turned to God and He led me to running. I haven’t stopped.”
O’Shields also wrote a book detailing his path from being a wayward youth in and out of penitentiaries, to God and ultimately to running and the 2016 Marathon.
“It’s called Behind the Wall to the Boston Marathon,” he said. “And I’m very happy with it. I wrote it to show people that there’s another way. If I can inspire someone else who might be going down the same road I was … just … show them a better way.
“It’ll be 10 years this June that I’ve been running, and I’m 45-years-old. I guess it’s not the typical hobby for people in my age group,” he said.
This will be O’Shields’ first time running in the Boston Marathon.
“It’s the oldest marathon in the world,” he said. “This is the big leagues.”
But as prepared as he is, O’Shields isn’t heading up to Boston expecting to cross the finish tape first.
“Oh, no,” he laughed. “Those guys — the guys who win these things — they’re the big money guys, the Olympians and so on. No, I’m just going to have fun with it. I haven’t changed my training regime, I’m going with the same program that got me my qualifier.”
According to information provided by the Boston Marathon, of the 30,000 runners this year, 174 are coming up from South Carolina. Six of those runners are from Pickens County.
Also joining O’Shields up in Boston will be Alison N. Vest, Michael Beeson, Heather Dunn and Wally Dunn from Clemson as well as Shirley Smith from Easley.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.