Mauricio Morales is going to run. How could he not?
After all, the 58-year-old Rocky Mount man had achieved a longstanding goal that he has been chasing for nearly a half-decade.
Morales qualified for the Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon, completing a goal that stretched four years and nine marathons. He ran courses in locations like Myrtle Beach, Richmond, Va., and the Outer Banks, ever inching closer to the elusive qualifying time.
Then, he got it. With a time of 3 hours, 33 minutes, Morales was in just under the cutoff. He beat the qualifying standard by two minutes.
Morales was able to compete in the NYC Marathon, held in Nov. 2019. Boston was next. What he had trained for, 60 miles per week, was next.
The race was postponed as part of the coronavirus pandemic response.
Then it was canceled.
“I got in there but it was really close,” Morales said of qualifying. “This is one (marathon) that I really wanted to do. I was looking forward to it. So when I heard about this virtual race I thought I should do that.”
This weekend — either Saturday or Sunday morning depending on which holds cooler weather — Morales will run 26.2 miles through Rocky Mount neighborhoods as part of the Virtual Boston Marathon, which is an official event that allows qualifiers to run the length of the race anywhere.
Morales thought about running a course in Raleigh, but instead chose to run through Rocky Mount streets where he will receive support from his Rocky Mount Mills Run Club friends and family.
Virtual competitors have a little more than one week — from Sept. 5 to 14 — to run a continuous 26.2 miles. Morales, and the other 17,000 runners, downloaded the virtual experience app on his phone, which is aimed to mimic the famous course.
The app will track the miles Morales is running, and will overlay it with where he would have been in the actual race through the streets of Boston. The app will also show results from other runners around the world.
And while not physically in Boston, Mauricio will be able to know when he should be traversing the famous milestones in the Boston race, like Heartbreak Hill or Ashland Clock Tower.
Morales said he competed in plenty of half-marathons before opting to take the plunge for the whole 26.2. Since that first race, he completed eight more and gained a little knowledge with each passing race.
“I suspect I will be much slower,” Morales said of running through Rocky Mount versus a crowded marathon. “You’re going to have to find motivation, be mentally tough, and find the right pace.”
Morales, who plans to begin in Nashville before running toward Rocky Mount through neighborhoods, planned out his route and left stashes of water and snacks every 3 miles. He will also have company as some of his training partners will run segments of the race with him.
He expects friends to join in for 5- or 6-mile chunks.
“It’s going to be a unique experience,” he said. “I think it will be fun to run through Rocky Mount.”