Ryan Unruh practices what he preaches.
Perhaps that’s why the Blue Springs South cross country and girls track coach has produced three of the top distance performers in the history of Eastern Jackson County – Samantha Nightingale, Grace Klausen and now Tori Findley.
While Findley was running away with the spotlight at the KU Relays, winning both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters against a top-flight field that included the best-of-the-best from Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma, her coach was competing in his second Boston Marathon.
“It’s super cool that he compete in his second Boston Marathon this year,” said Findley, the Missouri Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year who has signed to compete in cross country at track at the University of Missouri. “He’d go out and run with us, and we’d head back to the school and he’d say, ‘See ya, I have another six miles to run.’ He really inspired all of us. And he’s a great coach, he knows what he’s talking about.”
When Unruh competed in the Boston Marathon, he had a rapt group of fans following his every move back in Blue Springs.
“We found a way online to follow a runner, and we’re all like, “Where is he? How’s he doing?’ We are all so proud of him,” Findley said. “He’s just super cool.”
Speaking of super cool, that was the weather conditions that greeted the runners when they arrived in Boston.
“You can’t simulate conditions like that – and they were pretty bad,” Unruh said. “It’s a point-to-point race, so we had a 20 mph wind in our face most of the race, until it we had the gusts up to 40 mph.
“It was freezing and it rained the whole time. When it wasn’t raining, it was pouring – and I mean POURING. It was pretty much unbelievable. Nothing can prepare you for that, but you just have to find a way to fight through it.”
He did, finishing among the top 2,000 competitors in the 30,000-person field.
“I ran a marathon last winter in Lincoln, Neb., and you have to run under 3 hours and 15 minutes to qualify for the Boston Marathon,” Unruh explained. “I had low expectations in Lincoln, but did pretty well and thought, why not run the Boston Marathon again?
“I knew I had to stay healthy, and I knew the toughest part was convincing my wife of going on vacation to watch me run a silly race – but she agreed.”
And off they went.
“Because of the weather – especially the wind and the cold – my body was shutting down towards the end of the race,” Unruh explained. “I was running in shorts and my legs, quads and calves were locking up on me.
“Somehow, I made it to the end of the race, where my wife was supposed to meet me with dry clothes. She got held up, and an official came over to me and saw I was in pretty bad shape.
“He said he was going to give her 10 minutes to get there before he sent me to the medical tent.”
The highlight of the race came for Unruh when he saw his wife with warm clothes and a hot cup of coffee.
“The warm clothes – and especially that hot coffee – were the greatest things ever!” Unruh said, smiling. “When I think back about the race that’s what I think of – finally getting on some warm clothes and drinking that coffee.”