Dr. Scott Willson was running in his 14th consecutive Boston Marathon on the morning of April 15, 2013.
“The morning of the 2013 race had a ‘strange’ feeling,” the 49-year-old Olathe doctor said. “As my friends and I walked to the Boston Commons to get in line for the buses, I kept telling them that something felt off, something was different.
“The race just felt weird. When I crossed the finish line, about an hour and 45-minutes before the bombing, I felt anxious, like something was wrong.”
Willson said he felt anxious, so he grabbed his bag and went straight to his hotel.
“I showered and starting meeting with friends in the lobby of the hotel, and that’s when we got word that a bomb had gone off at the finish line.
“My phone started to go crazy with inquires from friends, relatives and patients wanting to know if I was OK.”
A SWAT team showed up at the hotel, told everyone to go to their rooms and stay there until further notice. That lasted for six hours.
Willson said he plans to be back on April 21 for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
He has run about 105 marathon since starting running them in 1986 at the age of 21. His first marathon was the Tri-Cities Marathon in Richland, Wash.
Willson ran cross country and track in Sioux City West (Iowa) High School. He went to college at Mid-America Nazarene University in Olathe, ran for the cross country team and then joined the Air Force.
“I became an air traffic controller in the Air Force in 1984 shortly after the famous air traffic control strike in 1981,” he said. “The Air Force provided many of the controllers for the FAA positions that were left vacant after President Reagan fired several thousand controllers.”
After his active duty days with the Air Force, Willson took a position as an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Center in Olathe.
So how did he become a medical doctor?
“In the mid 90’s a local plastic surgeon contacted me about helping him qualify for the 1996 Boston Marathon,” he said. “After spending countless hours in training and getting to know each other, he actually suggested that I go to medical school.
“The hard part was doing both air traffic control full time and going to medical school full time.”
Having retired from air traffic control in 2012, Willson now specializes in cosmetic and age management medicine.
His first Boston Marathon was in 1992, and he missed the 1999 event because he was taking the medical school admission test that weekend. He hasn't missed since.
He enjoys the Boston Marathon.
“It’s the only marathon that requires a qualifying race,” he said. “The race standards have changed over the years, but it has always been difficult for the average runner to achieve.”
He trains six days a week for his distance races.
“The key to marathon running is the progressive long runs, usually occurring on the weekend and peaking at 22 to 23 miles a few weeks before the race,” he said.
His fastest marathon time is 2 hours, 42 minutes, 26 seconds at the 2003 Chicago Marathon. He finished 189th out of 45,000 runners. His best Boston Marathon time is 2:46.