BOSTON — When Jimmie Johnson arrived in Boston for his first marathon, running less than two days after Saturday’s 400-mile NASCAR race, one of Meb Keflezighi‘s books was waiting in his hotel room, signed by the 2014 Boston Marathon champion himself.
When Johnson finished his first marathon in 3 hours, 9 minutes, 7 seconds on Monday, there was Keflezighi again. This time to present the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion his finisher’s medal.
“He congratulated me, was impressed with my time for a first-time marathoner,” said Johnson, who got into Boston via a Gatorade sponsor’s exemption but has run a 1:33 half marathon. “I invited [Keflezighi] to a car race, would love to connect with him and host him and show him what our world’s like at the race track.”
Johnson may be seeing Keflezighi again next year. The 43-year-old noted his time beat the 2020 Boston Marathon qualifying standard by 53 seconds for his age group.
“I would love to be able to try to break three [hours],” Johnson said 45 minutes after crossing the Boylston Street finish line, repeating his pre-race goal time. “I know for a fact it wasn’t in the cards today. I left on that number and was trying to hold it and just didn’t have it. I need to go back to the drawing board. I love that kind of challenge, and it’s going to weigh on me. … I just need to look at the schedule and see if it all lays out, and I can come back.”
Johnson said the transition from Saturday’s NASCAR race in Richmond, where he placed 12th, to the world’s oldest annual marathon was smooth. He felt strong on the starting line, though admitting the buzz of the Hopkinton start drained some energy.
“I couldn’t believe how many people did spot me,” he said. “It was loud, especially the closer we got to town. Once somebody would recognize me, the crowd would get going, and I could kind of egg them on.”
Johnson, wearing bib 4848 to correspond to his No. 48 Chevrolet, did get bragging rights over former NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray, who ran a 3:14 marathon in December.
“It’s always been of interest to me, endurance sports,” Johnson told NBC Sports before the race. “The year of the bombings, I realized that if the NASCAR schedule is right, with the marathon on a Monday, it’s something I can do. It just took from the year of the bombings until now for the opportunity.
“The stories of Boston and the energy and the excitement, the way the city is, it’s something I have to experience.”
Johnson also has triathlon and swimming experience, having trained in the same pool as U.S. Olympic swimmers in Charlotte, including taking tips from London 2012 200m backstroke gold medalist Tyler Clary.
He’ll take the finisher’s medal home, where he is sure his daughters will want to play with it. It will eventually rest in his office, along with three other trophies from the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and a season-long championship.
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