Matt Seiler has run two marathons in his life.
In his first try, he accomplished his goal and broke the three-hour mark. In his second, he qualified for the Boston Marathon.
It's the latest chapter in the running life of an athlete who was never good enough in high school to even make State, let alone dream of one day earning a spot in the most prestigious marathon in the world.
The story goes all the way back to the age of four when Seiler was first introduced to running and began competing in road races at various town festivals in the area. Since then it's been a love/hate relationship that keeps bringing him back to the pavement.
"I had no idea what place I was in. I was trying to count the people, but when you're an hour and a half into a grueling a race you have a hard time counting that well. But I thought it was somewhere around 10 or 15," Seiler said about his most recent race, the May 5 Lincoln Marathon.
"The half-marathon finishes at the same spot so I wasn't 100 percent sure (how I had finished). There wasn't a lot of people there since most of the half marathoners leave."
Seiler's immediate thoughts had to do with the pain in his legs and how to stay upright. His father, Don, and a family friend, Bob Borer, found him at the finish line inside Memorial Stadium and helped him stay upright.
That's when Don shared with his son that he had completed a time necessary to earn a trip to Boston.
That was a goal, but it seemed like a lofty due to several factors.
First, it had been eight years since he last ran a full marathon. Though he's been in Lincoln in the event every year in between, he's participated in the half marathon ever since he made his 26.2-mile maiden voyage in 2011.
Second, Seiler switched up his schedule at Becton-Dickinson to one where he works 12-hour shifts seven out of every 14 days. The change has forced an adjustment to his training schedule. He just doesn't have the energy to work out unless it's an off day.
He had put on 400 miles leading up to this year's event, but felt like 800 was the number he needed to get to.
But then he hit the halfway mark in an hour and 20 minutes.
"I didn't really feel confident going into it and I wanted to pace myself, but I didn't do that at all," he said.
Seiler came in with a time of 2:48:37 and in 13th place. He was the seventh fastest male runner from Nebraska and the fastest among five full-marathon participants from Columbus.
It was the culmination of a career that began to take off early when Sieler developed a never-satisfied attitude.
"My dad started me running when I was like 4. I didn't even know if I liked it. I just started doing more and more races. I kind of got hooked trying to win medals. I would always get super disappointed if I didn't get a medal at a race, so I would always train harder," he remembered. "When I was a teenager it got to where it was just difficult to improve so I almost gave up, but the love of running came back to me eventually."
Once he reached his teenage years, that improvement slowed to the point where it was almost non-existent. He got lazy and his attitude waned to the point of constant frustration.
He remembers being in the pack at the starting line in the Columbus Downtown Runaround at 14 or 15 and having little to no interest in what was about to happen. He didn't expect to do well, and thus, didn't really want to be there.
He longed for the return of his competitive fire, but it seemed even the pilot light had gone out.
Then came a late growth spurt and a return to form. He never quite progressed to the point of qualifying for the state cross country meet or state track, but the fire was beginning to kindle.
After graduation from Columbus High School, Seiler went on to Central Community College where he kept running on his own. He earned his way to Wayne State College, though the Wildcats never recruited him, and walked on to the cross country and track teams.
"I was definitely the worst runner they had when I first went there and probably about the second or third best on the cross country team when I left," he said. "I definitely improved by going to college."
He gave up his final track season after graduating in the fall semester in order to train for his first marathon.
His workouts consisted of calendars he found online through websites such as Runners World.
Once at the starting line in May 2011, his focus was to kick out easy and not burn himself up before he had a chance to get into a rhythm. Two or three miles in, he found a few guys who were also looking to run under three hours and stuck with them mostly the rest of the way.
He ran 2:47:41 and was 16th overall. Seiler was the ninth fastest Nebraska runner.
Since then, he became the fastest 5-mile runner from Columbus in the Downtown Runaround five times in a row and is the reigning 2.1-mile champion in each of the past six years.
Though he qualified for Boston the first time, making the trip east was never really a consideration.
"It was more about finding out if I could do it or not," he said.
Since the love for running came back a little more than a decade ago, Seiler estimates he's completed 25 to 30,000 miles total in his lifetime. In each of the past two years he's run between 1,000 and 1,200.
"I like to think about how I have about 8,000 miles on my car and I have more than that on my legs," he joked.
Now the decision is whether or not to take advantage of his finish and register for Boston the second time around. He's strongly considering it, but he's also weighing the cost for a flight, a hotel and how overwhelming the experience could be for a "small-town guy."
"It is awesome. I like to think about what percentage of the people actually do a marathon and how many make it to Boston. It makes me almost feel like I should go when I think about all the people that are tying to go and can't make it," he said.
"It does bring a certain sense of pride. And thinking about how I could've never made it in high school when I wasn't fast enough to make it to state, but now I can make it to Boston. I think the biggest sense of pride is just to see where I came from."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.