BOSTON – As he came to the finish line at the end of 26.2 miles, Jimmie Johnson raised a fist to the cheering crowd, celebrating an “amazing” day in which he completed his very first marathon.
It was that crowd’s energy that fueled him all day long in Monday's Boston Marathon.
“That was my big takeaway – I couldn’t believe how many people spotted me,” he smiled. “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 and get everybody pretty loud. It was a lot of fun.”
It certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion that his partner, Ally Financial, had staked out a cheering station at mile 17, where a “pit crew” of nearly 100 fans encouraged him down the home stretch.
From T-shirts and banners to giant Jimmie Johnson heads, the Ally group’s support was one of the driver’s highlights of the event.
“At the racetrack, there are 39 other drivers out there, 39 other fan bases out there. You don’t always hear cheers. Everybody cheered today. Every competitor was offering advice or giving me tips.
“That never happens at my day job,” he laughed.
When it was all said and done, Johnson posted a time of 3:09:07, averaging seven minutes and 13 seconds per mile over the course of the 26.2 miles.
After setting a goal of three hours for his first-ever marathon, he was proud of how hard he pushed himself to nearly reach that mark while setting a new personal record.
And an endurance running legend – former Boston Marathon champion and Olympian Meb Keflezighi – was just as proud as he presented Johnson with his medal following the race.
“He congratulated me and was impressed with my time for a first-time marathoner,” Johnson said. “I invited him to a car race and I’d love to connect with him, host him and show him what our world is like at the racetrack. Such a special moment to see him standing there and give me that medal.”
He knows exactly where he’ll put that medal – in his office. It’s an exclusive spot in the Johnson home, as the only awards the room currently holds are a Daytona 500 trophy, a Brickyard 400 trophy and a NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy. The Boston Marathon medal will be the fourth.
Johnson took on the challenge, and in the end he shared that it was “nothing but smiles and a good time.”
“I had a great experience,” he said. “The camaraderie amongst the runners, the energy from the fans and their excitement, kids passing out popsicles and waters, just everything.
“It really was amazing.”
With no NASCAR Cup Series race this weekend, Johnson can now celebrate with a well-deserved week off.
Of course, he’s already looking ahead to next year’s marathon.
“I heard that with my time I’m qualified to come back,” he said. “So, if I can, I will.”