Youngest runner in the field trained through winter with his mother in preparation
CHAMPAIGN — Oliver Bohac liked the idea of crossing the finish line in Memorial Stadium and seeing his face on a giant video screen.
"My mom thought that would be an interesting experience, so we decided to run," said the Batavia resident of their first Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon.
"I think we are physically and mentally ready for the race, but we are both very jittery," he said.
Not a big deal. Many of the 2,100 other runners registered to run the 26.2-mile course through Champaign and Urbana feel the same way.
What's unusual is that Oliver is 11.
The youngest registered marathoner for today's race needed special permission from the race directors as rules say marathon participants need to be 17 on race day.
"They wanted to make sure he was going to be trained right and that he wanted to do it and that it wasn't me" forcing him, said Amy Bohac-Datz of her first-born child's participation.
With four half-marathons under his belt in the last two years, 93-pound, 58-inch-tall Oliver and his petite mother are convinced he's ready for his first marathon.
They're so confident, they are both registered for an ultra marathon (30 miles) in Indiana in two weeks. Oliver needed special permission to run that as well.
It was two years ago that Oliver took a shine to distance running. It started as an act of support for his mom.
The 36-year-old wife, mother of three boys, geologist and part-time college teacher was running a marathon in October 2012 when she hurt her leg.
"He ran the last eight miles with me in jeans," she said of her then 9-year-old son.
"I was really surprised. Then, during that race he said, 'I think I want to do a half-marathon.' I said, 'Fine, but you have to work and train.' We came up with training plans and stuck to it," she said.
"We usually try to get a run in five times a week," said Oliver, a fifth-grader at Alice Gustafson Elementary School in Batavia. "Four of those are five to 10 miles. On the weekends, we run about 15 to 20 miles."
They belong to running clubs in Batavia.
And yes, mother and son religiously trained during the most grueling winter in recent memory.
"Depending on the weather, we usually ran inside on the treadmill, which was not fun at all," Oliver said. "Trust me. Eleven miles on the treadmill is just about as boring as it gets."
Mother and son much prefer to be outdoors, where they talk as they run.
"We talk about everything," she said. "If Oliver had his way, we would talk about Godzilla and aliens all the time. Sometimes we put a limit on how long he can talk about a subject."
Bohac-Datz said her first child started talking at 18 months, and between the ages of 3 and 4, taught himself to read.
"He's got lots up there," she said of her son's grey matter. "He's a gifted kid academically."
He's not into other sports and has only one other classmate who enjoys distance running, with his longest run being six miles.
Oliver said his classmates don't say much about his running, although he's had support from plenty of adults, including a gym teacher to whom he will dedicate mile number five.
Oliver has dedicated every mile to a different person, saving mile 26 for his mom "for being there so much I can't keep track and for pulling me all the way."
"I think 26 miles is a bit too much for them to comprehend," he said of his classmates, "but I've never been the most popular anyway. No one really cares."
"Between running and school, I don't do very much, although I love reading," Oliver said.
His latest book was "Animorphs 21-The Threat," part of a series by K.A. Applegate where "a group of six kids realize that the Earth is being invaded by aliens and they acquire morphing power that allows them to turn into any type of animal they touch."
Yes, he's read the previous 20 books and is a huge fan of Godzilla and is "very enthused about the new movie coming out."
"I love science. I want to be an epidemiologist when I grow up." (That's the study of diseases, where they come from and how they affect populations.)
Unlike many 11-year-olds, Oliver is fairly in tune to the nutritional needs of a distance runner.
"I was a vegetarian for a while but since I needed more protein (for running) I eat beef or pork, mostly fish."
His lunch box at school usually contains a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cheese, fruit and pretzels.
So does he allow himself a little junk food?
"I do definitely like ice cream and soda pop. I don't know many people who don't. I do have a hard time containing myself sometimes because running the long distance I do does give me an appetite," he said.
His mother added that occasionally she's found a Cheetos bag under a cushion where her son has been seated.
Bohac-Datz said she was initially a bit nervous about her son's desire to get into distance running but said she has talked with doctors and other runners who have reassured her it's all right.
"As long as he's running correctly, eating well and getting enough rest, he should be fine," she said, adding that advice applies to runners of any age.
Bohac-Datz said she ran briefly in high school and off and on from early adulthood up to the present. When she gave birth to son Walter, now seven months, she took time off from distance running but Oliver continued training with other running friends.
Bohac-Datz and her nonrunning, bicyclist husband, Eric Datz, also have son Charlie, 2.
Mother and son will stick close to each other today. And father and brothers will be in the stadium hoping to see them in about four-and-a-half hours.
"I don't race a lot," she said. "I run more just to run. I've put this distance in before but not to race. I think he might be better trained that I am," she said.
"For Oliver, it's about finishing. This is just something to experience," she said.
26.2 Miles Dedicated: Oliver Bohac-Datz
Mile 1 — To Spongebob — because he is cool.
Mile 2 - To Benny, because he supports me and he was faster than me on the mile...
Mile 3 — To Jeff, because of our 5K mud run
Mile 4 — To my dog Meadow, because that's the longest that she has run with me .
Mile 5 — To my gym teacher Mr. Park for sticking with me these last 5 years.
Mile 6 — To Conor a great supporter who I would like to honor his longest distance of 6 miles and credit his extraordinary pull up ability (15).
Mile 7 — To the Accelerators; you started me on this path so you deserve a chapter in this 4 hour book.
Mile 8 — To New Leaf, I just can't tell you how awesome you guys are. It feels great to know this mile has your name written on it. My first ultra is next month and I can finally be part of the ultra team!
Mile 9 - To my Uncle Ryan, for coming to my half marathon and for tolerating hours of Godzilla. We can run another "marathon" sometime...
Mile 10 — To my uncles, aunts and cousins for showing me the importance of bottle-caps and Halo, dancing and enjoying family.
Mile 11 — To Dad, for saying "you can give up, but you won't because you are that awesome kid of mine" and because 11 miles was my first time I ever wanted to quit.
Mile 12 — To coach Keith, for telling me to take it slow and because 12 is my easy mile.
Mile 13 — To Tiffany and Dan Dore for running my first half marathon with me. An experience I will never forget... and for 1 a.m. 20 mile training runs!
Mile 14 — To Matt, for teaching me to ignore bullies everyday. For being the best friend anyone could ask for and for his accuracy when it comes to hitting Aaron in the face with a snowball.
Mile 15 — To Grandma and Grandpa Datz. When you come over, you always say what an amazing kid I am. But if anyone deserves a medal it's you. You are so supportive and you show courage everyday and are amazingly cheerful.
Mile 16- To Nana and Papa and Nana Bo. You guys are great! I love you so much. You keep my spirits up and you go over the top for me so this mile goes to you guys.
Mile 17 — For Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon for starting this race. Because of you, today I run as 1551. and to the Alexian Brothers Half Marathon. You were my first half and my best (not time wise) Let it Rain.
Mile 18 — To Bridget Ball, you ran my first mile, my first step AND IT HURT!!!!! But for every painful step, I am triply grateful for all you have done.
Mile 19 — To all the people that helped me train... Katy, Nature Trail Runners, Fox River Trail Runners, Fox Valley Marathon Training Run, my Dad on his bike, my friends at one time or another, and anyone else I might have not mention... because I am tired... I have 26 miles and change to run Saturday.
Mile 20- To Charlie, For the 2 year who will need to "get his run in" after mine and for my newest little brother Wally who is so cute and makes me smile.
Mile 21 — To Scott Jurek, for teaching me to set new records and when this mile is through, that is exactly what I will have done.
Mile 22 — To Peter, for doing what I am so close to doing. Twice. I wish I could have run with you.
Mile 23 — To Rick Riordan, To keep writing. Have Percy kick some Lystragonian butt while you're at it. Let's also have some more drakons. You give me lots to think about on my runs.
Mile 24 — To coach Scott for teaching me how to push myself... boy were you right. I'll try not to puke this time.
Mile 25 — To Oliver (me) because I am awesome, smart, strong, energetic and modest hehe.
Mile 26.2 — To Mom, for being such a great Mom. For sticking through Godzilla AVP and so many others at this point. For being there so much I can't keep track. For pulling me all the way. This insane thing started with a mile and that is how we are going to finish it!