This year, 30,004 runners entered the world’s oldest annual marathon — the Boston Marathon. Of those who entered, 27, 221 started the race and 26,411 finished. As DAC member Jase Simmons lined up at the crowded start of the historic race, representing the Joe Andruzzi Foundation (JAF) Team, he had already beaten the odds, overcoming setbacks that surely would have sidelined a less determined athlete. Now, all he had to do was finish.
One month after being selected to run with the JAF Team, Jase’s right knee started to swell. The MRI revealed a torn meniscus. With surgery scheduled for January 5, Jase clung to hopes of running in Boston on April 17, though he knew running fast was now off the table. “I wanted to find a way to just make it to the starting line and see if I could then make it to the finish line.”
This would be Jase’s seventh marathon and second time running for a charity team at Boston. JAF is an organization “committed to providing help, hope, and a reason to smile for cancer patients and their families by contributing financial and emotional support,” according to the organization’s website. This year’s team raised more than $245,000. The strength and courage of the families JAF supports gave Jase inspiration to draw on throughout his training and race day.
No stranger to injuries, Jase had this motto at the ready, “Setbacks are setups for comebacks.” His mantra.
In 2012, just one month out from what would have been his first ultramarathon, Jase herniated a disk in his back, requiring surgery. He didn’t make it to his planned race, but recovered and ran his first ultra later that same year.
In 2014, Jase was nine days from running the Honolulu marathon when a trip to the ER turned into emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder. “I was lying in the hospital and looked at my wife and said, this doesn’t end here. I’m going bigger.” Four months later he ran the Paris marathon.
By the time he found out about his torn meniscus, Jase jokes that he already had VIP status at his physical therapist office and the Thai massage therapist office. His running buddy, Joy, even suggested he ask for a punch card at Slocum.
As Jase made progress rehabbing his knee and the marathon date inched closer, he found himself facing yet another setback — an apparent ankle injury. “I saw another Slocum doctor in a room next to where I’d just had my final knee appointment.” This new doctor delivered the news that Jase had a bone spur, which could eventually require surgery, and a collapsing left arch.
So close to the race, Jase just wanted to put a band aid over it and keep pushing. He was given a cortisone injection and his physical therapist at Cooperative Performance and Rehabilitation started taping his left ankle in colors matching his taped right knee.
On race day, Jase had two goals in mind – cross that finish line and do in time to be considered an “official finisher.” The day was much hotter than expected and Jase found himself having to manage the conditions of the course along with his compromised capabilities.
“I would say, if anything, I ran a smart race. A lot of that is owed to my running coach, Cathie Twomey Bellamy.” Running smart got Jase to the iconic finishing shoot — right on Hereford, left on Boylston and across the finish line.
With less than 60 training miles running, Jase relied almost exclusively on cross-training to prepare for this marathon. At the DAC, he started swimming and taking advantage of the non-impact machines available, like the elliptical and stationary bike. Jase started training with DAC Personal Trainer Sandra Hentze. He can also be spotted cruising along the River Path on a bright red Ellipitgo when the sun is out.
“It took a village to get me to the starting line. Two orthopedic surgeons, a Thai massage therapist, a physical therapist, Sandra doing personal training, my running coach Cathie, and one loving, understanding wife.”
Crossing the finish line in Boston, both times, has meant living beyond his dreams. “I spent so much of my former life living with obesity,” Jase said. In 2011, he made the decision to change his life and lose the weight. He picked up long distance running as a way to challenge himself and never looked back. For Jase, the appeal of running is “not about being better than anyone else, it’s about being better than who you used to be.”
Running has changed Jase forever. By day he is a financial advisor but he shares his incredible story through motivational speaking. “The gift of change gives us the opportunity to live the unlived life within us. Crossing the finish line of a marathon is living the unlived life for me, and doing it in Boston just amplifies it a hundred times over.”