Father Christopher M. Zelonis pictured after completing the Boston Marathon April 18. Courtesy photo
BOSTON -- Everyone has their own reason for running the Boston Marathon. For Father Christopher M. Zelonis of the Diocese of Allentown, it's about seeking the will of God.
"People are sometimes astounded that a priest would have the interest and drive to run marathons, but I say why not? We are human, and humanity involves discovering and pursuing previously unconsidered aspirations as God reveals them in our lives," he told The Pilot, April 18, just hours after competing in his first Boston Marathon April 18.
Father Zelonis began running when he was in the Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, after the hospitalization of his father and his own poor health placed him at need of "spiritual leading" in 1998. To both combat his spiritual doubts and his health problems, he began to walk.
"By the spring of '99, I started to run... By that summer, I was running for long periods of time," he said.
While he had competed in several shorter races, including a number of 5Ks, Father Zelonis didn't begin running long distances until around 2012, when he decided to run 16 miles from his house to a restaurant to meet his mother for a meal.
He said his mother saw him running along the highway and asked him, "Are you sure you don't want me to pick you up?"
"No, no, don't tempt me," he said he replied.
He ran his first marathon the following year, 2013, in Allentown, after some coaxing by a friend. Since then, Father Zelonis has run additional marathons and half-marathons before competing in the Boston Marathon, which he noted is viewed as the "gold-standard" of marathon.
He said that based on the "latest results updated on the Boston Marathon mobile app," he placed 2,508th out of around 30,000 runners with a net time of 3:07:50.
"I am grateful to say that various parishioners and friends have told me I inspire them. If I, a former foe of physical activity, could make such a turnaround -- and not a sudden one -- so could anyone else if they willed it," he said.