Inspirational former prep basketball player Jason ‘J-Mac’ McElwain qualifies for Boston in first-ever marathon

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

In 2006, Jason "J-Mac" McElwain charmed a nation by coming off the bench at Greece-Athena (N.Y.) High to score 20 points in the only varsity basketball game of his career. A team manager with autism, McElwain entered to rapturous applause and responded with a performance that sent an entire town into bedlam with excitement, eventually earning major national news coverage on every outlet imaginable.

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In the process, McElwain emerged as a sort of national folk hero, the walking embodiment of what any autistic athlete could achieve when given the chance.

Six years later, J-Mac has pulled off another rather formidable achievement: He's qualified for the Boston Marathon, widely considered the ultimate marathon to run, and he did so while competing in his first-ever 26.2-mile race.

As reported by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, J-Mac finished the 2012 MVP Health Care Rochester Marathon in 15th place, crossing the finish line with a time of 3:01:41, more than three minutes below Boston's 3:05 qualification cutoff for runners aged 35 or younger.

Jason 'J-Mac' McElwain after the 2012 Rochester Marathon — Democrat and Chronicle screen grab
Jason 'J-Mac' McElwain after the 2012 Rochester Marathon — Democrat and Chronicle screen grab

"This was a great experience -- hardest thing I've ever done," McElwain told the Democrat and Chronicle. "I was struggling from [mile] 18 to 21, but then when I got to about 25 I looked at my watch. I saw 2:58 at the 200-meter mark. I just gave it everything I have.

"Just get there. Just get there. That's all I wanted to do was just get there. I trained for a year and it's all paid off."

For McElwain, who entered the race with an explicit goal to qualify for Boston, the final payoff won't come until April of 2014. The 2013 Boston Marathon opened for entries in early September, but McElwain reportedly plans to wait until 2014 to participate in the historic race.

That will do little to discourage the 23-year-old, who now works as a supermarket baker at the Wegman's market in his native Greece, New York. Fittingly, he also serves as a volunteer assistant coach for the Greece-Athena cross country and boys basketball teams.

Now he's proven once again that anything is possible if one puts his or her mind to it, no matter what other obstacles might be in the way.

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