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West Seattle man leaves Boston Marathon with hypothermia, then finishes hours later

Greg Kroleski finished a marathon he says he will never forget. (Photo: Courtesy of Greg Kroleski)

SEATTLE -- A runner from West Seattle finished this year’s Boston Marathon five hours after the left the course due to signs of hypothermia.

Greg Kroleski knew Monday’s race would be his fifth and final marathon. The father of four wants to spend more time with his family, and decided the Boston Marathon would be the perfect swan song.

Heading into Monday, racers expected cold, soggy weather.

Kroleski felt prepared, but miles into the race his body started to react. By mile 10, his hands went numb. Then, around mile 20, his body started shutting down.

“I started to slow down and I realized something was wrong, and then, as I stopped, I was shaking and realized, this is real bad,” Kroleski said. “I couldn’t really talk, I couldn’t stand up straight, I was shaking so much.”

So he ran into a medical tent hoping their staff could help him return to the race. But as they pulled off his soaked layers and covered him with blankets, he realized that might be tough. Other racers were experiencing the same effects, and eventually the medical team got Greg on a bus to take him back home. His race seemed to be over.

By the time he arrived home, he hadn’t run in a couple hours. He showered, drank some tea, and watched marathoners cross the finish line on TV. Then he made a big decision.

“I said, 'Man, there are people still out there,' ” he said. “I have got to go do this. I have got to go finish.”

So he put on several warm layers, called an Uber, and drove back to medical tent where he had come off the course five hours earlier.

As staff began to break down the course, Kroleski ran the final three and a half miles, mostly on the sidewalk. He crossed the finish line, clocking a time of eight hours, nine minutes and 48 seconds, good for 25,745th place – second to last among finishers. That’s about five and a half hours more than his best marathon finish.

“This is a much better story,” he said. “I’ll never forget this marathon.”

He received a medal when he crossed the finish line, though he thinks, by rule, he might have disqualified himself.

“We looked up the rules afterward, and it looks like if you go into a medical tent and drop out you’re officially finished,” he said. “So technically I don’t know if this is allowed or not, but in my book, I finished the race, I ran all the miles of the course, I got to see it, I got to experience it. I got the medal. If they want to call and take it back, they can hit me up and we can see about that.”

Either way, he’s proud of his path, and the fact he finished his racing career at the finish line.

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