Altoona's Terry Shea was just hoping to be able to finish this year's Boston Marathon.
He wound up with his best time ever.
Shea, the 1992 AAHS graduate who was running in the prestigious event for the first time in four years, finished 23rd overall and seventh among American runners with a time of 2 hours, 20 minutes and 48 seconds on Monday.
The time was his personal record at the Boston Marathon by a a little more than 5 minutes - his previous best was 2:25:54. It also bettered the 37-year-old's PR in any marathon by 4 seconds.
That Shea did it under the unlikeliest of circumstances made it even sweeter.
"I had a hamstring cramp and other problems early in the week. I thought it might act up and cause me to pull out at some point in the race,'' Shea, who was running in his sixth Boston Marathon, said. "I felt it throughout the race, but it stayed at the same level and never blew up.''
Shea wasn't the only runner to enjoy a good time: It was the fastest-run Boston Marathon ever, with winner Geoffrey Mutai setting a course record of 2:03:02, 4 seconds ahead of his countryman, Moses Mosop.
Shea, who ran collegiately at Bucknell, said the fast pace and his hamstring ailment actually both helped him to his PR time.
"We took off with a tailwind. ... The weather was perfect,'' Shea said. "Having a problem with cramping up or something like that, sometimes you go in with less pressure. When you go in expecting everything to go perfectly and something goes wrong, maybe you aren't ready for it.''
Shea's splits were remarkably consistent. He run each five kilometers between 16:38 and 16:41.
"I found that out after the race,'' Shea said. "Most marathons get harder in the last four miles. When I was around Mile 24, I figured out I might PR.''
Shea ran as part of the Boston Athletic Association team, leading it to a first-place finish.
"That was the highlight of my day. I was running with my friends and teammates,'' Shea said.
Shea sat out the last few Boston Marathons because he's been more focused coaching with the BAA, as well as battling heel and Achilles' tendon problem. Even with his strong showing this year, he isn't sure he'll race next year to try to top it.
"I'll have to see how things stand,'' Shea said. "Being a coach actually helped by taking pressure off of me, too.''
A total of 26,907 runners took part in the race.