Several Penn State Club Cross Country members have been busy preparing for Patriots’ Day, when they will head to Hopkinton, MA to compete in the 121st running of the Boston Marathon.
Junior Mark Puleo, junior Jacob Fisher, and senior Andrew Murphy started training for the April 17 marathon months ago, shortly after their competitive cross country season ended last fall.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing in preparation for the event. While Puelo and Murphy have been healthy, strong, and able to log some longer runs, Fisher had his appendix removed shortly before training was about to begin. After having to delay training several weeks because of this, Fisher has slowly been getting back in shape and often uses cross training as a supplement to his running in preparation for the race.
The Boston Marathon is the oldest marathon, dating back to 1897, and has the fastest average finishing time of any marathon in the country at three hours and 44 minutes. It is also one of the most competitive races to enter, with runners needing to run specific (and fast) qualifying times in the year prior to the marathon in order to be eligible. Puleo, Fisher, and Murphy all qualified for Boston by running the Philadelphia Marathon in less than three hours and five minutes.
This will be Puleo’s second marathon, while Fisher and Murphy are slightly more experienced in the distance. Puelo does have one advantage, though: He’ll be running on home turf.
“I live just a half hour outside the course,” Puelo said. “But I haven’t been wanting to run too much of it, keep some beginner’s luck.” He’s been looking forward and training for this race for as long as he can remember and used to attend the race every year as a kid.
All three runners are Boston rookies and are excited for the quintessential Boston experience that includes streets lined with more than 500,000 spectators. With a hill at mile 20 named Heartbreak Hill, Boston is a notoriously exciting but challenging course. Murphy, Puelo, and Fisher all say they feel prepared to conquer the hills, but their key to success is not to start out too fast early in the race.
“The first four or five miles are really downhill,” Puelo said. They’ll be cautious not to let the excitement and downhill combine to push them too fast too soon.
More than 30,000 competitors will share the starting line on race day, including an elite field of 40 runners representing several different countries. The first race of the day is the men’s wheelchair, which starts at 9:17 a.m. Several waves of elite and non-elite runners start every 25 minutes and the final competitors will cross the start line at 11:15 a.m.
Although there are some time-relate finishing goals in the back of their minds, Puelo, Fisher, and Murphy all say their main focus of the weekend is staying healthy and enjoying the experience.
“I’m looking forward to being healthy and in shape,” Murphy said. His previous marathons have been bogged down by either injuries or training disruptions, so he plans to take full advantage of Monday’s marathon.
Most runners have a few post-marathon indulgences planned well in advance of race day, and these three are no different. Fisher said he plans to have an entire sushi platter to himself, while Puelo plans to indulge in treats like burgers, milkshakes, and fried dough. Murphy kept things a bit simpler, with a nice cold beer topping his personal list.
The runners will travel to Boston early this weekend in preparation for the Monday race. Ddespite exhaustion and a long car ride, they’ll be back in time for class bright and early Tuesday morning.