There will once again be Foxborough participants in the Boston Marathon. Among the runners are two former Foxborough athletes. Both Pat Benson and Andrea Bagley will attempt the 26.2 mile run that has been a New England tradition since 1897.
Pat Benson is one of those people that you wonder how he keeps running. Growing up in Foxborough, Benson had a successful career as a long distance runner for Bishop Feehan High School and Wheaton College. With the end of his collegiate career, Benson took up marathon running as many others have. After running a qualifying time in the summer of 2008, Benson saw no reason to not run the Boston Marathon.
“It’s awesome. It's the greatest marathon. Boston it’s like The Masters of running. It’s like the most prestigious road racing event in the world,” said Benson.
Benson is a veteran of the Boston Marathon. With a personal best of 2:40:50, Benson is looking to improve his time and his place. After finishing 223rd last year, Benson is looking for a person best placement.
”I would like to break 2:40 but I’ve lucked out the past two years with good weather. One year it will be windy or hot so I would rather focus on placement and try to break the top 200.”
To try to accomplish this, Benson is following a training schedule that uses elements of his cross country training at Wheaton College. Like most of the athletes in the race, accomplishing that training takes good time management skills. Getting ready for a race that is 26.2 miles long is a challenge that cannot be taken lightly. To prepare for the marathon, Benson has adjusted his training. He is now using any chance he has to get a run in.
“I’m doing one thing differently than I have in the past. I run to work. I do about 4 miles…I’ll try to do some sort of workout during lunch. I’ll do anything from repeat 800s(meters) to just an easy run to tempo. Usually I just go from a tempo run to interval for my actual workout.”
Due to the morning and afternoon workouts, the evening runs are usually light for Benson. In addition to his weekday runs. Benson reserves the weekend for his long runs. Those can be as long as 24 miles.
For every experienced marathon runner, there is a first time participant stepping up to the challenge. Like Benson, Andrea Bagley was an athlete from Foxboro who went on to compete for Wheaton College. Unlike Benson, she played the sprint intense sports of field hockey and softball. The extreme difference in the training provided a shock to Bagley.
“Until now I had never run anything more than 8 miles, as field hockey and softball are more sprint-oriented. Having played sports, my body has undergone a lot of stress (I had 2 knee surgeries before I even got to college.) so the long runs add to this. I find it difficult to get in the short runs during the week because it takes so long for me to recover from the long runs.
Another similarity to Benson is the time management that has to take place to get ready for the marathon.
“I am also in school which is very time consuming,” said Bagley.
Training can be tricky for a student with an inconsistent schedule. As a student in the Curry College Nursing School and an assistant softball coach, time is a factor. In a region where daylight is limited until the final 3 weeks before the race, Bagley squeezes her runs in when she can. When she does get her runs in, she benefits from a strong support system that includes family members and even Foxboro High School’s former track and field coach.
“My friends and family have been supportive...my dad even drives around town with water for me during my long runs! Overall, I wish I had more time to put into the training, but I'm just doing the best I can! I have also been fortunate to have gotten help from Kevin Murphy who coached track and field at Foxborough High School when I was there. He is very knowledgeable and experienced and I am grateful for his guidance.”
As an inexperienced runner, Bagley’s goal for the race is a modest one. She isn’t looking for the fastest time or the highest finish. She is looking to achieve that sense of pride one gets by getting to the end.
“My goal is just to finish the race,"said Bagley “I would hate to stop in the middle or walk for an extended period of time, but I know these things happen.”
While both athletes may have different goals when they step on the start line in Hopkinton, there is one part of the race that neither of them are looking forward to.
“I am not looking forward to heartbreak hill based on what I've heard about it!.” said Bagley.
Pat Benson agreed. “The Newton hills but I’ll be ready for those this year.” Assured Benson. Not wanting to let the hills beat him, Benson has taken extra precautions this year. Doing some training on the hills, Benson wants to make sure that he is more prepared for Heartbreak Hill than in previous years.
With only days to go before the Boston Marathon, most of the training has been done. All there is left to do is get from Hopkinton to Boylston St. in Boston. Even when the race is so close, it can still seem unbelievable that one is going to run the race.
“Sometimes I still can't believe I am running this races," said Bagley. “And then I realize it's coming up soon and I get nervous! To me this was something I'd put on my to-do list in life but I wasn't expecting to do it already. I guess I'm not getting any younger though so I'm just gonna go for it and hope for the best! It will feel amazing to know that I did”