Runners prepare for the Philadelphia marathon

On a hot summer day in 490 BC the Greek legend Philippides ran 26 hilly miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news that the Athenian army defeated the Persians. He later collasped from exhaustion.

This legendary story was the inspiration for the modern marathon. On April 10, 1986, the first marathon was held to commemorate Philippides’s amazing run. Twenty-five people entered and Spiridon Louis won in 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds.

This November, Eastern has a number of runners participating in the annual Philadelphia marathon. The race is 26.2 miles long begining at the Philadephia Musuem of Art and ending in Manayuk.

Runners include faculty members Heewon Chang, Ray Van Leeuwen, Albert Socci and students Justin Gelzhiser, Dan Smith and Kevin “Harry” Henderson.

Although the history of marathon running is intriguing, and perhaps somewhat inspiring, marathon running has never been the most popular athletic event. Most runners prefer the shorter distances such as the 100, 200 and 400 meter events.

Others, like business professor Dr. Albert Socci and senior Justin Gelzhiser, find that distance running, particularly marathon running, is where they find their passion.

“I find that when I run I can have time to think about the day’s events, what happened, what I’ll focus on for the next day, and most importantly, time for just God and I,” said Socci.

While new to the area, having just recently moved from Massachusetts, Socci is not new to marathons.

A veteran of more than 15 marathons, his best time was at the Chicago marathon, where he posted a time of 3 hours 14 minutes and 33 seconds, allowing him to qualify for the prestigious Boston marathon.

For the upcoming Philadelphia marathon, training will not be as rigorous as his earlier ones, but he is still a believer that hard work and dedication pays off.

“I believe in a lot of hill work, and especially running a lot of miles–between 75 and 80 a week,” said Socci.

For Gelzhiser, he has had to do quite a bit of training for the event.

He runs five days a week, which includes long runs, speed work and hill work

“I’ve done two triathlons which helped me prepare, but honestly the hardest part is getting enough food to eat,” he said.

If all goes well he hopes to qualify for the Boston marathon in April.

Gelzhiser tries to eat at least five meals a day, as well as snacks in between.

With all the training he comments that he is constantly hungry, and that has been pretty tough to deal with. He tends to run between 30 and 40 miles. Both Socci and Gelzhiser admit that the vast majority of the race is mental.

“If you’ve been training and preparing, by the time you run the race your body is ready,” said Socci. “It’s up to you to force yourself to go.”

The hard work does have rewards. Gelzhiser is looking forward to the upcoming race in November.

“I’ve always loved running, and I really want to take the opportunity to dedicate this race to my parents who have always supported me in everything I’ve done,” said Gelzhiser.