Can It Be Run? A Fast Marathon in Med School – Runner’s World

Can It Be Run? A Fast Marathon in Med School  Runner’s World

At 23 years old and *fresh* out of Syracuse University, Martin Hehir moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, to train with the professional runners of Northern Arizona Elite.


Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon (P3R)

At 23 years old and fresh out of Syracuse University, Martin Hehir moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, to train with the professional runners of Northern Arizona Elite. He loved the experience of being with the team, the altitude training, the racing and travel.

But the running lifestyle—a morning run with an afternoon run—and napping, TV, or video games to round out the day was making him a little restless.

“Ultimately, I felt like I could do more during a day,” he said.

Hehir’s definition of a full day is different than most people’s. So after 10 months in Flagstaff, he moved to Philadelphia—to get started at medical school.

He had already been accepted to Thomas Jefferson University during his final year at Syracuse, but he had deferred his acceptance. By the spring of 2017, however, he figured it was time to get going on the career he expects to be in after his pro running days are long over.

He wasn’t sure how elite-level running was going to fit in. As it turns out, Hehir, now 25 and in his second year, has mastered a schedule that allows him to train 100 to 105 miles per week without too much exhaustion. He’ll be making his marathon debut at the Cal International Marathon on December 2 in Sacramento, California.

His typical weekday goes something like this: Get up about 5:15 or 5:30 a.m. Have coffee to clear the cobwebs. Run 10 miles in the dark on the streets of South Philadelphia.

Hehir often runs past the sports complex for Philly’s professional sports franchises, where the sidewalks are wide and well lit. Or he’ll run on the streets along the Delaware River—not the most scenic spot in the City of Brotherly Love, he said, but running on the river side of the road means he doesn’t have to stop for cross traffic.

By about 8 a.m. he has said goodbye to his wife, Monica, who is a nurse practitioner, and his daughter, McKenna, 6 months, who stays with a nanny during the day. Hehir bikes to campus a couple of miles away, goes to classes and labs (which currently include dissecting cadavers), and tries to get all his work and studying done. Then he’ll hop on a treadmill for another five miles before biking home around 4 p.m. At that point, the nanny leaves and Hehir hangs out with the baby.

While Wednesday’s will be some sort of speed workout, weekends are when he does the bulk of his marathon-specific training—two days of back-to-back tempo runs and long runs with faster segments in them. In all, he logs about 40 miles every weekend. Monday is an easy day with just a single run in the morning.

Hehir is now sponsored by Reebok and belongs to the company’s new elite training group based in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Reebok Boston Track Club, although he sees his teammates only rarely. The group is led by Chris Fox, who coached Hehir at Syracuse. (The team won an NCAA cross-country title in 2015.) Hehir and Fox communicate daily by text.

“We’re all amazed by him,” Fox said. “I’ve been around professional runners for the last 30 years. Everyone just naps [between workouts]; Marty goes to med school. He’s a different guy.”

Hehir’s buildup to his first marathon has been conservative. “We’re not doing a ton of mileage,” Fox said. “We went into this with the idea that we’re going to do it at 80 percent ready, but healthy and feeling good.” His goal is for Hehir to run a couple of minutes faster than the 2:19 he needs to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials.

Based on recent results, however, Hehir may be capable of much more. On November 4, he won the Pittsburgh 10-Miler in an event record time of 46:48. That time, and the 28:08 for 10,000 meters he ran while he lived in Arizona, predict that Hehir may be capable of a marathon in the 2:10 range.

But Hehir’s route to the marathon has included fewer training miles than many of his competitors have done before CIM, which is doubling as the USATF marathon championships.

He’s feeling fresh, however. “You do get into a good groove; I’m feeling very good right now,” he said. “I should be able to go out and run with everyone there. The main goal is to place well. I want to make it to the end of the race strong and not blow up and not be another one of the horror stories you see in this event.”

His coach thinks this will be his one and only marathon before the Olympic Trials. As long as he runs the qualifying standard, there’s no reason to do another one. Instead, he’ll train. “We can take a year and do things exactly the way we want to do them,” Fox said.

And school really starts ramping up in the spring. For many U.S. elite marathoners, April means the Boston Marathon. For Hehir, it’s when he starts his clinical rotation, “working in the hospital under doctors, doing things in the operating room, pediatrics, family medicine,” he said. “That’s when you get the on-the-job training.”

The other kind training.