Two Big Green young alumni finish within Top 40 of this year’s Boston Marathon
Isabella Caruso ’17 finished 40th in the women’s category and 37th in the 18 to 39 age division.
Matt Herzig ’17, a former member of the cross country and track and field teams at Dartmouth, finished in 12th place overall at the 2018 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:27:55 and a pace of 5:39. Isabella Caruso ’17, a former member of the Dartmouth Running Team and one of two current Dartmouth Teaching Science fellows in biology and chemistry, finished 40th in the women’s category and 37th in the 18-to-39 age division with a time of 2:56:18 and a pace of 6:44. The Dartmouth interviewed each of these runners about their experiences.
Isabella, what was your running experience like before Monday’s marathon?
IC: I did cross country and track all through high school and I ran with [the Dartmouth] running club all four years.
Matt, at Dartmouth you were on the cross country and track and field teams. How have you kept up with your training post-graduation?
MH: I think it has been a challenge to keep with it without the benefit of the cross country team and the coaching staff. I joined a training group in Boston called Heartbreakers, which is a group associated with the Heartbreak Hill Running Company, a local shoe store, so they have been a good group of guys to train with. For the most part, I’m self-coached right now, which has been a bit of an adjustment since college because I’m coming up with my own workouts and trying to figure out what works for me.
What inspired you to run in this year’s Boston Marathon, and was this your first time running a marathon?
IC: I have crazy friends, [so] I ran my first marathon during my freshman spring. I ran the CHaD half [marathon] freshman fall with my roommate and a few of our friends with the running club, and then after we did a half we were like, “We should run a full marathon.” I ran [the Boston Marathon] last year and I was able to run fast enough last year to qualify for it again this year. It was a ton of fun and the race has a great atmosphere. I’m from Massachusetts, so it was something that we used to watch on TV growing up. I didn’t run as well as I had wanted to last year, but having a better sense of all of the logistics made the race a much more enjoyable experience.
MH: No, so this was my third marathon. Boston is a race where for most people, you have to qualify for it. You can get in by raising a bunch of money for charity, but I think it is about $8,000 this year, so if you can qualify for it, that is the way to do it. It had always been on my bucket list of things to do in running. I watched my mom do it growing up, and being from Boston it is the race to be a part of in Boston. So a lot of guys will take a few years after graduation and race some 10Ks, then race some half marathons, and slowly build up their race distance before they transition into a marathon. For me, I’m starting medical school next year, so I wanted to make that jump to the marathon quickly and get a couple of good marathons under my belt before I have to retire or back off from training this hard.
When did you first start training, and can you walk us through your training regimen leading to the race?
IC: I ran a marathon in the fall at the end of October. I took about a week off and then slowly got back into running, and I really got into training at the beginning of January. I can’t say I’m the best at following a regimented training plan, but generally, marathon training at its most basic level, you have a long run every week and build up the length of that, and I added other workouts to work other systems. The [Boston Athletic Association] puts out training plans every year and so I roughly followed that. You want to get to a point where your long run is around 25 miles, in part because you need to get used to spending that much time on your feet and in part to practice taking in food and water during a run and getting your stomach used to what that feels like.
MH: I took a week or so off after the Cape Cod Marathon back in November and then started my build-up at the end of November, beginning of December. I run usually before work. I peak at about 110 miles a week or so and usually about nine or ten runs a week, so that’s two or three days where I’m running 10 to 12 miles in the morning, then coming back for a couple of miles in the afternoon. I build up long run mileage over the weekend to about 25 miles and then I try to get two days a week or so of something at marathon pace or faster.
How would you describe race day?
IC: Wet and cold! On the one hand, it wasn’t any colder than it had been all winter — it wasn’t a blizzard. I was shivering as I started, but once I warmed up, I was decently comfortable. It was when you stopped running that you got very cold very quickly.
MH: It was cold and wet. It wasn’t really the weather I had anticipated racing in, but I think it played to my strengths a little bit, being from Boston and having trained in Hanover and having run in the cold before. I think one of the reasons I placed so highly was that people really struggled in that weather and I definitely struggled a little with the cold and the wind, but I think I was able to keep things together.
What was your reaction when you found out you finished in 40th and 12th place, respectively?
IC: I don’t think I knew what place I finished in until later. I honestly was excited because my time was what I had wanted it to be, and I found out from friends later where I had placed. That was exciting because I hadn’t expected to place that high but I had also not gone in with any distinct expectation. I was mostly shooting for a time goal and personal record.
MH: I didn’t know for about half an hour after I finished that I was 12th. About a mile to go, kind of coming up on Beacon Street, someone shouted that I was the 14th or 15th male, but I would have guessed that I was probably 40th or 50th at that point. I was a couple of minutes slower than my goal pace had been. Usually a 2:27:00, 2:28:00 marathon in Boston is 30th to 50th depending on the year. There was a gathering at Track Smith, which is another running store in Boston, and I had a couple of friends there who were looking up results and told me I was 12th, which was pretty shocking and really cool. It was a really exciting afternoon because I had no idea the whole time that I was running that I was in that kind of position.
What was the most difficult part of the whole experience?
IC: I think it was getting up early to train. I’m lucky that I have a job with a pretty flexible schedule. When I’m on top of it, I can block out time in the afternoon to go on a run, but then it would be midterm week and I would be like, “I have no time,” so that would involve me getting up at 5:00 a.m. for a run and it would be 10 degrees. I think that was the toughest part: the week after week of, “Well, I guess I’m getting up at 5:00 a.m. again and it’s 10 degrees out and I’m going to do a workout.”
MH: The hardest part of the race for me was probably between miles 10 and 13. There were some gaps in there where I was chasing the packs of guys who I now realize were the chase pack of guys from 10th to 20th place or so. I spent quite a while on my own where the pack was 10 or 20 seconds ahead of me, and because it was so wet and cold I think there were a lot fewer spectators than we usually have in Boston, but there were some parts where you just felt totally alone in the rain.
Do you expect to compete in the Boston Marathon or other marathons in the future?
IC: I don’t know exactly what the next marathon I will sign up for will be. The next thing I am signed up for is a 50K at the end of August out in Montana with a 10,000 feet elevation gain. It’s going to be interesting.
MH: I think I would like to. We’ll see. I’m starting medical school in August, and so my goal with Boston this year was to get to the point that if I don’t have the time to run 110 miles next year, or I don’t have the time to be as competitive as I want to keep being, then I can retire and be done with this. But if it’s something I can keep doing, I would love to keep racing.
What is some advice you would give to someone who is on the fence about running a marathon?
IC: I have a lot of friends who say, “I could never run that far.” It’s mostly a matter of working up to it and starting small. A lot of people are like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t run three miles,” but there is a small progression over time where you start running and building up. It takes time to get there. I think that’s one of the hard parts about running because there’s a hill to get over in the beginning, but I think it’s like anything where you are trying to get into shape.
MH: I think Boston is a really fun race to do. I think marathons, compared to other distances, have a lot of energy around them. Especially for many major marathons like Boston. People are really excited about it and it’s really cool to see the energy that comes out in the city of Marathon Monday.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.