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Train full time? They've got to be kidding

Coogan, DeHaven put family first

By Barbara Huebner, Globe Staff, 4/13/2001

ADISON, Wis. - It's 4:15 p.m. and 2-year-old Margaret, a blonde bundle of squeals, is circling at top speed and volume from the kitchen to the living room through the playroom and back again. Her sister Katrina, 7, is voicing forceful concern that mom just violated the Rice Krispie Treats recipe by putting 41 giant marshmallows into the pot instead of 40. In the doorway, dad is stretching before a track workout, dodging his youngest while making a phone call.

It's a typical day at Mark Coogan's house, and things don't look all that different at Rod DeHaven's. While three-month distance camps are fine for some, these two 34-year-old Olympians have lives in Madison that require staying close to home, wiping up spilled juice and catching bronchitis from yogurt-smeared kisses as they train for Boston.

''It's definitely harder, but what can I do?'' said Coogan, who ran for the US in the 1996 Olympic marathon. ''I wouldn't trade my kids for anything. It's just running.''

Coogan, an Attleboro native, moved to Madison last summer when his wife, Gwyn, got a great new job as a math lecturer at the University of Wisconsin. (She is a 1992 Olympian at 10,000 meters who finished fourth at the marathon trials in 1996, and is recovering from foot surgery). There, he teamed with DeHaven, whose two boys, Addison and Graham, are 5 and 2. Their running resumes include competing for the US in the Olympic marathon (1996 Coogan, 2000 DeHaven), making the World Cross-Country team (five times, Coogan) and national half-marathon titles (two, DeHaven). In addition, Coogan was the first Massachusetts native to run a sub-4 minute mile when he turned in a 3:58 at a MetroWest meet in Dedham in 1989.

On one recent Wednesday, Coogan was up at 6:15 to get the girls their breakfast, then went for a 6-mile run while Gwyn and Margaret walked Katrina to the school bus stop. When he got back, she went for her run before leaving for school, while he watched Margaret all day, visiting the nearby zoo and buying some turkey for lunch. He did not get a nap.

''I tried for about 10 minutes, but Margaret kept slapping me,'' he recalled.

When Gwyn got home from school at 3:45, they spent a few minutes catching up before Coogan got ready to meet DeHaven for a workout of 2-mile repeats, about 10 miles including the jog to and from the University of Wisconsin track.

DeHaven's day was no less packed. After hitting the snooze button three times on the 6 o'clock alarm, one of the family cats finally coaxed him out of bed at 6:40, and by 7 he was out for a 5-mile run before arriving for work at 8:15, 15 minutes late. DeHaven works from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day as a computer programmer. By 4:30, after stopping by at home to change and find his wife, Shelli, battling to keep the boys off the newly-seeded lawn, he was off to the track.

''To me, having a job is structure,'' he said. Soon after graduating from college, DeHaven got fired for showing up late at a warehouse job and suddenly found himself with plenty of time on his hands. ''I didn't train very well,'' he said. ''It was real spotty, it didn't really amount to much. My running did get better after I started working full-time, [in part] because I didn't get hung up about thinking I should go run some road races to pull my weight around the household.''

What they do wish, though, is that some kind of training center would come to them. On this day, the two work well together against a brisk wind by trading the lead midway through each 2-mile effort, and all during the tough winter they bolstered each other's spirits when it snowed 10 straight Sundays during their long runs, but they wouldn't mind some active support. With a solid contingent of top athletes in Madison - Suzy Hamilton, Olympic steeplechaser Pascal Dobert, World Cross-Country team members and Duxbury natives Matt and Andy Downin, among others - Coogan sees a ready-made enclave that could facilitate both family life and hard training.

''If Madison or Boulder had camp-type resources at their disposal, I bet the return on your investment would be much greater than the amount put into these camps,'' said Coogan. ''I think the runners will compete longer and harder if they are not uprooted and they enjoy living.''

That said, he might have been interested when he was young and single. ''Once I got married, I wouldn't have,'' he said. ''Gwyn would give me my walking papers if I said I was going away for two months.''

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