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Coates's degree is in masters

Springfield grad betters with age

By Susan Bickelhaupt, Globe Staff, 4/12/2002

Budd Coates has two important dates on his April calendar. One is the Boston Marathon, which Coates has run eight times.

The other is his birthday -- April 6 -- which is tied directly to the Marathon because it determines in which category he'll run the race. So for the past five years (or since he turned 40 in 1997), Coates has entered as a master.

Coates, who ran track and cross-country in high school in Camden, N.Y., then at Springfield College, first ran Boston in 1981, and ran the next two years. His personal best was in 1983, when he ran 2:13:02, placing 14th overall. Then he took a break from Boston until 1997.

"I had deciced that if I was still running at 40, the first marathon I'd run would be Boston," Coates said.

There were two reasons for his choice of Boston. "It doesn't take me too far away from home," said Coates, who lives with his wife and two children in Emmaus, Pa., where he works as employee services manager for Rodale Inc. "Plus, it's that nostalgia."

That nostalgia, he said, goes back to his days as an undergraduate at Springfield, where he was studying education and earning his teaching degree.

"There were only three big marathons then -- New York, Fukuoka [Japan], and Boston," Coates said. "And on Tuesday [after Patriots Day], the big thing was to get the Globe and see who finished in bold print. That was so cool; I never dreamed that some day I'd be in bold print."

Coates has been a top-six masters finisher in Boston for the past four years, and has now eschewed all other marathons.

"Boston is the only one I run from now on," he said.

Coates won the masters division of the Pittsburgh Marathon in 1997, two weeks after running his first Boston as a master.

"I trained hard for Boston, but after about 8 miles I felt sick, so I backed off," Coates said, explaining how he could conquer Pittsburgh just two weeks later.

Coates's best masters time in Boston was in 1998, when he placed fifth in the division with 2:21:08. His best finish was a year later, when he placed third in 2:22:52.

Now he is a master runner as well as a master trainer.

Coates coaches about nine runners, including Jamie Hibell, who was the first American finisher in Boston last year.

"It started out of my willingness to run with other people -- people who were younger, better, and faster," he said, adding, "At this age, everyone is younger and faster."

Then Coates went from just training with the others to assisting and coaching them.

So even though Coates never got a job in teaching after college, he still watches over students, even if they're not in a classroom. In addition to coaching runners, Coates started as health and fitness instructor at Rodale, which publishes more than a half-dozen magazines, including Runner's World, Bicycling, and Backpackers.

He also conducts clinics and beginning running classes and helps out at local clubs. "I teach the full gamut from the beginner to the advanced runner," Coates said.

Coates said his running got off to a slow start. "I wasn't very good in college, and my first marathon was the Orange Bowl in Miami," said Coates. He remembers his time -- 2:54 -- because he remembers that the next year, when he ran a marathon in Illinois, his time improved to 2:36.

He credits a man he never met for his improvement. "The biggest difference, I think, is that I had read all about Arthur Lydiard's style of training," Coates said of the running guru from New Zealand, whom Coates finally met two years ago in Pennsylvania. "I think it really taught me to focus long term, and integrate all the different styles of racing -- hills, distance. Basically, it was his method for progressive training and keying on a particular event."

Coates had an 11-year winning streak at the 3.5-mile Chase Corporate Challenge in New York City until 1998, when he finished second. He won the race for the 14th time in 2000 in 17:35.

He ran in the Olympic Trials four times, and his highest finish was 16th (2:17:26) in 1996. "I qualified for the trials, but never made it. I trained my heart out, but it didn't happen."

"But I love running, and Boston is really a treat."

Asked if he'll still be running when he crosses over to the veterans' category (age 50-59), Coates just laughed.

"Right now," he said, "it's enough to think of getting to my daugther's next skating practice, let alone what's five years ahead."

This story ran on page F8 of the Boston Globe on 4/12/2002. Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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