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The Running Bostonian: How I Became a Runner

Posted by Swati Gauri Sharma  February 11, 2011 11:11 AM

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Part of a series about a running enthusiast who participated in last year's Boston Marathon.

When I tell people that I run marathons they are either impressed, or, more often, react like this:

“Are you crazy? Twenty-six miles?”

Twenty-six-point-two, but yeah. It’s really not that bad,” I reply.

“Not that bad!?” they exclaim and then joke about running two miles, or the 26.2 feet to the fridge and back to get a beer during the commercials.

Yet, I maintain that really the feat is not as daunting as may seem. I will go as far as to say that nearly anyone with two functioning legs can run a marathon. Really.

This is the story of how I became a runner.


(John C. Scott for

John C. Scott, after the Philadelphia
Marathon in November.

Spring 2009. Two years out of college athletics, I had put on nearly twenty-five pounds, thrown into the realities of the adult world where schedules speed up as metabolisms slow down. I could no longer roll out of bed and stumble across campus to get to the gym, or rely on rugby practice to help fend off the love handles. I had to take initiative. For two years I denied this fact and, looking in the mirror, it showed.

I had always been a rather thin guy, so much of my self-identity wrapped up in my ability to eat whatever. Thus, putting on so much weight after college was a massive blow to my ego, already fragile from the pummeling it had taken as I, the liberal arts kid, attempted to find a job during a massive recession.

Fall 2009. I came to Boston in June having decided to attend grad school as both a way to improve my employment prospects and wait out said recession. It was at school that I met Alex. At first we did not get on smoothly. We were poised to have either an antagonistic several years together in our small program, or at best, form a sort of "The Odd Couple"-meets-"Rush Hour" sort of rapport, my liberal idealism at odds with his more moderate pragmatism.

When Alex mentioned in class that he attempted to run the Boston Marathon that previous spring, I was skeptical as he looked nothing like a runner. Curiosity got the best of me and by the end of the term I asked him about running Boston.

He said a doctor once told him that his asthma would prevent him from ever running a marathon. So, in his ever-defiant manner that I would gradually grow to admire, he started to train. When it finally came to the Boston Marathon in 2009, it turned out that a pulled ligament, not the asthma, forced him into the medical tent at Mile 15.

I went home that mid-December night and thought, If an asthmatic built like a wrestler can run a marathon, then I, the former athlete, have no excuse whatsoever.

Thus, I began marathon running by way of the most hallowed of American traditions: the New Year’s Resolution.

January 1, 2010. I joined a gym and each day of the workweek I ran on the treadmill, five miles each day, pushing myself to what I felt was the extreme. I still remember the first time I ran ten miles. I was ecstatic! The next time I ran into Alex I asked if I could train with him as he prepared to run Boston that year. He agreed and immediately took me under his wing.

February 2010. I joined Alex running outdoors and loved being outside. Alex and I began a running partnership that rapidly transformed into an enduring friendship. He even began to make noises about me running Boston with him. I was still hesitant.

March 2010. I found myself intimate with the geography of the city of Boston. I finally agreed to run the marathon and later in the month Alex and I rode the commuter rail out to Framingham and ran the final twenty miles of the marathon course. (Twenty miles! I had gone from struggling through five miles to running four times that in a mere three months! What is more, I had already lost ten pounds!)

April 19, 2010. Marathon Monday. But that is a tale for another day.

John C. Scott is a North End resident. Read more about him and his running adventures at

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