The Fastest Man In Boston

Boston College's Tim Ritchie is making his marathon debut, and should be the first local to cross the finish line on Monday.

Tim Ritchie running in Ireland. Photo provided.

Tim Ritchie running in Ireland. Photo provided.

Tim Ritchie is a man of faith. The current New England Runner of the Year by New England Runner magazine is the assistant men’s track and cross country coach at Boston College, and he gets to run, teach, and coach at his alma mater where he received a Master’s in Theology. And when you are striving for the fastest ever marathon debut by an American, you need that faith. We aren’t talking an amazing time in the top 50, or even the top 25. If all goes well this Monday, Ritchie could finish in the top 10. Really.

We asked Ritchie about his upcoming marathon debut and his goal (Olympics, anyone?) post marathon:

Are you really the “Fastest Man in Boston?”

If you look at a range of events from a mile to a marathon, I’m better than anybody. As far as concrete times, I’ve run a 3:58 mile and a 1:03 half marathon. In that race, I finished 5th in the U.S. Championship for half marathon last summer. In the fall, I was 4th in the U.S. 10 Mile Championship. There’s a variety of these championships run throughout the year, and I’ve been doing pretty well at them. [In] 2012, a sub-4 minute mile and a 5th place finish at the U.S. Half Marathon Championship demonstrates the range of ability there. I’ve made money running. You look at those people at the front of the New York City Marathon, and that is me.

You are such an accomplished runner, why aren’t you in the John Hancock elite?

There’s the John Hancock elite, which is five Americans and 15 non-Americans, and then there’s a next category which I’ll be in. I’ve never run a marathon before, so they’re like well, we’ll get you on the start line, but I hope to beat as many of those guys as possible.

What is your goal for Boston?

The goal is top 10 at Boston. Usually only like one, maybe two, Americans sneak into the top 10, so I’m hoping to be one. The top 10 would make me eligible to be selected for the Team USA for the World Championship in the summer. They have the Olympics every four years, and they have a World Championship every two years for track and field. So if I finish top 10 in Boston, that’ll put me in the pool of athletes that could be selected to represent Team USA at the World Championships in Moscow. Three years until the next one [Olympics]… this will be my first marathon, but my coach and I think that this is where my best years will be.

Are you training to make the Olympic team?

Yeah, definitely.

Coach Ritchie with some Boston College runners. Photo provided.

Coach Ritchie with some Boston College runners. Photo provided.

Any tips for newbie runners?

I try to tell new runners that they should try not to hear themselves. So if they’re breathing too heavy, they might be running too fast. And if they’re stomping on the ground, they might be running too hard. Even me now competing at a high level, I still practice these basic tips. Running should eventually be a fluid motion. So it’s important when you’re first starting out not to develop bad habits. Beginner runners should really focus on just learning the art of running, just learning what it feels like to be in the air. It’s a very different exercise than walking. So that’s why I think initially the run-walk, run-walk, run-walk pattern is great. You just run, focus on a minute-long segment, so really concentrate and really try to get in a fluid rhythm, I think that’s really important.

Do you do any other exercises that compliment your running?

Definitely yoga. Anything that’s going to increase your range of motion. Spinning I’ve found to not be a complement for running because you’re kind of locked in a fixed motion and you’re isolating the muscles that you’re using. For the most part, it’s your big leg muscles and you’re not quite activating the little muscles along the way that really get activated in running, like the hip flexors and calves and all those other things. Yoga allows you that full range of motion. Yoga and Pilates are great because it really emphasizes core strength and a healthy, strong core is essential to staying injury free in running, probably more than anything. Also, anything in the water is great. Swimming, aqua-running, water aerobics, all that stuff is good stuff for running. Running is such a high-impact sport, so to be able to complement it with a no-impact but relatively intense exercise like swimming, that’s probably as good as it gets. One of the elements of training that I think are important is including a variety of exercises. One, to stay mentally fresh so you’re not…running can get boring and it can drag sometimes.

Ritchie winning the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge Race last summer.

Ritchie winning the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge Race last summer.