Cold-weather runners dream of blizzard at Boston Marathon

Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- After a long winter of obsessive training, images of conquest in the upcoming Boston Marathon have begun to invade Andy Holland's dreams.

Holland confessed to a recent dream in which the city of Boston was blanketed in 11 inches of snow the night before the April 16 race, giving him and training partner Kevin Brinegar just the edge they needed.

''All the elite guys would freeze,'' Holland said. ''It would be foreign to them. To us, it's just another training day. That would swing things heavily in our favor.''

Yup, Holland's obsessed. And he's the first to admit it.

''Everything else in life has become a nuisance or a distraction from running,'' he said. ''If you have any obsessive-compulsive tendencies it can be kind of dangerous. It may cause some lack of balance in your life.''

But after the work that he and Brinegar have done to prepare for America's oldest marathon, you can hardly blame him.

Starting in November, the two longtime running buddies began training for the 26.2-mile race, working their way up to 100-mile weeks in subzero temperatures.

The theory behind their training plan isn't anything groundbreaking. In fact, Brinegar, 31, and Holland, 44, decided to test out one of the oldest marathon-training plans around.

They began running 40 miles per week and increased 10 percent a week until reaching the 100-mile mark. Mileage then tapered so the two could work on speed. They recently spent an hour before training shoveling a solitary lane at the West Valley High School track for interval training.

Holland said he ran his first marathon in 1974. He has completed 20 or more Equinox Marathons in Fairbanks, regarded as one of the most difficult in the country.

''I've never done anything like this,'' Holland said of his training. ''If I broke my ankle tomorrow I would still be very happy with showing I could develop a plan and stick to it for that length of time.''

Brinegar has won the local Equinox Marathon twice. He said he just wanted to see how well he could do in Boston.

The moderate Interior winter certainly didn't hurt the two men's training. But the same conditions make it tough to tell how the two will stack up against peers from more temperate regions.

For most people, just thinking about 100 miles in a week is exhausting. Brinegar and Holland did it like this: one long, 25-mile run on Sunday and 13 to 15 miles per day the rest of the week, usually split into two seven-milers.

All winter, Brinegar put in 40 hours a week at Fairbanks Native Association's Head Start program and said there were days when we was so tired he barely remembers running.

''Especially as we approached 100 miles a week, that's when it really becomes a challenge,'' Brinegar said. ''There were a number of times I'd be half-asleep.''

Holland said he dropped 15 pounds over the winter to one of his leanest weights ever.

''I have never been able to keep up with Kevin doing track or speed work,'' Holland said. ''If I strain I can do that now.''

Their race pace is down to an impressive per mile average of 5 minutes, 40 seconds.

Brinegar, who shies away from the spotlight, said he hopes to break the 2 hour, 30-minute mark in Boston. His best time at Boston is 2:41.

Holland is shooting for the top 25 in the Master's Division. He said his fastest marathon time would get earn him a spot in the top 20. Shearing seven minutes from his best time would get him in the top 10, he said.

Holland is attempting the race for the 13th time. His best time was 2:52 last year. Brinegar has done it five times.

Holland said he's picked up certain nuances to the Boston race that should help his performance.

''Right before the halfway point you reach Wellesley College, where there are several thousand young coeds lining the chute, all screaming,'' Holland said with a chuckle. ''And the typical guy response is to speed up. I have counseled guys that are new marathoners not to speed up because you'll feel it later.

''I told one guy it's better if you slow down because it'll last longer.''

Because the event is extremely well-attended by enthusiastic Boston residents, Holland advises it's also not a good idea to drink too much before the race. Unlike the Equinox, there aren't any discreet spots to slip into the woods and relieve oneself, he said.

The men agree that half the fun of Boston is the spectacle. Nearly 20,000 runners are expected at the start and over a million people line the course.

''I always hesitate to compare it to other big-time sporting events,'' Brinegar said. ''But the first time I did it I thought that's kind of like if you were in the Super Bowl or the World Series. It's just overwhelming.''


(Distributed by The Associated Press)

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