BY MICHAEL KELLY
LOS ANGELES — Louis Serafini had put together one of the best years of his running career in advance of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Feeling strong, the 24-year-old Niskayuna native entered the Feb. 13 trials optimistic and confident.
That day, Serafini completed only the first 21 miles of the 26.2-mile course, a variety of factors contributing to his decision to exit the race early. Still, Serafini said he left the race feeling as good as ever about his future in running.
“I don’t look at it as a step back,” he said. “It’s motivation to keep going.”
Serafini, who graduated from Niskayuna High School in 2009, started working toward Olympic trials after completing last year’s Boston Marathon. An employee at the Heartbreak Hill Running Company, Serafini had graduated from Boston College in 2013 following an injury-plagued senior year of running.
Fresh out of college, he ran to stay in shape while he worked at a public relations firm. After a bit, though, he found his way to his present job and began upping his mileage in advance of running the 2015 Boston Marathon. From there, he took on a few half-marathons and posted his qualifying time for the Olympic trials this past August in Philadelphia.
“It was an exciting build,” Serafini said.
At Olympic trials, he said he felt perfect through the first 12 or 13 miles. He was in a solid pack of runners, which included friend Kieran O’Connor from Scotia. Soon, some of the runners in the pack started to fall back, but Serafini kept charging forward.
“But what happened with me was, in the back of my mind, I knew a time I wanted to run … and my mile splits were getting slower. I was looking at my watch, and I was going from 5:08 to 5:15 to 5:20.”
Discouraged with his regression, Serafini tried to pick up his pace around the 16-mile mark. After a few miles, his times were not getting any better — and the pain in his hips and feet was getting worse.
“It happened really quick for me. I went from feeling great to not so great. … I had this feeling overcome me that I needed to stop, and that was that,” Serafini said. “I don’t have any regrets about it. I didn’t go out too hard or anything, but I think the heat just caught up with me and I probably overanalyzed some things.”
The decision to stop, though, did come with an unintended benefit.
“The upside to that … was that I could have a quicker recovery and come back faster,” said Serafini, who put in several miles the day after the Olympic trials.
At present, he is back to his day job with the Heartbreak Hill Running Company. There, he tends to the shop and also is a coach for the store’s running club. Most weeks, he works close to 50 hours, but he said the time goes quick because of all the support he receives for his own running career.
“It’s so nice to have so many people here in my corner,” Serafini said.
Soon, he said, he will get back to racing. After spending most of 2015 racing in the Northeast, Serafini said there are bigger races — such as the 2016 USA Half Marathon Championships in Columbus, Ohio, on April 30 — on his radar for this year.
“For 2016, I want to step it up and do more national-level races,” Serafini said.
After an encouraging 2015, the runner said his goal is to keep progressing with his craft.
“I’m still hungry to improve,” Serafini said.