BY MIKE MacADAM
The numbers tell all.
In the 2015 Boston Marathon, Lou Serafini wore bib No. 269, indicating a high seed, considering there are typically over 20,000 runners each year who have met qualifying performance standards to make the field.
Remove the “6,” and you have addition by subtraction, as the 2009 Niskayuna High School graduate will wear
No. 29 on Monday, indicating an even higher standing, about four minutes outside of the international elite field based on personal records.
To stay with that theme, Serafini is coming into the 121st Boston Marathon in the best shape of his life because he added a coach in December, who promptly convinced Serafini to — horrors! — subtract a day of running from the seven-day-a-week training grind he had maintained for the last few years.
The total sum should be a terrific performance from the former Boston College runner, who believes he’s in position for another marathon PR on Monday in spite of the difficulty of Boston’s 26.2-mile point-to-point course from Hopkinton, Mass., to Copley Square downtown.
“It’s been a totally smooth buildup,” Serafini said on Friday afternoon. “I’ve done a little less mileage than I have in the past, and it’s just six days a week instead of seven. That’s been the biggest difference, going for high quality over quantity.
“I try to stay away from putting a time on it, but I’m definitely in PR shape.”
That translates to better than the 2:17:25 he ran to finish second at the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon last fall.
The 25-year-old former Niskayuna Silver Warrior followed up that race by taking advantage of local course knowledge on familiar streets to win the MVP Stockade-athon (45:23) in Schenectady in November.
And although he has just one Boston Marathon on his resume, he knows that landscape just as well.
Besides having run at Boston College, Serafini has settled in Brighton, Mass., near his school (as well as Mile 21 of the marathon course), as a manager for the Heartbreak Hill Running Company. He also coaches some of the athletes in the club affiliated with the running gear store and trains on the Boston course as a matter of routine.
Add the input, since
December, of Randy Thomas, the long-time Boston College women’s coach who has elite-level marathon experience of his own, and Serafini has plenty of factors working in his favor for Monday’s race.
“I told myself that if I ran a 2:15 [at MHR], I would get a coach; I ran 2:17 and figured that was close enough,” Serafini said. “I was coaching myself and it was going well, but I thought, ‘Let’s give it a try,’ and if it doesn’t work out, I can go back to what I was doing before.
“Then I PRed in the 5k by 40 seconds and won my only other race.”
Those performances were a 13:54 5k at the Valentine’s Invitational at Boston University and a 1:06:20 in sometimes
ridiculously windy conditions — the leaders had back-to-back mile splits of 4:50 and 5:30 at one point — for first place at the New Bedford Half Marathon in March.
“It [5k] was part of the progression,” Serafini said. “I haven’t raced much, but I’m definitely feeling as fit as I’ve ever been.”
Thomas has run marathons all over the world and posted a 2:11:25 in 1978 to finish fifth.
That was the year that Bill Rodgers won the second of his four Bostons by barely holding off Jeff Wells by two seconds in 2:10:13, one of the closest margins in the history of the race.
Serafini knew Thomas from his days at Boston College and even ran with the coach’s son there, so there was a built-in rapport. He wasn’t prepared for the suggestion of taking a day off, though.
“I never took a day off,” Serafini said. “I never saw the point. Part of getting a coach is you really have to commit to what the coach is telling you, or it’s not going to work.
“I really didn’t like it at first. I tried to get on the bike or do some cross-training. As I adjusted to it, I started to love it. If I’m not running on Monday, I have an extra hour to catch up on rest. I can make breakfast, watch the news, have a cup of coffee. It’s definitely a maturity thing. In high school and college, I was always one of those people who thought the more you did, the better.”
He’s still doing quite a bit, as marathon training demands.
While working full-time at the running store, Serafini does 80-90 miles a week, including 25 long runs (15-16 miles on Wednesday and 20-24 on Sunday), during the intense portion of his buildup.
He trusted his coach; now it’s time to trust the training.
Serafini believes he could run a sub-2:15 if everything goes right, but, again, the time won’t come into play until the race is over, he said. He plans on not even looking at his watch for the first half, especially in light of his experience at the 2016 Olympic Trials in Los Angeles. He posted a 5:40 split late in the race and “freaked out,” he said, eventually dropping out at Mile 21.
Although he didn’t win the MHR Marathon, he ignored the watch and PRed with the 2:17 on a day when he would have been content with something in the 2:20-2:22 range.
“The plan is to be as
patient and relaxed and in control as I can be,” Serafini said. “Then in the second half, I can start picking off some runners. That’s kind of how I approached it since the Olympic Trials.
“My plan is to be really chill. I know the terrain better than anyone. The whole plan is to be a smart racer.”
Further helping Serafini’s progression is a valuable sponsorship he secured from Mizuno in March, which will supply him with running gear and some travel money so he can be more selective in his race choice and target some of the bigger ones outside the Northeast.
It should all add up to a sharp performance on Monday.
“Because I dropped my PR by 10 minutes [at MHR], one joke I have with my friends is I’m on track for either a DNF or a 2:07,” Serafini said with a laugh.