By Scott Prater
Master Sgt. Matthew Mancuso didn’t actually plan to run his fourth Boston Marathon this April, but events had a funny way of transpiring during the past 10 months, which proved fortunate for the Space Innovation and Development Center sergeant. He ended up beating his personal best time at the marathon by 17 minutes and personal best marathon time ever by more than two minutes.
“I originally was planning to run a 50-mile ultra marathon in Maryland the week before Thanksgiving,” Sergeant Mancuso said. “I had some friends drop out, however, and then my wife and I decided the trip was going to be too expensive.”
That left him in an awkward situation. Since he’d been training for the ultra marathon, which required longer runs at a slower pace, he had precious little time to prepare for the 2010 Air Force Marathon last September, which was his last chance to qualify for Boston.
“I had to step up my training and condense it into a month,” he said. “That’s not ideal, and I was uncertain as to whether it was going to work.”
He needed to finish the AF Marathon, at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio in 3 hours, 15 minutes, 59 seconds to qualify for Boston.
Once in Ohio last September, he was running comfortably and monitoring his progress on his computerized stopwatch during the last few miles, when he noticed something amiss.
“I reached the last half mile and realized my stopwatch was wrong,” he said. “So it was either sprint the last half mile or regret the whole experience. If you’ve ever watched a marathon, you won’t see a lot of people sprinting during the last half mile, it’s just real hard to do when you have so little left.”
The tactic worked out well, however, and Sergeant Mancuso crossed the finish line 27 seconds ahead of the qualifying limit. From there, he had plenty of time to train for his fourth Boston Marathon.
“We only had six weeks to get him ready for the AF Marathon,” said Jeff Giles, Sergeant Mancuso’s Tampa, Florida-based running coach. “I really had to kick his butt so he could feel comfortable with his abilities. That said, he was an exceptional athlete to train. I’ve never seen someone as focused as him and he followed the program as closely as I could have expected.”
Most folks would be happy to qualify and compete in such a world-renowned and prestigious event as the Boston Marathon, the only problem for Sergeant Mancuso is, something negative has always happened during the event.
His 2009 Boston run left him so dehydrated and sodium depleted that he was forced to walk the last mile and half.
This year, properly trained and in arguably the best condition of his life, he was fortunate to run with a group of friends who helped him keep pace. He also experienced the best climate conditions in all the years he’s run in Boston.
“It was ideal,” he said. “The conditions were so good that race winner, Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya, ran the fastest marathon in world history. He won’t get credit for it because Boston is considered a down-hill marathon and we all had a tail wind, but 2:03.02 is the fastest marathon ever.”
With a finishing time of 3:08.14, Sergeant Mancuso likely secured a spot in his fifth consecutive Boston Marathon, which he plans to compete in next April.