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Chasing Boston: The Journey to 26.2

Colin Hackman might look familiar to those who watch the weather report on channel 6 in Wilmington, NC. He's a part-time television broadcast meteorologist that chases storms. Colin has a charming personality paired with a witty sense of humor, so it's no wonder he has quite the social media following. The 43-year-old business owner, husband, and father was raised in Wilmington, and has been running there since he was the captain of the Hoggard High School Track Team in the mid 1990's. He coaches youth athletes and runs a summer cross-country training camp in the mountains of North Carolina. Adding to his list of credentials, Colin is an avid runner and will be participating in his fourth Boston Marathon this coming spring.

We sat down with Colin to ask him about his running routine and how he prepares for one of the most sought-after races in the world.

Why do you run?

It’s who I am. It’s arguably who we all are. Two million years of bipedal evolution. Our ancestors, out of necessity, adapted the specialization of thermoregulation and anatomical stabilization as the perfect long range running machine. I’m just honoring them, and myself. But for real? I just love the sport. What could be greater than bettering yourself?

What do you do when you’re not running?

I manage Go Time Race Timing and Event Management. Our company services some of the largest events in the Carolinas. The Battleship Half Marathon, The Wilmington Marathon, The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event in Cary, NC to name a few. I am committed to service work in our community and assist as a board member for several local nonprofit boards and government boards. I also enjoy wakeboarding, golfing, and hanging with my family.

What cross training do you incorporate into your running routine if any?

In the summertime I don’t usually schedule races as I like to wakeboard. Specific cross training for me is rare. I like to jump on the trampoline a couple times a week with my school-aged daughter. That helps some with strength and flexibility.

What methods do you use to help prevent injuries?

Trails. I have always preferred trail running to road running. Perhaps a kickback to my cross-country running roots, or perhaps something more primitive.  Research and my own experimentation have shown me the best way to prevent overuse injury is for me to get off of the hard surfaces. On a typical training week I probably spend 80% of my running off road. Sure, I dip on to the track once a week, and I typically will do a prep race and a couple of long runs on the roads, but day in and out I’m on the trails.

What race has meant the most to you and why?

Without a doubt the Boston Marathon. As a race manager, an athlete, a spectator – it is the race by which all others are measured.

What’s your fastest marathon time?

2:54 – Rock and Roll New Orleans

2:55 – Boston

What is your weekly mileage in peak marathon training season? And what’s your mileage in your off season?

I’m a bit ebb and flow here. My mileage during the twenty or so weeks leading up to the Boston Marathon usually peaks with volume at about 70 to 80 miles per week. But one of the things I have done to stay healthy is take a long break after each marathon cycle. For example, my last two marathons I took over a month off after each - with zero running. Not a step. I believe as we age, our bodies need the extra rest to fully heal. Typical off-season mileage runs between 25 and 40 miles per week.

When you started running, was qualifying for the Boston Marathon always your goal? If not, what made you decide to go for it?

Honestly I always considered myself a shorter distance guy. In high school my best 1600m run was 4:28. That was good for a conference championship and to be in top 20ish in NC. But my 5k times, then and now, aren’t as good. I have never run faster than 17:00. So on paper I was much better at the short stuff than the longer high school events. In adult life the 5k was always easy, because there always was another event right around the corner and I could hold my own against the other weekend warriors. I could get away with not training and still run in the high 17:00s. Then in 2012 I was sent to cover the US Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston for the NBC News station I work for. Our hometown harrier Christa Iammarino had qualified for the trials. I was enthralled by the competition and the stories. The following spring the Boston Marathon Bombing happened. Like many others watching the coverage I wanted to push back, to stand with Boston. I wanted to stand with our sport and the goodness it brings the world. I ran my first marathon the following year.

What are your top training tips for preparing for Boston? Do you train for other races differently?

It’s really the only race I train for every year. Here the coastal North Carolina climate makes for good winter training, so a spring marathon like Boston is much easier to prepare for. The summer training – not so much. The key to distance running of any type is consistency. No one workout or single block will make or break a distance runner. Success is founded from the yeoman’s work of chopping wood and carrying water every day. That’s what builds success. As a coach I have seen first hand the rewards of consistency. It trumps all else in our sport.

What keeps you motivated to train?

I am in love with running and the things it teaches me about myself. Every race that I train for and each competition that I enter, I’m given the opportunity to learn more about myself. I don’t train to perform because it is easy, I do it because it is hard. There is great joy for me in acquiring a goal that doesn’t seem possible.

If you hit the dreaded “wall” during a marathon, what do you do to pull yourself through?

Preparing for the inevitable fact of suffering is, for me, all about mental callousing. I’ve learned in racing marathons there will be a point that, regardless of physical preparation, it is tough. Sometimes it comes and goes in waves; one minute I’m about to quit, the next I feel not entirely terrible. Sometimes it hits like a freaking freight train and it takes intense focus to stay on pace. But either way it’s coming. Putting myself in the pain cave a few times during workouts and suffering some in prep races during the build for Boston prepares me mentally for the internal argument that accompanies the suffering. The will to press on in a marathon is a byproduct of having had to recently do it in simulated circumstances. Mentally being ready to suffer in the moments when it counts separates the good from the great.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for other runners hoping to qualify for Boston?

Consistency is key. Never let a single session (or season) define you as an athlete. Boston is a worthy and honorable pursuit. The key to making it – with the age graded qualification standards - is to stay healthy for a lifetime. Another key aspect for me has been having a coach and a training group. I joined the Without Limits training program, popular here in the Carolinas, back in 2010. There I get personalized coaching and I am held accountable to a group of other runners setting and acquiring performance goals. No athlete serious about becoming better goes at it alone. Training with a coach and team makes a big difference.

What do you look most forward to after crossing the finish line?

Boston’s finish is unlike any in the world. As you take a left on Boylston Street you can see the finish a half mile ahead. For me it’s the moment I can finally smile. Each year the four or five miles before Boylston Street have been very difficult. So turning that corner, both metaphorically and literally, is a huge relief.

What’s your favorite pre- and post-race meal?

Boston is unique in that it starts a little later in the morning, so there is time for breakfast. For me that’s a small bowl of cereal and a half gallon of water. My ultra-marathon training buddy Ed George got me on a night before race day regimen of brown rice and lightly fried egg. It has prevented any GI issues on race day. We stay with our good friends in Boston. Every year after the race we get lobsters and Wegman’s pies. God I love pie. It’s such an awesome experience.

Is there a specific race still on your bucket list?

I suppose having knocked off a couple of the World Majors (Boston, New York) perhaps I would want to do more of those. But, as an event owner and manager I would really LOVE to run some of the events we put on. The Battleship Half Marathon in November is probably one of the best events on the planet. Am I allowed to say that? Not biased at all, but our team over delivers on participant experience. I would love to run this 2000 person hometown half-marathon with all of my friends. But as the event managers our team is deep into production with a great responsibility and honor to serve athletes and help them achieve their goals. Other bucket list experiences for me would be the Comrades Marathon, UTMB, City2Surf and Western States.

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