Newton, Mass. - When the Boston Marathon runs past the Lasell College campus on Monday April 16th, it will have a part of the Lasers' athletic program with it. Chris Johnson, Lasell class of 2009, is the strength and conditioning coach for the Lasell athletic teams but still finds time to enjoy one of his earliest passions, running.
Johnson was a four-year member of the cross country team at Lasell, and was a team captain during his senior season. His time on the suburban Newton campus greatly shaped both his career path and interest in marathons.
"When I arrived at Lasell we did not have a track team so I took the winter and spring to up my distance for the marathon. It started as a way to stay in shape for cross country season but evolved into a career." Johnson said. Adding, "I remember Coach Martin from the cross country team at Lasell mentioning the Sports Science major. At the time I did not know people hired personal trainers and private coaches. I now train athletes internationally as well as high caliber athletes' locally."
The 2012 Boston Marathon will be the seventh marathon Johnson has raced in, and it will be the second time he has run the Boston Marathon, saying "I have only run Boston, once back in 2007, the year there was the tropical storm. I remember sitting in a mud puddle for an hour before the race with a buddy freezing."
While his initial Boston experience may not have been under the best of conditions he still completed it in 3 hours and 4 minutes and he has produced some quality results in some of the other marathons he has raced in. His fastest time ever for a 26.2 mile marathon course is 2 hours and 49 minutes, a 6:27 minute per mile pace. He has twice finished in fourth place in the Hyannis Marathon, in 2009 and 2010, and has also competed in the Bay State Marathon.
Different marathons are appealing for different reasons to Johnson, who says "The attraction of competing in the Boston Marathon is the qualifying standard. Nothing is better than someone asking how you got your number for Boston and telling them 'I qualified', they always look surprised. Hyannis is cool because it's on the water and Bay State is great because it has some really fast runners."
Millions of people around the world run for exercise, for fun, and a myriad of other reasons. What separates the casual runner from a competitive marathoner is their approach to running. Johnson was drawn to marathons well before he ran the Boston Marathon in 2007, but a conversation with a coach earlier in his running career helped shape his approach to marathons.
When asked to explain what draws a runner to marathons Johnson responded, "To race a marathon is different from just finishing one. During high school my friend and I wanted to jump in Boston and run it without a number, so we talked with our high school cross country coach about it and he said something along the lines of 'anyone can run a marathon, but that's not the point. Respect the distance and the sport.' So I decided to wait until I was fast enough to qualify sophomore year of college."
Johnson now competes as a member of the Boston based Team Racemenu, and uses his new teammates to help continue to push himself competitively.
"Racemenu is a team with some world class athletes." Johnson explains. "We were driving to a race once and I was sitting between Reno Stiratt and Ruben Sanca. Reno won the Boston Marathon two years ago for his age group, and Ruben debuted in the marathon with a time of 2 hours and 18 minutes. I remember asking myself, "What in the world am I doing on this team?" It's really cool to say you run on a team with runners of their caliber."
While an inner competitive spirit clearly still drives Johnson, he enjoys running for other reasons as well, saying, "When I talk about distance running with people who don't run many of them say they can't stand distance running because it's so boring. I tell them, that's the beauty behind it. We live in a world that moves a million miles per hour. Running gives you the time for introspection. Nobody can bother you when you're running in the middle of the woods, there is not another person around for miles and your phone is back at your desk. Pure bliss"
Besides his running pursuits, working with the Lasell College athletic teams and serving as a personal trainer, Johnson continues to find ways to keep himself busy. He launched a personal training site, FitZos.com and is close to finishing his book, "The Ultimate Distance Runner's Strength Program". Johnson is a firm believer in the benefits of strength training for distance runners, but finds that most runners don't have a strong knowledge base in that area, and hopes to clarify the benefits of strength training for distance runners in his book.