By LIBBY CUDMORE • The Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta
COOPERSTOWN – Patrick Dewey knew just how to help Jacob Russell get up the Boston Marathon’s infamous Heartbreak Hill, the half-mile uphill stretch just past the 20-mile mark.
“He was humming Led Zepplin’s ‘Heartbreaker’, appropriately,” said Russell. “It really gave me encouragement. It was a challenge, but it’s not as bad as the Sleeping Lion!”
The pair, who have been racing together since 2012, completed their first Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, finishing fifth among wheelchair-racing duos with a time of 3:28:53.
“It’s our best marathon time yet,” Jacob said. “And for it to be the one we’ve been working for all these years is really fantastic.”
Russell, a senior at Harvard, and Dewey, a senior at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, didn’t make the cut last year, but qualified this year, racing to raise money for the Double H Ranch, part of Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang project.
Dewey, who has cerebral palsy, attended the camp from the ages of 7 to 21. “We needed to raise $8,500, but we set a goal of $10,000,” said Russell. “It was no small feat, but we raised $10,610. It’s a great cause, and it meant so much to Patrick and his family.”
Though the weather was slated to be 40 and rainy on Race Day, the skies soon cleared up. “The temperature was perfect,” said Russell. “All our families were along the race route, friends from school, even some of our teachers.”
The goal was to finish in under four hours, and at the halfway point, Russell realized they were well on track to meet that goal. “We worked hard to do that,” he said. “We paced ourselves really well.”
Because wheelchair and handchair racers start the race first, at one point they found themselves with one other pair along a long flat stretch of course.
“There were all these crowds just cheering us on,” he said. “They were really great, it got us so motivated. People got excited to see us; a lot of the wheelchair racers are a parent and child, it’s not common to see two friends in their 20s running together.”
And they even got to race alongside the elite runners. “We didn’t get hit with the large crowds until mile 18, so for a few seconds, we were running alongside some of the greatest runners in the world,” he said. “Until they passed us.”
At the end of the race, they chowed down on some Clif Bars and Gatorade, got a race-provided massage and spent time with friends and family who were in town for the race. “It was nice to have a little time to reflect on the weekend,” he said.
And although they didn’t qualify time-wise for an automatic entry into next year’s Boston Marathon – wheelchair teams are held to the same 3:05:00 time that individual runners are held to – Russell said that another race, such as the New York Marathon in November – is a possibility.
“We don’t want to rest on our laurels,” he said. “So once I step down off Cloud Nine, I’m going to start looking into other races.”
They did the Race the Lake half marathon before they went off to college, and with graduation looming, they’re hoping to do the full marathon this summer.
“It would be a really great way to cap off our college careers,” he said.
And Russell said their days of running together are far from over.
“If we can do three marathons in college while living eight hours apart, I don’t see why we can’t do more when we’re out in the working world.”