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Sylvester Runs Strong in Boston

April 28, 2008 - Erik Brown
Hollidaysburg’s own Nathan Sylvester turned in a very strong performance at this year’s Boston Marathon held last Monday, April 21st. He finished 173rd in a field of more than 20,000 runners that included some of the top runners from around the world. I asked Nathan if he would be willing to share some of his Boston experiences on this blog. He agreed and so I’m very pleased to be able to provide the following e-mail interview that I conducted with him.   
ATW: Were you happy with your race at Boston?
NS: Yes, I'm very happy with my performance. I fell short of my goal time of 2 hours and 35 minutes, but given the obstacles that I overcame during the race, I am very pleased. My problems included a self diagnosed case of plantar fasciitis in my right foot that flared up midway through the race and some mild muscle cramping throughout the final 10 kilometers. Also, placing 173rd out of over 20,000 runners is nothing to be disgruntled about! 
ATW: Is 2:40 a P.R. for you in the marathon?
NS: No, I ran a 2:38:49 at the NAIA Track and Field National Championships in Fresno, CA in May, 2006
ATW: What were your impressions of the Boston Marathon?

NS: There are three things about the Boston Marathon that made a significant impression, which were the volunteers, spectators, and race organization. The volunteers were extremely encouraging before, during, and after the race. As I was waiting for my friends after the race in the family meeting area, a number of different volunteers approached me to make sure that I was doing alright and offered any assistance that I might have needed. Even though I was exhausted and didn't want to be bothered, their care seemed very genuine.

Prior to the race I read a fact about the Boston Marathon that said spectators outnumber participants 100 to 1. At the time I found that hard to believe, but after seeing the thousands of fans along the entire 26.2 mile course my disbeliefs were proven wrong. The range of energetic fans included people cooking out in their front yards in Hopkinton, an entire female student body screaming at the top of their lungs at Wellesley College, beer drinking co-eds at Boston College, and rows of people lining the final straightaway on Boylston Avenue in Downtown Boston.

Lastly, the Boston Athletic Association's ability to organize over 20,000 runners was unbelievable. The start in Hopkinton included 23 starting corals, the course was lined with water stops at every mile mark with both water and Gatorade, and at the finish each of the runners was promptly given a bottle of water, finishing medal, heat blanket, and bag of food.
ATW: What was your weekly mileage in your buildup to the race?
NS: The eighteen week training program that I followed had my weekly mileage anywhere from 56 to 80 miles per week.
ATW: How long were your long training runs?
NS: Throughout the eighteen weeks I ran 18 miles four times, 20 miles three times, and 22 miles two times.
ATW: What type of speed workouts do you do?

NS: I typically did two speed workouts per week, which included a variety of interval and tempo workouts. Interval distances ranged anywhere from 3/4 mile to 2 miles. I tended to keep recoveries between intervals short, in order to train my body to recover quickly. Tempo workouts varied in distances and were run at a pace slightly faster than my goal marathon pace. As much as possible, I tried to include my speed workouts within my long training runs. For example, one of my 20 mile training runs included a 1 mile warm up, 4 x 1 mile at 5:35 pace on a 7 minute cycle, 10 mile training run, 4 x 1 mile at 5:35 pace on a 7 minute cycle, and 1 mile cool down.
ATW: Were you satisfied with your training for the race?
NS: If I could do it all over again (which I will), I would add more exercises to strengthen my core (e.g. ab exercises, push ups, pull ups, etc.). Also, throughout the past three months I have been traveling for work quite a bit, which has forced me to do most of my runs in unfamiliar areas.
ATW: What's next for you running-wise?   
As soon as my quads recover from all the downhill at Boston and my plantar fasciitis clears up I will be training for some shorter races, which include the 4th of July 15k in Altoona, Alumni Race 5k at Saint Vincent College in August, and the Great Race 10k in Pittsburgh this fall.

Here are some of the highlights from Nathan’s running career to date:

Hollidaysburg Area Senior High, Class of 2003

Cross Country
  • PIAA State Championships, 2001 and 2002
  • Mountain High League All-Star, 2001 and 2002
  • Altoona Mirror First Team All-Star, 2001 and 2002
  • Personal Record for 5,000 meters: 16:47
Track and Field
  • PIAA State Championships 3200 meter run, 2003
  • Personal Records:
    • 1,600 meters: 4:38
    • 3,200 meters: 10:00
Saint Vincent College; Latrobe, PA; Class of 2007
Cross Country
  • NAIA National Championships, 2004 and 2005
  • NAIA Academic All-American, 2004 and 2005
  • 2nd Place at PAC Championships, 2006
  • Personal Record for 8,000 meters: 26:05
Track and Field
  • NAIA National Championships; Fresno, CA; Marathon; 2006
  • Personal Records:
    • 1,500 meters: 4:17
    • 5,000 meters: 16:01
    • 10,000 meters: 34:14
    • 3,000 meter Steeplechase: 9:56
    • Marathon: 2:38:49
Post-Collegiate Running
  • 2007 Outer Banks Marathon; 12th Place; 2:50:11
  • 2008 Boston Marathon; 173rd Place; 2:40:10
As you can see, I've also included several photos on this post:
The first is a shot of Nathan in his high school days cruising to a win in at Tiger Stadium in Hollidaysburg.
The second is a team photo of the Saint Vincent College Men's Cross Country Team. Nathan is second from the left in the front row. Also pictured in this photo (to the right of Sylvester) is Wayne Hooper, who was an outstanding distance runner for Altoona Area High School and then at Saint Vincent College. The Saint Vincent's men's cross country team is coached by Andy Herr.
The third photo was taken near the Boston Marathon finish line. Also pictured in the photo are Barrett Wimer, Mathew Latini, and Marty Wimer - Hollidaysburg Head Cross Country Coach.
The fourth photo is Sylvester running the Outer Banks Marathon in November, 2007.
Congratulations and thanks Nathan. Keep on running fast!!

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