Ohio man makes transition to running marathons

For many people who have grown up playing team sports, when those days end a competitive void can be left.
Turning to distance running can satisfy that urge to compete – against others and even moreso against oneself.
Whether it’s 5K or 10K runs, or even marathons, distance running becomes a lifestyle for many people.
Running the 2011 Boston Marathon in under 3 hours is probably the most impressive accomplishment of Ohioan Brian Polen’s varied and impressive athletic career.
However, the Wooster, Ohio resident called his first trip to the storied marathon more than just a sports moment.
“I had a blast running this race,” said the 31-year-old Polen, after placing 1,353rd out of more than 27,000 runners in a time of 2 hours, 58 minutes and 56 seconds. “Anyone who is serious about running should do it at least once as it is more of a life experience than a race.
“Almost 27,000 runners, all in one place, is an incredible sight.”
The Boston Marathon is known for its many hills, which challenge runners both on the incline and decline, and Polen was prepared for them. In fact, he said he probably ran them too cautiously early on during the 26.2-miles that make up a marathon.
“I made the mistake of going out too slow because I had heard so many horror stories of people killing themselves during the first 15 miles of rolling downhill running — it kills the quads,” said Polen, who still wound up running faster than any of his six previous marathons. “By the time I got out of there, the 2:58:56 was the best I could do.
“My last 6 miles were my fastest miles of the whole race, averaging just under 6:30 per mile pace.”
Polen’s athletic background involves playing football, basketball and baseball, although he did do some distance running at Waynedale.
When the slowpitch softball team he played on disbanded in 2007, Polen decided to seek a new sports challenge.
“I was looking to do something to compete, and thought that running a marathon might be a nice challenge,” he said. ”
“I played football in high school, but also ran for the cross country team on the weekends because they needed runners. I realized during my time with the cross country team that running was fairly natural for me. When I started to look for ways to fuel my desire to compete, I remembered how much fun I had running in high school, and decided to give it another try.”
Polen targeted The Road Runner Akron Marathon in 2008 for his first race.
“My goal was to try and qualify for Boston, which requires a finishing time of 3:10:59 or better for a male my age,” he said. “I came up short, and finished in 3:18:55, but was instantly hooked on marathoning. Distance running is a nice way to fuel my desire to compete because you do not need anyone around to compete with — you can compete with yourself each time you run.”
Polen said he averages running between 45-65 miles per week to prepare for a marathon, preferring to run with a training partner or in a group. To save wear and tear on his joints, he often runs on trails at the likes of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Vulture’s Knob and Memorial Park in Wooster.
“There is an awesome store in Hudson named Vertical Runner that organizes many group runs,” Polen said. “I have a training partner, Justin Hayes from Akron, that I run with once a week.
“I run a lot on trails, but do log many sidewalk miles in Wooster and hit the streets around my house a lot.”
Polen’s marathon history includes the Akron Marathon 2008 (3:18:55), Akron Marathon 2009 (3:29:43); Louisville Marathon 2010 (3:10:38, first Boston qualifier); Akron Marathon 2010 (3:00:35), Glouster Bobcat Trail Marathon 2010 ( 3:32:41) and Walt Disney World Marathon 2011 (3:00:03).
Believe it not, Polen has set a goal to run even farther in the future.
“I am running the Cleveland Marathon in May, 2011 and I’m also planning to run a 10-mile race at Vulture’s Knob here in Wooster at the end of May,” he said. “After that I am going to transition over into ultra-marathoning.
“I will run a few 50K (31.5 miles) races this summer and finish off the season with a double-marathon (52.4 miles) in Peninsula in October, 2011. I love the longer distances and am eager to take on the new challenges.”
Polen, who’s an engineer for ixetic USA, Inc., in Brunswick, made sure to thank his family for their support.
“Without my wife and three sons, who travel around supporting me in all of these races, I could not do any of this,” he said. “I owe all of the fun experiences and success that I’ve had to them.”

At Home Fitness consultant Aaron Dorksen’s blog deals with a variety of fitness topics, ranging from workout tips, motivational ideas and feature stories on how exercise impacts people’s lives. E-mail him with comments, questions or ideas for future blogs at aaron@athomefitness.com