ELLSWORTH, Maine — Long-distance runners find all kind of motivations for pursuing their sport, and for competing in the Boston Marathon in particular.
Matt Homich found his motivation to do both in the same place, along the Marathon route from Hopkinton to Boston.
“When I was going to Boston College, marathon morning was like a national holiday down there,” said the 25-year-old Homich, one of 202 Mainers registered among 26,785 runners set to run the 117th Boston Marathon on Monday.
Homich watched the race for the first time in 2007 and has been running ever since.
“I saw some pretty ordinary people running the marathon,” he said, “and I thought to myself, ‘I can do this.’”
Two years later Homich ran Boston for the first time, and while he finished the 26.2-mile endurance test in a modest 3 hours, 48 minutes, it merely intensified his enthusiasm for the world’s oldest annual marathon.
“[Boston] is always one of my goals when I run a marathon,” said Homich, who also started last year’s race but succumbed to a foot injury at Mile 17. “If I haven’t qualified for Boston, then I want to qualify, and if I’ve already qualified then I want to try to get my bib number down.”
Homich, who currently is pursuing a degree in physical therapy at Husson University of Bangor, has completed eight marathons despite being a relative newcomer to distance running.
As a student-athlete at Ellsworth High School, he competed in baseball, soccer and swimming for the Eagles and recalls doing minimal running even to get in shape for the sports he played.
“I always had a lot of respect for the runners, but I thought it was a little weird,” said Homich. “Now I can’t get enough of it.”
Today, he’s a part of a tight-knit local running community that includes the likes of Louie Luchini, Jim Newett, Eric Rudolph, Tim Tunney and Andy Beardsley, the Ellsworth High School cross country coach. Tunney and Newett are also registered for this year’s Boston race.
Homich helps out Beardsley with his alma mater’s cross country team during the fall, training with the team and absorbing all he can about his athletic passion.
“It’s just as much fun for me to run with a kid during practice and share what I know with him as it is to sit and listen to Louie and Beardsley talk about running for an hour,” said Homich.
One thing Homich has learned about competing in the marathon is that success is heavily dependent on the work done before the starting gun sounds.
“Marathoning is all about the miles,” he said. “People refer to it as a ‘trial of miles,’ and you’ve just got to put the time in.”
Homich’s personal-record marathon time to date is 2 hours, 51 minutes, 51 seconds, set last September when he placed sixth overall among 674 finishers at the Erie Marathon at Presque Isle in Erie, Pa.
He described that course as “super flat and super fast” but believes the quality of his training since then — including a high-mileage week of 76 miles in late March — has left him in even better condition now and hopeful of bettering his PR on Monday amid weather conditions predicted to include partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid- to upper-50s.
“I always set a lot of goals,” said Homich. “For one, you want to beat the local guys you run with, you want to see them do well but you also want to do just a little better.
“The number 2:45 is what I have in my mind as my A-goal, though that might be stretching it a little bit.”
MARATHON NOTEBOOK: Defending champions Wesley Korir and Sharon Cherop, both of Kenya, will be back to pursue repeat championships in the Boston Marathon and the $806,000 first prizes that come with victory. Also returning are Canadian Josh Cassidy and Shirley Reilly of Arizona, the defending push-rim wheelchair division champions. Cassidy won in 2012 with a world-best time of 1:18:25, while Reilly edged five-time defending champion Wakako Tsuchida of Japan by one second. … 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and Marblehead, Mass., native Shalane Flanagan will attempt to to become the first American women’s champion at Boston since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach’s 1985 victory. A runner-up at the 2010 New York City Marathon, Flanagan will make her Boston debut this year. She will be joined by training partner American Kara Goucher, who placed third in the 2009 Boston Marathon. … The 2013 Boston Marathon marks the 25th anniversary of Kenyan Ibrahim Hussein’s 1988 victory, which made him the event’s first African champion. During the past 25 years, a Kenyan or an Ethiopian man has won the Boston Marathon 23 times. Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia was the event’s first women’s champion from Africa, winning three consecutive years from 1997 to 1999. Kenyan and Ethiopian women have combined to capture 14 of the last 16 Boston Marathon titles. … The race-hosting Boston Athletic Association has renewed its financial support of the eight cities and towns along the Boston Marathon course, providing $2.7 million over a three-year term from 2013 through 2015, with contributions increasing annually. The financial commitment recognizes the expenses for logistical, operational and administrative course support provided by the towns of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley and Brookline, the cities of Newton and Boston, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. … The qualification window for the 118th Boston Marathon, to be held April 21, 2014, began last Sept. 22. Registration dates for the 2014 Marathon have not yet been announced.