MCGILL: Kemper, Brown Take Run At Marathon Together|
May 2, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Misery loves company, which is why a pair of Marshall University athletic department members will together attempt to complete Sunday’s Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati.
“The training process has been a lot of fun because I have had someone who I could go and complain to about how miserable this is,” said Andrew Brown, Marshall’s assistant athletic director for facilities and operations.
Brown, 32, will try to navigate the 26.2-mile course with Tony Kemper, Marshall’s first-year head women’s basketball coach. Neither runner has ever completed a marathon, although they have trained for this race since January.
“I have successfully run a half marathon,” said Kemper, who is 37. “But the other half is the part I’m worried about. The first half I got, but the second half is a little trickier.”
The Flying Pig Marathon, which begins Sunday at 6:30 a.m., will take Brown and Kemper along the streets of Cincinnati, Covington, Newport, Mariemont, Fairfax and Columbia Township. There are some hilly sections in the first half of the race that have Kemper’s attention.
“This has always been a bucket list thing for me,” Kemper said. “I just wanted to try it and see what my body could do.”
The idea started when Kemper’s sister told him about a Netflix documentary on the Barkley Marathons. Kemper watched the 89-minute documentary, which tells the story of the 100-mile ultramarathon that takes place every year in Tennessee. It inspired Kemper, and he frequently had interactions with Brown, who would run and exercise in the Henderson Center, Marshall's basketball home.
Brown, who played Division III college basketball at Eastern Nazarene near Boston, embraced the challenge.
“He’s a coach and a competitor and I’ve played sports my whole life,” Brown said. “I don’t do much competitively anymore except cheer for Marshall. To set a goal and accomplish it has been fun. It’s been cool to see the progression … the first time I tried to run 10 miles my legs were shot and cramping up, and now if I don’t run 10 miles it doesn’t even seem like I’ve worked out. That’s ridiculous to think about.”
Preparing for the race has been a gradual process, and not without a few obstacles along the way. Both runners searched the Internet for a training plan that made sense for each of them. Kemper mixed interval training with a short run and a long run each week. Brown increased the length of his runs every two weeks, so if he was covering six, eight and 10 miles one week, then a few weeks later he had increased the distances to eight, 10 and 12 miles.
Kemper and Brown have cracked 20 miles twice, with mixed results. Kemper called one of his 20-mile runs successful, but the other “wasn’t much fun.” Brown reached 21.5 miles and felt like, on that particular day, he could have completed a marathon.
Getting to this point has not been easy.
Kemper’s former boss at Marshall, Matt Daniel, resigned as the head women’s basketball coach on March 12. Five days later, Kemper was elevated to head coach.
“Obviously we had a lot going on around here that made it a lot tougher to train,” he said, “and there’s a lot more balls in the air than I thought there would be. I’ve been on the road recruiting a lot and that has added to the challenge.”
Brown bounces around Marshall’s facilities from dawn through dusk, and on-campus events often make for long and tiring days.
“I generally have to do my training from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m.,” he said. “It’s tough if we have a softball doubleheader and you’re there for nine hours, so I try to get my training done in the morning so it’s not hanging over my head all day.”
Brown and Kemper have ambitious goals and, lately, more realistic ideas about how Sunday's race will play out. They’ve wondered if they could complete the race in under four hours, but crossing the finish line remains the primary objective.
“I think our adrenaline will carry us through,” Brown said. “We’ve done so much running at this point, we have to finish.”
That is all that will be on Kemper’s mind for 26.219 miles of body-testing, adrenaline-inducing misery.
“I just want to finish,” Kemper said. “It’s going to be a tremendous accomplishment if I finish, and then I’m not doing another one.”