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CCU Atheneum: Joe  Mazurkiewicz, left, and Bruce Gregory at the finish line of the Boston Marathon the day following the run last year.
Joe Mazurkiewicz, left, and Bruce Gregory at the finish line of the Boston Marathon the day following the run last year.

CCU's running duo prep for their fifth Boston Marathon

by Mona Prufer
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Bruce Gregory and Joe  Mazurkiewicz have a Saturday morning ritual these days; they call it The Long Run. They meet at Broadway at the Beach to run a certain varying distance – 24 miles this past week – in preparation for their fifth Boston Marathon on Monday, April 19. They run mostly up and down Bob Grissom Parkway, Kings Highway, Ocean Boulevard and on a path that takes them over the Intracoastal Waterway.

And that’s just one day of training. There’s also running up and down the stadium steps, along with hill repeat runs to get in shape for the rigorous hilly Boston terrain that is quite different from Myrtle Beach’s flatscapes. In addition to the long runs and hill repeats, there are short runs, speed training, carbohydrates and weight training – all part of what it takes to run a marathon.

That, and a healthy dose of passion for running helps, too.

Gregory, senior associate athletic director for Internal Operations Athletics, got bitten by the running bug about 10 years ago. In 2005, Bruce and Joe had just finished the Myrtle Beach Marathon in February to qualify for Boston for the first time. About two weeks later, Gregory experienced a series of four or five fainting spells and was rushed to the hospital.

Many tests later, he was fitted for a pacemaker, which he wears to this day. “It doesn’t affect my running,” says Gregory. “It’s set for the time when my heart drops paces. My doctor likes to say it’s my air bag for when I need it.” Several weeks later, he was back to running. The duo missed that 2005 marathon, but completed the 2006 one together and have been running the Boston ever since.

“Boston is the most fun marathon,” says Gregory, who, with his wife and young children, used to come hang out in the city to watch the marathon when they lived in Boston back in the late ‘80s. He points to Boston as having the longest-running marathon with a wealth of tradition.

The city is overrun with runners, and excitement is high both on and off the course. The Wellesley College coeds line up in the “scream tunnel” to yell for the competitors, and then there’s Heartbreak Hill, another famed landmark on the course. Runners must qualify to run in the race, and they are placed in corrals with other like-paced runners to make the race go more smoothly. “You don’t have to do all that zig-zagging to get around slow runners,” says Gregory.

This will be Gregory’s 19th marathon and the 16th the men have run together. They generally complete four, sometimes five marathons in a year, almost one per season.

Mazurkiewicz, associate athletic director for Academic and Student Services, has been at Coastal since 1986, starting out in Counseling Services before moving to the athletic side of campus. The first Myrtle Beach Marathon in 1997 was his first marathon, and he’s run a total of 22 races in his running life.

Why, you might ask, do people run marathons?

The obvious health reasons are usually cited, along with working through a challenge, meeting personal goals, self-discipline and the satisfaction of accomplishment. Mental clarity is usually mentioned, and Gregory says he and Mazurkiewicz can just about solve the world’s problems on a good, long Saturday run. There’s also the widely publicized “runner’s high” that many feel.

Gregory also runs for a cure for leukemia since his daughter Megan, a student at CCU, was diagnosed with the disease two years ago. He wears orange in honor of that motivation, and plans to work with the Leukkemia and Lymphoma Societies to create a Team in Training in Myrtle Beach.

“The mental rewards are the best,” Mazurkiewicz agrees. “You just set a goal and do it. I’ve had some runs that were just awful, and you just want to finish. But when they are good, they are very good. That is my first goal, always, to finish.”

Mazurkiewicz, who has run with a stress fracture and swollen leg, also suffers from sciatic pain but believes running helps him to “keep moving.” Even when he sits at his desk, he doesn’t really sit; he bounces and hovers on a large silver exercise ball on what looks like a plant caddy with wheels. It is helpful for sciatica sufferers, he explains.

Both men have motivational sayings on their office walls that sum up their absorption with their current training for the April race.

“There ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common,” reads a plaque by Satchel Paige on Joe’s wall.

And on Gregory’s, placed over a picture of thousands of Boston Marathon runners on the 100th anniversary of the race: “Three words that every runner lives to say: I finished Boston.”

And they will.

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