After the first attempt to film him running, Carson Truesdell, CSOM ’17, jogged toward the camera, smiling.
“Was I too fast?”
He had been. Truesdell’s first run through the slush in front of the Doug Flutie statue outside Alumni Stadium had been faster than the pace we needed for the accompanying video. Despite the gusts of snow pelting him and the slippery cement under his shoes, he laughed and ran back to the start point. He repeated the run again, this time slowing his pace so we could keep up.
This speediness sets Truesdell apart from most Boston College students who run the Boston Marathon. While many students who run for charity are running their first Marathon and just hope to finish, he has already run two. Far from just hoping to finish, he’s trying to break his own record.
Last year, Truesdell finished 148th in the Boston Marathon with a flat 2:41:00 time, which qualified him to run again this year. That result would more than satisfy many runners, but Truesdell is aiming for better this year—he wants to run under 2:30:00. For perspective, the average male marathoner in the United States ran 4:20:13 in 2015, according to Running USA.
“It’s a goal I’ve had for a while,” he said. “Can’t wait to accomplish it.”
Truesdell has been working up to that goal for 10 years now. Since the seventh grade, running has been an important part of his life. Through the decade since, he has evolved—he began running short distances, before graduating to cross country and marathons—but what remains constant is his commitment, discipline, and desire to improve.
“Running is just a big part of my life,” he said. “It’s one thing that I know I’m going to do every day when I wake up.”
When he started, running was a way to get exercise. He quickly started to pursue it more diligently as he approached high school. In eighth grade, he began training with a private coach, Mike Scannell, who worked with him throughout high school.
“I put him on a regime that required training not only daily but also pretty much 24 hours a day,” Scannell said.
When Truesdell joined his high school track team, he began running with some of the best runners in his home state of Michigan. An upperclassman had already won state several times and broken the state record. Then a student in the class under Truesdell broke that same record and became one of only six high school students to ever break the four-minute mile at that time. Running with some of the fastest young runners around, he learned more about the sport than ever before.
“The most impactful thing about him being really fast was not the fact that he did that, but the way that he did that,” Truesdell said. “He was so humble and gracious.”
Truesdell learned to handle himself among stiff competition, developing a perseverance struck Scannell.
Scannell particularly remembers coaching Truesdell through a 2-mile race. As an underclassman, he was not a favorite in the race—he was barely expected to finish. But his goal was to make the state meet, and to do that Scannell had to push him to do more than he’d ever done. Truesdell needed to run the first mile at a faster pace than he had ever run a mile before, if he wanted to do well in the race.
“We set him up to come in faster than he had ever run and run another mile on top of it,” Scannell said. “And he did it.”
This accomplishment was a crucial moment for Truesdell. Scannell views it as a breakthrough. It showed Truesdell that he had the mental fortitude to push himself beyond where he had been before.
This striving spirit has followed Truesdell through to his marathon running, as he works to better last year’s time. It also led to one of Scannell’s strongest memories of Truesdell—the time they ran across the Grand Canyon together.
In a one-day trek, Scannell, Truesdell, and a group of other young runners decided to run across the Grand Canyon. They undertook the “adventure run” for no reason other than the challenge of the experience. Starting at roughly 9000 feet, they descended the rocky walls to the canyon floor 2000 feet below. In 90-100 degree heat, the sun beating down on their backs, the traversed the jagged canyon floor. It was one of the most challenging runs Truesdell ever completed.
“When you’re at the bottom right where the Colorado River is, you’re about halfway across the distance and about 10 percent done in effort,” he said.
After the river, he had to run uphill and through zigzagging trails to the top of the canyon. For most of the time, he couldn’t even see the top. They stopped to drink water from their packs, but otherwise kept up a steady pace.
After running the Canyon, Truesdell gained a passion for difficult treks. Last year, he climbed two mountains in Ecuador including Chimborazo, the highest mountain in the country. He found that on these adventurous hikes, he could experience breath-taking sights, while also accomplishing great feats. Getting to the top of mountain proved even harder than crossing the Canyon had been. He started hiking at midnight to get to the top between six and seven in the morning. After three hours, he found himself looking down and seeing nothing but mountain. At the peak, 20,549 feet up, he was at the closest point to the sun on the planet, the farthest from the earth’s core.
These experiences geared Truesdell toward the idea of completion and pacing in difficult conditions, something that would stick with him as he trained for the Boston Marathon.
Since then, Truesdell came to BC and ran track. While on the time, he found himself running too hard too frequently in order to prove himself, and ended up pulling a muscle. He found that he didn’t quite fit into the system and his love for running started to wane. This brought down other aspects of his life, and he made the decision to leave the team after a year and explore other areas of life at BC. Leaving the team renewed his interest in running. Instead of shorter track team runs, he switched his focus to long distance and the new challenge of marathon running.
“After that, I’ve just been running on my own,” he said. “And so the natural progression is kind of to do marathons.”
Truesdell’s casual attitude is striking, considering how much he has accomplished so far as a marathon runner. He has spent the past six months training for the Marathon through the harsh Boston winter, sometimes even running twice a day.
“Running is really like a lifestyle thing where you need to make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating the right stuff,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard if a lot of your friends aren’t runners.”
Balancing school work and a social life with 80 miles of running a week can be difficult, but Truesdell loves it. While he sees running as a solitary activity, he’s found a community of runners at BC and in Boston. Just last Sunday, he went for his long run of the week and saw thousands of people jogging down Commonwealth Ave. during his run, all preparing for the upcoming marathon. These moments of community are an amazing part of running for Truesdell, and they find their culmination at Mile 21 on Marathon Monday.
“It is super cool as a runner to like be able to see the community really just like cheering on runners,” Truesdell said. “We often don’t get that. We’re not like basketball or football. People don’t come and watch running a lot. So I just love like the atmosphere of that.”
But for now, Truesdell continues his training. From pushing himself to run the fastest mile he has ever done back in high school, to now striving for the best marathon time he’s ever run, he continues to work for more. As a maturing runner, he’s learned not to push himself too hard and to allow his body to rest. If he wakes up feeling overly sore and tired, he’ll relax his workout to match that. He plans to use this discipline and experience to better pace himself while running the marathon this year and achieve a better overall time.
As the weeks and months passed, he has felt improvements and is now only a short week away from going for his goal on Marathon Monday. Instead of being cocky, anxious, or any emotion you might expect, he appeared quietly assured and humble about the upcoming race and about running:
“It has taught me, over the 10 years I’ve done it, that if I’m patient and put in the work, things that you never thought would be possible can be accomplished.”
Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor