Good Friends Make Great Marathoners

As graduation nears, four seniors—running pals since their first year—have another finish line in sight
five seniors posing outside the sports and firness center
Chris Wingard, Rainie Toll, Maxx Grossman, Bobby Lovitch, and Kevin Dunn outside the Tisch Sports and Fitness Center. Photo: Donald Megerle
April 11, 2019

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Kevin Dunn, Bobby Lovitch, Rainie Toll, and Chris Wingard, all members of the Class of 2019, joined the Tufts Marathon Team their first year at Tufts. Because Tufts has spots for only a limited number of runners in the Boston Marathon each year, with preference going to seniors, the four have trained with the team and each run at least one marathon elsewhere while waiting their turn to try the big Boston race.

This year, they will all run the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston as part of the fifty-person Tufts team. The week before the race, we caught up with them to talk about what the marathon team has meant for their running and their friendship.

Kevin: I started running sophomore year of high school. I had played soccer, but I was terrible at it, so running was my last shot at sports. It was really tough in the beginning—I took twenty minutes to run a two-mile race. But I had a good feeling about it. I ended up running varsity.

Chris: I played basketball, baseball, soccer—and I always thought running was the worst part of all of those sports. I thought, why would anybody want to be on track team? It must be so boring. In my junior year of high school, I just decided on a whim to do cross country. I found that I actually loved it. Now I run every morning. When I don’t get to run, I’ll feel like I’m a little off; I’m missing something in my life. 

Rainie: It’s almost meditative. You don’t have room to think about your anxieties. You’re just running and it’s straightforward, and you’re just paying attention to your body. 

Bobby: Before I came to Tufts, I read about the Tufts Marathon Team in Jumbo magazine and I knew I wanted to do it. And then the first day of my first class, Intro to Economics, this enormous lecture class, I sat down next to this kid. It was Chris. We talked about running. And he wanted to do the team, too.

Rainie: I heard about the Tufts Marathon Team from Bobby. He said, “Come this Sunday, it’s at Tisch.” So I got up early and was at Tisch Library at 8 a.m. And I was like, where is everybody? Turns out, they were at Tisch gym. Bobby was like, “Why would you go to a library? It’s a running club.” 

The four soon became friends as well as running partners, and took on different roles in their group.

Chris: I have been the nagger at times, the person who is texting “Come on guys—am I going to see you for the run tomorrow?”

Rainie: Chris is always early, and I’m always late. Late and lost.

Chris: I would say Bobby is the cheerleader during the runs, probably because he’s the fastest of the four of us. He’s got all that extra energy to cheer us on.

Bobby: Rainie is always there keeping up the good energy.

Being on the Tufts Marathon Team has brought their running to another level.

Chris: Before Tufts, I was training to run a marathon by myself, and I found it be almost impossible to be motivated enough to go out and do seventeen, eighteen, twenty-mile runs. So I didn’t end up doing it. Coming to Tufts and finding this close group of friends within the team, but also the larger team itself, has lent a comraderie and a feeling of “We’re all in this together.” It helps me get out of bed for those early morning long runs.

Kevin: Before it was like, a marathon— what?! That’s for crazy people. But after a few months on the team, it felt realistic, like something attainable. Coach Don [Megerle] made clear how I could do it. It’s step by step by step.

Chris: Coach Don is such a force. He alone makes the marathon team such a special place. He is just honestly one of the most helpful and supportive people I’ve met at Tufts.

Rainie: Coach Don was the first adult at Tufts to know my name. 

Bobby: He’s a really special person. He puts everybody else ahead of himself. I don’t know when this man sleeps. He’s up at 2 a.m. going to the store buying groceries, getting ready to put out the snacks on the course for us.

They haven’t suffered any serious injuries in their four years on the team, except…

Chris: Kevin just trips and falls and is covered in blood all the time.

Kevin: [laughing] About once a year. My knees look terrible.

Chris: It’s like the Monty Python skit: “It’s only a flesh wound!” There’s just blood everywhere, but he keeps going. 

In their sophomore year, they all ran a marathon in Newport, Rhode Island. They booked hotel rooms for themselves and some friends the night before the race.

Rainie: Except it turned out I had booked my hotel room in Newport, Maine.

Bobby: We ended up cramming five people in one bed in this hotel room.

Rainie: It was two full-sized beds pushed together. I slept on the crack in the middle.

Bobby: I ended up on the floor. Still, I set a personal record the next day.

Rainie: It was a very bad race for me. I hadn’t slept, I hadn’t eaten. I had to run a half mile back to Chris’s car before the race because I forgot my shorts. I got tired at mile sixteen. It was horrible. I called my mom and talked to my parents the last ten miles to keep myself going. So I’m worried because of that experience, but hopefully the Boston Marathon will be better. Coach Don is confident it will be. This is my redemption round.

Bobby: Chris and I made this pact that we were going to run a marathon all four years at Tufts. But then Chris went abroad for his entire junior year, to Oxford. When he came back, we saw each other over the summer. He said it’s still 2018, we should do this. We trained for three months and ran in the fall. So with the Boston Marathon, we’ll have run a marathon in each calendar year.

Kevin: I missed my running partners when I was abroad last semester. It is a big thing. I’m in a different emotional state when I’m running. I’m more explorative and honest. So who I’m running with is actually very important.

Chris: Kevin and I have our therapy session runs. We are out there for a long time. It gives you a lot of time to talk and connect. 

Rainie: That’s definitely true. I feel like I figure out a lot about what’s going on with my relationships while I’m running. It gives a sense of clarity—this is why I’m feeling what I’m feeling.

Although they all have at least one marathon behind them, they expect the Boston Marathon will be special.

Bobby: I think it’s going to be my favorite just because it’s larger, there’s more energy, more history, more people. It’s been a goal since I was in high school. My parents are going to come from New York to watch.

Rainie: Although we haven’t run it, we’ve been to the Boston Marathon every year that we’ve been on campus. The route is lined with a huge crowd yelling, “You can do it! You can do it!” It’s really beautiful.

Julie Flaherty can be reached at julie.flaherty@tufts.edu.

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