By Michael Hicks
For Kenneth Pope, running used to be just a break in the day. As a college student at the University of Colorado in the late 1970s, he used running as a way to take a break in the day, not to mention to stay in shape.
He would jog for 30 or 60 minutes. But approximately five years ago, the former Berthoud resident took his daily exercising a step further. He decided he wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
“At the age of 47, 48, I started picking up some books and reading about training for distance and times for marathons,” said Pope, who most refer to by his nickname Bud. “I was able to within the first 12 months to get on a training program where I qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2004.”
Ever since, Pope has been on the run — but in a good way.
The president of Spatial Energy, a Boulder company that provides satellite imageries for energy companies, Pope has run 17 marathons — most in the past decade. Earlier this month, he ran the New York City Marathon, finishing the 26.1-mile course in 3 hours, 26 minutes, 33 seconds.
It was the third time that Pope had run the NYC Marathon. He previously ran in 2005 and 2007, but both times he was chosen to run as part of a lottery. This time, he had to qualify to make the field.
Pope placed 3,557 overall and 258th in his age placement. But considering there were 37,750 participants, his time, not where he finished, was the most important thing for him. But in order for the 52-year-old to achieve his set goal, it all starts with how well he trains for each race.
“Everybody has a different program,” Pope said. “My training program typically will go from 12 to 20 weeks and the weekly program averages anywhere from 40 miles per week to 60 miles per week.”
When Pope decided he wanted to run marathons, it wasn’t New York City — considered the most famous of all the marathons — he had his eye on. It was Boston.
“Boston, you know, is the most prestigious marathon in the world. It’s the oldest,” said Pope, who lived in Berthoud for four years before relocating to Boulder last month. “So everybody that’s a runner always wants to run one Boston in their life.”
But in order for Pope to achieve this goal he first had to qualify. For him, and most other marathon runners, there’s no better place than Tucson, Ariz., to achieve that goal.
The target mark is 3 hours, 30 minutes — the qualifying time for both Boston and New York. With Tucson’s fast, easy course, most runners target the desert city as their stepping stone. That’s what Pope did. He ran Tucson in 3:23.
“Tucson tends to have a lot of qualifiers out there from around the world for Boston,” Pope said. “You want to find a race that’s particularly fast and convenient so that you have a shot at qualifying. You don’t go out and run the hardest course in the world. You find the easiest, and Tucson is one of the easiest to qualify on.”
Just how easy? Pope broke his own personal-best time in Tucson two years ago with a run of 3:14.30. That was nearly four minutes faster than his previous best set when he was 22 — almost 29 years earlier.
But nothing compares to running Boston and its history or New York City and the “slice of urban Americano” it offers. Yet, he’s also run in Florence, Italy, which isn’t a bad place, either.
“You have a couple of hundred thousands cheering you on, none of which you can understand what they’re saying other than it’s Italian,” Pope said. “It’s the kind of marathon that is difficult running because you’re looking at all the sights along the way.”
While the scenery may be different, the race isn’t. No matter how much training you do the distance is always the same. It’s the other factors you can’t control, said Pope.
“At the end of the day, a marathon is what it means. It’s a marathon,” Pope said. “You can prepare for four or five months and the day you run the conditions may not be too good or you many not feel as good as you need to. You’ve just got to be psychologically trained to see yourself running for three or four hours.”
Pope, obviously, can see himself doing that.