By Erin Valois
The best marathon runners drink three protein shakes a day, run 40 kilometres a week and spend months in the gym to qualify for international competitions.
Rowing captain Peter Bulski trained for one hour with two strained hamstrings — and qualified for one of the world’s most famous races.
“I did some running a week or two before the race,” he said. “I did two runs, and spent about 30 minutes for each run.”
Bulski, a 24-year-old master’s of mechanical engineering student, is running in the Boston Marathon.
The marathon has a prestigious reputation because runners are required to finish an official race in less than three hours and 15 minutes to be eligible for competition. Bulski qualified for the run with a time of three hours and 10 minutes, after placing third in his age category at the Toronto Marathon on Oct. 19. But he has a secret that may hurt his success at the renowned race on April 29.
“I hate running,” he said. “It really hurts my knees. I don’t really enjoy it.”
His quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon started last year. Bulski ran his first half-marathon because one of his rowing teammates needed someone to run with during the race, and asked him to come along.
Bulski said he forgot about the promise — and only signed up for the race a few days before registration closed, running the race with little preparation.
“My teammate came third in his age group, and I came fourth. I wanted to do better,” he said. “This year, he approached me to do the half-marathon again, and I said no — I wanted to try the full marathon.”
But two weeks before the Toronto Marathon, he injured his hamstrings and had trouble walking for a few days. He didn’t even race at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championships so he could rest for the run.
And all that rest paid off — he felt surprisingly confident during the Toronto Marathon for most of the competition, until his body started to deteriorate with only 12 km left.
When his muscles cramped and pain crippled his body in the darkest times of the race, he leaned on his rowing training for support and sprinted for the last three km.
“This is where the rowing comes in,” he said. “Rowers have a high threshold of pain. I had three km left and I had to decide right then and there if I was going to qualify for Boston.”
Rowing coach Dominic Kahn said he’s proud that Bulski used his rowing training to overcome the physical stress and exhaustion associated with long distance running.
“It goes to show what rowing can do. Each person has a job,” he said. “A competitive rower has to know how to push through pain and turn off the desire to quit.”
Bulski may have the willpower to stay in the race, but he’s quitting the marathon.
“I just ran 42 km with one hour total of training,” he said. “Marathoners run 40 km a week. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to kill myself training.”
And he doesn’t have any big plans for Boston.
He’d like to finish in the top 100 and improve his best time by 20 minutes. But the reluctant marathoner just wants to finish his brief running career on a high note.
“It will be fun because I’ve never been to Boston before, but there are two options,” he said. “Will I walk it and enjoy the view? Or will I run hard? It’s going to be my last race.”