Athlete Spotlight – Community Run Club: John Favaloro
“You can achieve amazing things if you just keep moving
forward no matter what. Set small achievable goals
and hit them one after another until you reach the big goal.”
Here we welcome John Favaloro, a 47 year old New England native who got back into running 7 years ago simply as a means to get in shape and now finds himself less than a month away from running the Chicago Marathon, which will mark the 4th time he’s competed over that distance.
Name: John Favaloro
Hometown: Plymouth MA, now Cumberland RI
Years you’ve been running: 7 since I started running again in 2011
When you joined the NE Distance CRC: for the original Spring 2017 session
PRs: 5K – 21:06, half marathon – 1:45, marathon – 4:06.
Favorite race distances: half marathon
Favorite place to run: East Bay and Blackstone River bike paths
Race rituals/superstitions: Going over my meticulous race plan in the starting corral and then immediately forgetting everything about it as soon as the gun goes off.
Go-to pre-race meal: Plain bagel with peanut butter about 2 hours before a marathon start
Go-to post-race meal: Lots of Advil
Favorite running quote: “I don’t race against all the other people around me. I race against the voice in my head telling me to quit.” Read somewhere. No idea who said it.
Q & A
To start, tell us a little bit about yourself! Background, family, career, anything that makes you, you!
I grew up playing every sport. I went to the University of Dayton and then Suffolk University. I played baseball and ran cross country in college – baseball because I was good at it, cross country because the baseball coach was also the cross country coach and they needed bodies. I was usually in the top 5 on my team, which to put in perspective, put me at 155th out of 165 at the ECAC Championship meet. I think I beat a couple of guys who got lost and anyone who suffered a serious injury during the race.
I have a wife and three kids, none of whom enjoy running, but they are always there to support me. I am extremely competitive and it’s one of the reasons I find running so difficult. I have always been one of the best at every sport I have played, so being in only the top 20% compared to the average 5K participant is a little challenging sometimes. I see all the great runners in the races, and in our club, and I wish I could do what they do. Unfortunately, being 6’5” and 230 lbs, I don’t have the typical body of an elite runner.
I am currently the director of operations and logistics at an electronics distributor in Middleborough MA.
How and when did you start running?
In 2011, after a lot of years working at a desk, I saw a picture of myself and realized that I was fat. I weighed 280 pounds and I was shocked at how out of shape I had let myself get. I was still playing baseball every year, but as David Wells once said, you don’t have to be an athlete to be a baseball player. Since the thought of going on a diet to drop weight sounded like a ton of work and not even a little bit of fun, I figured that I could eat whatever I wanted if I was willing to do the work to burn off more calories than I took in. I started running every day. I only made it about a mile that first day, but by the end of a month, I could do a reasonable 5k. I ran the CVS Downtown 5k that September in 26:30. I ran the whole way and threw up right after the finish line, but hit my goal. I ran a few more races that fall and into December, and got my times down every race until I was in the low 24 minutes. After 6 months, I had lost 50 lbs and could do a 5k in 23 minutes.
I kept running 5ks and a few 10ks and kind of peaked at 21:50 for time. I was losing interest in racing because my times seemed stuck, so I thought a half marathon sounded like a new challenge. I ran the inaugural Blackstone Valley Half in 1:49 and thought to myself, “that was easier than I thought, I bet I could do a full marathon”. It took some convincing to get my wife to agree since she was pretty convinced I was going to die if I tried to run a full marathon, but by turning it into a long weekend in Virginia Beach, she was sold. My logic was that if I ran the first half in 1:55, I could run 2:05 for the second half to hit my goal. I thought it would be a piece of cake, but not so much. I hit 20 miles right on plan at 3 hours, and thought I had it nailed with 10k to go and an hour to do it. Then the wheels came off and I struggled all the way to the finish in 4:06. My next 2 marathons pretty much followed a similar path.
Having the pacer with his little sign showing your goal finishing time passing you on a marathon course is a terrible feeling.
What made you decide to join the NE Distance Community Running Club?
I realized that if I didn’t make some changes in training, I would never get to my goal. I really hoped that I would find a couple of training partners for the marathon in the club, but it hasn’t worked out that way so far. We have a lot of great, fast runners, but only a few who run half and full marathons regularly.
Which sessions do you normal attend – weeknights, the Sunday long run, or all three?
I was attending all 3 until my long runs starting to get longer and slower. The club long runs are maxing out at 10 miles. I have to go a lot farther, so I tend to run on my own on Sundays.
Are you training for a specific upcoming race? If so, which one?
The Chicago Marathon on October 8th.
Has working with Coach Aaron and training alongside the other CRC members benefitted your training or racing? If so, in what ways?
The structure has helped with my consistency and overall fitness. Time will tell how it will help me in the race. I find running in the heat very difficult – I love running when it’s cold – so training for a marathon through the summer can be a grind. I enjoy the support of the coaches and the team. We ran the 4 miler in Cumberland on the 4th of July. I was struggling a bit as we came up on the hill just after 3 miles and seeing all the coaches at the top of the hill cheering us on helped me get up that hill and even pick up the pace a bit. Had they not been there, I don’t know that I would have pushed nearly as hard.
What types of CRC workouts do you enjoy most?
I really enjoy the short 200 meter repeats and the long runs. I dislike the 400 repeats and I really, really, dislike 600 meters. I have gotten so used to going long and slow, that running those mid range speed workouts seems far harder than they normally would.
What has been your favorite experience or memory so far as a member of the NE Distance Community Running Club?
The support that team members at different levels give each other. No one looks down on anyone who is slower than them. We have all been there and remember what it was like. I never felt like the fast runners in the group judged me when I dropped from Group A to Group B (always being the caboose of Group A was not doing wonders for my self esteem.)
The overall running community has always surprised me that way. Whether you cross the finish line in 16:00, 24:00 or 34:00, you are supported the same way. I was at a 5K recently and this really large guy was coming in to the finish in about 45 minutes. With about 100 meters to go he started running all out and the entire crown went absolutely crazy supporting him. Not a single person cared what his time was. All they saw was someone who was giving his all, doing his best and finishing strong.
What is the most valuable lesson that running has taught you thus far in your life?
You can achieve amazing things if you just keep moving forward no matter what. Set small achievable goals and hit them one after another until you reach the big goal. Don’t worry about the finish being 10 miles away and you are hurting. Make it to that next tree, then the next tree, then the next. Eventually, the next tree will be beyond the finish.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would give to young or beginner runners?
Never cross the finish with gas left in the tank. The worst feeling is just missing a goal when you know you could have pushed harder.
And finally, do you have any funny or embarrassing stories from practice that you’d like to share about Coach Aaron?
I think that Coach Aaron makes us do bear crawls on the grass at the Monastery while he secretly records it and submits it to a little known website called StupidThingsThatRunnersDo.com.