Even though they live half a nation apart, for the past three years Adele Plunkett GRD ’15 and her father, 60-year-old Brian Plunkett, have trained together for the world’s oldest annual marathon. Adele’s father has made the trip from Austin, Tex., to the East Coast for three consecutive years to run every single foot of the Boston Marathon side-by-side with his daughter, the most recent race being this past April 18.
“Running Boston at all is just kind of the dream for any marathon runner,” Brian said. “To get to run it with Adele was just spectacular.”
It began in December 2008 when Brian qualified for the Boston Marathon in California — something he had tried to do for six years. He had run nearly 10 marathons up to that point, and Adele had told him that if he qualified for Boston she would try to join him. Despite the short amount of time she had after her dad’s successful tryout for the Boston, Adele found another qualifying race, the Hyannis Marathon in Cape Cod, which she ran in February 2009.
After less than two months of training, she was set to run the Boston with her father. It was then up to her to make sure they could run it together.
“It was just a question of whether I would go down to Boston to watch him or go down to Boston to run with him,” Adele said.
A varsity soccer player in high school and college, Adele had not run competitively since junior high. To train for her first Boston Marathon during her senior year at Middlebury College in Vermont, she designed a program that would match her father’s in Texas, and she has continued that routine as a Yale graduate student.
Adele talks to her father about his training runs and tries to plan similar routes, even taking small factors into consideration like the gradient of a course, she said. Her father said he designs his runs with the help of a training group in Texas, which he explained also helps keep him disciplined.
When race day finally arrives, Adele and her father are on the same page. In addition to sharing their training plans, the two also decide on how they want to run the race, usually agreeing on a pace that is reasonable for both of them — a nine-minute mile has been the standard so far.
And the weather, which Adele and her father said has been ideal for running, has cooperated fully with those plans.
“I think the Boston Marathon Gods like our family a lot,” Adele said.
Adele explained that even though they were probably both in their best shape the first time they ran Boston, in some ways it has become easier since then because they have a better idea of what to expect during the race.
Adele said she typically has more difficulty with the first half of the race and her father struggles more in the second, but by taking turns and pushing each other, they have both been able to make it the entire 26.2 miles in each of the past three years.
Brian agrees that running the race together is a huge help, largely because Adele is so much faster than him.
“When you’re out there with your kid, you want to push a little harder,” Brian said. “That was kind of an extra motivating factor.”
Though Adele admits she has worried about the possibility of one of them having to leave the other behind at some point during the race, such a possibility has never materialized. Adele said there is something about Boston for them, some part of what she calls the “aura” of the Boston Marathon, that has enabled them to stick with their plan of running together every step of the way. She joked about how they even try to get the exact same start and finish times, but one of them always inevitably ends a split second ahead.
Adele and her father’s times have risen from 3:54 to 3:56 to 4:13 over the past three years, and both agree that the third year was most difficult. Yet neither is distressed about it. Adele said that she did not train quite as hard for this most recent marathon and that after gaining time at the beginning of the race, they fell behind at the hills. Brian said that, after training for four to six months, all you can do is hope everything comes together on race day.
Asked if he will continue to run marathons, Brian said he plans on running as long as he is in good physical condition. Adele also said she hopes she will be able to continue running with her father. Next year her studies will take her to Chile and she may be out of the country for the Boston Marathon. Nevertheless, she said the Santiago Marathon could certainly serve as an alternative.
“I think as long as either of us wants to, the other will find a way,” Adele said.