Already visible on campus due to his status as a member of the Spizzwinks(?) and as a Yale tour guide, Félix Cancre ’17 can now add another impressive trait to his list: three-time marathon finisher. One of several Yalies to run the 2016 Boston Marathon on April 18, Cancre ran the 26.2-mile race in two hours and 44 minutes, finishing 231st overall and 189th in the male 18 to 39-year-old division. The News spoke with the Lexington, Massachusetts resident hours after he completed the run.
Q: What’s your running background, and when did you start running marathons?
A: I ran high school cross country and track and wasn’t particularly good. I got competitive toward my senior year but then came to Yale and decided I would rather sing, I wanted to be in an a cappella group, instead of half-assing both the track team and the a cappella group. I decided to just run on my own. But yeah, I ran everything in high school and ultimately decided longer distances suited me better. [I started running marathons] the summer after my freshman year of college. I trained throughout the summer, then ran a marathon in August of 2014. Then I ran my second marathon last year. It was also the Boston Marathon, so it was April of last year.
Q: What sort of training do you do in preparation for a marathon, and how do you stay motivated throughout the process?
A: On campus, I run a lot, all over the place. Nobody is forcing me to do it, so there’s no team you’re letting down, there’s no coach, there’s nobody there to keep you accountable. With the marathon, you’re training four months for one day — it’s one race. There’s no weekly check-ins, but I set myself this goal. I’m going to meet it. So I put in the time, put in the hours on the weekend, make sure I’m treating my body well and eating healthy and doing whatever I can.
Q: Have you been training continuously since the last marathon in which you competed?
A: I took about two weeks off after the last marathon, and I was planning on running the New York City Marathon in the fall, but unfortunately got injured. I ran the New Haven 20K and got injured the following week. That took me out from September to November, which was really hard. I do run to race, but I also run because it’s something that makes me really happy. Not being able to run for three months was pretty tough and actually made me appreciate being able to go back and race again.
Q: Why have you run the Boston Marathon twice?
A: I’m from the area, and it’s kind of considered by a lot of people to be the holy grail of marathon running. It’s a race [in] which the vast majority of competitors have to qualify for entry to the race. A lot of people will aim for what’s called the “Boston qualifying time,” a time that allows you to run in the marathon based on your gender and age. It really varies. But there are a lot of marathons where half the participants are charity runners to just run on their own, but this year, I think of the 30,000 runners, 25,000 runners were qualifiers and 5,000 were charity runners. The charity runners also do an enormous amount of work and have to raise a lot of money, and by no count is that bringing down the level of competition, but you’re surrounded by people who work their butts off and have had to run another marathon in order to qualify for this one.
Q: What makes the Boston Marathon so special?
A: The number of people who go out to see the Boston Marathon is insane. You have close to a million people lining the streets. People come out from all over the place. It turns into parties — you go by a couple college campuses and it turns into “darties.”
The city of Boston has Patriots’ Day off, it’s a holiday, so all these kids don’t have school, so they’re all out there cheering for the runners. You have kids along the road with orange slices in their hands. It’s such an event.
Q: Does the Boston Marathon hold any personal significance to you?
A: When I was little, I used to go to the marathon. When I was a senior in high school and I visited Yale over the days of the Boston Marathon, the bombing happened. I didn’t think I would run the Boston Marathon that soon after that event, because I needed first to qualify for Boston through another marathon, so I jumped at the chance to run Boston in my sophomore year. It’s kind of a long history, but I love the Boston Marathon and always have. It’s an incredible athletic event.
Q: Do you think the event has gained significance since the bombing?
A: I think, for some people. It took a huge toll on the running community, on the Boston community. To come back and for “Boston Strong” to become a citywide mantra in response to [the bombing], you can feel it.
As far as security goes, you have police officers everywhere and every single [segment] has six checkpoints where you have to show your ID number. So you can feel the effect of it, but in terms of significance, every step you take in that marathon is a response to something that tried to take away the sanctity of the event. It’s the oldest continuously run marathon in the world; I think this year was the 120th running of the Boston Marathon, which is why it’s so famous. It’s arguably a more sentimental race, especially for people who are from Boston.
Q: You placed approximately 30 places higher than last year despite running a slower time. What can account for changes like that?
A: Last year was just kind of a dream race. I planned it really well, felt great, had done a lot of training. I went in this year with less training because of the way the school year fell this year, with everything back a week. I was actually on China tour with the Spizzwinks(?) later, so I missed a week of training that last year had been a 90-mile week. A really essential part of marathon training is just getting in the time, so that robbed me of a week because it was tough to run in China.
The conditions [in Boston] were also horrible. You just had everyone slower. Both of the winners were three-and-a-half or four minutes slower this year than last year, and you had people dropping out. It’s tough because you’ve been training in the winter and putting in the miles … so the 20-miler, 23-miler, 24-mile runs before have been in 10 or five degrees Celsius, as opposed to [race day], which was 17 degrees Celsius. That has a huge difference on your body, which isn’t acclimated. It really does kick your butt.
Q: What’s your first meal after running a marathon?
A: Usually when you run a marathon, your body is slowly shutting down all nonvital functions. It’s like, why am I still running? What am I running from? That’s what your body is thinking. Can we stop? Are you done? I finish a marathon and don’t really eat because the thought of food is revolting, and when you push yourself to such an extreme, everything is kind of wonky. I got back and had white bread and peanut butter because it’s easy to digest, and drank a lot of water because I got super dehydrated during the race. Tomorrow’s going to be an interesting morning when I wake up.