Saint John runner uses quirky Boston Marathon training plan

Boston Marathon training is serious stuff: some people study up on the Boston Athletic Association's Boston Marathon training plan. Others plan months of uphill and downhill tempo runs, trying to work out the perfect combination of carbohydrates, fluids and protein.

Saint Johner Alex Coffin, on the other hand, trained with aquafit.

Yes: that aquafit, also known as aquacize. Bumpin' tunes. Shallow water. Typically favoured by the cotton-top set.

Coffin, who manages the PotashCorp Civic Centre in Sussex, teaches an aquafit class several times a week. He's so busy, in fact, that he didn't run much in the months leading up to the Boston Marathon, which was run Monday.

"I basically trained for the marathon with aquacize," he said with a laugh. Not bad, considering he finished with a time of 3:58:17 — still beating the average finishing time of 4:18:27 by a wide margin.

The low-key training approach probably wouldn't have worked out so well if Coffin, who also owns Coffin's Fitness Store in Saint John, weren't already a seasoned long-distance runner.

This was his eighth year running the Boston Marathon after qualifying at Marathon by the Sea. He headed down to the race on Saturday with running friend Luis Rubio with "no expectations," he said. 

"I don't recommend going into a marathon without much training," he said. "But when you have experience it's a little different."

High-fives, roar of the crowd

He found the go-slow approach actually improved his race experience.

"I enjoyed this year almost more than other years," he said. "In the past I would have never high-fived anyone in the crowd, but this year, everyone had their hand out, and I felt like more of a participant with the crowd than I have when I was just trying to get a fast time."

Coffin said the massive crowds that pack the entire race course in Boston were a big change from lower-key races in the Maritimes.  

"There are just so many people," he said. "You get great crowd support here in Saint John, but there's always some stretch when you're by yourself for a little bit. At the Boston Marathon you always have a crowd around you. It's amazing."

He was also mildly star-struck, when he found himself running for a stretch beside former New England Patriots quarterback and 1984 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie.

Since the aquacize regime didn't result in a personal best this year, Coffin is looking forward to running the course again — perhaps with a different approach.

"I hope to train for the next one," he said.