With temperatures climbing into the 80s, the 116th running of the Boston Marathon was shaping up to be one of the hottest in history. As a precaution the Boston Athletic Association notified all participants that this was probably not the best race to strive for personal records.
Apparently Tim Chichester ‘10 did not get that memo, or better yet, he didn’t care.
“I was really nervous going into the race, but in the past I’ve had really great races in the heat so I knew I could run well,” Chichester said in a phone interview. “I told myself mentally to go out slower and adjust my pace, but in the back of my head I knew that, no matter what, I was going for it anyway regardless of the temperature.”
Not only did Chichester, a Geneseo alumnus and former cross-country and track athlete, achieve a personal record. He also finished 11th overall in a time of 2 hours, 21 minutes and 10 seconds. Chichester was also the second-best American-born finisher.
“You can’t help but be so proud as a Geneseo runner. It means everything to our program,” said Geneseo head cross-country coach Mike Woods. “I’ve gotten probably a dozen emails from former runners and former assistant coaches and just people coming out of the woodwork. It’s a proud day.”
Interestingly enough, as the word spread about Chichester’s impressive performance, the only one who remained in the dark was Chichester himself.
“I knew I had [set a personal record] by like 11 minutes, which was huge for me, but honestly I was so tired when I crossed the line that I really didn’t realize how fast I had run, and also I had no idea what place I was,” he said.
It wasn’t until almost 20 to 30 minutes after the race when Chichester looked at his cell phone and saw a text message from his mother that he realized his accomplishment. And even then he said it was hard to comprehend.
“I was staring at my cell phone, still exhausted and I didn’t really understand what it meant because it’s the Boston Marathon. It’s a huge race,” Chichester said. “My mom and my siblings were more excited than I was because I couldn’t grasp what I did.”
Currently a graduate student at SUNY Brockport, Chichester has been training to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon since his spring 2010 graduation. Chichester said he credits his experience at Geneseo as a major part of his successes since graduating.
“Being on the team at Geneseo was probably the best decision that I ever made in my life; coach Woods is like a second father to me,” said Chichester. “Our motto on the team at Geneseo is ‘believe’ and believing in yourself, and if you do that you can do anything.”
Chichester’s Geneseo roots were especially important when it came to the Boston Marathon, particularly with his experience handling hilly terrain. In between miles 20 and 21 of the Boston course is a fairly steep hill, dubbed “Heartbreak Hill” because of its proximity to the finish line. Chichester instead used it to his benefit.
“I have so much confidence running up hills because I went to Geneseo,” said Chichester. “I just made the biggest move ever going up [Heartbreak] Hill … and that was a huge confidence builder for me, and I just toughed out the last five miles.”
Back on campus, Chichester’s accomplishment has been met with nothing but pride and praise from the coaching staff and former teammates alike.
“He is the nicest person in the world. He is so modest about it; you would never look at the way he acts and know he is this amazing runner,” said junior Esther Lok. “He’s really a joy to watch.”
“I was excited all weekend for him to race and see how he could do, because this is only his second marathon, so it was very impressive to see him do this right off the bat,” said senior Lee Berube. “He’s just an excellent all-around friend and teammate.”
Moving forward, Chichester said he plans on participating in the Chicago Marathon in October in hopes of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Even then, he remains grounded and focused on his studies.
“It’s pretty crazy, but I don’t feel any different. I had a great race,” he said. “The conditions were good for me and everything just worked out really well, but in the end I’m just a [graduate] student at SUNY Brockport getting my Master’s in education.”