Pamplin finance professor runs down a dream
June 5, 2019
For long-time runner Bradley Paye, the Boston Marathon was always a race to be run, eventually.
Qualification was no issue, as his race times were more than enough to earn him a spot in Boston – a place he earned over half a dozen times or so, by his estimation. The problem was always that of timing. For an assistant professor in the Department of Finance, Insurance, and Business Law, a marathon occurring on the third Monday in April, just as spring classes reach their apex, isn’t the most opportune.
“It was never convenient with my schedule,” he explained. “I always figured I would just run another qualifier when I was ready.” But after suffering a significant foot injury, Paye’s perspective suddenly changed, and Boston became top priority.
“The foot injury made me realize I had been taking the opportunity for granted,” he said. “It was then that I made the decision that, if I was fortunate enough to qualify again, I would not pass up the opportunity to finally run Boston.”
Paye ultimately qualified for the 2019 Boston Marathon during the VCU Health Richmond Marathon in November 2018. He treated his qualification differently, as he said he would.
“I was very happy, as qualifying for Boston was my goal,” Paye said.
For Paye, running has been a lifelong passion. During the running boom of the 1970s, Paye’s mother would take him to the track in their hometown of Cumberland, Maryland. At first, he would play in the stands as his mother ran. One day, Paye got bored and decided to join her on the track. He’s been running ever since.
“Running is my space to decompress,” Paye explained. “My wife tells me I get cranky if I don’t run.”
Even before the start, Paye realized that the Boston Marathon was unique. Boston is a point-to-point marathon – the race course begins and ends at different locations – and runners are bussed to the starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, situated less than 30 miles outside of Boston.
“The bus ride and scene at the start is a wild experience,” related Paye. “You end up exchanging stories with other runners. It doesn’t take long to realize how special the experience is to everyone taking the line.”
The second remarkable aspect of Boston is the talent level. “The quality of the field is unique because of the qualification system,” he said. “It’s incredible to stand at the start line with thousands of other runners and realize that each and every one of them have run marathon times that most would consider outstanding.”
Boston is renowned for the droves of fans dotting every inch of the course. For Paye, the raucous crowds did not disappoint. “The crowds were amazing. I’ve run a number of other large marathons, and there are usually some desolate areas,” he said. “But not Boston. There are people cheering you on every step of the 26.2 [miles].”
As it turned out, Paye truly needed the support. “Physically, I had a miserable day,” he explained. “Around the half marathon point, I realized I wasn’t nearly at my best. I suffered in the last 10 kilometers, more than in any previous marathon. But the fan support and knowing my family was waiting for me somehow got me to the finish line.”
Despite having a rough day, Paye views his Boston Marathon as a success. “It wasn’t my best race, but it was an awesome experience,” he explained. “I hope I have many years of racing in front of me. But irrespective, I can always say that I ran the Boston Marathon.”
And now that he has, what does Paye see as his next marathon goal?
“I’d like to run the New York Marathon. I’d also like to go back to Boston and hopefully have a better race. I have a qualifier for next year coming up, so we’ll see,” he added.
As long as he is physically able, Paye plans to continue to run locally. “There is a tremendous running community in Blacksburg and at Virginia Tech,” he explained. “We race against one another, but we also support each other. My VT colleague Matt Wisnioski [of the Department of Science, Technology, and Society] had an incredible Boston marathon race, for example, and I was psyched to see just how well he did.”
Paye continued, “Distance running is part of the culture here. It’s a special place and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Written by Jeremy Norman