Every week is different for Gary Leaman of Hardwick. His job at UPS involves tractor-trailers; switching them, moving them, and yes, driving them out on the interstates. Just about everything but loading them.
How does he find the time to train I asked him. For those who think this 59 year old must put in a lot of time and a lot of miles to be as fast as he is are in for a surprise. He runs on his lunch hour, getting in five to six miles during that time.
“I only get thirty to forty miles a week,” he said. “Fifty would be rare.”
Leaman fills in, as he puts it, which means he moves around to do the job of an employee who is on vacation or absent for whatever reason. He fills in at the World Trade Zone in Mount Olive, and at another UPS hub in Parsippany, and drives to Syracuse, and to DuBois Pennsylvania
The World Trade Zone in Mount Olive is a nice place to run. But Syracuse?
“Actually Syracuse is a great place to run,” said Leaman. He said that he drops the trailer at the building in Syracuse, and has a five mile loop that he runs.
Leaman gave me a short lesson in how UPS gets their loads from one part of the country to another. From the Parsippany hub, the driver takes the load on what they refer to as a “lane” to for instance, to another hub in DuBois. At the hub, the New Jersey driver “hands over” his load to a driver from Ohio who might take it to Toledo, where it is “swapped out” to a driver who takes it to Chicago. Meanwhile he takes the Toledo load back to New Jersey. In this way each driver is home each night.
“It’s a long day,” agreed Leaman when I exclaimed about how long he is on the road.
“They just happen to have a nice running trail next to the dirt lot where we’re swapping trailers out. It’s pretty nice. I lucked out on that on,” he said with a laugh.
There is one complicating factor though to this filling in as a sub – one week he is working the early morning shift and getting up at 1:45 in the morning and in bed by six or seven at night. The next week he might be reporting to work at three in the afternoon.
Like many runners, Leaman began to run to lose weight, and to regain the form he had as a standout athlete at West Essex High School. His 4:23.5 for the mile stood as the school record for quite a few years. He was the Group III cross country champion in 1975.
After high school Leaman entered Glassboro State but only stayed for a year and a half, opting instead to enter the labor field.
Leaman told me he ran in the local road races and described himself as the “second level” but I found him winning the Run into Spring 5K in Wayne in March 1980 with a 15:13. That’s not exactly chopped liver.
Running became only a memory as he moved into his twenties. He married and started a family and was busy with a job and the kids as they became his focus. Taking a job at UPS driving tractor trailer in 2004 changed things.
“My weight shot up to 205 pounds and I had to do something about it.”
He decided to get back into running and set as his goal, not an easy 5K or 10K. No, he went for the biggee – the Boston Marathon.
In 2009 he ran a 3:09 at the Harrisburg marathon and qualified for Boston.
“But I missed the cut-off,” he said. “I waited for the last minute and it was closed out. I didn’t want to register so far in advance. I’m always worried about what the weather is going to be; too hot, too cold.”
He said that back then the marathon didn’t close out until April, but the next year it closed out much earlier. He had to qualify again.
In 2011 he ran the St. George marathon which is a downhill and finished in 2:49 and got his Boston Qualifier.
He was able to use the 2:49 to get into the 2013 Boston. Yes, That Boston. He was in the first or second corral, he can’t remember which one, but as the Gods of Running would have it, he was not going to have a good race. A searing pain in his upper leg after five miles made him slow and he limped to the finish in 3:58. Leaman was in the family reunion area two blocks away from the finish area when he and his family heard the bombs go off.
Ironically, his first New York City Marathon was the New York Marathon that was cancelled thanks to the hurricane that year.
Leaman is only doing one marathon a year now, saying that you have to do too much training to do more than one marathon a year. He’ll be doing his seventh Boston in a row on April 15th, as that has become his favorite.
Since that first Boston he has since finished a couple in just over three hours. In the cold, wind and rain in 2018 he finished in 3:15 – not bad considering the conditions.
Asked what his favorite distance is and he quipped that his favorites are the ones he did well in. He likes the 8K in Virginia Beach where he finished in third place this month in 30:07 and in second place in 2018 in 28:25.
Checking the CompuScore website for 2018 local races I found Leaman at the top of the age graded chart for the Newport 10K at 88.0% for his 36:35. He hit 84.68% for his Our House four mile race in the pouring rain last May with his 24:07. Other good races include 19:28 for the 5km cross country in August, 1:26:15 for the Liberty Waterfront Half Marathon and 29:33 at the Ashenfelter 8km which age graded at 87.37%.
Leaman is aging up this year into the M60 division which he says will be a tougher division nationally. “I’m up against people that are retired and basically that’s what they do [train more].”
Even if he retired it doesn’t sound like Leaman will become a compulsive trainer and double his weekly mileage and always have the hammer down.
“I train to race, I don’t race to train,” Leaman said. “I want my best day to be my race day, not a training run.”