David Marhefka never thought of himself as a runner, but when he found he had a talent for the sport, he pushed himself to compete in the Boston Marathon for the second time in his life – exactly 20 years after his first run.
Marhefka is a North Royalton High School math teacher who has served as the school’s assistant track coach since 2000 and its cross-country coach since 2006. His running career started early when his grade school physical education teacher saw him run the mile and told him to run as a sport.
“At first I did not want any part of it,” Marhefka said, noting he eventually had a change of heart.
He decided to give the sport a try and ran cross country in seventh and eighth grade and continued to run competitively throughout high school and college. Even after college, however, he says he didn’t see himself as a marathoner.
“My wife said it doesn’t make sense to run that far, and she’s right,” said Marhefka.
After graduating, he decided to run a marathon while he was in his prime to see if it was something he’d want to do again. After college, he qualified for the Columbus Marathon and in 2002 ran the Boston Marathon. He didn’t run another marathon for 17 years until the North Royalton track coach encouraged him to give it another try.
In 2019, Marhefka ran the Cleveland Marathon, which he said was a less than ideal experience with 80-degree weather. “I thought, ‘I can’t have that be my last memory of a marathon,’” he said.
So, he decided to train for the 2022 Boston Marathon. His training consisted of running 40 to 50 miles a week, which included one long run of 12-20 miles on the weekend. When the time for the marathon came closer, he said he ran 12-14 weeks of higher mileage.
“The spring marathons are rough because of the winter practices,” Marhefka said, adding he regularly ran for one to two hours in 18-degree weather.
Due to a hamstring injury, he couldn’t run a week before the marathon, leading him to a slow finish as he said he hobbled the last five or six miles to the finish line. His final time was 3 hours and 29 minutes. His wife and daughters accompanied him to Boston to watch him run.
“It’s one of the coolest sporting events I’ve ever been a part of,” he said.
Marhefka credits his training with carrying him to the finish line. “Sometimes I wondered if I had what it takes to do it,” he said. “I was pleased to get there and make it through.”
That sort of perseverance is what he tries to instill in the students on the track and cross-country teams, Marhefka said. While the hard work [individuals] put in might not show up immediately, it ultimately pays off down the road, he said.
When asked if he plans to run another marathon in the future, Marhefka said he’s unsure. “It takes a huge physical, mental and emotional toll,” he said. ∞