By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
A local optometrist is running one of the most prestigious races in the nation today – the Boston Marathon. This is the second time that Dr. Brian Lankford, 50, an optometrist at the Eye Care Center in Tarboro, has run the 26.2-mile marathon.
“The first time, I got so caught up in the excitement that I didn’t maintain a realistic pace. At mile 18, I just totally ran out of gas,” Lankford said. “I want to run again so I can run within myself.”
Lankford’s first time running the Boston Marathon was in 2011 and he described the atmosphere as “overwhelming” compared to other races that he had run.
“From the starting line to the finish line, there are people on both sides of the road yelling and screaming and they all have cowbells,” Lankford said. He’ll be one of about 35,000 runners competing in the marathon. Countless others will cheer on the runners. Lankford’s goal is to run the race in three hours and 15 minutes, and to make to the top of “heartbreak hill,” at about mile 21, and still have some energy.
“I’m not going to run a race unless I’m going to run it hard,” said Lankford. While growing up, he had wrestled and played baseball, and was very competitive. He started running at the age of 43 and said running races “fills that competitive need that I have.” Just making it to the Boston Marathon is a competition.
“You have to qualify to run Boston. You have to run a fast enough qualifying marathon to get in, so it’s kind of a prestigious thing,” said Lankford.
“It’s exciting. It’s a great accomplishment. It takes a lot of dedication,” said Lankford’s wife Sandy. She said she recalls times when her husband came in the house after his morning run with frost in his hair from the cold. Her hope is that her husband’s completion of the marathon will inspire others.
“If he can do it, other people can do it, too,” she said.
Today’s race marks Lankford’s fifth marathon, and it’s the first time he hasn’t had an injury during training.
“This one, I feel pretty good going to the starting line,” Lankford said. “I think everybody needs to know what their breaking point is. Just getting to the starting line healthy is the first accomplishment.”
The typical marathon training program is about 16 weeks, and the goal is build up endurance. Lankford’s program required him to run about 40 miles per week. He rotates between tempo runs (faster runs for four to five miles), speed work (repeats of a certain distance at a fast pace), recovery runs (slow runs of about five miles) and long runs ranging from 14 to 22 miles, which he runs on weekends. Running is the first thing Lankford does every day, at about 5 a.m.
“I get out of bed, go run, and come back and eat breakfast,” Lankford said. “The first mile, you’re just waking up. After the first mile, everything just starts feeling good…I feel better on the days that I run.”
The optometrist runs on the rural roads of the Red Oak community near his home. He doesn’t encounter any traffic but says, with a laugh, that deer have cut in front of him on several occasions. He runs with the wildlife and all the other elements – rain and cold.
“The times you don’t want to, you’ve still got to get out there and do it. There were times when it was 20 degrees out and I had to do a 20-mile run,” said Lankford. “It’s hard; it takes dedication.”
That physical and mental toughness will serve Lankford well in a marathon that tests runners to their limit, a race that Lankford is proud to be able to run.
“When you get to the starting line, it’s all worth it,” he said.