We've visited Boston a number of times in the past few weeks: to plan the race, scout courses and connect with local runners. Co-hosts The Heartbreakers have welcomed us into their community from our first visit. We sat with head coach Dan Fitzgerald to talk about the team's roots, and what they are building. Dan is the HEART and soul of this club, who has built Heartbreakers into a leading force in the Boston running scene (oh, and they're fast as hell too). So read on to hear why we are SO excited to partner with Heartbreakers in hosting TTB Boston. We love these guys!
No pun intended – It seems like the Heartbreakers are at the heart of the running community here in Boston. What in your opinion makes the Heartbreakers special, how have you built such a sense of community in your club?
What sets us apart is our ability to make meaningful and deep connections to our runners. What started as the first free public speed session in Boston became a club because people wanted to represent the training group in races. We used to do a track workout and drills every Thursday and we'd drink beer late after every workout. We became a tight crew who knew each other as runners first. After 5 years of that, we decided to make it formal. Every thing from that point on was influenced by the community within the team and my experiences, first, as a collegiate athlete (the close family that created) and, second, as coach to the community of people training for Boston. The team really feels like a family. There's a list of benefits for people who are considering joining but it's funny to me how small all of those things are compared to the real benefit: the family of Heartbreakers.
We know you welcome all types/ages/abilities of runners to your workouts and club, how do you as Chief Heartbreaker (Coach) approach the real challenges of tailoring your workouts and message to this broad and diverse population of athletes?
I strongly believe in setting up a positive, empowering atmosphere. With that as an operating principle, the different speeds work along side each other and support each other. At each practice, we have an "A" (advanced) workout and a "B" (intermediate) workout. Runners self select into which workout they want and usually group up or pair up based on speed once they choose a workout. No one is made to feel uncomfortable if they are slower. All I care about is effort and the team at large is the same way.
What do the normal weekly workouts you offer look like?
TUES | Heartbreaker Practice (team only)- longer intervals, hills, tempo running on a track, Heartbreak Hill, or Boston Common
THURS | Speed Session (free; public) - shorter intervals, hills, tempo running with drills session
SATURDAY | Long run at Heartbreak Newton (Free; public)
We’ve heard tale of something called “Office Hours” held once a month; can you tell the TTB community at large what that’s all about and maybe how it got started?
Our "Office Hours" run is the easiest thing we do. It's a group run after which we hang out and have a beer. I wanted a regular run on the calendar that wasn't focused on getting better at running; this one is about getting to know your teammates better and getting some face time with me as a coach.
You have long been involved with preparing and training runners for the Boston Marathon, especially people running for charities that might be new to running or maybe just new to the distance. What have you learned in your time doing this about what this race means for the city and for those raising money for charity?
The race itself, as the longest continuously run marathon in north america, as the target of a terrorist attack (2013), and as a celebration and competition always runs, always inspires, and always feels special. Nothing unites this city and its runners like it's marathon. In the case of the charity runners, their grit, their deep connections to their causes, their journey of self discovery over the course of the training period, and then their realization of a life dream/goal in the race's finish embody everything that is the Boston Marathon.
You were named the New England USATF club of the year recently, you’ve sent runners to the Olympic trials, you’ve had runners wear the stars and stripes and compete for the USA in XC championships, and your hearts can be seen on victory podiums all over the area. Can you fill us in on who “The Flyers” are and how they fit into the club? Are they a tight knit crew? In what ways do they help you inspire and guide the club?
I'm really proud of the Flyers and their accomplishments. Cate (USATF Nationals), Rosa (XC Team USA), Lou, and the team at large have had a great year. The Flyers started with Lou (our team captain). He came on as our Newton store manager shortly after working a stint in B2B PR and that got him training harder again. He had let some fitness go after competing at Boston College as an undegrad. His renewed focus resulted in a really amazing season in 2015. He was the USATF-NE road racing champ that year (repeated again in 2016) and set PRs at every distance from the mile up. After that year, he wanted a cast around him so he started recruiting some friends. I worked with Lou to make sure that the people who come on understand that they are a part of something different. This team is "team first" and I always stress that. We don't have standards or an application. You have to come to us and want to run for us. It's important to me that they are integrated with the larger team so I do a lot of thinking around ways to get them interacting and supporting each other.
The Flyers are very tight. Many of them workout together. Lou's two roommates are also Flyers (David & Jonny). The group enjoys the freedom of being able to choose their own coach, workout times, and more. I want them to be empowered to do their best running, not be pushed into a framework or bogged down with the BS of some of the legacy clubs. In our only our 3rd year as a club and with only our one year of the Flyers, I'm very pleased with were we are.
What’s your favorite place to run in Boston?
JP/Brookline's muddy river path & Jamaica Pond.
Favorite Track workout?
I was an 800m runner so I like 200s or 300m build ups. I like to spin the wheels then do some drills. 12x200 @ with 30 sec recovery was a my favorite one in college. That's evolved to 8 x 200 with 60 seconds of recovery. It's just enough work to stay sharp.
Favorite post workout fuel?
Depends on the time of day: egg sandwich or cheese burger.
Beer or Coffee after a hard workout?
Depends on the time of day again. More often it's beer. I prefer to exercise at the end of the day.
questions by Jared Calabrese