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Lincoln staffer runs away with honors

MIT has a fair share of joggers and runners, but it seems safe to say that none measures up to James G. Garcia, an MIT graduate working at Lincoln Laboratory.

The 36-year-old Westford resident has just been named 1994 Male Runner of the Year by New England Runner magazine. And little wonder, when one looks at his record.

Mr. Garcia competed in 33 races during the year, including several marathons, and won 11 of them. And while he doesn't claim to be the fastest of runners, the magazine pretty well sums up his formula for success. The editor of the annual issue writes:

"Jim Garcia, you say? Why, there must be dozens of New Englanders who can run faster than Garcia. 32-minute 10K? Nothing special there. 2:25 marathon? Pretty respectable, but not necessarily Runner of the Year material.

"The sum of the parts is often greater than the whole and Garcia's 1994 racing resume is a graphic example of this principle. His 2:25 marathon in Boston was just one of six sub 2:34s, to go along with a 50- and a 100-miler, both of which resulted in first-place finishes. Find someone else in New England who has ever done that. Successful long-distance running is about perseverance, dedication, mental toughness and speed: all qualities that Jim Garcia possesses in abundance."

According to NER, the 5'9" 145-pound Garcia pretty much determines his own rules and strategies. His typical race-day breakfast, for example, is rather unconventional.

"My typical pre-race breakfast is half a can of baked beans with instant mashed potatoes and hot sauce," he told the magazine.

According to the magazine, Mr. Garcia's powers of recovery are extraordinary, allowing him to ignore conventional training wisdom. How can he recover quickly enough from a hard race to be ready for another near-peak performance days later?

"It's a mystery to me," Mr. Garcia says. "It must be the experience of running so many [marathons]. All of the dietary preparation I do leading up to a marathon allows me to come out of the race feeling less drained. My post-race routine also helps.

"I ice everything that hurts and if I run another marathon the following weekend, I wear another style of shoe so I change the wear-pattern on my already-sore feet. Well-cushioned shoes save my quads and allow me to maintain my pace at the end."

Mr. Garcia says three major wins this year probably led to his designation as Runner of the Year.

He won the New England Marathon Championship (as well as three other marathons) and the New England 50-mile championship (for the third straight year), and he became the first New Englander to win the Vermont 100-mile race.

Mr. Garcia, who is married and has two boys, received the SB in mechanical engineering in 1980 and the SM in 1990. At Lincoln, he is a staff member in Group 71, Mechanical Engineering.

He didn't race as an undergraduate; he became interested in running when he failed to shine as a tennis player. When he returned to MIT as a graduate student, with one year of varsity eligibility left, he made Division III All New England in cross-country indoor 5,000m and outdoor 10,000m. Although he didn't "win" any big races, he was ninth at the New England Division III cross-country championship, second in the 5000m indoor meet and third in the 10,000m outdoor race.

Altogether, Jim says, he has run more than 200 races, including about 40 marathons, five 50-milers, a 100k and a 100-miler.

With all this running, it wouldn't seem that he would need much practice. But he manages to do some running at lunchtime, evenings and weekends.

In February in Sacramento, he failed to qualify for the USA national team at 100k but finished a respectable seventh in 7:25:50 (after going through 50 km in 3:15:46), and was selected as an alternate.

We'll add to his laurels by calling him MIT Alumni Runner of the Year.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 5, 1995.

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