CLINTON — Being an avid athlete most of his life, Michael Hoover, of Clinton, decided this year he’d take his passion for running to the next level.
Hoover made the decision to fully dedicate himself to the well-disciplined commitment of training to run his first marathon. He considered trying to qualify for the Boston or New York City Marathon, but once the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and quarantine began, there would be a change of plans.
The runner purchased a training book so that he could still stick with his goal — and so his commitment began — running more not only to stay fit and active, but because he really enjoyed what he was doing.
“For Boston, you have to qualify, and I already knew I’m no where near that. So in the spring I decided I was going to try and run a marathon,” Hoover recalled. “I’ve been a runner for several years now — and a marathon is something I always thought of, so I decided to do it. I trained and trained, and I had a couple marathons picked out. But by early summer, and then when it got closer to the fall, I knew it was unlikely to happen” due to the pandemic.
But Hoover didn’t give up hope. Maybe he wouldn’t participate in a qualifying run that was officially timed and recorded, but he could still do something he loved for an organization that was near and dear to his family’s heart — The Alzheimer’s Association.
Both wife Nicole’s grandmothers suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and she has served the organization for the past eight years as a volunteer. So Hoover decided that he would not only accomplish his 26.2 mile goal, but raise money to help battle Alzheimer’s disease at the same time.
“I said I would run a marathon no matter what and thought this could be a good opportunity to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association — it was roughly around the time I wanted to run a marathon anyway,” he said. “Back in March, as the world grinded to a screeching halt, and we contemplated the surreal circumstances that surrounded the birth of our son, I decided I wanted to run a marathon. This was not something without context — back in November 2019, a lifetime ago, I ran a half marathon in Philadelphia surrounded by my best friend and his family, sister, wife and daughter. At the time, I set a vague goal of running a full marathon in 2020, with the dream of one day qualifying for the Boston Marathon. In the wake of the pandemic and birth of our son, I set the goal of running a full fledged marathon without any spectators.”
The runner used an app called Map My Run to determine his virtual course and embarked on the streets of Clinton and New Hartford on Oct. 10. He set a goal to finish in 3.5 hours and he may have been shy of that goal — finishing in a little over 4 hours — but being his first marathon, Hoover said he was humbled by the experience and overwhelming achievement.
“He’s the type of person that once he has a goal in his mind, he does everything in his power to meet that goal and exceed it if possible,” said wife Nicole. “We welcomed our second child in April in the midst of the pandemic and he is a high school Social Studies teacher, so with a toddler, new baby and online teaching — he already had a lot on his plate. But that didn’t stop him.”
After creating his online fund-raising page through the Alzheimer’s Association, Hoover had raised more than $1,500 in just more than a week. By the end of his Oct. 10 run, he doubled that to over $3,500. His fund-raising page can be found here: https://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2020/NY-CentralNewYork?px=8780351&pg=personal&fr_id=13626&fbclid=IwAR3eTgv7jrDj0xSIAuLfsNKtUdrXHcSGtWGsMxFHBcIukrzKrs6riA7FKeA.
As for his actual run, “I finished over four hours — that’s not exactly what I was aiming for, but I never did it before, so it was a good finish. I started from my house in Clinton and ran out to Clinton Street, then sort of went toward the arterial and a development where there’s a bunch of residential streets,” Hoover described of his course. “I ran on Limberlost Road and made a right onto Seneca Turnpike, and then I ran in the back of Applewood Community. Woods Highway then became my half-way point. I turned around and there’s another development — Cherrywood Community — and I ran through that, then to Kirkland Avenue where George’s is. Then I ran back toward Clinton and made a loop within the village.”
Back in 2011, Hoover said he ran his first Utica Boilermaker Roadrace. It was during that experience, he said he was truly bitten by the running bug. He started doing it more and more, participating in more Boilermakers, as well as other major runs and half-marathons. But he admits that preparing to run a full marathon takes quite a bit more dedication.
“For a marathon — to do it, I had to commit to a 16-week plan. So for Boilermaker training, I didn’t quite have to do that,” Hoover laughed. “I sort of run all the time for exercise, so gearing up for a Boilermaker doesn’t take as much time. But for a marathon, on week-day mornings before school, I was sometimes getting up at 4:30 in the morning for a run.”
As for why he loves running, “I really like when you can set a goal and you can follow through with it,” the runner said. “I think doing races is an experience that’s worth-while. I find myself just wanting to keep going to the next level to see how much I can push myself.”
“I don’t consider myself a pro, I think it’s just important to be active,” he continued. “I think finding something you like to do is the most important thing. I found that. I just find that when I do it, it helps me think better. I’ve achieved my goals, and I believe in being the best you can at what you enjoy.”
As far as the pandemic is concerned, running has definitely served as an outlet for Hoover during a time when many events and activities have been cancelled. And because running has also helped him be a stronger person — not only physically, but mentally — he hopes to pass on the passion to his children.
“Running has helped me be a better thinker and person, and I think being active is something that is important,” said Hoover. “I hope that my kids some day will feel the same way.”
And while running 26.2 miles within his community was quite the accomplishment in and of itself, Hoover said he has great pride in knowing he helped an organization fight Alzheimer’s disease.
“My wife has been working for the Alzheimer’s Association as volunteer for several years, and I have seen the disease impact her grandparents,” said Hoover. “So this was just a small thing I could do to support her, and I’m happy to give back to an organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease.”