Physics professor goes extra mile at Boston Marathon

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For 60-year-old physics professor Guy Norton, running is more than the finish line, it’s a way of life.

Norton first ran the marathon in 2012, the year bombs exploded at the finish line. He continued to run in both 2013 and 2014 with times averaging around three and a half hours.

Norton ran in the Boston Marathon, a 26.2-mile race, for the third time this year, finishing with a time of 3 hours 50 minutes with change.

“I thankfully finished before the bombing [that day], but after re-qualifying I just had to continue,” Norton said. “I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me where to go or where not to go. I went back to really show support for Boston and run.”

Norton said he had always wanted to run in the Boston Marathon, as it is considered one of the most elite runs in the world.

“Boston was the place to go,” Norton said. “It is considered one of the elite marathons and I’ve always tried. When I was younger I never could qualify.”

Norton first qualified for the 2012 Boston Marathon after a 30-year break from marathons when he ran in the Chicago Marathon with his son.

“My son came up to me one day,” Norton said. “He said, ‘Dad I want to run in a marathon,’ and I said ‘go ahead,'” Norton said. “Then he said, ‘Dad I want to run with you,’ so we ran. I ended up qualifying for Boston. There was no way I couldn’t go.”

After experiencing several problems with his shoes and knees, Norton still made it to the marathon this year. He said that the rain really took a toll on him, and he wished that he had better prepared.

The training regiment for a marathon is strict and strenuous, Norton said. He began training for the marathon three months in advance, doing various strength training activities and even driving to Mississippi to practice running hills.

“Guy got his Ph.D under me and we go way back,” physics professor Dan Purrington said. “We briefly ran together, and as I’ve gone downhill he has really thrived. He does really intense training.”

Junior Katie Ewing, a student of Norton’s, said she thought Norton’s determination was inspiring. 

“I think it’s great that professor Norton ran the Boston Marathon,” Ewing said. “He’s one of my favorite professors at Tulane because he is very passionate about physics and dedicated to wanting his students to succeed. It takes a lot of dedication to train for a marathon, and the fact that professor Norton did it makes him even more admirable.” 

Rain and wind made it tough to keep going this year. Norton said for a Southerner used to running in the heat, it was a nightmare.

“It was raining, and I managed to stay going for a little over half-way,” Norton said. “I really enjoy running in the heat, and the cold got to me. By the end I was still doing a running motion. I didn’t walk, but it was more like a shuffle.”

Norton missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon for 2016 by 18 seconds. He said he wants to run in a fall marathon to re-qualify, though.

“I was really looking at finishing more around the three-and-a-half hour mark – I thought I was in that shape,” Norton said. “It wasn’t my slowest time, but I’d rather end on a higher note.”

Even though Norton took a 30-year break from running marathons, he said he has never stopped running and really looks forward to the challenge of requalifying for Boston in the coming year.

“Running is what I do,” Norton said.

Senior Staff Reporter Andrew Lemoine contributed to this article.