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Faculty Spotlight: George Valco

From left: Nadine and George Valco at the 2015 Boston MarathonThe finish line for the Boston Marathon has become a symbol of resilience to millions since the bombings of 2013 killed three people and left 264 others injured.

The Ohio State University Electrical and Computer Engineering professor George Valco knows the line well. He ran his first Boston Marathon 10 years ago. Valco returned again this year with his wife, Nadine, who was running the Boston Marathon for the first time.

Some professors may spend their free time playing music or traveling. For Valco, running has become a part of his routine for the better part of 30 years. Running is how he met his wife. He runs with friends.

“It is hard to say why I like running. I just do. I run mostly because it is a form of physical exercise that I enjoy and that Nadine and I can do together,” Valco said. “I started running when I was in graduate school. A colleague and I started running one or two miles at lunch time each weekday in the summer. I think that was in 1982.”

In an April 19 interview Valco told NPR he is able to view changes at the Boston Marathon with the persective of time. Security and public support have grown equally over the past decade.

“Ten years ago, I think there were lots of entrances. You just walked in. There was no security screening," he said.

Valco said many of these same sorts of security measures were put in place at other marathons after the Boston bombings.

“Law enforcement with dogs were frequently seen. Runners had to show their race bib at more critical points. While walking from the finish to the gear check, I observed that spectators had to pass through security checkpoints to be able to stand along the race course," he said.

Through it all, he said, the Marathon has remained a “big deal” in Boston for a long time, but he has watched the race become a bigger deal over the years.

“It seemed to be even more so now. ‘Boston Strong’ and other similar phrases (were) displayed all over the place. Flowerpots with yellow daffodils and blue foil wrap, with 'Boston Strong' labeling were displayed inside and outside storefronts and businesses up and down Boylston and the surrounding streets. Locals offered encouragement before and congratulations afterward while we were riding the T (subways in Boston), walking to and from the stations, in restaurants or stores," Valco said.

The people of Boston are more involved than ever before, he said. Back in 2005 when he ran the race, he said, there was not as much public interaction.

Word about Valco's passion for long distance running follow the professor around. In the winter of 1985, still in graduate school, Valco said he first heard about the Cincinnati Heart Mini-marathon 15 Km race. He signed up for it - then he signed up for another smaller race before it, just to practice. He’s been hooked ever since.

“In recent years Nadine and I have done two or three relatively local marathons per year; usually the Columbus Marathon, Pittsburgh Marathon or Akron Marathon,” he said. “We did the New York City Marathon in 2006.”

Despite the growing security, Valco still views the Boston Marathon as the benchmark of his year.

“I usually have the goal of running a Boston qualifying time, even if we are not planning to go to Boston the following year,” Valco said. “I don’t always get it, but I think I have gotten a BQ in at least one marathon in the qualifying window for each of the last 11 editions of the Boston Marathon.”

 

 

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