Meet Jean Paul and Devin Vaudreuil, a father and son duo participating in this year’s 7 Bridges Marathon on October 18th. Although they’ll be running in different age groups, they’ve trained together, motivated each other, and will celebrate together at the finish line (if all goes according to plan).
Jean Paul, 53, has two goals for this race. First, he hopes to finish under 3:50. Second, he hopes to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2017, the same day he turns 55. Devin’s goal is to complete his first marathon at age 17, the same age his father was when he completed his first marathon.
The Vaudreuils are like many runners, using races to help themselves stay motivated throughout the summer months. Training during the summer doesn’t come without its challenges, of course, and one of the bigger ones is the sheer amount of heat and humidity in the area; it’s hard to gauge fitness level and degree of preparation with the temperature difference between summer and fall in the Southeast. However, Jean Paul has learned that putting in miles through the summer leads to bigger payoffs when the weather cools.
One challenge for Devin, in particular, is finding time to run due to his work schedule, which is much less flexible than Jean Paul’s English teaching position at UTC. Because their schedules differ some, Jean Paul and Devin have taken a formal running plan and modified it to fit their schedule with some built-in flexibility.
It would be a vast understatement to say that Jean Paul is a passionately committed runner. In fact, he will be one of only 20 runners who has run the 7 Bridges Marathon all five years of its existence. “They’re calling us legacy runners,” he says. Part of that legacy is passing on a love of the sport to others, and another is recognizing the improvements made throughout the years. Jean Paul has seen the change from start to finish. “It’s in a better location now and better organized,” he said, thinking it through.
Jean Paul originally chose the 7 Bridges Marathon because it was a “hometown race”. He comes back each year because he loves the course. The Riverwalk is one of his favorite parts of the route because it is near his job at UTC. He has run more prominent races including the Kentucky Derby Marathon and the Disney Marathon, but Jean Paul says that the 7 Bridges Marathon compares favorably with both of these races and more.
Devin was obviously influenced strongly through his father and through his involvement in cross-country at school. “I grew up in a running family where there was always a race or marathon going on,” Devin explained. And although his family was maybe the biggest factor in introducing Devin to the sport, many of his peers run as well. In the fall, Devin runs cross country for Collegedale Academy. Races help him stay motivated and give him something to look forward to, but he says he would still run even if he wasn’t committed to a team.
With several half marathons behind him, Devin is confident that he is prepared for the full 26.2 miles. Two of his friends are also running a marathon for the first time, so he will be able to share the experience with not only his father but his closest peers. In addition to training, Devin’s been paying close attention to his nutrition. He’s lucky to have a father who has the experience of 20 marathons, many half marathons, and triathlons including the Inaugural Chattanooga IRONMAN. His mother is also a passionate runner. Even having been born into a running family, nothing can replace the experience that this race will provide for Devin.
The directors of the 7 Bridges race, Ken Radley and Jay Nevans, know well that people always remember their first race. “Being entrusted with that experience is something we take seriously,” Nevans says. The course will be very “forgiving” with many aid stations and everything clearly marked on race day.
Whatever happens for the Vaudreuils at this year’s 7 Bridges Marathon, it’s sure to be a formative (and memorable) experience for both of them.