Marathon man


Photo by Addison Geary

“I wanna be Mr. Marathoner,” Nathaniel Glasser (C’01) proclaimed, a smile spreading across his face. “Or at least fast enough to turn in good times.”

The Rockford, Ill., native seems to “collect marathons” like other people collect baseball cards or coins. Having already run in the Philadelphia and New York City marathons, he is running in the April 17 Boston Marathon — his “biggest dream.”

Oh, and he wants to run the Chicago marathon when he gets around to it, too.

Surprisingly, Glasser almost ended his marathon career before it began. After running a 10K (6.2 mile) race in 6th grade, he caught the running bug, and participated in cross country and track in high school. But once at Penn, things changed.

“I figured I was kind of slow for college running,” he admitted. “I told myself my competitive running days were over.”

But after freshman year, he resurrected his running aspirations by deciding to try what he called “really long-distance running.” In the summer of 1998, he gave the Philadelphia Marathon a shot.

“I was sick and dizzy by the end, and I had to get taken out on a stretcher,” he laughed. “But I was hooked on the glamorous world of marathon running.”

That world costs Glasser a lot of hard work and sacrifice. His training regimen — squeezed in between his tutoring for the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project, English Undergraduate Advisory Board Meetings, and other things like classes and homework — includes running for an hour and a half to two hours every day, for a total of 40 to 60 miles per week, no pain, no gain. And he laments having to train in Philadelphia.

“Philadelphia is just not a runner’s city, except for Fairmount Park,” he explained. “And one time I ran right through a drug deal in North Philly. They just kind of parted for me. But it isn’t always bad; sometimes I’ll be running along and little kids will start running and trying to beat me. They’re funny.”

Glasser’s father is also a marathoner, who has participated in the New York City and the Boston marathons. So running runs in the younger Glasser’s blood. Like his father, last fall Glasser got to toe the line at the New York City Marathon.

“There were 30,000 runners and fans all along the course,” Glasser said. “But eight of my friends were supposed to give me food and water along the course, and they didn’t show up until mile 23.” With a marathon being 26.2 miles, Glasser made it a long way without them. He was thrilled to finish merely a little dizzy in three hours, nine minutes and 41 seconds, qualifying for the Boston Marathon by a mere 19 seconds.

“My dad said he was going to run Boston in 2001,” Glasser said. “So I had to run it in 2000.”

The Boston Marathon’s overall winner gets a car and $50,000, but Glasser does nor run for the prizes. “Every finisher gets a medal, and my dad has already given me some of his medals.” Glasser would love to run it under three hours, but said he will be happy just to be there.

And as for the future, Glasser sees himself as a lawyer who “runs in a few ultra marathons.” (Ultra marathons are 50 to 100 miles each, run over the span of up to two days.) “They give out really good food there: M & M’s and pop.”

Originally published on April 6, 2000