Marine Corps Marathon: a 19-year-old’s comeback race

Monique Hamm | Contributor

While most college students spend four years trying to discover their passions, 19-year-old University of Virginia sophomore Axel Tarnvik has found his — and he’s bringing it to the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 28.

With miles and miles of trails and pavement already under his belt, Tarnvik has fought through an injury that forced him off the track for a year. But he’s healed now, and ready to run.

The marathon will be Tarnvik’s first competition since suffering a stress fracture his freshman year in college. And it’s his first marathon — ever.

“I signed up to push myself,” he told The Daily Caller. But now, “it’s more to see if I can do it.”

After his doctors cleared him to run, Tarnvik has hit the pavement at least twice a week since late June, with one distance run every weekend. As the big day approaches, he now tries to run “a couple miles every other day.”

Aside from training hard and eating light, Tarnvik keeps his pre-race preparations minimal. “I don’t need any luck charms.” He said.

“Before [each race] you run through the race and visualize what you’re doing.” It’s important to maintain focus, he said, even though “it’s tempting to drift off and not think about how tired you are.”

The one pre-race ritual Tarnvik turns to for motivation is a 2010 Nike commercial — which he will watch again before the 37th Marine Corps Marathon.

“No matter what the stats may say, and the experts may think, and the commentators may have predicted, when the race is on all bets are off,” the ad’s voiceover says.

The marathon is a 26.2-mile course stretching from Crystal City and Rosslyn, Va. to the Georgetown and downtown sections of Washington, D.C. It is the fifth-largest marathon in America in terms of participation numbers, and it’s known as a good race for first-time marathoners.

Tarnvik said he enjoys running because “you get what you put out. … If you train hard you’ll usually get results. Once you get results you usually feel good about yourself.”

As a freshman in high school the tall, blond teen signed up for track and cross-country to improve his soccer skills. Eventually, he took first place in the Ringing in Hope 5k in Broadlands, Va.

“He had a very good work ethic and was a good example for other runners,” said Eric Callender, the track coach at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Va. “That’s why we made him captain of both track and cross-country teams his senior year.”

“He kept me engaged in running,” former track teammate and current roommate Dylan Hyatt told TheDC. “Any time I needed a running buddy he’d be there to help.”

Both young men are now computer science majors at the University of Virginia, and Hyatt still runs alongside his old high school friend — but not always for the entire 15-mile run Tarnvik often has in mind.

Despite his busy schedule, Tarnvik tries to squeeze in as much running time as possible along the roads surrounding picturesque Charlottesville, Va.

“I know he’d rather run every day than have to skip a day,” Hyatt said.

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