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April 24, 2024

Staff voice: Running the Boston Marathon with an assist from the Spartan community

Liam Boylan-Pett is a strategic storyteller for University Communications at Michigan State University. He is also a runner: he was the 315th American to run a sub-4:00 mile, competed in the men’s 800-meter and 1,500-meter at the 2012 Olympic Trials and has run five marathons. He ran the 128th Boston Marathon on April 15.

Liam Boylan-Pett on the right smiling next to his brother, Will, at the 24th mile of the Boston Marathon.
Liam Boylan-Pett (right) with his brother, Will, at mile 24 of the Boston Marathon. Courtesy photo

First, I must admit that I did not attend MSU. I have, however, always felt like I was part of the community.

I grew up in Bath, Michigan. It’s a tiny town just north of East Lansing with dirt roads the MSU cross-country teams often train on. My dad worked at MSU for 36 years as an entomologist and as a professor. And even though I went to school in New York City to run track, I always shouted, “Go Green!” when I ran by someone with an MSU shirt in Central Park.

Today, I work at MSU telling stories about the groundbreaking, outstanding and awe-inspiring things happening on campus, from new arts facilities to Spartans advancing the science of sports to student teams winning major awards and titles. It’s pretty cool. I also still run, and it was great to know that when I ran this year’s Boston Marathon, I had some members of the Spartan community rooting for me.

MSU is a great place to run. A lot of faculty and staff members — President Kevin M. Guskiewicz calls himself an avid runner — can be seen jogging around campus or on the River Trail to Lansing. I often jog with professors John Aerni-Flessner (who recently celebrated running his 50,000th lifetime mile), Justin Simard, Joseph Darda, Benjamin Bushong or Honors College staff member Melanie Brender, who was on the women’s cross-country team at MSU in the 2010s. We take advantage of the paths along the river or the trail loop in Baker Woodlot and other campus natural areas

I’m also the self-proclaimed “runner nerd” of the University Communications staff, keeping everyone updated on exciting wins, like when the women’s cross-country team clinched the Big Ten Championship last fall.

While I haven’t bored my colleagues with stories about my training, they were very understanding that I was off on race day, Monday, April 15, and the day after to recover.

I’m not as fast as I used to be, but I was excited to run one of the most famous marathons in the world — and thrilled that I finished in 2 hours, 56 minutes.

About 21 miles into the race, I was struggling in the heat. With most of the hills behind me, however, I was sure I’d finish, even if a little more slowly than I hoped. Up slightly ahead I thought I noticed a white shirt with the word “SPARTANS” on the back. Sure enough, when I ran up next to them, they had an MSU singlet on.

I mustered up the energy to say, “Go Green!”

And, of course, even 21 miles in, my fellow runner shouted back, “Go White!”

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