Throughout the winter, Roger Brown is on the bench giving marching orders and urging on his Decatur Eagles basketball team to run the ball up the floor.
Off the court, Brown is in constant motion himself. The 17-year coaching veteran has completed 10 marathons and a couple of ultra-marathons.
On April 19, the hoops coach will line up among a field of 25,000 runners for the 113th running of the prestigious Boston Marathon.
“I’m excited,” Brown said. “My family is going with me. It should be a fun trip. It’s been a goal for a long time.”
Brown has been a runner most of his life.
“At 7 or 8, my dad signed me up for my first 10K,” he recalls.
His passion and enjoyment for the game of basketball kept him from running more.
“I’ve always been a decent runner, but in high school I liked basketball and didn’t run as much,” Brown said. “I was probably a better runner than basketball player, but I had a passion for basketball. I would rather go to an open gym somewhere than run.”
In his mid-20s after he met his wife, Traci, Brown started running more and soon started taking on longer distances. At 29, he gave himself a deadline to complete his first marathon before reaching the milestone 30th birthday. He entered the 1999 White Rock Marathon.
“I wanted to run my first one in my 20s,” Brown said. “I did good. It was your typical marathon. I ran too fast at the beginning and crept in at 3 (hours and) 57 (minutes). I was just happy to finish that first one.
“From there it took off. I got addicted to it.”
He not only ran road races but also found himself going off road to compete.
“I like running off road as much as the roads,” Brown said.
He’s completed the Pikes Peak Ascents, the 13.3-mile race that climbs more than 7,800 feet up the famous Colorado mountain. He’s also run the 26.2-mile marathon up and down the mountain.
Along with taking on Pikes Peak, he’s finished the 50-mile race at the LBJ Grasslands. He completed the marathon in the mud at Grasslands last month.
“That race was harder than the 50 miler,” Brown said.
As a father of two boys, Dodge and Sammy, and a full-time coach and teacher, Brown has to hit the road early to get his workout in.
“When you’re busy, have kids and a family, you do a lot of training runs at 5 in the morning,” Brown said. “The morning is really the only time I have. Harder than physically running is getting up in the dark to go. But I do it for my family.
“You just have to train yourself to do it. Once you get going, it helps prepare you for the day. It’s a great stress relief during basketball season.”
As he approached 40, Brown set his sights on qualifying for the Boston Marathon. He picked the relatively flat course at Chicago in October to make his bid at running the needed 3:20 Boston qualifying time.
“I knew eventually I’d want to run [Boston],” Brown said. “I never entered a race thinking I’d qualify it until last year. It was time, and I wanted to challenge myself. I picked up a running program to try to qualify.”
Brown completed his training program and flew up to Chicago. He entered the race as a charity runner for the American Cancer Society, running the race in honor of his father-in-law, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer a year ago.
“He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away seven weeks later,” Brown said. “It was very sad, and it happened so quick. He meant a lot to my wife. It made qualifying that much better, running for him.”
Brown easily qualified for Boston, running a 3:18.58.
“I always I knew I’d make it,” Brown said. “I thought I was prepared to do it. I was excited but not surprised.”
Adding to the excitement was having two of his sisters and some cousins with him in Chicago.
As he gets ready for Boston, Brown doesn’t have a particular time in mind for completing the challenging course. He will be in the first wave of the race, starting at 10 a.m. from Hopkinton and running up Heartbreak Hill and into downtown Boston.
“My main thought is that I want to enjoy it,” Brown said. “I’ve worked hard to qualify, and now I want to enjoy the run.”