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Contact: William Sodoma
Date: November 23, 2010
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. --- With 23,000 runners behind him and an empty road in front, Colby College graduate Dan Vassallo '07 allowed himself to be emotional as he ran toward the tape as the winner of the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday.
Vassallo, a former winner of the Maine Marathon, won the biggest race of his budding running career. He had a time of 2 hours, 21 minutes, 28 seconds in a field that included runners in the marathon and half marathon. Vassallo wore his Colby sweatshirt during the awards presentation with Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter.
The emotion built up after Vassallo had sports hernia surgery on July 8. He spent time recovering from the operation and had planned to run the half marathon (he was second in 2008 and fourth last year) for a third straight year. However, his recovery went quicker than anticipated and Vassallo found himself in the marathon.
With the well-known music from the movie "Chariots of Fire" playing and his name being called out over the loudspeaker in the last mile, Vassallo was able to enjoy and be emotional about the biggest win of his career.
"There were runners on the other side of the boulevard who were at the 14 or 15 mile mark who were cheering me on the last mile or so," Vassallo said. "It was crazy and emotional, especially with everything I've gone through since the summer."
Vassallo's girlfriend, Katrina Gravel '10, was in attendance and lending her support. Gravel, an All-American cross country runner at Colby a year ago, just won the Maine Coast Half Marathon for women two weeks ago. Chris Appel '08 and Tim Worthington '08, two good friends and former cross country teammates at Colby, also were with Vassallo. Appel ran in the half marathon and they stayed at Worthington's apartment in Philadelphia.
Vassallo went a long way in 10 months after competing in the Houston Marathon in January to becoming a champion in Philadelphia.
"The last time in Houston was real bad," said Vassallo, a native of Wilmington, Mass. "I executed poorly, ran injured, and finished real slow."
Vassallo worked with doctors to figure out his injury problem, with some looking at it as a hip problem. His chiropractor was the first one to come up with the idea that the issue might be a sports hernia.
While recovering for the marathon and battling his injury, Vassallo recouped valuable rest time over the months to his July surgery. The frustration of not knowing the problem with his body was more frustrating than not running as much.
"I was able to run eight days after the surgery, but I felt in many ways that I was back to square one," Vassallo said. "I was running as slow as I was as a 17-year-old. It was a humbling time for me in the summer."
The rest because of the injury and then solid training quickly put Vassallo into peak form. He entered the half marathon in Philadelphia, but decided to make the change to the marathon 23 days before the event.
"I executed the race much better this time. I fueled myself and paced myself much better," Vassallo said. "A kid from Albany went out very aggressively and I thought he might come back to the field. We caught him around mile 10 and he stayed with me until mile 15 and then started falling back. That's when I knew I had a chance to win."
The Philadelphia Marathon champion will race with some Colby friends in the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington on May 29. Many of his old teammates, friends, and coaches reached out with congratulation emails after the big win.
"He was absolutely one of the hardest workers and most entertaining people I've ever known," said Colby cross country/track and field head coach Jared Beers. "I know he's earned this success and it's great to see it paying off."