Feb. 3, 2012
Chestnut Hill - On an ordinary day, in just another meet in the run up to the Olympic Trials in June, Boston College men's assistant track coach Tim Ritchie ended up running the race of his life.
"The meet was supposed to essentially just be a workout," he said. "Instead, it turned out to be a pretty good one. The race just kind of snuck up on me, and I went with it."
At the Boston University Invitational on Jan. 28, the former BC track star ran a sub-four minute mile, breaking one of the most well-known barriers in his sport with a time of 3:58.49.
Ritchie, though he admits he never saw it coming, was thrilled to be able to accomplish such a prestigious feat.
"It's something that I can share with people outside of the track community, like the athletics department here and my friends from home who may not know the ins-and-outs of track and field but can appreciate something like that," he said.
Lowering his personal record in the mile by seven seconds - his 4:05.47 still stands as the sixth best time in Boston College history - was special for Ritchie even though it was only good for second place. Providence College senior David McCarthy edged him out with a time of 3:55.75, setting a New England Collegiate record and just missing the overall collegiate record.
"It was exciting to see him almost break the collegiate record and be a part of that same race," Ritchie said of McCarthy, whom he has known for quite some time.
Even though he was running for the Boston Athletic Association at the invitational, which was a mix of collegiate and post-collegiate athletes, Ritchie's focus was on his BC runners and recruits. After junior James Glover and seniors Akash Chougule and Jack Shannon set personal bests in the 5K the morning of his race, Ritchie knew it was going to be a good day.
"It was very motivating and inspiring to see those guys just put themselves in it and all run personal bests and compete really well," Ritchie said. "They got the ball rolling, and everybody else on the team, myself included, were kind of just going with the flow."
Ritchie has always had a team first mentality. The 2009 graduate, who completed his Master of Arts in Theology at BC in 2010, captained the cross country team in 2007-08 and has been involved in the cross country and track programs for seven years now.
"It's kind of crazy to think I've been coming to this campus everyday for seven years, but it's definitely a big blessing for sure," he said.
Just like his sub-four minute mile, Ritchie's continued involvement in track and field at the university he loves was never guaranteed.
"This whole running journey has kind of been unfolding day by day," he explained. "When I was in high school, I never thought I would run in college. When I became a freshman here, I never thought I'd make the top seven on the cross country team, and then, when I was a senior, I never thought I'd be qualifying for nationals. It's all kind of been a mystery that I've been diving into step by step."
After graduating with his master's degree, Ritchie knew he wanted to continue that journey. When a coaching position became available, head coach Matt Kerr decided to bring him on. While Ritchie says it was interesting coaching athletes who knew him from his days as a student-athlete at first, he says they can take him seriously and can also joke around with him.
Being around Kerr, whom Ritchie says helped him break the four-minute barrier, is helping him pursue another dream: running in the Olympics. Despite his recent success in the mile, his goal is to run the 10K, and his training has consisted of doing "pretty much the opposite of the things most milers will do," such as putting in long runs instead of speed work, which makes his 3:58.49 time all the more impressive.
And, even though he's enjoying his accomplishment, Ritchie knows there's still a lot of work to be done to be ready for the trials, where he'll need to run the race of his life again.
"I'm excited about it, Ritchie said. "I just got to stay patient and healthy. I don't want this mile consume me and I want to get back to the training and the basics for awhile here so I don't get too far ahead of myself."
Written by Jen Dobias