On the edge of the Boston University indoor track, Dan Cleary's fist meets mine as he says, “it’s showtime.” Yesterday Dan raced the 800m leg of the distance medley relay. Today he is racing the open 800m and looking to set a new personal record. He stands on the edge of the track, warmed up, waiting to settle into his lane. As the heat before him loops around the track, he shakes out his legs and bounces on his toes with a sheen gloss over his eyes — perhaps visualizing his race.
BANG! Dan is off the line fiercely driving through the hot, dry air of the BU indoor track. All nerves, tension, and rigidity are transformed into a fluid flash. Three laps around the track. 28, 30, 30. Ding, ding, ding. The official yanks the bell three times as Dan accelerates into the fourth and final lap. The lactic acid in his legs sets in. Gritting his teeth, Dan pulls himself through the final stretch, fixing his eyes beyond the finish line.
Dan was not always a runner. In fact, he did not begin running until after college. Growing up, Dan’s dad ran marathons. For many people, if their parents enjoy something, they’re inclined to act in one of two ways regarding that pursuit: follow in their footsteps or do absolutely anything else. For Dan, it was the latter. His dad being a marathoner was more of an aversion to running as opposed to an attraction.
After college, he started working out more seriously and tried his hand at running. He quickly realized he had a talent for it and soon found himself braided into the Boston running scene. Now an integral part of the Heartbreaker team, Dan recently competed in the Heartbreaker DMR at BU's Valentine Classic. The squad composed of Ben Harris (1200m), Sean Edelman (400m), Dan (800m), and Connor Cashin (1600m) clocked in at 10:34 overall. Their splits were 3:16, :54, 2:03 and 4:20 respectively. With his performances in the 800m this season on an earnest quest to break 2:00, he earned himself a spot on the elite Heartbreaker Flyer squad.
Dan sits in the stands with me as he tells stories of his evolution through the Heartbreakers. From showing up to Tuesday morning NRC sessions, blazing last intervals, to chasing major marathons, rising to pace and coach Tuesday sessions himself, mentoring new members, and now, earning his shot at the Flyers. All heart, Dan lives the mantra: Run Hard, Risk Heartbreak.