Boston Medical Center marathon runners balance training, fundraising with busy schedules – Boston University News Service


By Rusty Gorelick
Boston University Press Service

Dr. Alan Malabanan, an endocrinologist at Boston Medical Center, considers himself a latecomer when it comes to running. This year’s Boston Marathon will be its third overall, having run its first in 2019, via the Chicago Marathon (once virtually and once in person), chosen as the entry point for its flat course elevation .

Malabanan is also one of 86 runners to raise money for BMC ahead of the Boston Marathon, according to Team BMC’s GivenGain fundraising page. Team BMC is one of 43 charities represented in this year’s marathon.

“I’m part of this BMC family,” Malabanan said. “The hospital will send that money where it needs to go.”

“There are always limited resources, so they have to go where there is a need.”

The BMC team runs a marathon training program coached by John Furey, who has 3 ½ decades of coaching experience in the sport. Malabanan joins Furey’s long runs on weekends when his schedule allows. He says having a trainer to assess him and help him with any problems has made training easier. Team BMC has even partnered with Joint Ventures Physical Therapy to take care of their riders.

“It was the difference between night and day between my virtual marathon and the Chicago Marathon compared to how I feel now,” Malabanan said. “I feel like I’m stronger in a lot of ways and I feel a bit more resilient because of their training and help.”

Another motivator to start running, Malabanan added, is her family history of health issues.

“My father developed diabetes when he was 40 and each of his siblings was also diabetic,” Malabanan said. “So, I kept thinking, ‘I’m heading in this direction.'”

Malabanan primarily focuses on bone density in patients with osteoporosis, but it also supports patients with diabetes.

“I certainly want to try to prevent [diabetes] by myself, and maybe serve as an example to my patients that you can manage things with regular exercise and improved diet,” Malabanan said.

Another BMC team rider whose schedule didn’t allow for group training is William Pellegrini, a first-year otolaryngology – ear, nose and throat surgery resident. He earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from BU in 2016 and 2021, respectively.

His typical day involves helping patients through the surgical process, including assisting surgeons in the operating room. As a first-year resident, he turns to other surgical departments, which can strain his schedule.

“The stars are kind of aligned,” Pellegrini said. “I happen to have this weekend off. I just felt like it was going to work out and I really needed something in my life to motivate me outside of medicine, which can kinda consume you. I just blindly decided to go for it.

Due to a schedule that sometimes sees him working 21 days straight and staying on call outside the office, Pellegrini runs solo, usually on the treadmill. If his pager beeps, he needs to be at the BMC within 30 minutes for surgery.

“It was tough,” Pellegrini said. “I’m not going to say I’ve had a really consistent training schedule just because my own schedule is so variable.”

In 2013, while a sophomore at BU, Pellegrini had to evacuate the MBTA Green Line on his way to the finish line on Marathon Monday when the bombings happened. The runners were evacuated to Copley Square, a short distance from the finish line where the shelling took place.

“We were all forced off the train to street level and everyone was panicking. It was crazy,” Pellegrini said. “Having had that experience, I always wanted to come back and direct it myself.”

Pellegrini had to spend time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. He stayed an extra year at BU School of Medicine to decide what he wanted to do in medicine. He became frustrated with his situation when the state required his classmates from his initial graduating year to graduate early and help hospitals, but channeled that energy into running and research.

For Pellegrini, seeing the hospital’s impact on people made fundraising for BMC an easy choice. The hype surrounding the marathon made a big impression on him as an undergrad.

“I always wanted to race because I thought it was one of the most amazing things to do,” Pellegrini said. “Everyone is so excited and there’s this air of ‘people can do anything’ that day.”


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