Q&A: Fred Corpuz, Marathon Man


Fred Corpuz runs about 2,500 miles a year, or the distance between here and Los Angeles, Calif. And at 64 years old, he shows no signs of slowing down.

Corpuz, an Ohio native who now calls Hilton Head home, will lace up his sneakers for yet another challenge this month during the 10th annual Hilton Head Half Marathon, 10K and 5K race on Feb. 11.

Last year, Corpuz placed first in his age group with a time of 1 hour, 43 minutes. Corpuz hopes for a repeat, although this race is just one of many he’s competed in over the past 30 years. He has run 20 full marathons, with a personal best of 2 hours, 40 minutes. He’s also competed in “15 or 20” half marathons.

We recently chatted with Corpuz between runs to see what keeps him going and what advice he might have for those of us who are less acquainted with crossing the finish line.


Q: How long have you been running, and what got you started?


A: I ran in high school and college, but quit for about 10 years and then started up again when I was 32 or 33, and I’ve been running ever since. A guy I used to work with in Cleveland, Ohio, asked if I wanted to run in a race there, and I said, “Why Not?” I trained a little and ended up placing 250th overall out of about 5,000 runners. That’s when I got the bug again and started training and doing races on a regular basis.


Q: What makes you get up in the morning and lace up your sneakers?


A: You don’t feel like running every day, but I’m very competitive and I feel like if I don’t get up, the competition is out there. And if I want to beat them, then I had better get up.


Q: What advice would you give to someone who has never run before but is interested in getting started?


A: Running isn’t for everyone, but I would encourage everyone to pick out some sort of exercise that they like — riding a bike, swimming or walking — and do it three, four, five times a week. But let’s just assume that you want to run. You’ll need to make sure you’re in pretty good health, so check with your doctor. Start training by walking and then incorporate jogging. Start out slow, and set a goal. You never get in your car if you don’t know where you’re going. You have to ask yourself, “What is my goal?” Your goal could simply be to finish a race or to run two miles so that you can eat whatever you like.

Q: On race day, what do you eat?


A: The night before a race, I’ll have some sort of pasta dinner, spaghetti or rigatoni, but I stay away from the wine. On the day of the race, I don’t eat anything. I have found that I like to run on an empty stomach.


Q: Favorite place to run?


A: Worldwide, I really enjoyed running in China and in Beijing. It’s really something to see a place like Tiananmen Square at 7 in the morning. On Hilton Head Island, I run from my house to the ocean, and I get to see the sun rise every day.


Q: What kind of training are you doing for this upcoming race?


A: I run, on average, 50 miles a week. I run seven days a week. I run two long runs a week, 12 or 14 miles, and one run done at a quick pace, the pace that you expect to run in the next race. And then there’s some junk miles, like six, seven or eight miles that are done without any real purpose, only to loosen up your muscles.

People say that a marathon doesn’t start until mile 20. You go from burning carbs to burning fat. At that point, that’s when some people “hit the wall.” It’s all about preparing your body and not going out too fast. You have to have a clear understanding of your body and your capabilities. I used to run a 5- or 6-minute mile. I can still do one, but I can’t do a bunch of them. I end up winning a lot of races in my age group, not because I’m the fastest but because I’ve learned to tailor my speed to what I’m capable of doing.


Photo by Rob Kaufman