Wisdom on Running and Life from a Boston Marathon Record Holder

Courte(sy Patty Hung)
Boston Marathon record holder, Patty Hung, said smart training, good nutrition, good shoes and support from loved ones helps in her runs. The 77-year-old runner can be found running along several local trails.

    If you see Patty Hung, Boston Marathon record holder, on the local trails this summer, she won’t be wearing ear plugs, forcing a certain distance, or checking time on her watch. She’ll probably be with her dog running a favorite trail, soaking up nature and letting her body dictate the run distance of the day.
    “It’s my meditation time,” said Hung. “Running brings me joy and is something I can do any time of day and doesn’t require much, just a good pair of shoes.”
    Come February, she starts marathon training, using a three-month program she’s developed over the years.
    At 77, she broke the women’s record in April for most consecutive years of running the Boston Marathon. In 37 years, she’s seen its evolution. When she first ran in 1987, there were approximately 800 women finishers and this year, more than 10,000.
    She’s endured storms, sunshine, the 2013 terrorist attack and the 2020 virtual pandemic version. Hung’s discipline, ability to enjoy the journey and the conviction it’s never too late to learn something new, are traits she applies to both running and everyday life.
    After graduating from Smith College, Hung’s love for mathematics led her to teaching. When her husband’s medical career brought them to California, she taught highschoolers in Fremont and Piedmont.
    In the late ‘70s, Hung was walking around Lake Merritt when runners passed her and she thought, “I can do that.” So she began, in the clothes and shoes she was wearing.
    Through the birth of three boys and a couple of moves, which ended in Orinda, Hung found running provided balance. When she first ran Boston, she was weathering a divorce.
    “Having grown up in a strong family, this experience shattered my hopes,” she said. A Boston native, her first reaction was to move home, but she committed to staying. “The decision to run the Boston Marathon gave me a goal that kept me 
    In 1990, she began teaching at Miramonte High School, connecting her more closely to her sons, their friends and the community. There, she became the assistant track coach and then head coach.
    “My 19 years at Miramonte was a wonderful experience,” she said.
    Her growing interest in running physiology and nutrition inspired a career switch to nursing school at age 63.
    “Nursing, for me, was coming full circle. My mom was a nurse and it felt like something I always wanted to do,” she said.
    Hung recently retired from the medical surgical unit at Oakland Children’s Hospital.
    What’s next? She has her sights on earning a Diabetic Certificate to educate families, combining teaching, exercise and nutrition. She will continue to run Boston, because breaking the record was never the goal; running and reconnecting with family is her inspiration.
    Hung dedicates a mile to a loved one, writing their name on her wristband; this includes her son, Kevin, who passed away in 2017. At Mile 13, she knows she will finish the race: “It’s downhill from there, though technically I still have Heartbreak Hill,” where her family traditionally appears in force, with cheers and hugs.
    What’s her secret to success? “I attribute not having injuries to strong Polish blood!” Smart training, good nutrition and support from loved ones also play an important role. When aspiring runners ask for advice, she’ll say, “Buy good shoes. Build up slowly. Enjoy.”

Amy Moellering can be reached at ajmoellering@gmail.com.

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