ESPN NFL analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion Tedy Bruschi was known for his relentless work ethic and intensity during his 13 NFL seasons with the Patriots.
Though he is retired from football, Bruschi continues to channel those qualities into other pursuits. A year ago, he travelled to Tanzania, Africa on an NFL-sponsored climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for Wounded Warrior Project.
On Monday, he and 40 other runners from his foundation, Tedy’s Team, will run the Boston Marathon. Front Row spoke with Bruschi this week about his first marathon and the motivation behind it.
What made you decide to run the Boston Marathon?
After my stroke in 2005, I started an organization called Tedy’s Team in partnership with the American Stroke Association. Our runners who run the Boston Marathon and the Falmouth (Mass.) Road Race would ask me when I was going to run but I was always playing football. My automatic response was ‘I only train for eight-second bursts’ and a marathon was just something I couldn’t even fathom accomplishing. Then I retired and they kept asking when I would do it. Climbing Kilimanjaro last year made me think about things that I could accomplish physically even though I was no longer in the NFL. After I got off that mountain, I told my runners I would attempt to run the Boston Marathon.
How did the Mt. Kili climb change your perspective?
That was something I never thought I would do. It opened my eyes. Running is something I never would have thought about doing while I played football. When I was climbing Kili, I also met former NFL player Chad Lewis. He has an incredible energy. I told him about Tedy’s Team and he wanted to run the marathon, too,in honor of his father, who was a stroke survivor. We’re going to run together.
Who else is running with you and did you train with anyone?
I’m running with my wife, Heidi. We started training in July. I wanted to start slow. When I got to two miles, it was the longest I had run in my life.
With football it was always explosive training – 100-yard sprints, maybe 200, but I never incorporated longer distances. I ran the Falmouth Road Race in August. That’s a little bit over seven miles. After that I did the Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon in October. I actually thought by that time my body would have given out, but it continued to respond as the mileage went up. A couple of weeks ago, we’re running a 21-miler on the Boston Marathon course. Training has gone well. I’ve probably dropped 25 pounds since my playing weight.
Is your wife a runner?
Heidi was a volleyball player at the University of Arizona. She also played softball and won a National Championship there. She’s run Falmouth multiple times. She tried to run Boston a few years ago but an injury stopped her. She’s really working with me and modifying my pace. I had to change the way I ran and my mentality –– that it’s not something to get over with quickly, but something to enjoy and relax. She’s an athlete and very tough minded. We look forward to crossing the finish line together. We’re going to run side-by-side the entire time.
What’s your goal for Monday?
I’m hoping to finish around 4:30ish, but the goal is just to finish because once I cross the finish line, it’s the first marathon I’ve ever done.
What has this experience taught you?
I’ve learned how much of a commitment this is. Tedy’s Team is in its sixth year and we’re surpassing the $2 million mark raised this year. To fundraise and to train, it’s really a commitment, and it was about time that I experienced this. I have a much better appreciation for what my team has gone through now.
What are you looking forward to most?
Finishing the race as a stroke survivor. I continued to play football for four years after I had a stroke. I felt I had a little bit to prove. So many people were looking my way for a small piece of inspiration. So many runners on Tedy’s Team are stroke survivors. They have finished the Boston Marathon and inspired me. Being a part of Tedy’s Team, you have to have a connection to stroke. Many run for someone else who’s had a stroke, and they’re running in their honor. To finish a life achievement like this is to tell stroke, ‘you may have been the toughest thing I have ever gone through in my life, but I’m still standing, and I’m going to finish this race’.
The experience of preparing for this marathon everyday has reminded me of 2005, everything that my wife and I went through, how tough it was to come back. It was so hard, everything I needed to do to come back and play professional football. Now, I’m working just as hard to finish the Boston Marathon.