Norco, California - Navy Lt. Patrick Hearn may do pretty well in Sunday's 42nd Marine Corps Marathon, if home-court advantage works for marathoners. He will be competing against 50,000 other runners and representing a very competitive 10-member U.S. Navy team.
Hearn, who lives in southern California, begins his pre-dawn runs in the hills of Orange County before commuting to the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, where he serves in the Performance Assessment Department as an analyst for the Navy's premiere independent assessment science and engineering command.
The 27-year-old officer is from Maryland and was on the Navy team two years ago, and then won the Baltimore Marathon last year with a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes - the same time he wants to match this weekend, if everything he's been training for falls into place.
"That's my best time," he said of the Baltimore win. He has spent the past few months running about 100 miles each week and following a nutritious diet to keep his 6-foot-3 frame at the 165-pound range that gives him the most strength to complete the hilly 26.2-mile course. His training has him peaking at his fastest time this weekend. He maintains his weight with a 3,000-calorie daily diet, including fruits and vegetables.
"I know I can do a lot better this time than two years ago," Hearn said. In March, he won the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with a time of 2:32 and has since altered his training regime to get even faster.
The wildfires that raged in the southern California hills last week caused him to change his training runs and move his course further west.
"I just need to stay healthy," he said. And he says he's ready. When he ran his best time in Baltimore, Hearn said he worked through a cramp at mile nine and kicked into high gear at the halfway point, and then settling into a comfortable mental and physical zone where he stayed until he hit the tape as winner.
He wants that feeling once more.
Hearn, a native of Sykesville, Maryland, 40 miles north of the nation's capital, knows the marathon course that starts at Arlington National Cemetery and snakes through the Capitol Mall and other districts before ending at the cemetery. Last year's winning time was 2:23.
If Hearn matches his best time, he could place among the top three or four. If he gets an extra boost, he could do even better. He is too modest to say he could win this race. If he doesn't win, there's always next year and the next, he said.
His goal is to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. That would require running a 2:19 race, he said. Marathon runners enjoy a long career and Hearn believes he could be competitive in his 40s.
Sunday's race is Hearn's 14th marathon since he began racing while at the University of Maryland six years ago. He ran cross-country in high school and was part of a racing club at the university. As a devoted runner, Hearn wears out about eight pair of running shoes annually, rotating three pairs of shoes during training.
Sunday's marathon, one of the largest in the nation, doesn't offer prize money. As a member of the Navy team, Hearn gets a free plane ticket, hotel and a running uniform - and bragging rights.
Hearn was commissioned in September 2012, served aboard the frigate USS Robert G. Bradley, and the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln before joining the warfare center command about a month ago.
He applied along with other top Navy runners for the team of six males and four females, coached by James A. Kelty.
"This is a very fast, talented and deep team that will be very competitive for both men's and women's team titles with continued training and taper," he emailed Hearn with his congratulations that Hearn was selected to join the team.
In the days leading up to the marathon, Hearn will be running shorter distances early in the mornings, just enough to keep loose and mentally prepared for the race. He doesn't want to burn out his legs or risk injury.
A colleague at the command, Lt. Phillip Neff, said Hearn's selection as a Navy marathon team member is quite an achievement. "He is selected out of hundreds of applicants to represent the Navy across the country to be a part of a team of the best of the best. It shows that not only can you serve your country but you can also be an elite athlete as well. We are all rooting for Patrick and wishing him the best of luck."
NSWC Corona is headquartered in Norco, California, and is the premiere center that analyzes warfare and missile defense systems and sets measurement and calibration standards for the Navy and Marine Corps. Capt. Rick Braunbeck, NSWC Corona commanding officer, oversees more than 3,200 scientists, engineers, contractors and support staff and annual business of more than $400 million each year.