Ron Prabucki has a unique training program for the Boston Marathon, which will be held on Monday morning. He runs 94-foot sprints inside throughout the winter.
That’s another way of saying Prabucki spends the cold-weather months as a girls basketball referee. It’s one of the reasons why Prabucki will be able to join a few dozen other Western New Yorkers to take part in the annual event, which will stage its 117th running.
Officiating is a great way to stay in condition during those months when the weather just doesn’t cooperate with training, and not just because he can whistle while he works out.
“I like doing basketball,” Prabucki said. “I hate running outside in the winter, but I know it’s a necessary evil. … I used to do treadmill running, but got away from it a bit. I got a regimented training program from [University at Buffalo coach] Vicki Mitchell. There are several of us training for different paces. She’s tailoring it to our strengths.”
It took several years for the combination of marathons and officiating to come together for Prabucki. He ran some 26.2-mile races about 20 years ago but got sidetracked. Still, he found he needed an outlet for physical recreation.
“I was always active,” said the 51-year-old. “My kids played soccer, so I thought I’d give officiating soccer a try. Then I thought that since I liked basketball, I’d learn the rules and work those games. I got into baseball after that. I love baseball, but it wasn’t for me, I was too still. Then I started doing women’s lacrosse on the high school and college level. I like to keep moving.”
Officiating and running are such a natural combination, then, that it’s surprising more refs aren’t long-distance runners.
“In the basketball ranks, a lot of them are doing the 5Ks and 10K and Turkey Trots,” Prabucki said. “I don’t know how many have gone to Boston.”
If that weren’t enough exercise, Prabucki works as a plant engineer with Harrison Radiator. It’s his 25th year there, and he doesn’t stay in one place for long while on the job.
“I get a chance to walk around the plant,” he said. “When there’s new equipment, I get to do the grunge work, working with compressed air, sewers and pipes. It’s not really glamorous, but it keeps me moving. I’ll walk around the plant all day.”
Besides his training regimen, Prabucki has another advantage when it comes to running – genetics. His cousin Bernie is one of the area’s best all-time runners. Bernie won the 1983 Skylon Marathon in 2 hours, 21 minutes and 29 seconds, and is a Hall of Famer at Fredonia State.
Ron hasn’t been doing times like that lately, but just qualifying for Boston is an accomplishment. He first did it in 2007 by running a marathon under 3:30. Prabucki has run Boston four times, and last year he couldn’t conquer the record heat in order to requalify for this year.
“I ran a marathon three weeks after Boston in Mississauga (Ont.),” he said. “I ran 3:26 and change, so I requalified. The forecast [for Boston] looks pretty good this year.”
Some runners are bashful about stating their goals for a marathon, since the race is so unpredictable. Prabucki is not in that club.
“I’m hoping to do well, given the way my training cycle has gone,” he said. “At the Buffalo State 5K last week I did a 19:14. If that translates I can do a sub-3:25. I think I can qualify if it’s a normal day.
“That’s the thing about a marathon. I may blow up and do slower than 3:30 or have a great day. … My second Boston, I did a 3:19. I couldn’t believe the time.”
Prabucki has done a variety of other marathons, including ones in New York, Miami, Orlando and Disney. But Boston keeps drawing him back.
“The whole weekend, you feel like you are a rock star,” he said. “Everyone is so welcoming. After the race, you walk down Boylston Street, and everyone wants to buy you a beer. A few years ago, my cousin and I walked into a pizza joint with our medals, and the volunteers were thanking us for coming. We should have been thanking them for their work.”
• Canisius College Shoes for the Shelter 5K (News Runner of the Year race), Koessler Athletic Center in Buffalo, 10 a.m. today, 888-2977.
• UB Run for Smiles, 5K, UB’s South Campus, 10 a.m. Saturday, 440-0365.
• Envirun 5K, Goat Island at Niagara Falls, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 858-7897.
• Earth Day Green Buffalo Run, 4.22 miles, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 12 noon Saturday, 258-0126.
• Take-Off for Learning 5K, Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown, 9 a.m. on April 21, 969-8520.