A Step Toward The Olympics

Oct. 30, 2009

David Harrington's Results

By David Shefter, USGA

Far Hills, N.J. – Golf is returning to the Olympic Games in 2016, but if all goes well this weekend, one of the USGA’s own could be competing for gold in London in 2012.

David Harrington, a 24-year-old technical support specialist who works in the USGA’s Information Technologies department, will compete in Sunday’s New York City Marathon with the hope of securing a qualifying time for the U.S. Olympic trials.

Naturally, the Hoboken, N.J., resident will run the grueling 26.2-mile race with the full support of the USGA. In fact, he’ll be wearing a USGA-logoed singlet as he makes his way from the start in Staten Island to the finish line in Central Park. His goal is to complete the race in 2 hours, 19 minutes, which would earn him a qualifying time for the Olympic Trials.

Despite an injury to his left tibia, David Harrington plans on going ahead
with plans to run in this weekend's New York City Marathon.
(John Mummert/USGA)

 “I’m looking at it two ways,” said Harrington, whose father has completed three New York City Marathons, albeit not at the same blistering pace. “I would love to nail the 2:24 pace, but I would accept a sub-three-hour marathon because that would get me into [the] Boston [Marathon next spring]. That would still put me in the top 1,000 over 42,000-plus people.

“I definitely see no problem at all making three hours. I can run seven-minute miles in my sleep.”

The USGA’s role in Harrington’s quest came from co-workers who saw him training after work on the country roads near Golf House, the USGA’s headquarters in northern New Jersey. Word quickly spread that Harrington, who completed a half marathon (13.1 miles) two months ago in 95 minutes, was more than just a recreational athlete.

That prompted USGA Chief Business Officer Pete Bevacqua, who has completed two New York City Marathons (3:53.54 and 3:53.55), and Chief Marketing Officer Barry Hyde to make a few phone calls to friends in the sports industry. Their efforts led to Harrington receiving a white singlet with a USGA logo on the left chest. His warm-up outfit will also feature a USGA logo.

“We started talking about the whole marathon experience and when he started telling me his times and what he’d like to accomplish, Barry and I both said that’s pretty neat,” said Bevacqua, who plans to watch Harrington on Sunday with several friends and members of the USGA family. “What a neat story about a USGA staff member working full-time and trying to train like that. We said we would do anything we can to help you out and we’d love for you to put the USGA colors on when you’re running out there.

“We’ve kind of started the David Harrington Fan Club.”

Added Harrington: “Most people just view the USGA as golf. We’re definitely a lot more than that. The people in the organization definitely branch out into other activities.”

Harrington has always been into physical activities. He played lacrosse for eight years, soccer for 10 and wrestled for four. As an eighth-grader, he completed his first triathlon (swim, bike and run) in Mount Olive, N.J. From there, he got heavily into cycling, mountain biking and running.

Next May, he will compete in his first Ironman triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run) in St. George, Utah, with the hope of qualifying for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. In fact, Harrington’s goal is to qualify for the Olympic Trials in both the marathon and triathlon.

Harrington certainly is training like an elite athlete. He works out six days a week – only Fridays are reserved for rest – and recently affiliated himself with a coach and physical therapists to produce better results.

He did suffer two setbacks this year. First, he sustained a foot injury just prior to the half marathon in August, and six weeks ago doctors discovered he had stress fracture in his left tibia. That malady sidelined Harrington for five weeks, but his orthopedic surgeon gave him the OK to run this Sunday.


David Harrington is one of many USGA
employees who has interests outside of golf.
(John Mummert/USGA)
 “I have a great orthopedic surgeon,” said Harrington. “I’ve got physical therapists who have helped me beyond belief. I have a coach now. It’s a matter of getting through my first races and next year I’m going to start fine-tuning everything. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

On Sunday, Harrington will don bib No. 2117 and start at 9:40 a.m. among the wave of sub-elite runners just behind the professionals. The race also will serve as the USA Championship, so a strong group of Americans are in the field.

Harrington knows his adrenaline will be pumping, but he also has been told by his father and other experienced marathon runners that at some point he’ll hit a wall. It could come around the 15- or 16-mile mark or more likely 20 miles into the race.

“People can go out and run a half marathon and people can go out and run a 10K but 26.2 miles is a race like no other,” said Harrington, whose future schedule includes the Miami Marathon Jan. 31 and hopefully the Boston Marathon next April. “The big part of competing in marathons and triathlons is the mental game. Obviously you have to be in good physical shape. But a good majority is arguing with yourself, whether it’s mile by mile or every three miles. You feel burning in your legs. You feel weak. Your body just throws all these angles at you. A big part is winning the battle with yourself.”

Harrington, however, is deeply focused and dedicated. Even during his summer travels for USGA business, he found time to train. Sometimes those runs came after 12-hour days at a championship site.

“This is what I like to do,” he said. “I am just going to go out there and give it my all. I wouldn’t be human if I said there’s a little bit of doubt that I won’t be able to achieve [the qualifying time]. But there’s a big part of me that says I will be able to achieve it. I have a lot of people behind me.”

David Shefter is a USGA Digital Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at dshefter@usga.org.

Note: For those who cannot attend in person, the race can be seen live in the New York area on channel 4 (WNBC) beginning at 9 a.m. EST. The station will air five hours of live coverage.

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