Hehir’s mind, body, diet fuel his, Syracuse success ahead of NCAA championship


first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 18, 2014 at 12:30 am Contact Matt: [email protected] | @matt_schneidman Martin Hehir thinks people underestimate how hard it is to be a good runner.Runners don’t need to know how to swing a bat, kick a ball or catch a pass. Cross-country carries its own intricacies and rigors, though, and the senior has them down to a tee.“Every run, every little thing you do in running in terms of nutrition, in terms of how you rest, in terms of how hard you go in practice, it all kind of culminates into how your body feels on race day,” Hehir said. “It all makes a big difference.”Combine a specified diet, an unfaltering mental fortitude and attentive body management, and you have someone equipped with three qualities that define runners.But then top it off with a bubbling personality, a natural leadership instinct and an insatiable desire to never be second, and you have Hehir, a two-time individual conference champion. He’s coming off an Atlantic Coast Conference individual title, a sixth-place overall finish at the Northeast Regionals and will now look to finish among the country’s best at the Nov. 22 NCAA national championships for No. 2 Syracuse.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHaving that point be a realistic goal, though, hasn’t come easily, and certainly isn’t just about “being fast.”“He’s a multi-faceted person that’s really bright,” SU head coach Chris Fox said of Hehir. “He doesn’t over-study, he doesn’t over-train, he doesn’t over-anything. A lot of that is just innate, his personality, he just has a good gift for keeping it all in perspective.”Every morning, Hehir eats granola and Greek yogurt, preferring to start his day off with sources of protein. He likes to keep it simple for lunch, he said, opting for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. For the final meal of the day, he and his housemates — other SU runners — cook ground beef, rice or chicken and are “all about” vegetables.Sometimes, he’ll make his specialty, chocolate chip pancakes. But that’s only when he feels like treating himself.“The sport of running, because it’s so fundamentally physical, it’s all about the kind of shape your body is in,” Hehir said. “It’s less so a skill sport, say like baseball or something. I mean you need to be physically fit but you also need the skills to bat and pitch and swing.“In running, it’s literally all about how well you’ve maintained your body.”Then there’s the mental component.In baseball, there’s no pacing yourself running around the bases. Football players don’t conserve their energy when running downfield. In cross-country, it’s all about strategy and not knowing how to run fast, but when to.“He doesn’t go out and try to dominate practice,” Fox said. “He gets what he needs. He’s just an even-keeled guy and I think they all feed off of that.”But his SU career didn’t start off with him setting the tone for those behind him.He was getting his “butt kicked,” he said, and felt a little bit of doubt after a couple workouts. But just a year after he second-guessed his place in Division I cross-country, Hehir won the 2012 Big East individual title in his redshirt freshman year. That’s when he said he thought he might have a shot to continue a successful career.Fox said doubting yourself is the way a great runner thinks, and that’s exactly how Hehir was wired. But now, when he’s pulling away from the field in the final leg of a race, there’s no reason for doubt.“He never really seems stressed out,” SU assistant coach Adam Smith said. “When Marty looks back and sees five or six Orange jerseys, the pressure’s gone.”The oldest of four kids, Hehir is the reason his siblings, and even his cousins run, his father, Martin, said. Still today, Hehir has a knack for leading, figuratively or literally.He challenges his teammates and holds them to high standards, and that’s not restricted to the course. Each Wednesday, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams sit down on the Manley Field House turf and Fox goes around asking runners for an interesting fact about anything in the world to challenge their creativity.If someone states a fact that seems questionable, Hehir is the first one to argue it, Smith said. That joking personality carries over to the locker room, too, where Hehir said he and the other seniors will “roll in and get rowdy to make sure everyone knows they’re there.”“When I think of Marty, I always think high energy,” fellow senior Max Straneva said. “He’s always one to bust a joke. He doesn’t have to have any nerves or anything. He knows what he can do.”Hehir said keeping everyone smiling is part of his daily job. But it was Hehir smiling ear-to-ear in a post-race interview with ESPN after being crowned the best runner in the ACC.The intense grimace, aggressive pump of his arms and vicious strides as he pulled away from the field aren’t indicative of “the nicest guy on the team” label that Smith gave Hehir, rather a culmination of the craft required to excel in a sport that is much more than what it seems on the surface.“He’s a big part of the reason the culture is what it is here,” Smith said. “He’s just kind of taken that role and just really embraced it.” Commentslast_img

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