Boston-Area Companies Showcased at CES 2015

WiTricity phone charging station.
WiTricity phone charging station. (Photo via WiTricity)

By Shannon Nargi
BU News Service

Las Vegas — Sunday marked the beginning of a week-long preview of the biggest and most innovative gadgets and trends that will dominate the 2015 consumer tech industry. While International CES annually takes place out West, that doesn’t mean East Coasters aren’t well represented at the show, especially companies that got their start in Boston.

More than  50 companies who call the Hub home will be showcasing their products throughout this week, and we’ve highlighted five that are poised to steal the show. Here’s a closer look of what you can expect out of Boston at CES 15.


A featured exhibitor this year, WiTricity is focusing on wireless charging. The company is giving a behind-the-scenes look at the commercial future of its technology by demoing a Rezence-ready wireless charging hotspot where attendees can power up their devices, Rezence-enabled consumer and automotive demonstrations, and a glimpse at the “Home of the Future.” The Watertown-based company is the only one from Massachusetts to be chosen as a featured exhibitor, and could dominate wireless talk at the convention.


LoopPay debuted in Las Vegas at CES Unveiled on Sunday
LoopPay debuted in Las Vegas at CES Unveiled on Sunday. (Shannon Nargi/BU News Service)

While Apple Pay may have stolen the show this year as the mobile wallet go-to, LoopPay is poised to be a strong competitor. Aiming to replace all your physical credit and debit cards with easy mobile payments stored on your phone, LoopPay is currently accepted at more than 10,000 locations across the US. And unlike Apple Pay, the system is compatible with older iPhone models as well as some Android devices and is offered in the form of a phone case, FOB key chain and LoopPay Card. The company is based out of Burlington, Mass.

Empire Robotics

Empire Robotics, Inc, which got its start at Cornell before moving to Boston in 2013, is a robotics company that specializes in “flexible robotic end-effectors that leverage the jamming phase transition of granular materials.” In plain English, visualize a robotic arm with a squishy grip attached to the end that molds to the shape of an object making it easy to pick it up. The team of self-dubbed “soft robotics experts,” materials scientists and automation engineers from Empire have come to CES to show off what their technology can do for the field; and they’re doing it in the most fun way possible. Empire has brought along a robot that will challenge CES attendees to a game of beer pong, which will show the ability of the ‘bot to grasp the ping pong balls and launch them towards their target.


The 3D printing design and manufacturing company out of Somerville will focus on its Form 1+ printer here at CES. The printer is an all-inclusive, easy-to-use 3D printer that anyone can buy (for a cool $3,299, that is). Using new materials such as Castable, a liquid resin that allows for little friction and more precise printing of pieces, Formlabs and its devices will be in the mix of trendy 3D printing companies at the show.


Following the huge trend of 2014 and leading into 2015, ecovent is focused on smart homes. By adding sleek, unassuming vents around your home, the company helps you manually spot heat and cool those individual areas by controlling the temperatures via your smart phone. By adding an ecovent to places where there isn’t an existing vent built into your home, you can pinpoint specific areas that need more temperature control than others, like a nursery, for example. The devices can also help save money by eliminating the need to heat empty spaces, like a college student’s empty room while they’re away at school.

For a full list of Massachusetts exhibitors, head here.

Chefs and Fish Distributors Use More ‘Trash Fish’ for Sustainability

Justine Hofherr
BU News Service

The scent of freshly caught fish floods the entrance of Red’s Best, a wholesale seafood distributor on Boston’s fish pier, as owner Jared Auerbach pushes open a metal door leading to the packaging room.

“Slap!” “Slap!” “Slap!”

A man in a waterproof orange slicker suit grabs gleaming freshly processed cod from a white container lined with ice and heaves the fish on and off an industrial scale, weighing them for market.

Workers at Red's Best process fish.
Workers at Red’s Best process fish.

Auerbach, 33, with bright blue eyes and thick brown hair pushed into a Boston Red Sox hat, surveys the room before splashing across the wet concrete floor to an open door that offers a view of the shimmering inky-blue harbor. The water ripples gently in the wind and jostles a few docked fishing boats. Two expectant herring gulls perch on the wooden pier with tilted heads, each balancing on one yellow-webbed foot.

“It’s too warm for this today,” he explains, shutting the door with a clang. “Have to keep it cold in here.”

The men barely glance up as Auerbach inspects the heart of his operation. It’s 11 a.m. and his men are deeply focused on the midday process of packing the seafood to be picked up by trucks later in the afternoon and driven to Logan airport. From there, the produce of New England fishermen who work with Red’s Best will be flown to wholesale markets all over the world.

“Thump.” Thump.” “Thump.”

Methodically, another orange slicker-clad worker bends down, reaches into a white container brimming with ice, picks up a clam and tosses it down a metal chute. The bivalves land in cardboard boxes marked with varying destination points in black sharpie—some are as nearby as restaurants in New England; some say “Hong Kong.”

Red Auerbach holds a live clam.
Red Auerbach holds a live clam.

Hundreds more cardboard boxes sit neatly stacked around the room. Some are filled with historically popular seafood like live scallops, salmon and cod, while others are filled with what some refer to as “trash fish,” but what Auerbach likes to call “underappreciated” suspects—Acadian redfish, hake, monkfish, scup and pollock.

“The culinary world has used the term trash fish and I don’t object to it,” Auerbach said. “I think it’s great if it brings attention to less popular fish.”

The term “trash fish” originated in the mid 19th century and stood for fishermen’s catch that was only partly processed—meaning, organs had been removed but the fish were not yet filleted, according to “A History of Fish and Fishing in the Upper Mississippi River,” by HB Carlander. These fish were heavier than fully processed fish and literally weighed down boats on their way to market, slowing them down and threatening to spoil the whole catch. They had to be discarded, hence the term “trash fish.” This expression evolved into a derogatory phrase for any fish that was considered commercially unpopular and undesirable to eat.

The term “trash fish” has caught on in the Boston culinary world, however. Sustainability efforts have led some chefs to use the “catchy” nickname to draw attention to underutilized fish that they say tastes just like more popular species like cod or tilapia, Auerbach said.

At a Cambridge-based March 16 event called “Trash Fish Boston 2014,” chefs of the nonprofit “Chefs Collaborative,” a group concerned with sustainable food systems, met for dinner celebrating underappreciated seafood caught by local fishermen.

“There’s plenty of fish like Acadian red fish, which in a blind taste test holds up to any other fish,” Auerbach said. “For some reason, there’s just not that consumer demand. If you write it down on a piece of paper next to a better-known fish like cod, people will pick cod.”

America’s obsession with cod dates back to the 17th century. Cod was so abundant in the Atlantic then that it was said that you could “walk across the ocean on their backs,” by fishermen, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s site.

Cod became one of the most lucrative trading products during colonial times in New England and the silvery heavy-bodied fish was ordained as the most succulent white, flakey fish in Georges Bank—the “chosen fish” of Boston, or what Auerbach likes to call “Old school New England crap.”

The species is said to have had its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, according to NOAA, but in the mid-1990s, overfishing caused U.S. stocks of cod to come close to commercial collapse. Fishing for the species became highly regulated—in Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, it was reduced to one-third of its 1994 level by The New England Fishery Management Council.

Despite regulation efforts, NOAA’s 2012 fisheries assessments state that cod is still being overfished despite stocks making some headway. The overfishing of cod not only throws marine ecosystems off-balance, but also hurts New England fishermen who have long made their livelihoods providing cod to restaurants and markets.

This is where Auerbach and “trash fish” come in.

After “cutting his teeth” in the Alaskan commercial fishing industry and taking odd fishing jobs here and there in New England, Auerbach said he founded the seafood distribution company in 2008 as a way to promote environmentally sound fishing.

“A lot of little boats as opposed to one large boat produce the highest quality of wild fish,” the Newton, Mass., native said. “I wanted ways to sustain these small fishing fleets.”

To do so, Auerbach became the go-between for roughly 700 fishermen—“from one guy raking for clams in the mud to huge yacht-type boats trolling for tuna off the continental shelf,” and high-end wholesalers that restaurants buy from. Auerbach created a traceability system that tracks buyers’ seafood from ocean to dinner plate, electronically dog-earing catches from the moment his workers unload fishermen’s vessels, through transportation, processing and distribution.

The Fish Pier where Red's Best is located on Boston Harbor.
The Fish Pier where Red’s Best is located on Boston Harbor.

Every box of seafood distributed by Red’s has a QR code, or barcode, embedded on it. This code can be scanned for access to data about the fisherman who caught your catch, the fish species, the vessel and gear type used to catch it, and the port of origin. The hope, Auerbach said, is that buyers and consumers care about where their seafood comes from.

“We just want to incentivize chefs to support local fishermen instead of importing fish,” Auerbach said.

And a large part of supporting local fishermen involves wholesalers buying what fishermen are able to provide and not putting impossible demands on both fishermen and specific fish stocks like cod. Chefs and consumers alike, therefore, have to be open to trying less popular seafood, Auerbach said.

“You know, we’ve gotten to this place in the seafood world where we are letting the consumer dictate what’s on the menu, but really, we got to let Mother Nature dictate what’s on the menu,” Auerbach said.

Chef Michael Leviton sits on a high-top metal chair at a table in his restaurant, Area Four, in Technology Square in Cambridge while listing off some of the delicious New England “trash fish” he’s cooked with: “Skate. Monkfish. Sea robin. Scup. Spiny Dogfish. Blood clams. Surf clams. Acadian redfish.”

“I understand fishermen’s hesitancy about that name,” Leviton said. “No fish are trash. But it’s catchy and it does advance the agenda.”

Leviton, a short, wiry 48-year-old with intense brown eyes, has been on the board of the Chef’s Collaborative for the past six years and took part in the “Trash Fish Boston 2014” dinner. Area Four, a restaurant that features gourmet pizza and salads, has been open for the past three years.

Leviton said he thinks it is environmentally and economically important to create a market for these types of fish.

“If we don’t support our fishermen, we’re gone,” Leviton said. “Part of sustainability means making sure everyone along the proverbial food chain is able to make a living doing it.”

All too often, Leviton said, getting cheap calories onto the table drives the American food system. Attendant costs, like the depletion of marine biodiversity and the lack of social justice for fishermen, fall by the wayside.

Much of this comes back to the customer, Leviton said.

“Part of problem is we still are obligated to keep our doors open and we can’t make people buy it,” Leviton said of “trash fish.”

Although customers might shy away from lesser-known fish like pollock and hake on the menu, Leviton uses it anyway. He said he often smokes Acadian redfish for recipes he used to use trout for.

The white, flakey fish tastes just as good, he said, but is often more abundant than trout in fishermen’s catch.

“There are ways to slide it in without them realizing,” Leviton said.

So much of Boston’s rich history is embedded in the fishing industry, Leviton said, and keeping that tradition alive is just another reason he feels it is his duty to be a sustainable chef.

“Fishing is a part of so much of our sense of history as Massachusetts or New England natives,” Leviton said.

Shuheng Lin runs in Lu Lingzi’s Memory

By Dian Zhang

BU News Service

On a rainy Tuesday night, Shuheng Lin (GRS’16) started her daily training on the treadmill at the FitRec center. As one of seven people selected from the BU community, Lin will run this year’s 26.2-mile Boston Marathon on April 21, in honor of Lu Lingzi (GRS’13), one of the three victims of last year’s marathon bombings.

Lin,  a Ph.D student in  Economics, was working at her office during last year’s marathon, but she was following the race online.

She was shocked by the bombs and was even more astonished to find out Lingzi, a Chinese student at BU, was killed in the tragedy.

“I got to know her from her father’s eulogy,” said Lin. “And I have a lot of admiration for her. She had a passion for life, she excelled at school, and she was such a talented musician.”

Lin didn’t know Lingzi personally but the two shared a common experience.

They were both international students from China, studying in the same school, trying hard to adapt to a brand new culture here in the U.S.  Lin says the culture assimilation is long and challenging, which Lin says is a like  a marathon race.

When Lin saw the opportunity to run for Lu Lingzi on BU Today in early February, she signed up with no hesitation.

“A marathon race reminds me of my experiences in this country,” said Lin. “It allows me to come to terms with my limitations, and also cultivates tenacity and positive energy.”

Soon after BU and the Lu family announced which students were selected to run, Lin  and the six other runners started their marathon training.

Lin and the others were left with only 11 weeks before the marathon, compared to a typical 16-week training period.  Jennifer Carter-Battaglino (SED’03), is an instructor of a FitRec marathon training class and also one of the seven who will run  in Lingzi’s memory. She is helping the other runners with a personalized training schedule.

Lin has to run four days a week with a different training focus each day. She usually has a tempo run for six to eight miles on Monday, and adds two more miles on Tuesday’s medium-long run session. On Thursday, there’s a track workout.. Lin and the six other runners usually gather on Saturday for a long run ranging from 14 to 20 miles.

Lauren Ferraro, a nutritionist working at BU’s Sargent Nutrition  Center is offering a class focused on hydration and proper nutrition for distance runners. Lin and the other runners learned how to adjust to a healthy distance running status by managing their eating habits.

“There are people really running fast even in a long run like the marathon, but I’m not one of them,” said Lin, laughing. “I usually run 6 miles in one hour. And a 16-mile run usually takes me three hours.”

As a fifth year PhD student, Lin has a busy schedule preparing for her dissertation, usually staying at her office from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

After finishing her work at the office, she still has to go to the gym or run around the Charles River at night.  Lin has a pinched nerve in her back, which makes running more difficult. Before running on a track, she usually runs on the treadmill for 30 minutes, listening to her pace and making some adjustments accordingly. After the training, she needs to do some stretch exercise to prevent further injury.

Lin ran in the 2012 Chicago Marathon and she said it took her 5 hours to finish. Because the seven BU students  are running in honor of Lu Lingzi, they are exempt from needing a qualifying time.

Lin has organized her own fundraising page on People can donate to the Lingzi Scholarship foundation. Lin’s fundraising page is (, and has raised $685 so far.

On April 14, BU held a memorial service for Lu Lingzi at Marsh

Chapel. Lin joined the Lu family and Lingzi’s friends and she couldn’t stop her tears when listening to people talking about Lingzi in Chinese, which to Lin is not only her mother tongue but also a symbol of home.

“What I learned from that is we shouldn’t sink in the sadness anymore,” said Lin. “Instead, we have to carry on Lingzi’s spirit and keep moving on.”

History Made at 2014 Boston Marathon

By Justine Hofherr, Megan Turchi, Claire Felter and Andre Khatchaturian
BU News Service

Not only were there more spectators and runners at today’s Boston Marathon than ever before, but history was also made at the finish line, as men’s elite runner, Meb Keflezighi, became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since Greg Meyer did in 1983 with a personal best of 2:08:37.

Keflezighi had a huge lead of about 90 seconds with two miles ago, but he had that lead cut to six seconds in the last two miles by Wilson Chebet.

“Toward the end I was a little bit nervous,” said Keflezighi. “I came to the Citgo sign and I said, ‘I got one mile to go.’ I’m almost 39 and I just ran a personal best and just won the Boston Marathon.”

Keflezighi was born in Eritrea and moved to the United States when he was 12 years old. He trains in Mammoth Lakes, Calif and was a former cross country runner at UCLA.

There was also history made in the women’s race as Kenyan Rita Jeptoo finished at a record time of 2:18:57. This was Jeptoo’s third win, second consecutive, and as the native Kenyan crossed the finish line she stretched her arms and tilted her head to the sky.

The previous record–2:20:43, was set by Margaret Okayo of Kenya in 2002.

Last year, Jeptoo finished with a time of 2:23:43, but her win was marred by the Boston Marathon bombings on Boylston Street, which exploded around 2:50 p.m.

From the wheelchair group, Tatyana McFadden won the race with a time of one hour, 35 minutes, and six seconds for the women.

“My time was pretty fast here in Boston, especially with all the climbs,” said McFadden after the race. “I was really happy with today. It’s just been a whirlwind and excitement and lots of training and hard work.”

Finally, from the men, Ernst F. Van Dyk of South Africa won the wheelchair discipline with a time of 1:20:36.

About one million spectators lined the course throughout the race from Hopkington to the finish line on Boylston Street.

Other winners:

Wheelchair Women’s:

1. Tatyana McFadden, USA, 1:35:06

2. Wakako Tsuchida, JPN, 1:37:24

3. Susannah Scaroni, USA. 1:38:33

Wheelchair Men’s:

1. Ernst F. Van Dyk, RSA, 1:20:36

2. Kota Hokinoue, JPN, 1:21:14

3. Masazumi Soejima, JPN, 1:21:14

Elite Women’s:

1. Rita Jeptoo, KEN, 2:18:57

2. Buzunesh Deba, ETH, 2:19:59

3. Mare Dibaba, ETH, 2:20:35

Elite Men’s:

1. Meb Keflezighi, USA, 2:08:37

2. Wilson Chebet, KEN, 2:08:48

3. Frankline Chepwony, KEN, 2:08:50

Slain Officer Remembered by Sister, Friends

By Justine Hofherr
BU News Service

On Monday, Jenn Rogers, the sister of  MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, who was shot and killed while sitting in his squad car at 10:20 p.m. a year ago today, will be taking her place on the marathon starting line in Hopkinton, prepared to run 26.2 miles in honor of her brother’s life.

“Finishing will be a personal goal to myself,” Rogers said of crossing the finish line on Boylston Street.

Always known as the “family runner,” Rogers said it seems natural to run the 2014 Boston Marathon, which she thinks will be historic.

Rogers is running on “Team Collier Strong,” a group that includes the officer’s friends, Rogers’ friends, and her older brother, Rob. They are running for two causes: The Officer Sean Collier Self-Sponsor Scholarship, which will send awardees through the Lowell Police Academy, and The Hole in the Wall Gang, which provides enriching summer camp experiences for seriously ill children.

Just a week ago, the team passed the $40,000 mark in their fundraising, well on their way to reaching a goal of $50,000 before race day.

Collier would have wanted to be a part of this marathon, Rogers said. He would have cared about bringing the community back together and displaying Boston’s indelible strength.

“I’m also doing this for the other victims and survivors,” Rogers said. “To be a part of their support system and have them support us matters. I wanted to do something big and out-of-the-box the way Sean would do it.”

Collier, who as an auxiliary police volunteer raised money for breast cancer awareness, had a passion for doing good things for other people, Rogers said.

One MIT staff member always forgot an umbrella, so Rogers said her brother left one outside her door with a note.

He once adopted a cat he found on Craigslist named Ninja.

He thought the EMTs at MIT weren’t getting praised enough for their hard volunteer work, so he wrote to Police Chief John DiFava requesting that they receive some recognition, she said.

This past February, Collier got his wish, and the student-run ambulance service was awarded the first Collier Medal for embodying the spirit of the fallen officer.

Katherine Goldsmith, a 19-year-old Wellesley student and part-time EMT at MIT, is a part of the group of EMS volunteers who received the Collier Medal.

Not only did Collier go out of his way to praise the EMS volunteers, but Goldsmith said he went out of his way for just about anybody.

“He was really good at small talk,” Goldsmith said, describing how he introduced himself to her when she first joined EMS and didn’t know anyone. “Out of thousands of students, he always recognized me. He always remembered faces.”

Collier would hang out with the EMTs and play video games with them when they were off duty. He’d ask them about their classes, want to know about their projects, Goldsmith said. He also always went out of his way to follow the ambulance in his cruiser when EMS got calls.

The EMS ambulance was named for Collier, Goldsmith said. Her supervisor got license plate 179, his badge number.

Goldsmith said she honors Collier’s memory by simply being nicer to people — being more welcoming.

“He was so actively involved in student life in a way that was unusual,” Goldsmith said. “He wasn’t just another uniform.”

Rogers said Collier, 26, wanted to make the world a better place.

He was someone who loved to have fun, she said, but he put his job as a police officer first and foremost. He had always wanted to be a cop, she said.

“He put his heart and soul into it,” Rogers said.

Collier joined the auxiliary police as a teenager, she said, assisting the police department by patrolling the community and acting as extra “eyes and ears” for the department. At the time of his death, he had been preparing to join the Somerville Police Department—his lifelong dream. He was posthumously appointed a Somerville police officer in August, she said.

Some of her earliest memories of Collier are of him running around their front yard playing “cops and robbers,” or dressing up as a fireman. His respect for first responders was something he was born with, Rogers said, and he had a fierce love for the American flag.

“I remember him running around the yard yelling, “Stop in the name of the law!” and singing the Bad Boys theme song,” Rogers says with a laugh. “He loved the brotherhood of it all.”

Collier was also passionate about the outdoors, she said, and he joined MIT’s Outing Club during Winter School with gusto, quickly mastering the basics of mountaineering and winter hiking.

To train, he ran stairs with the club in full uniform—attracting the attention and laughs of many a passerby, Rogers said.

In the final Winter School challenge, Collier completed a grueling mid-winter climb of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast.

The outing club members also fondly mention how Collier always brought pepperoni on long hikes with him, according to their website.

“At the end of the day, he was still a goofball,” Rogers said with a laugh. “That’s how I’ll remember him.”

Though Rogers admits training for the marathon has been emotionally and physically grueling, she said her family has always stood for being able to “laugh and love” through the pain.

The family members take turns attending the many memorial events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings and the anniversary of Collier’s death so that one person does not feel overwhelmed, Rogers said. It helps that her mom used to be a grief counselor. She encourages the family to be open with their sorrow, Rogers added.

“We’re all just going to take it as we can,” Rogers said, “But I’m proud to live in this city. I’m proud to show the world that we are not going to back down because of something so awful.”

Collier, right, and his sister, Jenn Rogers, dance.
Collier, right, and his sister, Jenn Rogers, dance.

Boston Marathon Course Time-Lapse

Can’t run 26.2 miles? Don’t fret. Check out this timelapse of the entire Boston Marathon route from Hopkinton to Boylston, and you can experience the race from anywhere you desire.

Taking the ‘Heartbreak’ out of Heartbreak Hill

By Samantha Pickette
BU News Service

Marathon14 LogoIt’s April 20, 1936.  1935 Boston Marathon champion Johnny Kelley trails Ellison “Tarzan” Brown on the stretch of four foothills on Commonwealth Avenue in Newton.  On the third hill, Kelley catches up with Brown, patting him on the shoulder as he passes by, and moves into first place.  Kelley’s brazenness fuels Brown’s determination, and on the fourth and final hill, Brown surpasses Kelley and goes on to win the 1936 Boston Marathon.

Boston Globe reporter Jerry Nason immortalized Kelley’s disappointing defeat by nicknaming the fourth hill where Brown definitively pulled ahead of Kelley “Heartbreak Hill,” an epithet that has stuck for the past 78 years.

Heartbreak Hill, the stretch of Commonwealth Avenue between Centre Street and Hammond Street in Newton, is less than a mile long.  Located in a largely residential area, the road is wide, with an island full of trees in the middle of the street and stately Colonial and Victorian houses lining both sides.  In a car, Heartbreak Hill is innocuous at best — blink once and you’ll miss it.  Yet, as the final hill in a series of four challenging hills that begins at mile 17 and ends at mile 21, Heartbreak Hill is arguably the most difficult and most iconic point in the Boston Marathon course.  It is also the location of Heartbreak Hill Running Company (HHRC), founded in April 2012 by two former Boston College track stars, Dan Fitzgerald and Justin Burdon.

Located at the base of the hill, HHRC is truly a store for runners, by runners.  A water cooler sits outside the store’s front door for any runners who need a drink while they are training.  On Saturdays, when many marathoners pass the store on training runs, HHRC’s mascot, Heartbreak Bill the Gorilla, stands outside the store, cheering people on as they go and taking pictures with passers-by.

The store embraces the spirit of the hill, and rightly so — on Marathon day, HHRC is one of the first things that runners see as they begin their final ascent.  As former members of the track team at B.C., Fitzgerald and Burdon are more than familiar with what it is like to run up Heartbreak Hill, which ends in Boston College territory.

“Running for Boston College, Heartbreak Hill was a very significant piece of our training,” Fitzgerald said.  “We ran hundreds of miles up that hill in our college careers and when we saw the opportunity for us to open a space there and name it after the hill and after our years of experience there, it was pretty exciting for us.”

For Fitzgerald and the rest of the staff at HHRC, Heartbreak Hill is not a source of fear or an impossible roadblock that stands in the way of marathon glory.  As HHRC Manager and former Boston College runner Louis Serafini explains, what makes Heartbreak Hill particularly challenging is not its length or elevation grade, it’s the fact that the hill comes at the 20-mile mark, when runners are already exhausted and may not have saved enough energy to conquer the hill.  But, Serafini says that Heartbreak Hill is doable if approached with a positive mindset.

“It’s a tough hill and I can imagine it’s a lot harder at mile 20 of a marathon,” he said.  “But, once you get over that hill, you’ve got a downhill for a little bit and then it’s all flat all the way home.  So, it’s a matter of getting up the hill, recovering, and then just looking forward to the finish line.”

And, Serafini said that it also helps that on Marathon Monday, runners are greeted at the crest of Heartbreak Hill by the Boston College Marching Band and by hundreds of rowdy students whose cheers carry the athletes to the top and motivate them to push through the final 10K of the race.

Still, even with all the excitement, the climb may be easier said than done.  Runner’s World reports that of the major city marathon hills, Heartbreak is actually one of the tamer hills, rising less than 100 feet from base to summit.  But, it makes that nearly 100-foot climb in 0.75 miles, resulting in one of the highest elevation grades (3.3 percent) of any hill on a major marathon course.  This means that Heartbreak is a relentless, albeit relatively short, challenge for runners who, by the time they reach it, will have 20 miles and several hours weighing on their legs.

In order to make the hill seem less daunting, HHRC hosts a Wednesday night Hill Club, where Serafini and other staff members lead runners of all levels of ability in workouts up and down Heartbreak Hill.  HHRC also created the “Firehouse Run,” a 10-mile marathon training route based on Boston College track workouts that culminates in the series of hills on Commonwealth Avenue and ends with Heartbreak Hill.

“If you can do that route at a decent pace, you’re in pretty good shape,” Serafini said.

In addition to starting the various running clubs at HHRC, Fitzgerald is also coaching Team Red Cross, the Mass General Hospital Marathon Team, and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Marathon Team — a total of 330 athletes — for this year’s Boston Marathon.

Shannon Sawyer, a 32-year-old attorney from Natick, is running for the MGH Marathon Team this year.  It is her 10th marathon and fifth Boston Marathon.  While the Heartbreak Hill-centric workouts and long runs ranging anywhere from 10 miles to 22 miles have helped Sawyer to feel physically prepared, she said that it is Fitzgerald’s realistic training pointers that have primed her mentally for Marathon Monday.

“It’s reassuring when he acknowledges that our legs will be tired, we will be sore, and we will have some bad runs,” she said.  “These reminders are nicely balanced with encouragement and reassurance that we’ve come a really long way and will be ready to run on April 21.”

Fitzgerald, 35, and Serafini, 22, have both been running since middle school.  They agree that whether a person is an experienced runner or a beginner, the most important part of training successfully for a marathon is mental toughness.

“The number one thing is focus and remembering what you’re training for,” Serafini said.  “It’s really hard to get up on a Saturday morning and run 20 miles.  Having that focus gets you there.”

On Marathon Monday, HHRC will have a cheering section outside the store made up of employees, friends, and the hundreds of people who line Commonwealth Avenue in order to encourage the runners as they embark on one of the most difficult portions of the race, a 0.75 mile stretch that has managed to defeat even the best runners, including 61-time Boston Marathon finisher and two-time champion Johnny Kelley.

“Heartbreak Hill is the key point in the race for sure,” Fitzgerald said.  “But it’s important to understand that the marathon is just a run.  If you train for it, you can do it.  That’s the bottom line.”


Red Sox Season Begins, Fans Talk Sox

By Iris Moore
BU News Service

The Red Sox season has begun and Fenway is busier than ever. BU News Service reporter, Iris Moore, talks to fans outside of Fenway Park

New Baystate Domestic Violence Laws

By Alex Shi
BU News Service

A bill to close loopholes in Massachusetts’ domestic violence laws will go to the Senate after a major victory on Beacon Hill. BU News Service reporter, Alex Shi, has the story.