When former Patriots fullback James Develin got confirmation that he would be running the Boston Marathon this year, two of the first people he texted were center David Andrews and strength and conditioning coach Brian McDonough.
Develin hadn’t forgotten about a conversation the group shared in 2019, when he and Andrews trained together at Edge Performance Systems, a facility McDonough opened in Foxborough. Both players were on injured reserve, with Develin recovering from a neck injury and Andrews out for the season with a pulmonary embolism.
One morning, Develin asked, “Do you guys think I could run a marathon?”
Their response was not all that encouraging.
“They were like, ‘Ah, no,’” Develin recalled last week. “‘You’re not built for it. You’re 250-plus pounds. It’d just be a lot of beating on your knees.’ They gave all these reasons why I wouldn’t or shouldn’t.’”
Develin had been thinking about running the Boston Marathon since former Patriots offensive lineman Ryan Wendell, his teammate for four years, did so in April 2018. At the time, Develin made a mental note: “Man, that would be a really good opportunity.”
The doubts of Andrews and McDonough only motivated him more.
When unforeseen complications from his neck injury forced him to retire from football in April 2020, Develin continued to work out the way he always had, with a focus on heavy weights. But, in search of a way to switch up his routine, he started running and took a liking to it.
The thought popped back into his mind: “Could I run a marathon?”
Upon receiving word that the Boston Marathon would be held in person this October, Develin reached out to his friend, former Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi, who secured him a bib through his foundation. Their playing careers did not overlap, but the pair met when Andruzzi returned to New England as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.
Develin has since raised over $10,000 for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which is dedicated to funding pediatric brain cancer research and providing financial assistance to patients and their families. Andruzzi and his family started the foundation in 2008, a year after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s lymphoma.
Andrews, McDonough, current Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson, tight ends coach Nick Caley, former tight ends coach (and current Bills offensive coordinator) Brian Daboll, and practice squad center James Ferentz have all donated to Develin’s effort.
The Boston Marathon will be Develin’s second official race. As part of his training, he also completed a 10-miler this summer along the Jersey Shore.
Prior to training Develin had never run more than 2-3 miles on his own.
“Being 250 pounds, you’re not exactly built for distance,” he said.
Over the past several months, Develin has largely been following a program that involves shorter runs throughout the week and a longer run on the weekend. All his training takes place outdoors, on the beaches of the Jersey Shore or the wooded trails of his family’s neighborhood in Pennsylvania.
Finding the time to train hasn’t been that easy, as Develin and his wife Jenny have four kids all under the age of 5. He’ll typically wake up early and log his run in the morning.
“When it’s still dark out for two hours before the sun comes out, it kind of helps the drive that I think I’m getting an edge on competition, even though the competition now is just myself,” Develin said. “It’s all just these little tricks.”
Develin has passed the time on his runs listening to audiobooks. His favorites are biographies, such as “Shoe Dog,” a memoir by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and “Steve Jobs,” a book written by Walter Isaacson about the Apple founder.
He’ll also listen to music, often throwing it back to artists from his adolescence — pop punk band Blink 182, rapper Eminem, rap rock band Limp Bizkit — or, in Develin’s words, “stuff that got [him] going in sixth and seventh grade.”
“I still remember almost every single word,” he said. “It just comes right back to me. It’s fun. You just kind of get lost in it. That’s what I found works for me, when I can just completely zone out of the running and do something else in my mind. It helps pass the time.”
The mental challenge of running appealed to Develin as much as the physical aspect. He averages a pace of 10 minutes per mile, so the first time he eclipsed 20 miles, the run took him about three and a half hours.
“That’s kind of what I was thinking when I was kicking around the idea two years ago to [David and Brian],” Develin said, “like ‘Do you guys think I have the mental fortitude to just suffer for four-plus hours?’”
He’s learned his role as a fullback translates well. During his playing career, Develin developed a reputation as a reliable lead blocker.
“Every game, you just know you have to go run into guys as hard as you can,” he said. “That’s not exactly fun. But you’re able to just suck it up, and put that effort out there day in and day out and do what’s best for the team.
“I’m trying to use that mentality: embracing the suck, embracing the suffering that you have to go through, and letting your mind push past all that. It brings you to this beautiful serenity-like point in your mind.”
As for whether this marathon will be both his first and last?
“At first, I thought it was a one-time thing, but I’ve grown to really enjoy it,” Develin said. “Going to the Super Bowl of marathons in Boston should be a cool experience as my first.”
More Boston Marathon coverage
- Your guide to the 2021 Boston Marathon
- After going a long stretch without marathons, some runners are doubling up this fall
- ‘Spotlight’ star Brian d’Arcy James is back in the city, this time to take on the Boston Marathon
- Three fast marathons in three days? Jordan Tropf will try to pull off what he calls an ‘American trifecta’
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.