Helping people go places – Saint Anselm College and the Boston Marathon

Stephan Maranian, Sports Editor

Dr. Paul Finn, long-time professor of psychology at Saint Anselm College, fosters the growth and development of students in the classroom and on the race course.  Over the years, Dr. Finn has trained somewhere between 300-400 students in their preparations to run the Boston Marathon.

Finn, a lifelong runner, had raced in some 26 or so marathons- of those 26, half of them were participations in the Boston Marathon. Several years ago, students approached Finn, asking if he could help them train to run marathons themselves. This led to a long tradition of training Saint Anselm students for various marathons, but the Boston Marathon in particular. With his background in sports and his profession as a licensed psychologist, Finn has the knowledge and experience necessary to foster successful athletes.

“Coaching is about the win in some ways but that has to be defined” Finn stated.  People who participate in marathons are not necessarily all career-athletes. This has most recently been demonstrated by Yuki Kawauchi, who took first place for the men runners at the 2018 Boston Marathon. Kawauchi is self-coached and works full-time in the administration office of a high school in Japan. When Kawauchi won the Boston Marathon he was not an Olympian or a sponsored athlete, but rather a ‘normal guy’ who had managed to achieve something that is anything but- an achievement that even career athletes would say is difficult.

Finn has worked with and trained any individual who has shown the dedication required to accomplish the great task of endurance that a marathon requires. From disabled individuals wishing to complete the course, to able-bodied athletes seeking to come in first place, Finn is determined to help anyone with the drive to finish in their course to do so.  

The students Dr. Finn has trained are determined to persevere. Their work does not end after running one marathon- their passion for endurance running often carries over into other courses as well, some of them extreme. Finn’s mentees have gone on to run the Patagonian International Marathon, the Everest Marathon, and one has even gone on to run a marathon on each of the seven continents- Bobby O’Donnell, ’16, was recently featured by the Concord Monitor, NECN, and other news outlets for pulling off the impressive feat.

However, even if the Boston Marathon is the only marathon they ever run, the experience is often a life-changing one for participants. According to Dr. Finn, “All marathons have given folks the belief that they can do something they never thought they could.” This sense of accomplishment can help show participants that determination and effort can lead to results. However, Finn doesn’t derive his sense of accomplishment from saying his trainees have won these races. Rather, he says, “The strength and courage people get out of doing what they never thought they could- that is what gives me joy”.

As a Saint Anselm graduate himself, Finn stays active in the college community. In addition to teaching in the Psychology Department, Finn also acts as the faculty advisor for the track and field club at the college. Over the years he has trained sprinters, jumpers, and throwers. He enjoys coaching the 100 meter for the rush of energy the races bring. Finn can also be found in Stoutenburgh cheering on the Hawks during basketball games.

Dr. Finn emphasizes the need to keep short and long term goals in life. He continues to run and even eyes participating in more marathons in the future. Finn very much enjoys the outdoors and typically runs through the serene trails of New Hampshire. Rather than drive a few miles to a trail-side parking lot, Finn prefers to kayak across the lake, which keeps the goal of the completing the run and returning home in mind. Although Finn is in his mid-60’s and has artificial knees, he surely could give any student-athlete a run for their money.