The Pied Piper of Runningby Bill Higgins
Long before the clever “Just Do it” marketing campaign became Nike’s signature slogan, Kevin Petrovek just did it. He laced up his shoes and ran for no other reason than that it made him feel better.
This was in the mid-1970s. He’s been running ever since, and is a Pied Piper of sorts for many who have been following in his footsteps.
The congenial Petrovek, now 66, is owner of Hanlon Shoes, a comfortable Hyannis hangout for anyone interested in just doing it. A family-run business dating to the 1970s, he worked at the Norwood store when he was in high school. He became manager of the Hyannis location in 1981 and bought the store eight years ago. On any given day, he can be found chatting about an upcoming workout or race, the popular Wednesday night walk-run classes, or fitting a customer for summer sandals.
Need advice on Nike vs. New Balance running shoes? See Kevin. Need a training tip or help finding a local race? Ask Kevin. What role does running play in his life? The cover photo on the Hanlon Shoes Facebook page is Log Off Shut Down Go Run.
“I guess it’s just who I am,” says Petrovek. “I’m a creature of habit. I run five or six days a week for about an hour, usually five or six miles. I might do a spin class one day. I like my cocktail in the evening. I like theater and golf, but a good workout, especially running, gets me going in the morning.”
He has completed more than 100 marathons. He ran 41 consecutive Bostons until skipping the 2016 race. He’s run the Falmouth Road Race 36 times, and you’d be hard-pressed to name a local event he hasn’t done.
“I was competitive when I was younger,” says Petrovek, who grew up in Norwood and was a fine baseball and hockey player. He started running after graduate school at Boston University and was a member of the Boston Athletic Association. He had an eight-year stretch of finishing the Boston Marathon in 2 hours and 35 minutes or better. “I had a goal to qualify for the Olympic marathon trials, but couldn’t quite make it. My best time was 2:29 and I needed a 2:22. I wasn’t great, just good enough to be good.”
Nowadays, he finds himself returning to his roots and the simple joy of running. He’s no longer consumed by racing or extending media-manufactured endurance streaks.
What Petrovek still craves, however, is the fellowship and camaraderie of runners, and it’s a passion he happily shares. He supports dozens of races with gift certificates and merchandise from Hanlon’s. He is especially generous to the Massachusetts Special Olympics Jolly Jaunt in December. In conjunction with the Hyannis Half-Marathon and Marathon, Hanlon’s has hosted celebrity fun runs with Hall of Famers Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Greg Meyer and Joan Benoit Samuelson. Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi also stopped in the store in 2010 to promote an autobiography.
Petrovek started a Wednesday night walk-run program at Barnstable High School in 1999 and it’s going strong, helping everyone from walkers and beginner joggers to experienced racers. Along with coach Paul Fendler and the Hyannis Road Runners club, they conduct 12-week programs in the spring and fall. Graduation for the summer class is the three-mile Centerville Old Home Week race.
Other times of the year, groups gather at Hanlon’s for Wednesday fun runs through Hyannisport. Kevin’s 10-miler is an informal race held every Super Bowl Sunday to pass the time until kickoff. He also assists with other events and organizes bus transportation for local entrants in the Boston Marathon.
Petrovek is not preachy or pushy about running, but it clearly works for him in his job and in his life. He’s happy, healthy, and fit, and has avoided any significant injuries over 40-plus years. If it’s something others would like to try, he’s happy to help. Just ask him. And then just do it.