By Rob Senior
Talk about a long shift.
Former Flyers forward and current Director of Player Development Ian Laperriere took to the local streets to run his first marathon yesterday in 3:42:23—a little more than two minutes under his targeted finishing time of 3 hours, 45 minutes.
Wearing a purple jersey—the race’s designated color for pancreatic cancer—Laperriere dedicated the race to his late father, who succumbed to the disease years ago.
Laperriere, who officially retired from the NHL earlier this year, said he’d initially planned to run the Los Angeles Marathon in March, but was forced to withdraw due to an Achilles tendon injury. “I figured, this is it, I’m not going to be able to run again—but then I started to improve,” he recalls. “And I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got to do it. It was on my bucket list.’”
Asked about surpassing his goal in terms of finishing time, Laperriere gave credit to everyone who helped him along the way. “It’s one thing to have that time in your head as a goal, but once you’re out on that course, you find out what you really can do. During my hockey career, we did sprints all the time, but I’d never been on my feet running that long. I was lucky to have some great training partners who are also my neighbors.”
One such partner was Matt Pasco of Haddonfield, N.J. who ran yesterday’s race with Laperriere. “I’ve never done this before,” says Laperriere. “It’s good to be surrounded by people with experience.”
For a guy who made a living in a sport based on short bursts of intense activity—35-45 seconds on the ice, followed by a few minutes on the bench before the next shift—Laperriere has made an impressive transition into the ultimate test of endurance.
“It’s totally different,” he agrees. “If you don’t pace yourself, if you don’t save anything, you’ll have nothing left for those last few miles.”
Laperriere hasn’t played in the NHL since the Flyers made the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. During training camp for the following season, Ian experienced symptoms of post-concussion syndrome (he was struck twice in the face by pucks the previous season). Further testing revealed nerve damage in his right eye. Laperriere fought to return to the ice, but decided to call it a career this past summer.
“When I’m running, I feel fine,” he says. “On the ice, it’s a different story. But out here? I don’t have any dizziness.”
Ultimately, ‘Lappy’ played only one season with the Flyers, but it took just that long for him to become a fan favorite. Sunday’s race showed his time away from hockey has done little to quell Philadelphia’s fondness for him.
“This crowd was unbelievable,” he says. “From the first mile, they’re everywhere, and they’re cheering, screaming my name. When you get to mile 16 or so, believe me, you need that. I’m sure some of them are big Flyers fans, but this was totally different. On the ice it’s 40 seconds at a time—these fans cheered for 3 hours, 42 minutes.”
Whether it’s a Stanley Cup Final or an item on a bucket list, a 40-second shift or a 3-hour, 42 minute race—Philadelphia fans admire Ian Laperriere. “It says a lot about this town,” Laperriere says. “I’m glad I did my first run in Philly.”