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Roger and Stanley Hu, both graduate students in electrical engineering and computer science, reversed roles at the Boston Marathon this year.
Stanley, the runner in the family, had hoped to improve on his 2000 time of 3:01:32 before a nagging injury relegated him to the role of photographer, trainer, coach and cheerleader for MIT participants.
Roger, older than his identical twin by 15 minutes, decided to represent the family even though he'd never run a marathon, or any race for that matter. Roger joked that he could wear Stanley's number and no one would know the difference. Stanley noted that Roger's time would expose him as an impostor.
Roger, who trained mostly by swimming laps in the MIT pool and ran unofficially without a number, shrugged off a sore knee and completed the 26.2-mile run in 4:06:30, following his brother's advice to "enjoy the run."
"I told Roger to go out conservatively even though the people ahead would seem really slow," said Stanley. "I've gone out too fast all too many times and paid the price. I mostly answered the standard marathon questions about what to eat and drink during the race, what to wear and so on. And I warned him to be ready for leg cramps or general thoughts of 'this sucks' during the race."
"Stan is dedicated to running marathons, so he gave me a lot of tips before the race about what to do," Roger said. "Make sure to hit the water stops on the sides; Gatorade always comes after the water; make sure you have something to eat before mile 17; if you need to use the bathroom, use it before mile 11 because that's when it gets crowded; the first half of the race will seem easy but then you will feel it; use the power gels for the caffeine kick but not too early.
"He also borrowed a car to take me to the starting line and showed me where the back-of-the-pack runners hang out."
Stanley, who had hoped to break 2:55 this year, has been running competitively since high school in Palo Alto, CA. He ran unofficially in the Boston Marathon when the brothers were MIT juniors in 1999 and qualified to run officially last year by running 3:09:08 in the Atlanta Marathon. This was his first marathon as a spectator.
"I thought it would be really tough sitting this one out, but I had a lot of fun photographing the event," said Stanley. "Seeing runners' faces on Heartbreak Hill, I thought, 'been there -- know what that's like.' I was also too occupied with thinking about how and where to take the best photos to dwell on much else."
Stanley told Roger to be aware of the crowd and feed off the spectators' energy and enthusiasm.
"My best memory happened last year in the Boston Marathon," Stanley said. "I started kicking for the finish line at Kenmore Square, when some of my friends in the crowd spotted me and began cheering. Soon the whole crowd, which was filled with MIT students, erupted into the loudest roar that I've ever heard. It was simply awesome."
"It's hard to imagine how a crowd can really pull you through," Roger said. "They also feed you oranges, bananas and water so it's hard to become dehydrated."
While Stanley definitely plans to compete in the 2002 Boston Marathon, Roger is still undecided. "Stan also says that once you do one, you'll want to do it again," said Roger, who emerged intact except for soreness in his legs. "It's still too early to think about next year."
For the second consecutive year, Daniel Feldman was the leading runner from MIT, finishing 52nd overall in 2:30:51. Mr. Feldman, a junior from Portland, OR, finished 62nd last year in 2:33.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 25, 2001.