The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Run for Your Life

Certain memories of the University last long after graduation: the Lawn, the Rotunda, streaking the Lawn getting rotund from eating dining hall food.

But now students have another memory to take with them down the road of life. Meet "the running guy."

In his tiny shorts, running across Grounds every day as though his very life depends on it, this man has become as much a part of the University scene as fraternity parties and football games.

Philip Weber is the man behind the myth. The 40-year-old lets his graying hair grow as it will, adding character to his 5-foot-9 frame.

"Where else do you see anybody like that?" second-year Engineering student Doo-Hyun Na said with a laugh after sighting Weber, the running guy.

"He's wearing a tank top in the middle of the winter, really short shorts and just running around," Na said.

And Weber doesn't plan on stopping.

"I want to keep doing it as long as I can, and keep my times down," Weber said of his infatuation with running.

A University alumnus himself, Weber took up running after earning his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1984. Starting at just three miles, he now has worked his way up to a whopping 15 - every day of the year. And he does it in about an hour and a half.

"I think it's interesting that he runs at 1 o'clock in the morning," fourth-year College student Cenk Sensoy said, adding that he catches a glimpse of the running man almost every day.

Weber runs when it fits into his schedule, and that means he sometimes must go late at night. His 15-mile daily jaunt is practice for the marathons he competes in yearly. His passion for running borders on a Forrest Gump-like addiction. He never lets rain, snow or heckling students get in his way.

"I could tell you all sorts of stories. There are a lot of negative people out there," Weber said about students who throw things at him and call him names when they see him around the University.

But Weber said he is accustomed to seeing students stare as he runs through Grounds.

"I don't let it bother me too much," he said.

Weber knows there are students who support him as well. Members of fraternity houses frequently cheer him on as he runs down Rugby Road during peak party hours.

Weber's love of running goes back to his early childhood, when he played football with his neighbors and dreamed of being a wide receiver. Marathon runners of the '70s and '80s also influenced him.

"I was inspired by guys like Frank Shorter and Bill Rogers when I was a kid," Weber said.

Weber's first distance race was the Charlottesville 10-miler. Soon he was running half-marathons and traveling to different parts of Virginia for races.

Now Weber says his big race is the Richmond Marathon, in which more than 2,500 runners competed last year. His best finishes in the past were eighth place in 1997 and sixth place in 1998.

Weber counts his sixth place overall finish as his crowning achievement.

"I thought it was thrilling," he said.

Weber also has won the Richmond Marathon twice among his age group, 35-45. He wants to improve his marathon times from just under 3 hours to 2 hours, 45 minutes.

As a long distance runner, Weber needs a lot of energy. Although he does not stick to a special diet, he does follow certain rules.

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Philip Weber, known to many as "the running guy," travels the 15-mile route shown on the map in an hour and a half.

"I used to run a lot before I even started eating spaghetti. I eat it practically every day now," said Weber, who buys 20-30 boxes of spaghetti during each trip to the grocery store.

He also drinks a special kind of water, and said that adding small amounts of salt to his water helps his body remain hydrated for longer periods of time.

Weber trains his mind as much as he trains his body. After finishing high school in 1978, he enrolled in the University's Architecture School.

Weber spent two years there, but transferred to the College to earn a chemistry degree.

But he didn't stop there. Weber decided to work toward a second degree, this one in music. After several years of work, however, the music department rejected his senior thesis and did not award him a degree. Instead of rewriting his thesis, Weber continued with his studies on his own. The last course he took at the University was a piano class in 1990.

Now Weber divides his time between running and studying. He gets his books wherever he can buy them cheaply. Most of them come from the Salvation Army.

His academic interests are as wide-ranging as his 15-mile runs. They include orchestra conduction, orchestration reduction, Shakespeare's plays, German, math and logic among other disciplines.

With most of his time spent running or studying, Weber has little time to hold down a full-time job. He currently works 15 to 20 hours per week at the Focus flea market on Preston Avenue.

If he has extra time, he also works in a bike repair shop or does landscaping jobs. Since his years as a University undergraduate, he also has worked as a waiter, a bartender and a parking lot attendant.

Weber has specific reasons for choosing his particular lifestyle.

"I don't want to grow up to be sitting behind a desk all the time," Weber said.

His strong interest in self-study played a role in his decision not to go to graduate school.

"I thought that if I did, that I would have made a big commitment of time, which would have made me into a much older, mature adult," Weber said. "I couldn't at that point begin studying classical music."

Weber still dreams of one day going to graduate school and earning an advanced degree. But that is far into the future.

"I can't put a date on that. I've got so much work I need to do," he said.

For now, Weber will do what he has done for the last 15 years - run and study. Especially the running part.

"I don't plan on giving up any time soon," Weber said. "I don't plan on slowing down."


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