Alex Giacco tripped the wire in yesterday’s Boston Marathon with a time of 2:38:52, which would have made him the fastest Delawarean in the legendary race this year, were it not for the technicality that he registered as a New Yorker.
The 2013 Tatnall grad admits he listed a New York City address on the forms “because that’s where the race mail comes,” but he says he won’t make that mistake again.
Giacco, who went on to a sterling varsity track career at Wake Forest said he will always consider Wilmington home. If you give him home state status, his nearly six-minute mile pace would have bested the time of the fastest Delawarean – William Rehrig, who crossed the finish line at 2:47:49.
But even if he can’t lay claim to fastest First Stater, make no mistake, the 24-year-old is thrilled with the result, finishing ahead of his goal of running 2:40 in only his second marathon ever.
“I was very happy with my time, my first experience at the Boston Marathon. It was absolutely amazing,” he said.
Among Delawareans, his would be the sixth fastest in Boston Marathon history and Delaware’s fastest since 2012, when Steve Sinko (35-39) crossed the finish line at 2:29:41.
Giacco starred in cross country and track and field for Tatnall, helping his team win four cross country championships and numerous state records. The three-time first team all-state and all-county runner was also named Most Outstanding Runner for the Hornets his senior season.
Longtime Tatnall Cross Country and Track & Field Coach Pat Castagno says Giacco came up in a strong era of runners who pushed each other. “The Tatnall cross country and track & field programs were strengthened by his Alex and the type of leader he was. He was an exceptional athlete and continues to be remembered as someone who left a strong mark on the school and our running program.”
Castagno says the gifted runner served as a great example for young runners. “He was one of the most respectful young men I have ever coached, and he was a dreamer who never gave up. He always cared about team first and was instrumental in many state titles.”
Giacco was still pursuing his interest in squash and lacrosse when, in the summer before 8th grade, he was introduced to former Salesianum standout and Delaware Running Company owner Mike Monagle. “I was undersized (5’ 1” tall), relative to my classmates for other team sports, and Mike thought I might have the potential to be a good runner.” Monagle helped Giacco with a summer training regimen that helped him land positions on Varsity that year.
Giacco now considers himself lucky that he didn’t enjoy his growth spurt (he’s now 6 feet tall) until later in high school. “It was just the perfect storm. And here I was at Tatnall with Pat Castagno, one of the best coaches in the country for high school running, who had already developed a great program that I was lucky enough to become a part of. I was really able to develop my talents with an unbelievable coach,” he said.
Giacco went on to run for the Men’s Cross Country Team at Wake Forest, where he specialized in the 1500 meter run through to the 10K – all of the distance related events. He was captain of the cross country team his senior year.
After a year of postgraduate study at Wake, earning an MS in Business Management, Giacco moved to New York City in the fall of 2018, taking a job with FactSet, a financial software provider.
Giacco qualified for the Boston Marathon by running the New York Marathon in November, 2018, where he finished in 2 hours, 43 minutes. For that race, Giacco signed up to participate through a charity. Without a qualifying marathon time, Giacco was placed toward the back, far from the professional and elite runners close to the starting line.
“I didn’t start with anyone who was running my same time. So I didn’t really find my rhythm,” he said. Giacco says he also wasn’t in his best shape when he ran the NY Marathon, having taken a year off from running during graduate school.
But finishing the New York Marathon in under three hours meant Giacco would qualify for Boston.
For this important race, Giacco consulted an old family friend from Wilmington, Jim Seuffert, who once ran a 2:28 time at the Boston Marathon. Giacco then wrote a training plan, which included a solid foundation for fitness mixed with long runs in Central Park in the morning and time on the treadmill after work.
“Boston has the best competition in the world,” said Giacco. “I knew I had to be prepared for the higher level of competition and train harder based on my initial experience at the New York marathon. I also knew there would be an opportunity to improve my time.”
At yesterday’s race, Giacco was placed just behind the professionals, with the second wave of top runners who started at 10:02. This helped him set a more predictable pace. “I like to start off slow and get faster at the end. It’s a conservative way to run. It’s all about efficiency. In New York, I ran too quickly in the middle of the race, and that hurt my time,” he said.
Giacco studied the course, giving special note to a five-mile stretch that challenges even the most well-trained runners. “I studied the course and realized the hardest parts would be the hills in miles 16 to 21, and I wanted to give myself an opportunity to attack the last five miles of the race by conserving myself through the first 16 miles,” he said.
“As soon as I crested Heartbreak Hill at mile 21, I knew I had what it took to run my fastest part of the race and break the 2-hour 40-minute mark.”
Turning onto Boylston Street, the last 300 meters of the race, Giacco finished strong. “I got goosebumps as soon as I took the 90-degree turn from Commonwealth Avenue to Boylston Street, where the crowds were 4 people deep and people were yelling and cheering. It was absolutely amazing. I was able to feed off the crowd’s energy,” he said.
With two Marathon Majors under his belt in less than six months, Giacco says he’s going to take a well-earned rest. But he definitely has the marathon bug and says there’s no question he’ll take on Boston again next year.
“Getting to experience Boston for the first time was pretty spectacular – just how historic the race is (this was the 123rdannual running), feeling how much it means for the city. The whole city was so vibrant especially after the bombings a few years ago. Everyone who lives there comes out and supports the runners.”
Coach Castagno is a wealth of running statistics and knows every important runner in the state. He quickly offers us the Delaware Men’s Boston Marathon Record list and says he hopes someday Giacco’s name will be there. “Alex is really transforming himself into a marathoner and one of the finest to come from Delaware.”