By Chris O'Donnell
---- — If all goes as planned tonight, Patrick Fullerton could earn his second Newburyport road race title in what has been the best summer of his running life.
Fullerton will be among the expected 3,000 who will take part in the 54th running of the Yankee Homecoming 5K and 10-mile road races at Newburyport High. The 5K is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start while the 10-mile race will begin at 6:10.
It is a busy week for Fullerton, a Haverhill native who is the manager of the Greater Boston Running Company on Water Street. In addition to managing the GBRC patrons over a hectic Yankee Homecoming and running his usual 60 to 65 miles per week, he will also run the High Street Mile Sunday with his eyes on another prize.
Today will mark his first appearance in the Yankee Homecoming 5K.
“I’m very excited. All I’ve heard this week is how great it is,” Fullerton said. “I ran the course (last week) for the first time, and I like everything about it. It has everything a road race should. I need to use the crowd and the downhill parts to my advantage.”
Judging by his recent results, Fullerton is in the midst of a renaissance that followed a stagnant period after graduating from Stonehill in 2011.
His results this summer have not only been impressive, but liberating.
Fullerton opened the summer with stellar results on consecutive days: He placed third in a field of 1,397 at the Hollis, N.H., 5K in 13:59.2 on June 13, part of the New England Gran Prix series. He then cruised to the title at the Newburyport Flag Day 5K a day later in 14:55.1, establishing a 1:31 cushion on the remainder of the field.
On July 3, he was the runner-up at the Manchester, N.H., Mile in a svelte, albeit downhill, 3:48.28, just behind local standout Brian Gagnon (3:42.96).
“I never thought I’d be in better shape than I was in college,” said Fullerton, who enjoyed a stellar two-year career at Stonehill College after transferring from Iona. He earned All-America honors in the 1,500 meters as a senior, placing sixth at the NCAA Championship in 3:57.68.
After graduation, he continued intense training seven days a week, but hit a wall and was unable to improve. The problem, he found, was rest. A lack thereof.
“After Stonehill, I kept running seven days a week,” Fullerton said. “I was working part-time, and I felt like I had a lot of time on my hands. So I ran.”
A year ago, he began taking one day off per week and since, the results speak for themselves.
“Running has become a lot more fun,” he said. “Now I work full time, so I’m not thinking about it. The only time I think about running is when I actually run.”
Fullerton has been focusing on strength workouts and running 1,500-meter simulators to get his body used to going out hard. He hopes to run a half marathon in the near future.
Temperatures for race time today are expected to be in the high 70s, a deviation from the seemingly annual sweltering 90-plus and humid.
Fullerton is hoping for a late spike in temperature and the humidity.
“The hotter it is, the better I usually run,” he said. “I have tight hamstrings. So, the hotter it is, the looser they get.”