MEMBER: Peter Celona II

Name: Peter Celona II
Hometown: Catasauqua, PA
High School: Catasauqua High School
College: College of William and Mary
Occupation: Public School Teacher

Personal Bests
1600 - 4:43
10-mile - 1:01:02
Marathon - 2:59:04

Career Highlights
River City Marathon (2010), Winner
Phunt 50k Run (2008), Winner
Bald Eagle Mountain MegaTransect (2005-2008), Top 5 finisher 2007 & 2008


By: Kevin Brandon (07/18/18)

Pete, thanks for taking time to speak with us. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you end up in Philadelphia and running with PRTC?

Thanks for the opportunity, Kevin! I've worked as public school teacher for the last 10 years and will likely do that until I retire because I love it. I started running in Philly in 2007 when I took a 1-year AmericaCorps VISTA position with Students Run Philly Style. I learned about PRTC in 2016 through the center city Philly Runner shop when I asked the staff about training with faster folks.

When did you first become a runner? Did a specific event compel you to take on the sport?

I remember there was a field day in 8th grade where I could earn a Popsicle for each lap I ran (imagine a beer-mile but with Popsicles) and the teachers were like whoa how are you running and eating that many Popsicles, you should try out for the x-country team next year. Looking back it was maybe a mile and a half but not many kids were too stoked to run around a gravel track on a June afternoon.

Once you began running, how did your career develop? Take us through day one to today.

I was ignorant of running culture, distances, and training plans beyond a 5k for a while because I didn´t run competitively in college. Once I was graduated and started living on my own, I started to experiment with longer runs. Eventually I got into trail running and ultra marathons. Joining PRTC last year and meeting everyone was really eye-opening for me around my own potential and is motivating like never before.

What is a favorite running accomplishment or moment?

In 2010 I was living in San Francisco completing my Masters in Education and one of my best childhood friends was living in Reno, Nevada. She was running her first ever half marathon in Sacramento and asked if I wanted to run the marathon because she knew I had run a couple before. Well, we signed up together and I ended up winning the marathon in a time of 2:59:21. Granted, this time should not win anything and there were less than 300 people in the race. Regardless, it was very funny to see her reaction and to this day she assumes that I win all races all the time.

How about a not-so-great moment?

Hitting the wall at mile 17 of the 2016 Philly Marathon and having to run by my friends and family in Manayunk when I was clearly struggling. I ran a 1:27 half but finished in 3:11.      

Regarding your running future, what are your near and long-term goals?

My near term goal is to run a single 800 at Paul Matuszak´s 1600 meter pace. This was not accomplished at Franklin Field field this morning, unfortunately. Long term I´d like to stay healthy and qualify for Boston with the Richmond Marathon in November.

I understand you've been involved with Students Run Philly Style. Can you tell us about the program and your involvement with it?

Students Run Philly Style is a ripsnorter of a program and one that is near and dear to my heart! Please check them out and consider supporting them in whatever way makes sense for you. Simply put, their mission is to transform the lives of young people in Philly through running and mentorship. My involvement began in 2007 as an AmericaCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) where I was tasked with building program capacity during their nascent stage. My part involved grant writing, brainstorming and program design, event planning, race organizing, mentorship and coaching. It was basically a crash course in non-profit management and youth development. I´m happy to say that the program has grown from serving 200 students in 2007 to over 1200 students last season. Major SHOUT OUT to all the volunteers, staff and supporters, including Philly Runner, who make the program possible!

And how about your day job? What inspired you to take up teaching math and science?

I lost a bet!  All joking aside I was inspired by reasons both personal and academic. At our all-staff retreat last year, the question was raised: when did you realize education was liberating? For me, it was in my high school physics class. I remember we had a ramp set up on top of a lab table and our assignment was to predict where to place a small 3 oz. dixie cup on the floor so the ball would come down the ramp, roll off the table, gap a portion of the floor and land directly into the cup. We weren´t allowed test runs and only had one try to earn an A.  It was empowering and liberating to me as a teenager to predict something so seemingly random with such great precision using math and science.

On the other hand, I view teaching as a political act and an opportunity to affect change in society and our world. There is no closing the achievement or wealth gap in the U.S. without student access and success in math and science because the two serve as a gateway to college and/or vocations and are a predictor of post-secondary success. It is also a lot of fun and students keep me sharp!

In doing research for this interview, I learned you once walked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 186 days. What was that experience like? Do you have any tips for members who aspire to similar challenges?

It is true! I also logged about 500 miles hiking from near Death Valley, through Yosemite and the High Sierra to south Lake Tahoe on the Pacific Crest Trail in California one summer. Long distance hiking really was a positive life changing experience for me. Similar to running and Vipassana meditation retreats, it was a must read chapter for me in the art of happiness. If you can´t find the time and want to try the "best" parts of the AT check out the Smoky Mountain section, the Long Trail in VT, the White Mountains in NH, or the 100-mile Wilderness in Maine. One of the best hikes in PA near my hometown on the AT is short and sweet to Bake Oven Knob and you can trail run down to Lehigh Gap and catch an old fashioned drive in movie at nearby Becky´s Drive In.

Any non-running related hobbies, hidden skills or talents we may enjoy hearing about?

I know 2 outstanding card tricks that I´m happy (overeager?) to perform and teach you.