Jay Paganelli likes to run long distances - very long distances.
He has finished multiple Ultramarathons: the running equivalent to bench pressing 700 pounds or towing an 18 wheeler with pure man power. On multiple occasions, Paganelli has run for over 100 miles in 24 hours.
But, the Easton resident and Stonehill College graduate hasn't always been that way.
"I’ve sort of run the whole fitness gamut," he said. "What I’ve liked about it is I’m the 'every man.' I’m not a naturally good runner. I’m not naturally fit. I’m actually naturally a really heavy guy. I have a tendency to want a get a Big Mac. But, what I love about running is it’s just this really ego-less group of people."
Besides a stint in Connecticut on his high school's cross country team where he was a self-described "back of the packer," Paganelli didn't even begin running competitively until after he graduated from Stonehill in 2006.
Now he is the owner of Endurance Fitness Systems in Easton - a company looking to transform the way competitive runners train by offering services for the "every man" like himself.
The company was established in the Spring of 2010 after he developed a strong passion for running and realized that the market for training was expensive and not as "hands-on" as it could be.
Additionally, the running community was changing.
"It was interesting to me that the vast majority of this running community that was growing – this running boom that we have seen in the last decade is recreational runners that are moms, dads, busy businesspeople – they’re not naturally gifted athletes that run four minute miles," he said. "Yet, coaching is geared towards the wealthy, the pros and the naturally gifted. From a business perspective and from my own interest perspective, I’d rather work with the guy like me that is looking to pursue a passion for the purest reasons."
Paganelli fields a team of 20-30 runners of varying levels. While the clients train side-by-side at some of the area's best running spots like Borderland State Park, Ames Long Pond and Lake Massoapoag, they are taught individually by Paganelli and two-time Iron Man Finisher Ben Mattson.
While Endurance Fitness Systems offers a traditional personal trainer to client model, Paganelli is proud of the EFS team option.
"We’re extremely diverse," Paganelli said. "We have people that have never run a 5K in their life, and we have people that have done numerous ultra-marathons. They’re training on the same turf, same practice, completely individual, but they’re training side-by-side with each other, and are motivated by each other and it just creates this amazing environment."
Paganelli ran cross country in high school but he did not compete with Stonehill's Div II cross country program. Instead, as is the case with many college students, he began to pack on the pounds.
Paganelli graduated from Stonehill weighing 80 pounds more than he weighs now. As a profession, he went into sales and was looking to get back into shape following college.
"After college, I told a bunch of my friends I needed some support and I was going to be signing up for a 10K to re-engage the athlete that I once was," he said. "I trained for the 10K and it was one of the most rewarding things I had done and I was introduced to the running community – this sort of adult recreational community."
He was hooked.
And, he was looking to take it one step further after reading literature by ultra-marathon legend Dean Karnazes.
"The guy has just done some really inspiring things" Paganelli said. "He’s run 250 miles without stopping. He’s run through deserts. I read his book and was like ‘oh my god, this is incredible. I have to do this. I have to ultra-run.’"
The once "Back-of-the-packer" put the pedal to the metal and ran his first marathon in 2008. Just a month later, he competed in his first ultra-marathon. While he had to quit at mile 40, he has run and completed in 15 ultramarathons since.
His experience solidified his notion that anyone could compete if they put their mind to it. Realizing that there wasn't a strong market for the "every-man" like himself to find quality coaching services, he quit his job in sales, got a part-time job as a Physical Education teacher at the Jackson school in Newton and began Endurance Fitness Systems.
"What we decided to do at EFS was sort of change the dynamic of what good coaching was," he said. "In our position, there had to be a couple of things: it had to be long term, and in order for it to be long term it also had to be affordable. There needed to be face to face time so there could be a relationship between the coach and the client. There needed to be a motivating factor behind the coaching."
The theme for his clients: always be willing to take it to the next level. While not all of his clients are experienced runners, he expects them to be able to push it to the limit - the same way he did when he took up the sport.
"One of the rules on the team is you always have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone," he said. "So say you did eight marathons – you may not want to do number nine next year, but you have to be willing to go out there and run a faster time, or run a trail event if you’ve never run a trail event, or run a triathlon. Coaches are included – we’re always expected to step up and get out of a comfort zone."
Paganelli credits his sales background with helping to build the business. He has networked with local businesses and added benefits for his clients like deals and discounts at the 99 Restaurant, Blue Hills Brewery, and Spark Bike Run Sports.
The local network is beneficial for all involved, Pananelli said.
"We just have local, young, new businesses that are looking to help each other out," he said. "There’s no cash exchanges between the other businesses. It’s just ‘how can I help you and how can you help me’ and we just work together."
While Team EFS is currently in the off-season, Paganelli has already began to gear up for the Spring.
He hopes his business continues to grow. The people he works with have helped him grow as well.
"We’re at almost 30 [people] for next year already and they’re 30 of the most motivating people you’ve ever met in your life," he said.