by Emery Skolfield, VP Digital Marketing Footlocker.com/Eastbay
What’s the number one thing on your bucket list?
Is it learning to play the guitar? Skydiving? Running a marathon?
Everyone has their own set of lofty goals they want to achieve. But when I signed up for the New York City Marathon, it was less about fulfilling a lifelong dream and more about forcing myself into motion. Life is busy. I have an involved job, three kids, and tons of travel. Basically, I have a lot of really great excuses not to exercise. But I needed to do something. And for me, the New York City Marathon was that something.
But signing up was the easy part. The real challenge was in finding the mental and physical strength I needed to conquer 26.2.
In the early days of training, when I was ramping up from zero to 15, 20, 30-plus miles per week, I had some discouraging days and disappointing runs. Even several weeks into training, there were days when a 7-mile run felt awful — days when I just wasn’t feeling it.
This is where the real challenge started. When you have a bad training run, it’s easy to project those feelings onto how you’ll perform on race day. But you have to trust that on race day, when it really matters, you’ll perform. I’m proof that you will finish the race, as long as you:
1. Hold Yourself Accountable
The first time I ran a marathon, I only trained for 8 ½weeks. That definitely wasn’t enough. Most training regimens call for 18 weeks of prep. Find something that fits your schedule and do your very best to follow the plan. If you’re going to skip anything, make it a weekday run. Weekend runs ramp up quickly, getting as high as 20 or 21 miles, because they’re meant to stretch you out — preparing your mind (oh, yeah, and body) for distance. That stretch is important.
2. Push Your Limits
Your body does what your mind tells it to do.
This is a remarkable truth, one you’ll learn over and over throughout your marathon journey. Say you are scheduled to run five miles on a Tuesday: After a long day at work or school, you force yourself to lace up and hit the pavement. Three miles in, you want to quit.
Three days later, you wake up at 5 a.m., drink a tall glass of water, and set out on an 18-mile training run. And, somehow, you crush 15 miles before you even think about stopping to walk. It’s all about where you set your goal. The bigger, the better, because it’s all about your frame of mind. The further out you set the goal, the further your body will carry you and the more you will accomplish.
3. Choose The Right Equipment
Throughout my marathon training, I tried a few different running shoes before settling on the Nike Zoom Fly. Making sure you have the perfect pair is really important. Trust me, you don’t want to be uncomfortable and miserable for 26 miles. Here’s a look at my top five picks.
- Ultimately, this was the best race day shoe for me because of its lightweight feel and soft cushioning. I don’t need a ton of support or overlays from a running shoe, so the breathable Flymesh and Lunarlon cushioning were the right combination for me. The Zoom Fly needed virtually no break-in period, so I was immediately ready to lace up and get started.
- The 1080 also has great cushioning, thanks to the full-length Fresh Foam. It holds up through high-mileage training, and has a snug upper fit in case you’re looking for some lightweight support. As an added bonus, there’s a New York City Marathon color that looks really clean.
- ASICS has a great reputation with serious runners. The Kayano 24 has a lot of support, so if you need help correcting your stride or stabilizing your arch, this is definitely the shoe for you. This one also has a marathon edition with a printed upper that celebrates the city.
- This shoe can do it all. The Pegasus 34 is super fast and responsive, so you can’t go wrong here if you’re looking to improve your times. It’s also got Flywire cables that wrap over your foot and make sure you’re really locked in.
- The Vomero still feels fast, but it has an added layer of cushioning that nicely absorbs impact and creates a really smooth ride. It’s a great compromise between energy return and comfort.
It’s important to remember that there’s no be-all-end-all marathon shoe. Everyone runs differently, so you need to choose the right pair for you. And while finding that perfect fit is obviously critical to success on race day, the rest of your gear can make or break your run, too.
The New York City Marathon is in early November, so I needed lightweight layers that weren’t going to rub or chafe. My choice in running apparel actually ended up being the most important, because, at the last minute, I made an addition.
4. Run With Purpose
A lot of people get their names printed on their race-day shirts. It’s a great idea, because along the route people will cheer you on by name, and it helps keep you motivated. But I didn’t want my race to be about me. So, instead, I had “Unity Not Division” printed on my shirt, and it changed my entire experience.
We’re living in a time when people are out to scare us. I had been in New York for a week leading up to the race, and I was getting a lot of texts asking if I was okay and how I felt about running after Tuesday’s attack in Manhattan. But, while that event was definitely present as a backdrop to the race, it’s not what people were focused on that day. They were focused on standing strong and running strong.
What makes the New York City Marathon so special is its diversity. When you run through the five boroughs, you go through so many different neighborhoods. Ten miles in Brooklyn showcases so many cultures and backgrounds, and it’s so cool. Everyone is blended together along the route and everyone is supporting the exact same thing. The marathon course is literally marked by all these people strung together holding hands.
And these people aren’t pro running fans. They’re just people. People who live in this city and this country. People who appreciate the diversity of the event and coming together.