Yalies go extra mile in New York City Marathon

One T-shirt read “Yale HWT Crew.” Another read “Yale LWT Jew.” Although Austin Taylor ’05 and friend Hank Greenberg ’05 represented different groups, both were part of the group of over 30,000 people who ran in the New York marathon Sunday.

Taylor, Greenberg, Jaclyn Kessler ’04, Nick Maier ’04, Bertha Pham ’03 and Doyun Park ’05 were among the handful of Elis who took part in the 26.2-mile New York City Marathon Sunday. The race covered five boroughs, crossed five bridges and had over 2.5 million spectators lining the sides of the course, making it one of the premier events for road racers worldwide.

Like the vast majority of runners, Kessler, Pham and Maier applied for entry through the new lottery process. Prior to 2000, runners could sign up on a first-come, first-serve basis, but with the growing popularity of the race, the process became an organizational nightmare and created impossibly long waiting lists. The random lottery drawing was created to give applicants a more even-footed chance for selection.

Lottery winners were notified of their selection in mid-June to give them enough time to train for the event.

“I was like crap at the beginning,” Pham said of her state of physical fitness when she began training. “I was as cold as they get, but once I found out about [the results] from the lottery, I went at it pretty hard.”

The NYC Marathon Official Training Program highly recommends runners begin preparations at least 18 weeks prior to the race. Kessler followed her own workout regimen, gradually building up from 12 to 20-mile runs.

On Sunday, Kessler finished in 3:38:19, placing 137th out of 2,407 women in the 20-29 age category, an unusually high finish for an average rookie marathoner. Kessler’s long-distance running ability, however, is anything but average — it’s in her blood. Her mother, Stephanie Kessler ’79, competed in Sunday’s race, finishing eighth out of 954 women in the 45-59 age group.

“Watching [my mom] and hearing her talk about what an amazing experience the marathon was made me want to do it at some point,” Kessler said.

Kessler is the director of finance at the Yale Daily News.

Greenberg’s motivation came not from a relative but from his own personal desire to compete. Like Kessler, Greenberg began training in June, but at one time was forced to stop.

“I got a bad case of shin splints because I started running too much and didn’t let my body adjust,” Greenberg said, “I couldn’t really start training again until I got back here in September.”

Greenberg ran alongside Taylor for the entire course and the duo finished in 4:21:17 and 4:21:14 respectively. Greenberg placed 27th out of 56 men in the 18-19 age category.

The pair, like many of their fellow Yalies, were rookies on the marathon scene.

“I feel like of all the marathons to make your first, the New York marathon is ideal because the crowd supporting you through all five boroughs is so intense and diverse,” Pham said. “There were children on tricycles, people shouting, pumping their fists and punk bands playing on the streets.”

This marathon might have been the first for Kessler, Taylor and Greenberg, but it was Maier’s second of the year. In the spring, he participated in the Rotorua Marathon in New Zealand, which was a 42-kilometer course. Over the weekend, Maier finished in 3:32:05, well under his goal of 3:45. The spirit and goodwill of the spectators were sources of encouragement for Maier during the race.

“Whenever I felt like I was lagging, I just slid off to a side and cheered at the crowd and they would root me on,” Maier said.

Completing the race was a highlight for many of the runners.

“After I finished, I actually wondered if there was anything else left to do in my life,” Pham said. “I’m trying to avoid the post-partum depression and looking online for other marathons.”

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