In last Sunday’s New York Marathon, Martin Lel placed first overall, running 2:10:30 to win $108,000 and a car. He ran 26.2 consecutive miles averaging 4:59 per mile. That is equivalent to just over 105 laps around a track, 75 seconds per lap, but with hills. More than seven hours later, the last finisher, Elizah Moloka, crossed the line as number 34,703 in a time of 9:43:16. Somewhere in between was Mariko Boswell ’04, who finished 7,592 in a time of 3:53:02.
Boswell is just one of a number of Yalies who are among the half a million people who run marathons every year. For a gifted few, running marathons becomes a career. Frank Shorter ’69, for example, excelled in cross country and track at Yale before winning gold in the marathon at the 1972 Munich Olympics and placing second in Montreal four years later. Others have reasons varying from a desire to get in shape to a love of running to the idea of just doing it because it’s there.
Boswell falls into the latter category. She ran a half marathon with her father, aunt and uncle last year and thought the longer distance was within reach. She applied to get into the New York Marathon, whose 35,000 runners make it one of the largest in the world, and whose popularity necessitates a lottery to handle the high demand for spots in the race.
Boswell learned of her selection in June.
“When I got in, I was like ‘Wow, I’m definitely doing it,'” Boswell said.
A recreational runner, Boswell started her preparation in June by following the training program for the casual marathoner on the race web site. Weekly mileage ranged from 20 miles initially to 40 miles a few weeks before the race. Boswell did single runs of as many as 20 miles.
“I was running to finish,” Boswell said.
Surviving the training
Emma Barber ’06 also decided to run a marathon after she completed a half marathon in June. A Chicago native, Barber chose to run in the Oct. 12 Chicago Marathon because it was close to her house.
“I started running my junior year [in high school],” Barber said. “Running is a big stress reliever for me. It’s my thinking time.”
Barber’s training, consisting of up to 55 miles per week and a long run that reached 22 miles, was not the hardest part of her preparation. The decreased mileage and increase in rest days during the week leading up to the race were the most difficult for her.
“I couldn’t run,” she said. “It was a weird thing.”
Coping with the approximately 40,000 runners in the race also provided a challenge. After waiting at the start for 20 minutes or more, Barber had to wait six minutes after the gun went off before she even reached the starting line.
“The first two miles I couldn’t really run,” Barber said.
She broke through the crowd, and after running “too fast” during miles five through eight, Barber settled down until about mile 20 when the pain set in. But she persisted, finishing in a time of 3:56.
“After 22, it didn’t matter,” she said.
While adrenaline and desire to finish can compel you to complete the race regardless of the pain, sometimes simply surviving months of training to reach race day can be problematic, as Strand Conover ’04 said.
Conover, who captained his high school cross country team for two years and led YRun — Yale’s running club — last year, decided to run the New York. He built up to 47 miles a week and a long run of 22 miles when a stress fracture in his foot foiled his plans.
“I can’t run for the next six weeks at all,” Conover said. “I’m really upset. I was crestfallen when I found out.”
Because he had to withdraw due to injury, Conover has a guaranteed spot in next year’s race and may try to run a marathon in May.
Running with a partner
Lisa Rothman ’04 and Kate Casselman ’05 know the feeling of having their hopes dashed by injuries.
The duo decided to run a marathon together after participating in the Habitat Bike Challenge.
“We got into the whole extended physical challenge thing,” Rothman said.
Rothman and Casselman initially planned to run the D.C. Marathon in March, but their plans were thwarted as both got stress fractures within a week. After taking time off, they started training again this summer, but less intensely.
Although they ran the same race as Barber, Rothman and Casselman took different routes to race day, running together for many of their runs rather than alone.
“Our first time training, it was critical to do it with someone,” Casselman said. “During a run there are ebbs and flows and it’s nice to have someone else.”
But they also agreed a training partner cannot do everything for you.
“We didn’t start training together until September,” Rothman said. “I gained a lot of discipline. It was important to do it for myself.”
One of the hardest aspects for Rothman and Casselman, members of the women’s rugby team, was balancing the demands of rugby with their work as architecture majors, their marathon training, and the increased need for sleep and food.
“We woke up early a lot,” Rothman said. “It’s definitely a schedule issue.”
But by race day, all they needed to worry about was running.
“The first 14 miles, there was amazing fan support,” Rothman said. “It felt like we weren’t even running.”
“And then it turned,” said Casselman.
But despite their struggles, they managed to finish in about 4:40, perhaps aided by what they regarded as a fortuitous encounter at about mile 20.
“The thing that got us through was someone gave us a beer,” Rothman said.
Pass the Courvoisier
Partying will likely play a major part in the marathon hopes of Drew Alt ’05. He and his friends Kirk Henderson ’05, Wills Glasspiegel ’05, and Ben Edmunds ’04 recently began training for the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans on Feb. 29.
Edmunds, a cross country runner in high school, completed a marathon in Duluth, Minn., during the summer, and that inspired his housemates to run one with him.
“[We decided] let’s just pick a cool place and go,” Alt said.
As Henderson pointed out, the Mardi Gras race, which takes place on Feb. 29, is particularly appropriate as the group, with the exception of Glasspiegel, lives at 229 Dwight Street.
“Our whole house is going,” Alt said. “The Mardi Gras celebration is from the Wednesday before until the Tuesday after. We’re bringing a crew. At least 12 people.”
Already Alt has experienced the conflicts that can arise when running begins to play a large role in one’s life.
“Sunday we went on our long run after going out Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday,” Alt said. “I thought I could pull a Michael Jordan, like when he played against the Jazz.”
The acceptance of marathons as a part of mainstream culture was apparent in Sunday’s race in New York.
“I was running when I passed P. Diddy,” Boswell said. “He had like four bodyguards around him. He was looking alright.”
Some fast runners bemoan the slow times posted by many of the ordinary people who run marathons today. These people would point to P. Diddy as a sign of the decline of serious American distance running, turning the ancient sport into a farcical publicity stunt. But for Boswell and company, just finishing the 26 miles and 385 yards is a remarkable accomplishment.
On the subject of P. Diddy running the marathon, Rothman had the last word.
“That was hot.”