While most students have spent the past few weeks hitting the books in preparation for midterms, a select group of Columbians was hitting the pavement to prepare for a much different type of test. This Sunday, these students will be among the thousands of runners competing in the New York City Marathon. Leaving the well-worn running paths of Central Park that served as their classroom, they will race from Staten Island to Manhattan through the city’s five boroughs in the world-renowned competition.
Anticipation has been building with the race only a few days away. Nicole Lewis, SEAS ’15, is hoping to finish in under four hours.
“The big thing is the sense of accomplishment that comes from building up to it,” she said. “It’s been a lot, and I hope when I’m done it will be even more of a sense of accomplishment just to finish it. It’s something you put so much time and effort into, and you can see the rewards pay off for it.”
The first obstacle for Lewis was securing a spot in this year’s marathon—the first for the city in two years after Hurricane Sandy canceled the 2012 race. This year, New York Road Runners, the group responsible for organizing the marathon, reported that nearly 100,000 applicants vied to compete in the 26.2-mile course. Of those, a record-setting field of 48,000 gained entry.
The New York Road Runners admitted runners who qualified with their timed performance in other races, who were selected in the lottery, or who completed the 9+1 program, in which a runner must compete in nine qualifying races and volunteer at one event in the preceding calendar year.
Lewis won her spot in the lottery, while Adam Koling, CC ’14 and the vice president of Columbia Road Runners, completed the 9+1 program in 2012.
“It’s taking advantage of an opportunity that being in New York and being able to run lots of New York races has afforded me, which is guaranteed entry into the New York Marathon,” Koling said.
With their spots in the marathon secured, they began an intense training regimen over the summer and have kept on running after returning to Morningside Heights for classes.
“I started training when I went home for the summer,” marathon hopeful Lucinda McConnell, GS ’16, said. “It was horrible. I kept seeing the countdown on the website and Facebook and I would say, ‘What, 90-something days? I’m never going to be ready!’ The long runs were horrible, and it was just awful.”
While the summer training proved daunting on its own, McConnell and her fellow runners added long runs and boot camps to schedules already inundated with classes, work, and activities upon returning to Columbia in the fall.
As Lewis trained in nearby Central and Riverside parks, alternating between weeks of runs with increasing distance and weeks of recovery, Koling’s long runs took him 20 or more miles off campus, running from New Jersey suburbs back to Morningside Heights. McConnell supplemented her routine with organized events like the 18-mile Marathon Tune-Up and 13.1-mile Staten Island Half-Marathon on the weekends.
Even with seemingly overwhelming itineraries, the routine of college life improved their training.
“I thrive having more rigidity to my schedule,” Koling said. “The more free time I have, the less I get done.”
McConnell agreed. “I came back, and once I got into a routine, it got much better. I get up at 5 a.m., and I would run in the morning, come to class, go to work, then go to boot camp, and then go home.”
Just as students’ approaches to studying vary, each runner has taken a different approach to the marathon training. For Lewis, training was an integral part of each day.
“I am very much always thinking about it. Whether it’s how much I should be running or what I should be eating, it lingers in the back of your mind,” she said. “Usually my running is my stress reliever, but with the marathon it became more of an added stress than a stress relief.”
On the other hand, Koling adapted his preparation schedule around his major commitments as a student.
“I take the long runs seriously—those are the backbone of any marathon training program,” he said. “But as for what happens in the six days between long runs, that is subject to the trials and tribulations, swings and sleeplessness, and everything that being a college student involves.”
Unfortunately, after suffering a stress fracture in her foot while running the Staten Island Half-Marathon, McConnell will not be able to run this year. Despite the disappointment of the injury, she looks forward to running her first marathon with her brother in London this spring.
For Koling and Lewis, after months of training, only 26.2 miles lie between themselves and the completion of their first New York City Marathon.
“It’s become a lot of me this semester,” Lewis said. “It will be interesting for it to be done. It will be an interesting period afterwards because I say I’m not going to run for a few weeks, but I probably will. It will be nice to have it over with, but I’m also excited to do it. “