Training Talk: Full-Time Workers, Part-Time Runners
Eissa Shively is a writer for a digital ad agency. This year’s ING New York City Marathon will be her sixth marathon and she hopes to run it in under three hours and 20 minutes. To achieve her goal, Shively, who works up to 70 hours a week, says she runs whenever her work allows her a chance to lace up her shoes. “It’s literally taking the day, finding a window and making it happen,” Shively said during a recent training run in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “Sometimes it’s mornings. Sometimes it’s nights. Sometimes I run commute from work or to work,” she said.
Shively is not alone. Adam Balfour is a Corporate Attorney and a three-hour marathoner. On a busy week, he says he might spend 90 hours in the office. “It’s hard and sometimes you can go a week or two without getting a run in at all,” Balfour said during an early morning run in Central Park. But with the goal of running a sub-three-hour marathon in New York, Balfour says he’s getting in 60 miles a week any way he can. “It is a lot like a part time job. You are trying to balance meetings, and clients with running,” said Balfour who admits he often runs with his Blackberry so he can take important calls and even answer emails.
Preparing for a marathon, professional runners log anywhere from 70-140 miles a week. They spend hours strengthening their core muscles, getting massages and physical therapy to expedite the healing of sore muscles and most importantly, making sure they eat just the right foods and get just the right amount of sleep. Running is their full time job. “There’s so many things that I do from 7a.m. till 10 p.m, including a nap, sometimes is very crucial to my training,” said 2009 NYC Marathon Champion and two-time Olympian Meb Keflezighi
There are rare examples of every day office workers who clock world class marathon times. Japanese runner Yuki Kawauchi won the 2011 Tokyo Marathon in 2:08:37. He did all of his training while working nine hours a day at a government services agency. But for most runners who dream of chasing down that elusive Boston Marathon time or besting their personal record, this kind of lifestyle is simply not possible.
Both Balfour and Shively say when it’s marathon season, the calendar fills up fast. “I think when you’re running a marathon your social life takes a huge hit,” Balfour said. “Sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday morning is usually out of the question,” said Shively who also says Friday nights are usually nights to relax and go to bed early.
Experts urge caution and common sense. “It’s definitely about a life balance,” says New York Road Runners Coach John Honerkamp. “I find in my own running, if I was focused on work or social life, my running would fall through, and if I was too focused on running and social life, my work would fall through.” Honerkamp and his colleagues at the NYRR are coaching more than 1,600 runners around the world for this year’s marathon. Each runner is given a unique program tailored to his or her goals, schedule and lifestyle. “If you’re stressed at work, or you have a family vacation, these are all things that affect your training and you need to allow for that change to happen versus fighting.” Honerkamp reminds his runners to listen to their bodies and take breaks. He says not allowing for any breathing room in a marathon program can lead to illness or injury that can set a runner back for weeks.
Honerkamp says most professional athletes have a team of physiotherapists, sports psychologist, massage therapist, sometimes two to three coaches. He recommends making your family and co-workers part of your team. Find someone at the office who runs and can join you at lunch or after work. If you are a parent, recruit your kids to give you water at stops on your long runs. “Running can be very selfish at a certain level,” he says. “I think that this is a key way to embrace any type of training, especially someone in an advanced level that is trying to run a top level Boston Qualifier.”
But for both Shively and Balfour, it’s the running that makes the long hours more bearable. “Once I’m on a long run, I feel completely detached from work and unaware of the stresses that are going on. It’s something that is very relaxing and makes my life a little less stressful,” Balfour said.