I know it sounds cliché but I don’t often like to talk about my personal life. That might seem strange for someone who has a job that is in the public eye, but it has just always felt odd to me to talk about myself. I would much rather write a story about someone else and give them time in the spotlight.
Nevertheless, occasionally I’m involved in something that enough people want to know more about, they twist my arm, and I end up telling the story. In this case, my story is running two marathons in seven days.
Now I know some of you are thinking, “So how far is a marathon?” A marathon is 26.2 miles and is one of the longest distances for road races. It is a distance that can humble you and tear you down to your lowest level. It is also a distance that, if conquered, can give you one heck of a “runners high,” and that is why I keep going back for more.
I have now completed 17 marathons. I have run big races, including Boston, London and Chicago, and I have also done smaller races in places like Albany, Syracuse, Scranton, Erie and Corning. Some have been amazing, some have been average and some have been downright awful. Each time I step on that starting line I know I am going to learn something about myself that day, and I absolutely love that about running marathons. Even on those awful days I feel like I am pushing myself to be better in all aspects of my life. I often think, if you can do this, you can do anything.
So why run two in seven days? The marathon is physically and mentally demanding. Experts often say it takes the body months to get over the trauma the race puts on
I guess that is a big reason why I wanted to try it. How much can my body handle? Can I really do this? What is the science behind the recovery in those days between the races and how can I bounce back fast enough? Basically, I wanted to know if I could do it. In my job I constantly see athletes pushing themselves to the limit, and sometimes I like to know that I can still do that, too.
The first marathon in this double marathon challenge was the Wineglass Marathon in Corning. I trained hard for this race and worked with a coach for the first time in many years. I wanted to run a good time and possibly get a Boston Marathon qualifying time (3:05:00) for the first time since 2018. My training went well and I felt both ready and nervous on race day. I knew I would have a chance to break three hours, but questioned “can I still do this?” It had been a few years since I had run that fast so my confidence wasn’t that high. I decided I just had to go for it and trust my training. It was raining on race day (I seem to be cursed with this) but the temperature was good and I knew I was going to have a chance. I had a nice group of runners to work with for most of the race, but the pack broke up around mile 17. I was solo for the next three miles, but I stayed mentally strong even when some doubt started to creep in. I caught up to another group and felt so good during the last six miles that I even surprised myself. As I turned onto the homestretch I could see the race clock change from 2:59 to 3:00. I wasn’t going to crack three hours, but I was going to be darn close. I crossed the line in 3:00:52 and was congratulated by professional runner (and a hero of mine), Meb Keflezighi. He was there greeting runners as they finished.
He said “awesome job, that is a great run!” A high five from Meb made my day. I needed at least 3:05 to have a chance at going back to Boston so it felt good to get that and be so close to the three-hour mark. With the rainy, soggy conditions I had to say that this first race was a great success.
I spent the next week doing everything I could to recover. Ice baths, massages, walking, stretching, light jogs and getting as much sleep as I could. By the end of the week my legs were feeling surprisingly good and I felt like I was going to have a real chance at pulling this off. My next race was in Chicago and as it got closer to race day, I kept checking the weather. I thought, this can’t be right, almost 80 degrees in Chicago? That would not be fun. The last time I ran there it was 38 degrees (and raining). But I would just have to wait and see what this year would bring.
On Friday, I flew to Chicago with my wife, Amanda. She is amazingly supportive on all of my crazy endurance adventures. We arrived in the city, went to the marathon expo and explored over the next two days. We took a boat tour through the middle of the city that talked about all the historic architecture and it was fascinating. I would highly recommend it.
Sunday was race day and I was feeling great, but it was 73 degrees and humid before the sun even came up. In a situation like this, you just have to adjust your goals. I felt it was wise to stick with the 3:15-pace group, drink at every water station and keep fueling the best I could. I followed my plan religiously and it was working well. I felt strong and as we made our way through the windy city. The farther we got in the race, the more runners I saw falling victim to the heat and humidity. I saw many runners heading to the medical tent, being hauled off in ambulances or just sitting on the curb head in hands. I did not want be that person. Around mile 23, I could feel that something was changing. The heat was getting to me. My heart rate was getting higher and I could feel some cumulative fatigue hitting me. I decided to back off a bit and let the 3:15 group go. As an athlete, it kills you to let your goal go like that, but it was the smart decision. I finished in 3:19:35 and had a big smile on my face. I knew I had to be wise and the smart decision was to cross that line safe and sound.
So I had done it, two marathons in seven days. We took some celebratory photos, went out for a big dinner and searched for some late night ice cream. The best part after a marathon is getting to eat everything in sight! I even got to end the night watching the Bills beat the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football as I drifted off to sleep in our hotel room. Go Bills!
I am now just over a week removed from completing this journey. I am 99% satisfied with how it all went. I am amazed at the human body and what it can do and what it can bounce back from. It truly makes me wonder what our limits are. I like to think of people in my life who might be sick or struggling and I like to run for them. It inspires me to keep searching for what is around the next corner. So what is the 1% I am upset about? I wanted that 3:15 in Chicago and now I feel like I have to go back there again and get it! Running always seems to find a way to give you that next challenge.
So what is next? I am hopeful my 3:00:52 time will get me into the 2022 Boston Marathon. I should know in November. It will mean a cold winter of training, but it will be well worth it. I have run Boston three times and to be able to run one of the most prestigious races in the world is pretty cool for a kid from tiny Gilbertsville. Let me end by saying we have several local runners who are faster than me or have run more marathons than me. Those people and everyone I see out running and giving their best inspire me to keep training and working hard. I hope maybe my story
will make them want to do the same.
Thanks for reading!
Nate Lull is the sports director for WCDO in Sidney.