By Kyle Merber
August 31, 2022
It’s been two years since I officially became a retired professional runner — and don’t worry, that’s not changing! However, I am ready to race again. My time on the track is certainly done, since there’s no way I can go any faster. But I can go farther.
That’s why I am going to run the New York City Marathon.
I think that enough time has passed since my competitive days that any expectations — both my own, and others’ — have reset a bit. At least that seemed to be the case when I reached out to New York Road Runners and was told I’d have to start in the sub-elite field unless I proved fitness first. (To which I said something along the lines of, ‘don’t worry, I won’t be proving anything.’)
When I announced that I’d be hanging up my spikes, it was left intentionally open-ended. I never said I was hanging up my sneakers, and I hope I never have to. I’ve run nearly every day since stepping away from the track, because it’s something I love to do. Racing was merely a byproduct of something that I would do anyway. Beating others was never the main objective, and while there is definitely some ounce of truth to the idea that I wanted to see how good I could be, it was always the process that I found most rewarding.
For two years I’ve started each week like I started most weeks before retirement: with a run. But unlike during my competitive career, those runs never really fit into a broader plan. And so the motivation is to find some sense of direction again, not because I want to set the world on fire, but because it makes it a bit more interesting to put on my shoes each morning when I know there is somewhere I am trying to go.
In some regards, I am already burning the candle at both ends. On top of working a full-time job, I find myself quite busy writing this newsletter and covering the sport for CITIUS MAG — then of course there are the responsibilities that come with parenthood. (The only reason I can consistently churn out so many words each week is that my wife is a much better mother than I am a father, while simultaneously being incredibly supportive of my creative endeavors!)
As my schedule has become increasingly busy, I’ve discovered the importance of squeezing every minute out of each day. But even then, I am calibrating my expectations a bit. This is the first time in my life that I’ll be training for a race, where that training isn’t taking center stage day in and day out.
My preparation can’t involve 120+ mile weeks from an altitude camp. In college or as a pro, I could justify shuffling priorities around to benefit a run — if I did that now, I’d be deserving of an intervention. On Sunday night I drove to the pharmacy at 3 AM to pick up medicine for our ten-month-old daughter who has been battling a fever, Monday morning run be damned! My workout last week was completed in pitch blackness with only a cell phone light illuminating the bike path beneath me because when else could I sneak it in?
My training will be determined by how much free time I can finesse out of each busy week, not by how much I want to do. The hope is that one big workout and a long run each week can help me recapture some semblance of the fitness I once had. I have three months, and I’m truly excited to try to make it happen.
New York is the perfect place for this attempt for many reasons. The most obvious is that it’s home. I grew up on Long Island, went to school in the city, lived in New Jersey, and now commute to Manhattan from Westchester. I am the definition of a bridge and tunnel guy — there is no need for a course preview; my alarm blares “Empire State of Mind” every morning and my blood type is Guiseppe’s pizza sauce.
That is one of the reasons I have partnered with Bandit Running for this journey. It’s only right to have the support of a New York-based running apparel brand and I can’t wait to join their community in both the lead-up and celebration of the event.
Yet beyond the local pride element, my goal is to walk away from the experience both literally being able to walk and wanting to do another one. This is an experiment to see if I enjoy running marathons. The notoriously difficult course takes away the burden of time — this is not an Olympic Trials Qualifying journey. And although I am not particularly driven by chasing the standard today, I could see that changing tomorrow if this goes well.
So here is what I have done after four weeks!
- Mileage – 60/66/64/64
- Workouts – [6 x mile @ 5:09 w/ 60”] [2 x 3.5 miles @ 5:22 w/ 3’] [7 mile tempo @ 5:14] [4 x 2 mile @ 5:15 w/ 2’]
- Long Runs – [16@6:49] [17@6:22] [18@6:54]
It’s taken 78 weeks of writing The Lap Count for the social media self-plug, but follow me on Strava, Instagram, or Twitter for updates beyond the weekly recap here. But most importantly, how fast do you think I can go?
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After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.