Going the Distance: My First Marathon

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As a competitive runner in college, Alex had never run a race longer than 6 kilometers. She decided to run the New York City Marathon for the first time in 2013—a distance of 26.2 miles (42.16 km). We spoke with her about her accomplishment of finishing in 26th place out of over 20,000 women runners, with a time of 2:51:33.

First, can you talk a little about your background with Goldman Sachs?
I joined Goldman Sachs two years ago in the Compliance Division and moved to the Executive Office about 6 months ago, joining the Investor Relations team. I work on earnings-related reporting and corporate governance in particular.

Is the media report about this being your first marathon true?
Yes. This was my first one ever.

What is your past experience as a runner and what made you want to try the marathon?
In college, I was a runner and competed in Division I-AA Cross Country and Track and Field, running long distance, with the longest races being 5 or 6 kilometers—a lot shorter than a marathon!  Now I run for an established club team here in New York City. They have a group of professional athletes as well as a club team comprised of people like me who have jobs but who may have been athletes in college and still want to continue to compete at a high level.  I joined the team earlier this year and have been running various distances from the 5K to half-marathons. Having grown up in New York, I knew I wanted this to be my first marathon and I always wanted to try the distance, so I decided to do it. I ran fast enough times in half-marathons this year to qualify to run in the professional field, which was an incredible opportunity. 

Did you have any expectations or goals for your performance?
My goal was to finish with a time around what I ended up running. I talked to a lot of people who I run with, like my current teammates, and old college teammates who have run marathons, to try to get a feel for how they train and what to expect. That was how I estimated my goal time, but I went into it with a lot of uncertainty and didn't know how it would go.

Is it also true that you came to work the next day?
I did, yes. It didn't even occur to me to take the day off! I thought it would be a normal day like any other, just a little more sore. The subway stairs hurt a little more than they usually do!

Were your colleagues aware that you were going to run?
They were. I didn't talk about it much, but some on the team knew I was training for a marathon and then someone checked the results after the race and started an email chain that everyone was responding to congratulating me.  When I came in to work the next day, everyone gathered around to listen to the stories from the race.

What was the experience like overall?
It was incredible. The crowd in Brooklyn was five people deep! They were yelling and just so excited—I felt like a rock star. I felt like everyone in Brooklyn was cheering for me. Running with incredible, talented professional women who have run in marathons all over the world, and in the Olympics, was quite inspiring and a cool experience. I learned a lot.

What was the biggest highlight, if there was one in particular?
Oh wow, there were so many. Turning the corner into Central Park at mile 23 was very cool—because you're almost there—and you know you're going to finish the race. It was a thrill. In Brooklyn, some of my college teammates were at mile eight cheering me on—it was quite a boost.

How did you balance work with marathon training?
I ran in the mornings in Central Park before work, something I'm conditioned to now. I would do the long runs and workouts on the weekends. I love to run in the morning and seeing the sun rising behind the skyscrapers on the bridle path in Central Park is a great way to wake up.

So what is your plan for other marathons?
The Olympics trial time is my ultimate goal, and so I'm hoping to run another marathon to try to reach that goal. Hopefully I can hit 2 hours and 43 minutes needed to make the Olympics trials. I think it's within reach. 

How can preparing for a marathon be compared to professional life?
With running, you get back what you put into it.  If you train hard and work hard, you will see improvement and results. But it can take a long time to get there and there are a lot of struggles along the way. I think that’s pretty similar to the professional world.  If you work really hard toward a goal and put in the time and effort, you will see the results.

What type of life advice could you share after this experience?
Never get discouraged, and don't give up. There were a couple of 20-mile training runs where I felt pretty terrible and where I thought I wouldn't be able to run 26.2 miles. It's really about getting out there and trying again and to keep going for it.  If you believe something is possible, then you can do it.


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