Behind The Scenes

Two years after taking up the sport, ESPN.com’s Patrick Stiegman recalls ‘an experience without parallel’ in completing the NYC Marathon

Patrick Stiegman during the 2013 New York City Marathon. (Photo courtesy Marathon Photo)
ESPN.com executive Patrick Stiegman (white shirt) running through Queens during the 2013 New York City Marathon on Sunday. (Photo courtesy Marathon Photo)

Have vision. Take the long-term view. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

You hear this a lot at a place like ESPN, where we’re always looking for the next, new, innovative way to serve sports fans better. So, it’s no surprise that several people at ESPN run marathons. One of those people is Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of ESPN.com Patrick Stiegman. He was among the more than 50,000 runners – the largest marathon ever, according to the New York Road Runners – who completed the New York City Marathon last Sunday on ESPN2’s airwaves. We asked Stiegman to describe what it was like to earn his runner’s medal after completing the 26.2 miles in 4 hours, 20 minutes.

What is it like to be able to say you finished the New York City Marathon?
Incredible. Indescribable. And improbable. When I first embarked on this little hobby in 2011, struggling to pound out a mile on the treadmill, I never imagined I’d run 20 half marathons and four full marathons – let alone one of the most iconic road races in the sport.

Running amidst 50,000 other participants, singing “New York, New York” as we crested the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, high-fiving the rollicking crowds in Brooklyn, soaking in the stunning NYC skyscape crossing into Manhattan from Queens, surfing the raucous, ear-splitting energy along First Ave., climbing the penultimate stretch up Fifth Ave., sprinting to the best finish line in the world in Central Park and having that gold New York City Marathon medal draped over your neck. . . it’s an experience without parallel.

Patrick Stiegman with his medal after completing the NYC marathon. width=
Patrick Stiegman with his medal after completing the NYC marathon.

The only thing that surpassed it was the camaraderie among friends, family, volunteers and other runners throughout the city. There is an indelible community among runners, and it was cranked up to volume 11 all weekend, especially before, during and after the marathon Sunday. Simply spectacular.

What was your toughest point in the run and how did you get yourself through?
The lasting memories will be one of triumph (relatively, anyway) and celebration. But undeniably, the exhaustion was real. The pain was real. The mental and physical anguish was very real. I had been battling strains in both calf muscles over the last six weeks of training, and that pain didn’t take long to announce itself during the marathon.

Coming down the Verrazano around Mile 2, my left calf “popped” – imagine being whacked in the back of your leg with a ball-peen hammer. I slowed immediately, assessed, and quickly decided that, while a “Personal Record (PR)” wasn’t in the cards, a “Did Not Finish (DNF)” was not going to define my NYC Marathon experience, either.

I pushed through it and managed to maintain my time goal for nearly 20 miles before the calf, coupled with some stomach distress, ultimately throttled back my pace. So while this wasn’t my fastest marathon [Stiegman recorded a 3:54 at the Marine Corps Marathon], it was certainly the most rewarding.

What are your thoughts on running another marathon?
As my brother Garry frequently reminds me, never ask a runner to make future plans on race day. In the immediate aftermath of a marathon, after running for 4-plus hours, the body overrules the brain and pain trumps passion. Because life makes no sense, I’m actually scheduled to run a half marathon in less than two weeks, so the answer to the question is self-evident. Yes, I completed the New York City Marathon. Yes, it’s one of my most satisfying personal accomplishments. And yes, I will run a marathon again.

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