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Jennie Finch goes from softball ace to NYC marathoner

Jennie Finch

Jennie Finch Photo Credit: Jerry Pinkus

Former gold-medal U.S. Olympic softball ace Jennie Finch is used to being in command on the mound. But training with Timex for a charity run in next month’s New York Marathon has taken her out of her comfort zone.

“I’m entering this whole new world,” said the 31-year-old Finch, whose 12-week training crash course follows the birth of her second child with pitcher Casey Daigle on June 19. “Before, I think my longest run was six miles.”

Finch, who lives in Sulphur, La., is using Timex GPS watch that relays her running data to her Los Angeles-based coach, Suzanne Davis. Finch’s progress has allowed Davis to set her target marathon time at 4:10 — 45 minutes above the national women’s average.

Finch spoke with amNewYork by telephone Wednesday during a visit to the Giants’ Timex Performance Center.

You’ve struck out a number of major league baseball players in softball exhibitions. What has been their reaction? A lot of times, they were kind of in awe. Like, ‘Wow, it really does move!’ And, ‘That’s fast!’ And, ‘That’s a Randy Johnson slider!’

Do you think you could hit a major league fastball from CC Sabathia? I’m not sure. I mean, probably not in one at-bat.

You used to pitch on no rest for three straight days. Have you had a more cautious approach to marathon training? No, I’ve kind of carried the same mental toughness from softball over into running.

What was the longest you’d run prior to your marathon training? [When I ran before], it was kind of training for endurance on the mound. And then, obviously, after retiring [from professional softball], it was kind of more just staying in shape. ... Now, there’s goals in there. ... Softball there’s all different aspects of the game; this is just running.

What is your goal? I went from finishing to — my coach just notified me that it’s 4:10.
You don’t set the goal yourself? (laughs) Right, yes. That’s just how I’ve been going about this — I’ve just been notified what to do, and I do it.

Are you going to wear the famous headband while you run? The glitter headband? Yeah, I think I’m going to have to go with the headband. That’s my game face.

People will be gawking at this celebrity runner during the race; could that slow you down? Hopefully not. My coach will be running beside me, and every person I pass, a dollar will go to charity. So I’ll be kind of on a mission, I think, and hopefully in the zone. ... Look out, I’m headed for the finish line. Can’t get there fast enough.

Do you think you have enough experience running in urban environments to be ready for New York? I feel like I’ll be prepared. We ran nine miles this morning in Central Park. ... I have one tempo run a week, one long run and then one hill run.

How will you keep the pressure off your kids when their parents are both top professional athletes? I think it’s easy. I think it’s more about whatever they want to do. I think, having been there, we understand — and we know that it may not be for them. ... But, obviously, we want them to play sports because we’ve seen and experienced the benefits first-hand. So, they’ll play, hopefully, everything, and see if one clicks. If they like it then we’ll let them go and see what happens.

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