Bernard Lagat thought marathon runners were crazy. Even for a decorated runner who has excelled at ‘long distance’ on the track, the thought of 26.2 miles was daunting.
But now that he’s tried one, he’s hoping to develop an addiction – the good kind, of course - the one that most marathon runners seem to have.
“They say once you run one marathon, you come back and run again. It’s addictive,” Lagat, a five-time Olympian and American track superstar, said. “Is that true?”
He’s about to find out. Lagat finished 18th in two hours, 17 minutes, 20 seconds at the New York City Marathon Sunday morning in a race that began on Staten Island and finished in Central Park. It was his first marathon and he finished 11:21 behind winner Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia.
“Oh man, it was something out there,” Lagat, 43, said. “It was fun. I’ve never been in such an environment like that before. I enjoyed it. The fans were amazing on the road. It’s one of those things where I didn’t even know going in that I would experience something like that today. It was really awesome.”
Lagat came up a bit short of his stated goal – breaking Meb Keflezighi’s American masters record of 2:12:21 – but he says they’ll be other chances. This won’t be a one-time thing for Lagat.
“I hope I can come back to New York once more,” Lagat, who won a silver medal in the 1,500 meters at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said.
Or twice more. Or three times. You just never know with marathon runners.
And the next time, Lagat will be more prepared for the pain of 26.2 and everything else that comes with it. After all, this was just a trial run. That’s all that it could have been for an athlete who has never competed at the marathon distance.
“Without experiencing that first one, even if you get the best training, it’s hard to really put it together out there and execute,” Lagat said. “Now that I tested it, it’s not bad. When I go back, I know how to train really well for it. I’ll hopefully improve as I go forward.”
Lagat - who also earned Olympic Bronze in 2000 in the 1,500 - said that the most difficult part of the race was the inclines throughout the course. As a track and field star, he’s used to circles, left turns, and not much else.
“First of all, to start the first mile, we were just on that bridge,” Lagat said, referring to the Verrazzano. “I was thinking to myself ‘this race is starting on an uphill. This is something I’m not used to. I’m used to flat. The track races are always flat. Once we passed mile 14, there was this long tunnel and (the Queensboro) bridge. That was the one that got me really badly.”
Lagat continued: “So, I would say the difficult parts for me was running on those incline roads, the bends, and the downhill. Those were the ones that got me. I started feeling it on my quad and then my calves started giving up toward the end.”
Ah yes, the treacherous New York City terrain – always difficult for a first timer, no matter who you are or how many Olympic medals you’ve won.
“If I prepare really well again, (next) time I’ll know how to prepare for a course like New York because those uphills were the ones that killed me today,” Lagat said.
Sounds like he’ll be back.