When he turned 50 he went sky-diving. To prepare for his 60th birthday this year, Dennis Walcott decided to run the I.N.G. New York City Marathon.
"I said let me think about the challenge I want to have," he recalls. When he saw the New York marathon in TV last November, "I said 'Hmm, that looks like a great challenge,' something very impossible to do which is something I want to attempt to do."
Walcott started training in earnest nine months ago. The New York Road Runners Club helped Walcott enter the marathon, according to his communications director Natalie Ravitz (most people who aren't elite athletes enter via lottery). "They were very gracious," she said.
"I was never really much of a runner," Walcott admitted. He said he would typically use the treadmill at his local YMCA about three times a week for half an hour, "and that was walking and running."
Walcott was a Deputy Mayor before he took over as Schools Chancellor in April. He said he found time to train by waking up earlier and running longer distances on weekends. His longest run was 22 miles, but he added he did it too late in the day after working and had a tough finish. He ran the Staten Island Half Marathon in October in 1:51:53, finishing tenth in his age group.
"Each run has been a lesson learned," he said. "I've now learned the beauty of the gel packs and hydrating."
Walcott said city students have been his biggest supporters. Their main advice has been, "You can do it. They've been plain and clear, we know you can do it."
Walcott added finishing the marathon is his only goal right now — and that he isn't thinking about his time. He stopped running over two weeks ago to give body time to rest and relax. His weekend plans include grocery shopping and hitting the dry cleaners.
"If I do anything it will be just little quick burst of runs along the block and in the neighborhood but nothing long at all."
As schools chancellor, he said he hopes his race sends a message to the city's one million students.
"Exercise is important, health is important. Healthy eating is important," he says. "And setting goals are important as well...Even if you don't make your goals it's important to set goals."
Just don't ask him about his next big birthday plan. He said he hasn't even started to think about that yet.
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