Training for the Hambletonian Marathon: An experience like no other

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  • Alexis Tarrazi after a training run.

  • A giant snapping turtle on our running route.

  • Out and running at 6 a.m. on a Saturday affords the beautiful misty view of a sunrise in Hamptonburgh.

  • Janice Doty of Pine Bush and Alexis Tarrazi after a run.

“A marathon is hundreds of miles. The finish is the last 26.2” – unknown.

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Hambletonian Marathon & Good Time Trotter's Relay
Second Annual
8 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 19
Individual Marathon Entry Fees:
$95 (through Oct. 17)
$100 (Race Weekend)
3-Person Relay Entry Fees:
$165 (through Oct. 17), or call Kathleen Rifkin (Race Director) at 845-527-3825

I came across this quote a few weeks ago and it carries more truth to it than I ever considered. I am training for my second full marathon – the Hambletonian Marathon in Goshen set for Oct. 19.

The journey to completing a marathon is much more than running 26.2 miles. A typical training plan takes around 18 weeks or 4 months to train for. In that time you will cover hundreds and hundreds of miles leading up to the finish line. My plan – designed by Hal Higdon, a renowned writer and runner – calls for me to run a total of 462 miles before the start of the race and that doesn’t even include all of the other exercises you will do in between.

Aside from the numbers, running a marathon is an experience like no other. It’s a journey to finding out who you really are, how far you can go and achieving feats you never thought the human body could.

I trained for my first marathon – the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2013 – alone.

During the process of running for hours on end, I learned to dig deep and never give up. I learned I always have more to give. It’s not only about training your body, but more importantly training your mind. Your mind will quit on you a hundred times before your body will, it’s all about pushing past the will to stop and give up. And to achieve that is a feeling like no other.

This year is different. As a local resident I was so happy to find a marathon in my area and was even more pleased to find out that the race directors, Kathleen Rifkin and Rob Dickover hosted training runs every weekend on the course.

At first I was afraid. What if I was too slow to keep up? What if I held up the other runners? What if I get left behind? What if I got lost?

As I pulled into the parking lot off the Heritage Trail in Goshen near Trailside Treats I saw a bunch of runners sporting bright colored, water wicking apparel and equipped with GPS watches and technical running shoes. As I walked up to the group I announced that I was “slow” and wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up.

Before I could continue with my pity party, Susan Plocharczyk of Bloomingburg and Mary Pat Smith of Florida cut me off and welcomed me right away. They joked how I could stay with the “slow” group. Our first long run consisted of 8 miles.

Susan and Mary Pat stuck with me the entire time. We chatted about anything and everything. When one of us wanted to take a break we accommodated each other and we even pushed each other to go a little father.

“Just one more mailbox.”

Running on the beautiful and scenic “hilly” course has helped my body only to grow stronger – so that on race day I will be ready to go.

The course truly is beautiful. You run past farm lands where we have seen horses, cows, chickens, deer and much more. On one particular training run, we encountered two loose horses on the roadway. One fellow runner, Deanna Zawistowski of Otisville had ranch experience and was able to corral them off the road until a farmer came back to get them back in their pen. Another time we saw a giant snapping turtle hanging out.

I continued to come week after week and along with Susan and Mary Pat, I met more friends. Even joined the local Orange Runner’s Club.

Running with friends helped each of us to dig deep and push on. No one wanted to be the one to say let’s stop and take a break so we found that inner strength to go farther than if we were running alone where it’s easier to quit with no one around to see you.

I am less than 7 weeks out from the marathon and the experience of running with friends is something that has truly transformed my life. It is almost as though we are war buddies. We have been through the pain and suffering and have also been there at the end for our victories on completing each long run.

The friendships I have made through running are ones that will last a lifetime.

Each week as we finished our long runs all of our faces would be beet red and glistening with a sheen of sweat but we looked more beautiful than from when we started.

I cannot wait for Oct. 19 to come around because I feel this will be my best marathon yet.

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