Olympian Shadrack Kipchirchir will make his marathon debut at the New York City Marathon on November 6, New York Road Runners announced on August 9.

“The [New York City] running atmosphere and running community are the best. I want to be a part of it,” he told Runner’s World.

Kipchirchir is already an accomplished distance runner. He’s qualified for six world championships teams and an Olympic team. He’s won two USATF national championships in cross-country. Most recently, the 33-year-old claimed his first U.S. title on the roads over 8K in Kingsport, Tennessee, on July 16, clocking 22:41. But ever since arriving in the U.S. as a Western Kentucky University freshman in 2010, Kipchirchir has been dreaming about the marathon.

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“I feel like my career is starting now, because this is what I've wanted since I was young,” the former member of the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) said.

Despite the excitement, many runners find their first marathon daunting. But Kipchirchir, who is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, looks forward to the challenge and competition. Not many runners are on the same competitive level as Kipchirchir—after all, he debuted over the half marathon distance in an impressive 61:16 at the NYC Half in March—but his nuggets of wisdom on physically and mentally preparing for the marathon are universally helpful to people of all abilities.

“Before you lace your shoes and start training for the marathon, you have to start from your head—make your heart love it, and your legs will translate what you’re feeling,” he said.

Here are four more tips from Kipchirchir that will prepare you for your first “big one,” as he calls it, whether it’s in New York City or elsewhere.

Not everything in your buildup will be perfect, so be patient.

Kipchirchir had a bumpy road leading up to his marathon debut. After qualifying for the 2019 world championship team in the 10,000 meters, he had high hopes to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. He planned to race his first marathon during the fall that year. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic foiled those plans. Then, in March 2021, he tore his calf, ending his season prematurely. But instead of frustration, he maintained patience.

“I didn’t want to rush getting back to training, because I didn’t want to re-injure myself and start from zero again,” he said.

With the help of trainers at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Kipchirchir was able to start training in late October 2021: “Everything was perfect. I felt like a newborn again.”

Instead of going right into marathon training, Kipchirchir focused on shorter distances to build back into fitness. Just a few months after he returned to training, Kipchirchir took the gold at the USATF Cross Country Championships in San Diego, California on January 8. The victory was a confidence boost that led to some fast times during the indoor and outdoor seasons.

Since then, been able to train hard and consistently, putting in 120 mile weeks and 20-plus mile long runs with his teammates, to prepare for the New York City Marathon.

“Missing [the 2020 Olympic team due to injury] was not easily for my mental, but I had to accept it,” he said. “That one prepared me to be hungry, to come back and do damage.”

Practice fueling with a product you’re comfortable using.

Because he’s primarily run on the track, Kipchirchir has never had to fuel mid-race before. He hadn’t even fueled during long runs. But during his marathon buildup, he’s added fueling into his routine.

“I’m still looking for the sports drink that will be good for me. I’m trying a couple now, so hopefully one will be good for me.”

But it doesn’t matter what’s in the bottle on race day if he can’t pick it up off the table, so Kipchirchir has replicated bottle delivery in his long runs. If you get to 20 miles and your bottle falls or you make a mistake, it can really mess up your end result, he said.

“It’s always chaos,” he said, referring to an instance during the men’s Olympic marathon when an athlete accidentally knocked over numerous water bottles. “So it’s not easy; I’m going to train to make it more efficient and smooth.”

Personal bests come naturally with camaraderie and competition.

For his first marathon, Kipchirchir isn’t worried about time. Instead, his goal is to stick with the top runners as long as he can.

Often, runners are so focused on pace and projected finish time that they might miss opportunities to run with a fellow runner or group of runners. Sometimes, those situations allow you to push yourself more than you originally thought.

He pointed to his half marathon debut at the NYC Half. He was with a group of athletes at the second mile. One of the athletes looked at his watch and said out loud that the pace was too quick. As a result, most of the pack slowed down. They lost their focus, Kipchirchir said, because they all looked at their watches. Kipchirchir stayed focused, stuck with the leaders, and was rewarded with a fast time.

“Trust your instincts and go out and compete,” he said. “Don’t limit yourself.”

Kipchirchir knows that you can’t run all-out all the time, admitting that “it’s good to pace yourself sometimes.” But if you’re in front of him, “I’m going to superglue myself on you as long as I can.”

Your support system gives you something to run for.

Kipchirchir has a strong support system. He trains with the American Distance Project in Colorado Springs, which features Olympic medalist Paul Chelimo and several other Olympians. He credits training partners Leonard Korir and Augustus Maiyo—who placed fourth and fifth at the 2020 marathon Olympic Trials respectively—for their advice on the marathon. He also thanks his coach Scott Simmons for helping him jump from the 10,000 meters to 26.2 miles.

When not running, Kipchirchir relies heavily on the support of his wife, Elvin Kibet—who runs for the WCAP—and their son Mylo, who was born in April.

“When you have a baby, it changes the way you work... I’m a different competitor now,” Kipchirchir said. “I’m tougher than before—because I’m not running for myself anymore. I’m running for my family.”

Kipchirchir will run for his family on the next stop of his journey to the New York City Marathon starting line—the USATF 20K Championships in New Haven, Connecticut on September 5. The distance, which is just over 12 miles, is only the second-longest race he’s ever run behind the NYC Half.

“I feel like the longer the better,” he said to finish the conversation with Runner’s World. On November 6 in the Big Apple, the running community will find out if that rings true.

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