The noise of the Manhattan crowd was deafening as 2 million strong cheered and clapped. Children held out their hands for high fives along the jam-packed streets in the crisp early-November air.
In the midst of it all were the more than 50,000 runners from all around the world who were taking on the 26.2-mile course that was the 2017 New York City Marathon. And among those many racers was Alfred State’s very own Robin Torpey.
An associate professor in the Computer and Information Technology Department, Torpey ran in the NYC Marathon for the first time. After 3 hours, 35 minutes, and 38 seconds, he crossed the finish line, averaging an impressive 8:14 per mile or 7.2 mph.
“I’m pretty happy with my finishing time,” he said. “Just finishing the NYC Marathon is a huge accomplishment and a bucket-list item. It was exciting. I started running marathons because I wanted to be able to run the NYC one and I finally was able to do it after first running five others.”
The 59-year-old finished 145th in his age group and 6,017th overall, putting him in the top 7 percent of his age bracket, in the top 12 percent overall, and qualifying him for the 2019 Boston Marathon. He had already previously qualified for the 2018 Boston Marathon.
Training for the New York City race, Torpey said, took about three months. He noted that running long distances requires a strong cardiovascular system for aerobic endurance, a strong musculoskeletal system for running endurance, and a trained nervous system to coordinate everything.
“I did weekly long runs ranging from 15-20 miles at 15 seconds to 45 seconds slower than marathon race pace to develop running endurance,” he said. “Four of those runs were 20-mile runs. I did weekly 6-10-mile tempo runs at marathon pace to train my muscles and nervous system to work efficiently at that pace.”
Torpey said that he also did “weekly speed runs,” running “multiple intervals of 800 meters to 1 mile at about a 5K race pace, roughly 80 seconds faster than marathon pace, with short rest periods between intervals, to build aerobic endurance.” He also followed a diet that included extra protein and lots of complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and whole grains.
Finally, after months of training, the big day had arrived. Before the race began, Torpey met and chatted with runners from around the world, including a barefoot racer from India, a woman from Italy who had previously ran marathons in the Swiss Alps, and another woman who was originally from Australia but now lives in South America.
“Running in the NYC Marathon was the primary reason all three of them came to New York City,” Torpey said.
During the race, which is the largest marathon in the world in terms of number of competitors, Torpey passed several thousand runners. He said he always had to wait for an opening because “there was a wall of runners in front of me for the entire 26.2 miles.”
The course itself, he said, was hillier than he had expected, adding that the bridges made it even worse because of their steep gradients.
“The second major bridge was about 15 miles into the race. When I came off that bridge, my calves and quads were starting to cramp and I still had 11 miles left to run. I didn't go to New York City to drop out of the race, so I pushed through it,” he said. “After I crossed the finish line, I spent about 30 minutes in the medical tent because my leg muscles were cramping so badly I couldn't walk.”
The discomfort he experienced is understandable, however, given the grueling nature of running a marathon. As Torpey noted, even Meb Keflezighi, the American pro who won the 2009 NYC Marathon and the 2014 Boston Marathon, collapsed at the finish line and had to be helped off the course after running the race in 2:15:29.
But at the end of the day, through all of the aches and pains, hills, bridges, and miles upon miles of road, both Torpey and Keflezighi were able to hold their heads high as finishers of the 2017 New York City Marathon.
“Now Meb and I have something in common,” Torpey said. “We both gave this race everything we had.”