American Gwen Jorgensen won’t be the first professional athlete from a sport other than running to compete in the TCS New York City Marathon.
From football player Tiki Barber and soccer player Brandi Chastain to skier Bill Demong and tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, dozens of professional athletes from other sports have crossed over into road racing, running 26.2 miles through New York City’s five boroughs.
Demong’s time of 2:33:07 in 2014 was the best by an athlete who wasn’t a professional runner. Can Jorgensen break that mark?
The 30-year-old claimed the 2014 and 2015 World Triathlon Series titles, tallying 12 consecutive series race wins over the course of two years. Her undefeated World Triathlon Series season in 2015 was the first for any triathlete, male or female.
Already this year, Jorgensen became the first American in history to win the Olympic Triathlon, taking gold at the Rio 2016 Games in 1:56:56.
Approaching her marathon debut in New York City, however, she’s putting expectations to fate.
“This race is different than anything I've done in the past,” Jorgensen said. “So that's intriguing and exciting for me, and I'm smiling just thinking about it right now.”
She adds: “Out of the three triathlon disciplines–swim, bike, and run–running is my favorite, and it brings me the most peace and joy. I've just wanted to do a marathon. I knew I couldn't do one leading into the Olympics, so it seemed like perfect timing to do one after the Olympics.”
Jorgensen said she grew up with more of a runner’s body rather than a swimmer’s body, and therefore has always found running to be a more natural fit. She’s definitely made her mark in running as a single discipline, though, winning the 2014 NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K and having been a University of Wisconsin All-American in cross country and track.
“The bug was actually before that 5K in New York,” she said of her desire to run a marathon. “I was running in college, and I just really enjoyed running. I thought, the marathon is a very iconic event that everyone knows about. Ever since college, I'd say I wanted to do one.”
Jorgensen, who just last Sunday won the Island House Triathlon, a three-day stage race in the Bahamas, is unsure of her marathon pace. She said it varies from week to week, and that she’s typically averaging 50-70K a week of running, hitting the roads six to nine times per week.
Her longest run up to this point has been 16 miles. She’s done four marathon workouts at 10 miles and has been practicing grabbing a water bottle and drinking out of it at race pace.
If there’s any comparison, two other notable triathletes–Portugal’s Vanessa Fernandes and Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig–fared well in their marathon debuts, clocking times of 2:31:25 in 2015 and 2:42:53 in 2014, respectively.
So, what’s Jorgensen’s estimated finish time?
You’ll have to tune into the broadcast to find out.
“It's hard because it is a huge unknown,” Jorgensen said. “I hope there's just a lot of people out there screaming ‘Go Gwen’ because I know it will be really encouraging.”
By Stuart Lieberman
GET YOUR STORIES ON. Read more inspiring stories from runners chronicling their journeys to the TCS New York City Marathon starting line.
TUNE IN. The 2016 TCS New York City Marathon will be televised live on Sunday, November 6, on WABC-TV, Channel 7 in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET, and for the rest of the nation on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.