Runners train for NYC Marathon


Marathoner Kwabena Debrah-Dwamena III. Photo: Nell Smith

Marathoner Kwabena Debrah-Dwamena III. Photo: Nell Smith

Before heading out into a chilly autumn evening, Kwabena Debrah-Dwamena III double knots his gray and black New Balance cross trainers, stretches his quads, and does a set of dips to prepare for a six-mile run.

A native of New York, 30-year-old Kwabena Debrah-Dwamena III, is no novice, having run eight previous marathons in the past two years. “I recently started competitively running in the last three years.  I have run a lot of road races, but I really like running marathons because I like the distance,” he said.

Next Sunday, more than 40,000 runners from around the world who qualified for the New York City Marathon are expected to start the 26.219 mile race—and make no mistake, every one of those last .001 miles counts if you’re the one running them—in Staten Island and follow a route that wends through all five of the city’s boroughs. Two hours and a few minutes later, the winner will cross a finish line in Manhattan.

Sponsored by the ING Financial Group, the New York City Marathon has grown from humble beginnings in 1970 —when the course consisted of several loops around the perimeter of Central Park— to become the most popular distance race in the world.

The application process is extremely competitive.  Entrants must meet the qualifying standards in previous long distance races; if not, they are placed in a lottery pool.

Debrah-Dwamena III said, “I didn’t have any problems qualifying for the race. I work for ING, and I hit the mark earlier this year.” Runners submit verifiable qualifying times to meet the race standards.

For Debrah-Dwamena III, the journey to being a marathon runner started when he graduated from high school, where he had played soccer at A. Philip Randolph High School in Manhattan.  It was his love for soccer that impelled Debrah-Dwamena III to take up running as a way to increase his endurance and strengthen his lung capacity for playing an entire 45-minute soccer game. He said, “When I graduated, I kept running because I enjoyed it, and it kept me in shape.”

Now, Debrah-Dwamena III is completely committed to running. “I don’t take any breaks.  I train year round for races,” he said.  In the past month, Debrah-Dwamena III has run over 100 miles on the streets of New York.  He says he prefers running in the city because it better prepares him for running with a large crowd.  It is only on his “off days” that he allows a change in scenery and heads to Central Park to run trails.

Nearly two years ago, Debrah-Dwamena III joined the Niketown run club at 6 E. 57th St. to train with elite runners. “I like to run with other runners because they push the pace,” he said.  Many hopefuls prefer running with run clubs because the pacers help maintain a controlled pace throughout a long-distance run, and often push runners to finish.

Mike Akins is a pacer for the City Sports run club in Rockefeller Center, on 64 W. 48th St. “I’m a pacer because I like helping other runners prepare for races,” said Akins, who has helped train several marathon hopefuls this year.

As race day approaches, Debrah-Dwamena III’s training routine consists of less mileage and more speed endurance workouts. He said, “Saturday is usually my long day, I usually run anywhere from 16 or more miles. Those miles will decrease.” A typical week of training for the Ghanaian marathoner includes hitting the roads for runs four days a week, and going to the gym twice a week to complete an upper-body and core circuit.

“I don’t believe in dieting,” said Debrah-Dwamena III, who does not follow a strict diet like most runners.  But he does try to make healthy food selections during mealtime.

His philosophy is to never rely on race strategies, because the outcome of the race is always unpredictable.  “If I wake up in the morning and feel good, I’ll have a good race,” he said, “I don’t have a strategy. I just want to finish strong.”  He holds the same belief when it comes to setting a goal for the time he would like to run during a race. “I don’t think about the time.  I just go out there and run my race,” Debrah-Dwamena III said.

He ran a 26.2-mile race in 2 hours, 53 minutes earlier this year and hopes to run a personal best on Nov. 6.  “I’m having fun, that’s why I’m still running,” he said, “I will run as many races as these legs can take.”