Nick Symmonds Is Undertrained, Optimistic About Marathon Debut In Honolulu

By Taylor Dutch, @taylordutch
(c) 2017 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

HONOLULU (07-Dec) -- Standing on the pristine ocean shore outside of the Outrigger Reef On The Beach Hotel, Nick Symmonds is poised despite the challenge that lies ahead of him. On Sunday morning, the IAAF World Championships 800m silver medalist will compete in the Honolulu Marathon, the first marathon of his career and the longest run he has ever done. But even with minimal training by marathon standards, Symmonds, like always, is embracing the experience.

"I'm excited," Symmonds told Race Results Weekly. "I'm very nervous. The longest run I've ever done is 15 miles. I know I probably should have done something longer in preparation, but I wasn’t able to get it in so I'm just going to have to game-up on Sunday."

Six months earlier, Symmonds was competing in the 800m at his final appearance at the USATF Outdoor Championships before retirement. Prior to those championships, Symmonds had become a household name in track and field not only for his running accomplishments --six national titles, two Olympic teams, and a personal best of 1:42.95-- but also for his outspoken voice in the sport.

As the New York Times wrote in a feature about Symmonds's retirement: "He will leave as perhaps the most outspoken, polarizing and essential American track and field athlete of the past decade. As a runner, his preferred style was to sit and kick. As an activist for athletes' marketing rights, as well as an advocate for gay rights and gun control, he operated from the front, a loud, bold provocateur."

Symmonds finished that 800m in seventh-place and failed to advance to the next round, but he was far from being done. Immediately after the race, he announced his plans for his next challenge: to run his marathon debut in Honolulu, a notoriously humid race with a tough course.

"I had this bucket list of all the things I wanted to do in running and as I neared my retirement, I realized that the one thing I haven't done yet is run a marathon. It's always been on my list, not necessarily to race a marathon but to run a marathon," he said. "I think my time will be somewhere between three and four hours, I know that's a big window but when the longest run you've ever done is 15 miles, it's not a lot to go on. It's going to be uncharted territory for me after 15 miles so ideally, I'd like to break three hours and 30 minutes."

Taylor Dutch talked to Nick Symmonds on the beach in Honolulu before his debut marathon:

Nick Symmonds on post-track life and training for marathon

A lot has changed in Symmonds's life since the national championships in June. He is no longer a professional runner, but instead has fully embraced his role as CEO of his company Run Gum, which he founded in 2014.

"Right now, growing Run Gum is my number one priority and being a good hobby jogger is my second priority," Symmonds explained.

While standing in the sand in Hawaii, Symmonds admits that striking a balance between work and training hasn't been easy. He doesn’t try to pretend that his mileage has been consistent or high. He doesn’t exaggerate on the workouts, and he admits that his training hasn’t been optimal, but he's OK with that.

"I probably averaged about 25-30 miles a week for the last six months, so not your best marathon preparation but I did a lot of mountaineering. I climbed Mount Rainier in 21-straight hours, 9,000 feet up and 9,000 feet down," Symmonds said. "It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life and afterwards I thought, there's no way a marathon could be that hard. It's only three or four hours, right? So, I'm going to use that to give me mental strength and 20 years of competitive running that has settled in my legs to hopefully get me through this 26.2-mile beast."

While training this fall, Symmonds also took notice of some of the inspiring performances by fellow U.S. runners on the international stage, particularly Shalane Flanagan's TCS New York City Marathon victory where she became the first American woman to win the race in 40 years. While Symmonds doesn't plan on competing at the same level as Flanagan, he couldn't help but admire her grit.

"I've known Shalane for well over a decade and you can't meet a harder working athlete than Shalane Flanagan so it was really cool to see her do that," Symmonds said.

In his first stab at the marathon, Symmonds isn't going to try and win. He won't be gunning for the podium like he's done so many times before, but he will embrace the unknown with the potential for another challenge down the line.

"I'm going to try and go around 7:30's and it'll fluctuate a little bit since it's hilly here, but again, I just want to have fun with it and really feel that experience," he said. "I really do enjoy the training for the marathon and so provided I'm not totally broken after this, I might sign up for a spring marathon as well."

The 2018 AAU Junior Olympic Games Jumps Preview

One of the top matchups in the jumps will take place in the girls 15-16-year-old division. Mt. Airy's (PA) Tia Taylor is the defending champion in the 14-year-old division and is looking to earn her second straight gold with the age-up.

Chepkoech, Frerichs Break WR/AR In Epic Steeple Race; Monaco Recap

Beatrice Chepkoech took apart one of the best women's steeplechase fields ever assembled, chopping more than eight seconds off the world record to run 8:44.33 at Friday's Diamond League in Monaco. 

London Confidence Picks: Someone Breaks 13 In The 5K, Kirani Comes Back

On The Run: The Coaching Carousel

Track fans have a back-to-back Diamond League meets this week, including a two-day affair in London. It’s the last week before the circuit takes a break for the European Championships and then ramps up again for the Diamond League finals. 

Full List Of AAU Champions Defending Their Title In 2018

2018 AAU Junior Olympic Games LIVE On FloTrack

138 2017 AAU individual champions will attempt to defend their titles next weekend. Can they pull it off?

New Mexico To Reduce Men's XC/Track Roster Spots

Today the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved via a 6-0 vote the reduction of roster spots for the men's cross country and track and field program as well as the cutting of four sports (men's soccer, men's/women's skiing and women's beach volleyball) due to Title IX requirements and budget cuts.

Chris Fox Leaves Syracuse For Pro Opportunity

Syracuse announced on Thursday that head cross country and track and field coach, Chris Fox is leaving collegiate coaching to “pursue opportunities in the professional ranks.”

World/American Records In Play At Monaco Diamond League

Zurich and Brussels have the distinction of being called the Diamond League final, but Monaco typically ends the year as one of the best meets of the season. The track is quick, the fields are packed, and the meet takes place at a time in the year when athletes are sharp but not yet worn down. 

Katelyn Tuohy To Be Featured On Sports Illustrated Cover

Join PRO Now to Get Unlimited Access to FloTrack!

Join Now

Already a PRO Member? Log In

Katelyn Tuohy 9:47 3200m, National High School Record

There has been little Katelyn Tuohy hasn't done, accomplished, absolutely crushed in the last year-plus.

Lananna Steps Down As TrackTown USA President

Vin Lananna has stepped down as TrackTown USA President. 

House Of Run: What Is The Top Monaco Match-Up?

Jason and Kevin discuss Christian Coleman’s narrow victory in the men’s 100m, Noah Lyles’ unbelievable final 30 meters, Hellen Obiri and Sifan Hassan’s battle in the women’s 5000m, the highlights of the U20 Championships and the takeaways from the Athletics World Cup.