Tough Go: Blisters Limit Harrington In Race

NYC Marathon Results

Nov. 2, 2009

By David Shefter, USGA

It was a disappointing first marathon for USGA staff member David Harrington on Sunday.

Hoping to establish a qualifying time for the 2012 Olympic Trials of 2 hours, 19 minutes, or at least run 3:10 to get into next spring’s Boston Marathon, the 24-year-old technical support specialist from Hoboken, N.J., sustained blisters a third of the way through the 26.2-mile ING New York City Marathon and posted a time of 4:11:02.

A five-week layoff due to a stress fracture in his left tibia proved to be a bigger issue than Harrington initially thought. Harrington sustained the injury after competing in a half marathon in August and he was only recently cleared to train again by his orthopedic surgeon.

“I went in there with really high expectations of myself and unfortunately I didn’t meet them,” said a recuperating Harrington by phone on Monday. “Yeah, I’m a little disappointed, I’m a little let down.

“Overall, if I look at the race as a whole, I am glad I did it. At the end of the day, I still ran 26.2 miles. It was four hours and 11 minutes. It’s not horrible. It was an amazing experience. I can’t explain it.”

Harrington was running between a 7-minute and 7:30 per mile pace through the first eight miles of the marathon, which also served as the U.S. Men’s Championship. But once the blisters began forming on the balls of both feet, Harrington said his pace slowed down significantly and the opportunity to run a sub-3-hour marathon went awry. He said it’s the first time he had ever sustained blisters in any race.

But he also said missing five weeks of critical training was a major factor.

“I was trying to stay as optimistic as possible going into it,” said Harrington. “I’m in pretty good shape. I did miss a 16-mile [training] run, an 18-mile run, a 20-mile run. I missed those long runs during that time I was off. Those are huge runs. The most I ran was maybe 15-16 miles. And that was like once or twice. It definitely hurt me. To say it didn’t, I would be lying.”

One aspect of the race that caught Harrington a bit off guard was the bridges, especially the elevation changes.

“The 59th Street Bridge going into Manhattan around Mile 15 or 16 … is a heck of a climb,” he said.

Nevertheless, Harrington said his first marathon served as a vital learning lesson for the future. Shortly, he will begin training for the Miami Marathon on Jan. 31. He also is scheduled to compete in an Ironman triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run) in St. George, Utah, in May.

Over the next month, he will switch his physical therapy from massages and stretching to strength training and stretching as well as running. Most of December and January will be final training for the race.

Harrington remains hopeful that he can qualify for the Olympic Trials in both the marathon and triathlon. The 2012 Games will be held in London. And now with his first marathon experience complete, he can strategize off the mistakes from Sunday’s race.

“Honestly, there’s not much I would have done differently,” said Harrington. “My hydration, fuel and food were good. I never got to a point where I got a cramp. I was never thirsty. I never felt like I was taking too much in.

“Had I not gotten the blisters and not missed five weeks of training, quite honestly, I would have torn it up.”

Note: Sunday’s race did produce the first American winner since Alberto Salazar in 1982. Meb Keflizighi posted a time of 2:19:15 to edge  Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot of Kenya by 51 seconds.

David Shefter is a USGA Digital Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at

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