A marathon isn’t just 26.2 miles; it’s the culmination of hundreds of miles run in the months beforehand, the many hours spent training, and an unprecedented degree of dedication. Many beverage professionals find that this athletic feat pushes them both personally and professionally. SevenFifty Daily spoke with drinks industry professionals about how they train for the big race while managing their alcohol-centered careers.
Witold Bialokur, who founded Witold’s Runners, a New York City runners’ club, in 1983, says that training needs to be completely tailored to an individual’s fitness level and goals. A person new to running may need two years to build up the necessary stamina, but a seasoned veteran who is trying to beat a “personal best” time may need only three months. Bialokur—who is 83 years old and runs a mile in an impressive 7 minutes and 4 seconds—notes that running 40 to 50 miles in the final month before the marathon, including one 15-mile run, is nearly universally required. Overall, says Bialokur, “the point is to put as many miles under the belt as you can to be ready physically.”
Scheduling Your Time
Obviously, this mileage adds up on the calendar—“around nine to ten hours a week of running,” says Nathan O’Neill, the bar manager at the NoMad in Manhattan. “It’s basically adding a full day onto your schedule.”
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O’Neill is running with the Make It Nice restaurant group in the New York City marathon this year. Chef Daniel Humm started the team in 2015, and this year 20 Make It Nice employees will participate in the November 4 race. Funds raised through the New York Road Runners organization will support Team for Kids. O’Neill saves his longest runs for Saturdays, then heads into work midafternoon. While being on his feet for 13 to 14 hours after running 15 miles may sound masochistic, he says that “in a way, it’s great. It flushes out my legs—going up and down stairs and constantly making the legs work and not [letting them] seize up.”
He emphasizes the importance of listening to your body, however. “Being on your feet for 12 hours is a very different schedule from that of people [who work] nine-to-five and have weekends off,” he says. “We’re on our feet a lot, with a lot more stress; the stress we put our body through and the mental stress have a major effect on running. Know when it’s time to take a break, and know when [it’s] time to push.”
For many, morning is the ideal time to train. Bobby Stuckey, MS, the cofounder of Frasca Food and Wine and Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, Colorado; Tavernetta in Denver; and the Scarpetta wine company, regularly puts in 12-hour days packed with meetings and working service. This experienced runner—20 marathons to date —says, “I know that I have to wake up in the morning and do the run before any emails, phone calls—before anything happens. Always morning, because even though I work an evening job, the day actually starts midday.”
Banning the Booze
While all these runners profess to practicing healthy lifestyle habits already, they will take extra measures in preparation for a marathon, such as calibrating carbohydrate and protein intake to ensure they’re properly fueled. One of the biggest changes? Bye-bye, booze. Rebekah Kennedy, the director of sales at VOS Selections, an importer and distributor in New York, finds creative ways to refrain from drinking when she goes on sales calls. “I have the advantage that I have a whole sales team I work with, so I make sure to bring a sales rep with me and they’ll do the drinking,” she jokes. However, “if I’m on my own, I’ll have a club soda and a light snack; no one judges me for that.” Engaging a bartender is one of her best techniques. “I’ll ask a bartender to make a creative cocktail that doesn’t have alcohol,” she says, and with the proliferation of bars using fresh ingredients and juices, they’re more than happy to oblige.
Training While Traveling
Although Andrea Cecchi, the CEO of Cecchi winery in Tuscany, spends a good portion of the year on the road, it’s not stopping him from running his second NYC marathon—with his children—in November. With his sneakers in tow, he turns his training into a tourist opportunity. While in Stockholm when he was training for the 2011 marathon, he says, “I was running and got to see parts of the city that I couldn’t see any other way. If you do that every morning when the traffic is not so heavy, the air is very clear and it’s a very nice experience.”
How bars, brands, and restaurants are redefining “Work hard, play hard”
A running group is not the only team that can help professionals in the drinks industry achieve their marathon training goals; restaurant owners are also seeing the value in supporting their staff with formal running teams. Stuckey applauds the Make It Nice group for organizing a company team, calling the concept “phenomenal.” Within his own restaurants, he says, “I try to keep an environment where it’s encouraged,” without being preachy. “I’m there to coach them if they have a question about something, or hook them up with a coach. I just want to encourage people to have stimuli outside of our industry.”
Crossing the finish line is an emotional moment for these drinks industry professionals, and they plan to celebrate properly. What with? “Champagne,” says Kennedy. “Always Champagne.”
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Shana Clarke is a wine, sake, and travel writer, and the author of 150 Vineyards You Need To Visit Before You Die. Her work has appeared in Saveur, Fortune, NPR, Wine Enthusiast, and Hemispheres. She was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer 2020 International Wine Writers’ Awards and ranked one of the “Top 20 U.S. Wine Writers That Wineries Can Work With” by Beverage Trade Network in 2021. She holds a Level 3 Advanced Certificate from Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a Certified Sake Sommelier. She will always say yes to a glass of Champagne. Learn more at www.shanaspeakswine.com and follow her @shanaspeakswine.