By Dan Aronson
Smithtown native Brendan Martin, 27, is set to make his debut in the New York City Marathon this November.
“It’s one [race] I feel like I have to do before I retire from competitive running,” Martin said. “It’s my hometown race.”
This 26.2 mile-marathon is one the most popular races in the United States. It draws runners and spectators from all over the world, and takes competitors through all five boroughs of New York City. The race was first held in 1970, with only 127 runners competing.
Martin did not find his passion for running until high school — he always thought he would be a big lacrosse player. The Smithtown resident played lacrosse competitively until the end of 10th grade and then decided to put it aside so he could focus on running.
His father Bill Martin said one of the reasons he made the switch from lacrosse to running was his size.
“The only thing that has hampered him, in pretty much anything he has done, is his size,” the father said.
Both of Martin’s parents will be attending the race in November and are very excited to see how he performs.
“I don’t think I can keep my wife away,” Bill Martin said. “[Brendan] has taken things to a whole new level. We are not surprised he has made it this far. He works very hard towards his goals and has done that since high school — he puts together a good plan and executes it.”
Len Carolan, Martin’s coach at Smithtown High School West, had a significant impact on the runner. He has now been retired for eight years, but still keeps in touch with Martin.
“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special” Carolan said. “His love of running and his desire to do well, plus his talent, is what really makes Brendan stand out. He was by far the most talented runner I ever coached.”
Martin led his cross-country team at Smithtown to three consecutive Suffolk County championships from 2003-06. He clearly set his team up well for future years, as without him the Bulls went on to win the title in 2007. The Bulls teams in 2007 and 2008 also won back-to-back divisional championships.
“He was instrumental in getting us to that competitive level,” Carolan said.
And Martin has similar feelings for his old coach.
“When I first met Brendan, he was so enthusiastic about running and I knew he was going to be something special.”
— Len Carolan
“He gave me a good feeling about running,” Martin said of Carolan. “He made it really fun and team-oriented for us. That made it a blast. He was really good at coaching the fundamentals, working hard, being dedicated and working together with your teammates, and I think that really stuck with me.”
Each athlete prepares himself in a different way, and for Martin, that’s running year-round.
He said he spends eight to nine weeks preparing for the race. In the first five to six weeks, he runs about 120 to 130 miles a week. Once he gets closer to race day, Martin said he tries to run 20 to 22 miles per day, at marathon pace.
“I’m going to make sure I’m doing a lot of hills in my training, because New York is a notoriously difficult course, with lots of ups and downs,” Martin said.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not up to the task.
“I need to study on my own a little bit what to expect, and as long as I do that and I run patiently — very tough at the end — I expect to do pretty well,” he said.
The unique challenge that comes with running in the marathon is that you can’t run the course in preparation, because the only time the roads are closed is for the marathon.
He’s still ready to take on the course, and is looking forward to taking on New York City.
“A hilly race suits my strengths and as long as I run smart, have good confidence in myself,” he said, “[I could] be one of the top Americans and hopefully the top New Yorker.”