Apolo Ohno, the New York marathon, and a $25 Subway gift card giveaway

↑ Not the marathon, but this looks like more fun!

Two weeks ago I was given the opportunity to talk to Apolo Ohno, the Olympic gold medalist and Dancing with the Stars champion. (Guess which title I’m more excited about. Hint: It involves jazz hands.) The call occurred a few days before Ohno ran the New York Marathon on Sunday, November 6th in response to a challenge by Jared, the Subway guy. (What do you think Jared puts down as his occupation on his tax return? Just Subway Guy? Sandwich enthusiast, perhaps?)

Alas, when opportunity knocked, I rolled over and slept in. Yes, I missed the conference call because I could not get my ass out of bed. In my defense, I did set my alarm, but it either didn’t go off or I was able to turn it off without any memory of doing so. When I woke up, the conference call was almost done, and I thought it would be rude to call in at the end, interrupting whoever was speaking, and then ask a question that had already been asked. Thankfully, Melanie the PR Lady made a recording of the call which I listened to.

I have deep respect for anyone who completes a marathon. I ran a half-marathon a few years ago, and I take the opportunity to remind people about this EVERY TIME POSSIBLE because OMG it was the most physically demanding thing I have ever done. Literally. It was so exhausting that it turned me off of running after that. I was done run out. So, anyone who completes a whole marathon has my deep respect. I thought it was interesting that Ohno was taking on an endurance challenge like a marathon. It must involve a different style of training than speed-skating events which focus on sprinting. I admire that he’s willing to take on new challenges like this outside of his comfort zone.

The conference call was with Ohno and his trainer Todd Rushworth. Here’s a bullet points breakdown of the highlights:

  • His diet is more lenient with marathon training. For skating, Ohno was very strict about diet, not eating an almond less or an almond more than required. For the marathon, “It’s not an almond less, but it’s definitely a lot of almonds more…I’ve been really enjoying the fact that I can pump my calories up a significant more than I ever have in the past.”
  • If he’s not hungry after a run he’ll drink chocolate milk to get the right mix of protein and carbs. He also likes coconut water. Me, too! I just had some at Twitter HQ. The night before a long run he likes to eat brown rice or pasta since that’s good, slow-burning fuel.
  • He’s lost some weight during training, but more significantly his body shape has changed. “It’s been interesting just seeing how my body has changed. Seeing how my body stores fat. Seeing how my body uses fat and uses different energy sources.” Speed-skaters develop bulky, muscular legs to give them explosive speed. Now his quads are thin enough that he can buy jeans off the rack. See, it’ s not just fat girls who have a hard time finding clothes!
  • As for the differences in training, “It’s so different. Night and day.” When he first started running he was, “Fast, explosive and all out,” and needed to learn how to slow down. “Training my mind and my body was probably the single hardest thing for me to do.” This is consistent with what I’ve heard from other marathoners, that the race is as much a mental challenge as a physical one, particularly near the end. He says,”The mind is the single most powerful tool.”
  • As for injuries, he’s been fairly injury free. His right IT band was initially tight, but his trainer was able to recommend stretching exercises and acupuncture treatments that helped. If you have no idea what an IT band is, neither did I, though I would have guessed it was a rock band made up of Information Technology workers. It’s not, but the Internet knows all. To avoid injury he says, “Get a lot of rest. Get mileage. Stretch.”
  • He hasn’t skated since the 2010 Olympics, calling it a wonderful break. Personally, I find it really refreshing that he doesn’t define himself just by his abilities in one sport and that he’s willing to chase other aspects of life. He’s been pursuing other interests like acting, business, film, working in health and fitness industry, and of course running. It would have been very difficult to be speed skating and marathon training at the same time because they require different things from your body.
  • The most hilarious thing I learned? Because of his speed skating experience Ohno kept veering to the left when running. LOL! His trainer had to run to the right of him so they weren’t constantly bumping into each other.
  • Even an experienced athlete like Ohno found a trainer to be invaluable. His trainer was able to create a personalized program that worked around Ohno’s schedule which involves traveling about 24 days every month. “Putting miles in when you’re on the road is very difficult,” he admits.
  • He doesn’t like to use a treadmill, though he would do that when he was skating to lessen the chance of twisting his ankle. For a marathon, “I’ve got to get the outside experience. Plus, running on a treadmill is boring. I can only last a little bit of time on a treadmill.” Ohno is based in LA and says, “For me running by the water, there’s nothing better.” He likes to run to rhythmic house music to keep him pumped.
  • He aimed to finish in three and a half hours, and to beat Mario Lopez :) Ohno beat his goal by about 5 minutes, finishing the race in 3:25:14. Mario Lopez finished in 4:23:30, so both goals were met! Because he finished in under four hours, Subway is donating $26,200 to one of his favorite causes, the Special Olympics. For anyone wondering about that number, a marathon is 26.2 miles.
  • His advice for marathon newbies is to train consistently and plan. Getting a trainer that suits your needs helps a lot. Don’t skip the long runs in your program. Get sleep and learn to rest because recovery is as important as running.
  • I also thought it was refreshing that even Olympic caliber athletes don’t want train some days. To overcome that he gives himself no choice but to run. “It’s always easier to sit around and dwell on something than it is to just go do it.” Ohno’s dad has a great saying, “Athletes and champions are made when no one is watching.” (Quick, everyone stop looking at me.)
  • What does he like about running? “It’s an incredible creative process. Some of my best ideas and decisions come from when I’m running.” He says it’s time to yourself to zone out and de-stress. “You’re so much more productive once you start exercising. Your brain, your thought process, your processing power is so much faster and more efficient.” Even if you only do 10, 15, 20 minutes a day you’ll see a vast improvement in the rest of the quality of your life.
  • He’s also inspired by other athletes, particularly anyone who completes the race in under three hours. “You always have stars who shine brighter than others. Who are just either genetically gifted or who work harder or a combination of both.”
  • What’s next? He’s interested in TV and film work and future involvement in the Olympic movement. “I’m hungry for success in all elements of life.”
  • Ohno’s personal motto is, “Zero regrets.” That means zero regrets in life as well as sports.
  • And we couldn’t finish without asking what his favorite Subway sandwich was. It’s a 12-inch, double meat, turkey sandwich on honey oat with all the veggies, banana peppers, oil and vinegar, and sometimes avocado.

Here’s a Sports Illustrated article about Apolo’s performance in the marathon.

Ok, here’s the part where I give away a $25 Subway gift card. Giveaway is open to US residents only. It ends at 11:59pm ET on Sunday, November 20th. To enter leave a comment on this entry letting me know what activity outside of your comfort zone you’d like to pursue. I’m thinking archery, but that might be because I just watched The Hunger Games trailer.

Disclosure: I received a $25 gift card from Subway as part of this post.

Post navigation
Home: Main blog index


  1. says

    The activity outside of my comfort zone that I’d like to pursue – honestly… biking. I learned to ride as a kid, had a bad experience with it, and I just never went back. It looks like fun; I just can’t seem to get the motivation to actually do it.

  2. Emily says

    My roommate took a high diving class one semester, and I always thought it would be so fun – but I would be so scared that I would be terrible!

  3. Denise says

    For me, exercising on a regular basis is definitely out of my comfort zone. And it’s something I am going to work on.

  4. Kate M. says

    I’d really like to learn to scuba dive. I have built up stamina swimming laps and have snorkeled from time to time. One day I would love to take learn to scuba dive and take in all the beauty of coral reefs. (I’d also like to return to cycling one day.)

  5. Alex says

    Road biking is so out of my comfort zone. I can’t make a tight turn with a lot a confidence, so I definitely don’t have much confidence in my ability to avoid traffic!

    That said, I’d love to be able to bike to places as a form of transportation, with a little bonus of exercise.

  6. veggiekitty says

    Swimming. I’ve never really done much of it because I end up flailing around as soon as I get a wee bit tired!

  7. Jamie says

    I want a double jogging stroller so that I can run my son to preschool everyday, then run back home with my daughter!!!! I feel dopey walking into preschool all red faced and puffing- there’s the whole comfort zone thing! Thanks for hosting!

  8. Kim says

    I want to cycle across the country. I need to find a route with minimal climbs – climbs are out of my comfort zone.

  9. Jessica says

    Running a Marathon is at the top of my list because like you said I ran a half and it was the hardest thing I have ever done. It would feel so great to finish a marathon.

    The other thing I HATE doing because my body just doesn’t seem to have the muscles/strength for it is biking. Every time I hit the slightest incline I just crap out. It is pitiful. I would like to get better at it, meaning I would like to get on a bike again for the first time since college (13 years ago) and try it until I didn’t hate it.

  10. says

    The next physical challenge I am setting for myself is to learn a complete dance routine to a Bollywood song.

    I recently have discovered how fun this music is and can’t wait to be able to do the awesome moves. I listen to my “Desi Beats” playlist while I work out now and I have started the dance part by taking about 4 Zumba classes a week at the Y where I work. I am working on finding someone to learn actual Indian style dance from as well.

  11. says

    Well, I still haven’t run a full marathon (three halfs, though, does that count as a marathon and a half?), so that’s on my list. The one activity I’m not sure I’d like to do but which is DEFINITELY outside my comfort zone is belly dancing. I hear it’s a great workout.

  12. says

    What an awesome phone call! Sorry you missed the live version but great that you had the opportunity to listen to it. My kids love apolo ohno!

    I am not an adventurous person. I love walking and have recently tried running. It is WAY out of my comfort zone and I really don’t “like” it yet but I’m waiting and hopefully I will learn to like it more. I’m still building up endurance and then I will work on speed. So I would consider each minute that I increase each week as way out of my comfort zone!

  13. Sharilyn says

    I would like to try Kickboxing someday. We do some of the moves in Jazzercise (which I love) but it would be cool to try something different. I also would like a Subway Card to fill me up!

  14. Cade says

    Thank you for transcribing the details of the conference call you missed. There were many great “inside” responses we might never have heard of.

    If I had to select one activity outside my comfort zone I’d like to pursue, it would the Race Across America. It amazes me that guys can climb into the saddle day after day and maintain focus on the pace.

  15. Colleenzo says

    I’m an Apollo-wannabe, because I’d like to try distance running. Up until this summer, I thought I’d never be a runner, period. But I got stubborn about wanting to do a 5k mudrun, so I took up with the slowest, wimpiest Couch to 5k program I could find, and now I’m up to 5 or so miles at a clip. I’d like to see how far I can stretch that! How bad did you say that half-marathon was?? 😉

  16. Cellabella says

    That’s so funny because my husband and I have been talking about learning archery as a new sport too! I also want to learn how to roller blade and snow board :)

  17. says

    I would like to start swimming, and maybe eventually do a mini-triathlon. I would have to walk/jog the running part, but I can bike, and love to swim. Might be fun. LOVE your blog and your synopsis of the conversation was most entertaining!

  18. says

    I’ve often thought of taking up running, I just feel like such a clod whenever I try it. It seems to hurt my knees but I’ve always suspected it’s because I’m somehow doing it wrong.

  19. Lisa says

    I would love to be able to downhill ski, especially living in Wisconsin where we get plenty of snow for it. But I have a torn ACL so I don’t think I’ll ever get the chance to try… I can still sit in the chalet and drink hot chocolate though!

  20. sharla says

    My knees are shot and I miss walking long distances and hiking. just getting around now is very difficult for me.

  21. Claudia says

    Right now, any kind of physical activity is out of my comfort zone as I am on bed rest until April (or whenever I have my baby). After that though, walking will be my first challenge and then build up from there.

  22. Sarah says

    Rock climbing. I did my first half marathon ever last month. I may be crazy but I am thinking about training for a full next summer.

  23. says

    For me it would be running. I’ve always hated running. For some reason, over the last 5 months or so, I’ve suddenly become interested in the idea of running. I haven’t gone on any runs yet, but I just started going to the gym this week to lose weight and get into shape, so maybe I’ll be a runner someday.

  24. says

    I would love to take a workout class. I’ve never taken a workout class and the idea of it scares me a bit because I fear that I would still be like I was in gym class as a kid. The “fat girl” who couldn’t keep up. But you know what, I’ve changed, BIG TIME. So I should probably get over my fears and give it a try!

  25. Lindsay says

    I would like to run a half marathon. That would definitely be out of my comfort zone as the longest distance I’ve ever run at one time is a 5K!

  26. says

    Going on a month-long backpacking trip. I am intimidated by the amount of planning and money you need to invest. You need to buy special gear, plan out the food, and worry about safety on the trail.

  27. Ann says

    I want to learn to rock climb (in a climbing gym). Way out of my comfort zone. I don’t like heights….but, I love the idea of climbing! Go figure.

  28. says

    Weight training is something that I’m really interesting in trying but have never tried – I’m intimidating by all of the fit people at the gym, and thus it’s always been outside of my comfort. Plus, I can’t afford a gym anymore, but someday hopefully I’ll join AND hire a personal trainer to help make me feel more comfortable.

  29. Traci says

    I had been very intimidated by a “boot camp” I watched every morning as I jogged by – but, three weeks ago, I took the plunge and tried the class and now I’m hooked.

    Is synchronized swimming a sport? I’m horrible in the water, but would love to try it. :)

  30. Barbara M says

    I’ve always thought scuba diving would be so much fun to try.
    It’s scary to me to be underwater for so long.
    Thank you.

  31. Renee says

    Definitely swimming. I haven’t been in the pool in years, and never learned how to formally swim…I looked like … ridiculous… when I would swim.


  32. Anita says

    The challenge I am thinking of trying next is Boxing. I recently saw a woman on tv who had discovered boxing and her self confidence was ENORMOUS! (Sorry for shouting.) Plus, her arms and shoulders looked fabulous. It is the most unexpected thing I have ever been intrigued by, short of hang gliding.

  33. Steelers6 says

    Running is out of my comfort zone. I have ‘experimented’, dabbled..would like to pick it up again. Nothing crazy though, mind you.

    Interesting post, thanks.

  34. says

    Martial arts…I would love to be more active and learn to protect myself if necessary, but I feel like at 5 foot nothing I would just not be able to do it…discomfiting to say the least.

  35. Kate says

    Actually I’m with you on the archery – I bought a kick-ass long bow a year ago but have not yet used it, because I’m kind of scared to go to a shooting range and be laughed at by rednecks with giant hunting bows.

  36. Kate says

    @Rebecca – I do kung fu (working on a black belt) – you could totally do it! Being small can be an advantage – smaller targets are hard to hit. :)

  37. Elisa says

    I’ve always wanted to learn how to dance. The closest I’ve come was going to a zumba class recently, and, well, let’s just say I need a lot of work to get those moves!