|espnW.com: Athlete's Life|
Donning a No. 27 blue New York Giants jersey, softball great Jennie Finch stopped by the Giants' training facility in East Rutherford, N.J., on Wednesday to practice with them for a promotional appearance. She chatted with running back Brandon Jacobs, whose number she was wearing, caught passes from tight ends Jake Ballard and Bear Pascoe and kicked field goals with punter Steve Weatherford holding the football.
But as for advice on running a marathon, that's where the Giants couldn't help her.
"They just said, 'Good luck,'" Finch said with a laugh. "They said they couldn't run past two or three miles. I said, 'Hey, I was there, too.'"
On Nov. 6, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist will run her first 26.2-mile race, the ING New York City Marathon. Finch ran a half marathon in late 2010, when she was 20 weeks pregnant with her second son, Diesel. She decided to train for the NYC Marathon when Timex Sports approached her with a charity opportunity: For each runner she passes during the race, the company will donate $1 to the New York Road Runners' youth programs.
Finch's running coach, Susanne Davis, has only a 12-week window to train her, and Finch has been traveling nearly every weekend during that time. Fortunately, Timex Sports has a GPS watch that enables Davis to measure Finch's training levels, such as pace, heart rate and average splits, through her phone and the Internet. Davis said that all things considered, Finch has been the most distinctive student she has ever had.
"In that short of a time schedule, I've never [trained anyone]," said Davis, who competed as a triathlete at the 2000 Olympic trials. "I work with CEOs and people who work and travel a lot, but they give themselves a year. Jennie's given herself three months, and that is special. Her dedication, her determination and her personality have come in."
To ease Finch's body into running form after she gave birth to Diesel in June, Davis first started with a run-walk training program.
"After having a baby, all your joints are really loose," Davis said, "so you have to be careful because you're almost overflexible. She had extra weight in the beginning, so I started out slowly. I started it at equal amounts: eight minutes running, eight minutes walking."
Now, Finch's weekly workout incorporates six days of training, 2 1/2 to three hours a day, and consists of spin classes, tempo runs, speed workouts and hill runs in short increments. Just last week, Finch ran 17 miles for the first time.
"I'm still not in my skinny, skinny jeans yet, but my body is responding to the training," Finch said with a laugh, adding that her favorite place to run is in the open countryside in her home state of Louisiana. Central Park, however, is a close second. "I definitely can tell that the mental toughness part of it has been carried over from softball because so much of running is mental. It's exciting to be able to kick my body back in shape."
Davis said she is very impressed with Finch's progress, which will continue with a 19-mile run next week. Davis is working toward a 9:40-per-mile pace for Finch throughout the marathon.
"It's faster than I normally would push someone," Davis said, "but because Jennie's been such a stud athlete in softball, she's got the genetics to do it and she's got the mindset to push through it."
Finch said the toughest part of preparing for the marathon has been the time it requires, but she's enjoying every minute of the ride. She hopes that her charity efforts will empower kids to be active.
So where does this rank among her greatest sports experiences?
"Ask me after it's over!" said Finch -- who will have her husband, minor league pitcher Casey Daigle, and their first son, 5-year-old Ace, cheering from the NYC sidewalks. "When I cross the finish line, I'll be able to tell you."