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Running a Rooftop Marathon for a Cause

Every week, members of the Honey Stinger Hive inspire us with their stories of motivation, health, adventure, recovery, and PRs. During this time of quarantine and uncertainty, Hive athletes have gone above and beyond, from supporting each other through job losses to running marathons in their own backyards—or in this case, running his own rooftop! Hive athlete Stephen England announced he would be running a marathon on his rooftop in New York City on Boston Marathon Monday to honor the postponed race and raise money for healthcare workers. As a Type 1 diabetic living in the American epicenter of COVID-19, the connection is personal.
What gave you the idea to run a marathon on your own roof on Marathon Monday?
I’ve been fortunate to have experienced the Boston Marathon many times. I’ve run it in the heatwaves, run the double (finish line to start back to finish line) and heard the bombs go off in 2013. It’s been a race to go for broke and on most occasions get broken, to heal and help heal a city in 2014 and to win against all odds with a personal record (PR) in the monsoon rain of 2018. So, it’s a large part of my running story, a large part of my life. I originally planned to run the distance on Marathon Monday.  With the Coronavirus pandemic, I soon realized that this year’s race was going to be canceled or postponed. My original though was probably doing 4+ loops of Central Park. Then, I started seeing stories pop up from around the world of fellow runners completing a marathon within their apartment, terrace or garden. These feats were incredible and mind boggling. I wanted to be part of the ‘stay at home’ message, especially living in NYC which has a devastatingly high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. So, my apartment rooftop of 35’ x 24’ made perfect sense to showcase responsibility and awareness that we can create whatever we want too during such difficult times from our homes.
What floor is the rooftop?
The rooftop is on the 12th floor. It’s in South Harlem with great views over Central Park and the skyscrapers beyond.
How do you set up for running a self-supported marathon?
I measured the width and length of the available space on the rooftop. And then did the math on what each loop totaled, how many loops were a mile and so on. In total, I must run 1098 loops to run 26.2 miles. I’m more concerned to keep track of my loop count than have a GPS reading of 26.2.  Don't get me wrong, if I need to carry on to get 26.2 miles as data proof, I probably will. I’m starting my rooftop marathon at 6am to be respectful that my neighbors may wish to use the rooftop too but I’m honestly unsure if this is a 4 hour run, 6 or something longer. I do have to get some work done afterwards so I hope I am somewhat efficient. I will write out each mile on a piece of paper and show it to the camera (streaming live on FB). To fuel, I will have a mix of Honey Stinger gels, chews,and waffles and Nuun Hydration drinks at my one loop aid station every 126 feet! I plan to change direction each mile to avoid any hip or knee injuries.
How has COVID-19 impacted diabetes healthcare workers?
Due to the sheer volume of coronavirus cases, healthcare workers from all types of medical specialties are stepping up to support the ER doctors and nurses fight this battle. Diabetes patients such as myself are high-risk should we get the virus. It’s critical right now that we stay safe and take even better care of our diabetes management with the virtual help of our medical support team. Yet, some of these professionals have been redeployed to COVID-19 responsibilities. Others could be deployed in days to come. It’s resulted in additional workloads and stress as they continue to support patients and help on the front lines.
How many marathons have you run?
I’m not sure, about 25 marathons. Combined with ultramarathons, it’s almost 90. I have a goal to complete my 100th marathon or beyond at the 50th NYC Marathon in November. I’ll adapt like everyone else to the new life we live and hope I can still achieve this if it’s run in 2020 or next year.
How do you stay motivated while running over a thousand(!) laps to cover 26.2 miles?
Getting diagnosed with diabetes at aged 14 has taught me that life is unpredictable and full of challenges. I have no doubt this will be the hardest marathon mentally I’ve ever run. But as I’ve put the goal out there to do this once in a lifetime marathon and help raise funds for our healthcare workers in NYC on the front lines of coronavirus, that’s all the motivation I need. My running shift is only a few hours. The true heroes are working shift after shift saving as many lives as possible in this unforgettable moment in time. The question is, what will you do to support our health heroes? Keep up with Stephen here.