It’s his job to love all the city’s greenspaces, but Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver has a special place in his heart for Prospect Park — it’s where he and his late brother, Sam, liked to run when they were teens.
It’s also one of the places where he trained for his upcoming, first-ever New York City Marathon this Sunday.
Silver, 58, spoke with amNewYork (edited for brevity) about his training regimen, the joy of running in the five boroughs, and how hard it was giving up bacon and bagels.
How long have you been running?
On and off for most of my life. I ran in elementary school, high school and college. We called it middle distance, not sprinting but fast running. About a year ago, I was at the marathon and I decided this was it.
Why did you start running again?
One of the reasons I started running again, besides my health, is that my brother, Sam, who was a runner, passed away very tragically about 10 years ago. When I started running, not only did it have health benefits but it was my way of dealing with his passing. We ran together in Prospect Park, so when I am there I definitely feel connected to his spirit. I’m dedicating this marathon to him. We ran, it was our way of bonding. We ran from our house in Flatbush all the way to Riis Beach. We were hard core. We beat the 41 Bus.
How did you start training for the marathon?
First, you definitely want to talk to your doctor. I met with a nutritionist. I had the benefit of having a coach through New York Road Runners. Then you have to talk to your family because it’s like a full-time job. For the shorter runs, I prefer to run in the evenings. On Saturday I’ll run starting at 6 a.m. You build what they call your base for your long runs on the weekends. I am in taper mode now. I ran 22 miles about three weeks ago, that was my longest run.
How did that feel?
Actually, amazing. My worst was 18 [miles]. Because I run half marathons, which is 13, doing another five … Someone said there is going to be one long run that is going to break you and for me it was 18. I think because 13, you know you can put another mile or two but when I got to 18 I said ‘That’s it. I’m done. I’m not doing this anymore!’ When they told me 20 was easier than 18, I told my friends that makes no sense. But in fact after 18, I ran 20 the following week and it felt amazing.
How did the nutritionist help you prepare?
I wanted to make sure I was fueling my body properly. She set out four boring things I can eat for breakfast, the things I can eat for snack, lunch and dinner. I need protein every meal, salmon twice a week. I hated breakfast the most. My choices were a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, yogurt with granola and a banana or an egg on whole wheat toast.
What would you have rather had?
I love eggs with bacon and hash browns, an omelet with potatoes and bread or an English muffin.
What are going to be your biggest mental and physical challenges?
After a long run, my legs feel great but it’s my feet. Pounding on the pavement can make them a bit numb. There are going to be a lot of parties and friends along the route. I can’t run over to the side to high five because I have to conserve my energy but I will try to nod and wave.
Do you have a goal?
My goal is to finish. If I do a second one I am going to focus on time. I want to enjoy the experience of running through all the five boroughs. I have a goal around 4 hours and 30 minutes or 4 hours and 45 minutes. But I’m not going to be upset if I don’t hit that goal.
What are some of your favorite parks to train in?
I grew up next to Prospect Park, I just love the loop. Central Park is torture, but it’s beautiful and you get good hill training.
What makes New York City such a good place for a marathon?
I have talked to a lot of marathon runners and there is no other city that literally has crowds along the route from beginning to end. They call it the city’s biggest block party and it really energizes the runners. I’ve heard the most dramatic moment is when you come off the Queensboro Bridge. All you hear is the pitter- patter and people breathing and making other noise, and then approaching First Avenue, the roar [cheering] that you hear is really overwhelming. It’s everyone’s favorite part.