Glen Ridger training for NYC marathon

Jessica Fuydal, a 2013 Glen Ridge High School graduate, is training to run in the New York City Marathon, a 26.3-mile challenge through the city’s five boroughs scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 5.

It will be Fuydal’s first marathon. In fact, it will be her first try at any distance.

“I’ve wanted to run a marathon for a while,” she said. “I wanted to do it before I was 30 and I’m 28. I’ve never even run a 5K or any race before. This will be a challenge for me.”

Fuydal has been in training since July.

“I’m definitely nervous,” she said. “The training has been hard, because of the heat. But I’m fairly determined and don’t think I’d stop running, even if I wanted to.”

Personal goals aside, Fuydal said she is doing this for a NYC-based charity called “Teams for Kids,” which provides funding for children to participate in sports outside of school. Fuydal played lacrosse at GRHS and was the tennis team captain.

“I grew up playing sports,” she said. “It’s a highlight of my childhood and I’m happy to give back to this.”

Although she currently lives in NYC, her parents still reside on Forest Avenue. She sometimes runs in town here, but mostly the park along the West Side Highway is her training course.

“On top of the physical aspects, it’s also a mental test,” she said. “You have to be pretty strong mentally. I wanted to test my limits.”

Among her family and friends, there are those who do not believe she will finish. They suggest starting off with a 5K race. She wants none of it. The naysayers only fuel the fire.

“I’ve never done anything to this extent before,” she said. “I’ve been at the same job for years. I wasn’t in college sports. It’s definitely the most difficult thing I’ve put myself in. Everything is in full swing. It’s the year for me to try.”

Fuydal attended Indiana University, graduating in 2017. She works at J.P. Morgan in private equity lending. For training, she has been following the Hal Higdon marathon running plan for beginners. Higdon is a runner and writer of training books. Fuydal said she is following an 18-week course regime.

“My favorite times are running in the rain,” she said. “Luckily, I’ve had no injuries. It’s a hard road to figure out what I should eat. Diet is definitely a factor.”

She can do a half-marathon comfortably. In October, she hopes to increase her distances to 16 and 20 miles.

“All marathon runners say you should max-out at 20 miles,” she said, figuring that an adrenaline spike, fueled by cheering spectators, will carry a runner to the finish.

“You’d be surprised by the miles you can do that you haven’t trained for.”

Fuydal said she is fortunate to have friends who will also be running the marathon. They will keep her going. Family and college friends, some coming in from Chicago, will be attending the race, too.

“I’ll definitely need that,” she said, “and will be very happy if I can finish in under five hours. I’d be very proud of myself.”

The NYC Marathon was first held in 1970. The current marathon record of 2:05:06, set in 2011, is held by Geoffrey Mutai, of Kenya. The fastest women’s time is 2:22:31, set in 2003 by Margaret Okayo, also of Kenya. The race this year is the 53nd running of the marathon. It was canceled in 2012 because of Hurricane Sandy. In 2020, it was a virtual event, because of the pandemic. The marathon began as a race entirely run in Central Park. Since 1976, it has gone through all five boroughs. Tom Fleming, of Bloomfield, won in ‘73 and ‘75, setting a course record both times.

Fuydal said the only thing that makes her nervous is the thought of an injury while training. She admits she hasn’t been very good at incorporating strength training into her regime.

“When your glutes aren’t strong, your hips hurt,” she said. “I could have done more for that. The training is monotonous, but the race will be a high-energy, fun day in the city.”

She was under the impression she would lose weight, but has put on a few pounds.

“My muscles have developed, in my arms and legs, definitely,” she said.

Her parents are her biggest supporters, but her younger sister, Ali, GRHS, Class of ‘16, is convinced she will not finish.

“She’s supportive, but thinks this is a joke,” Fuydal said. “But I have to finish; there’s no choice. If I was in a random city, it would be different. But with the support system I have, I need to finish this marathon.”