Nev Schulman reflects on his strong New York City Marathon debut
More than 49,000 runners completed Sunday's New York City Marathon. MTV's Nev Schulman was the first celebrity across the finish line in three hours and 34 minutes, which was faster than former tennis player James Blake's three hours and 51 minute performance or Alicia Keys' five hour run. Schulman's show, Catfish, is a documentary television series that seeks out the truths and lies behind online dating. The show wrapped up its fourth season in August and will return for a fifth season along with a new show that Schulman is currently producing.
Schulman caught up with Sports Illustrated on Monday morning to reflect on his New York City Marathon experience:
Chris Chavez: Why did you sign up for the marathon?
Nev Schulman: Last year, I was invited to run for the J/P Haitian Relief Organization but I just couldn’t with scheduling and shooting. This year, when I renegotiated my contract since I’m working on a second show I asked off for the first week in November. I got in contact with the organization again and told them that I really wanted to run.
The reason why I wanted to run this marathon in particular is because my dad ran the marathon in something like 2:58. He did a sub-three and he only did it once. So I thought I had to do a sub-three as well.
I grew up on 66th and Central Park West, which I think is the closest you can be to the finish line of the New York City Marathon. Every year as I grew up, Marathon Sunday was a tradition with my dad. We’d go and sit in the stands – this was before you needed special badges and tickets. This was back when they used to paint all the city logos on the street. We’d watch and my dad would talk about running before the finishers would cross the line. For my dad, running was always the representation of many life lessons that he would pass onto me about breathing, focus, endurance and training. There was a lot great moral value in track and field.
CC: Of all the charities, why J/P HRO?
NS: Growing up in New York, earthquakes are still pretty new to me in Los Angeles. When I experienced my first one, it was tiny but it scared the s--- out of me. I had to get to the airport pretty early and the house started to shake. I couldn’t imagine how helpless and terrifying it must be on a larger scale. I just understand that they’re doing some really good work for people that need the help in Haiti. I was honored to be invited for them.
CC: Focusing now on the race, you got off to a hot start for a marathon. Was that just excitement from the canon going off at the start? What do you accredit that to?
NS: I think you always start a race quicker than you probably want to. I really had a goal from the day that I decided to do the marathon where I told myself, I’m only going to do it if I try to go under three hours. I know I can jog a marathon. I don’t want to jog; I want to go for it. That was always my pie in the sky. Train for sub-three otherwise you’re not challenging yourself. Now I can say ‘3:30 is pretty damn good.’ But that was a mark that I figured would motivate me.
CC: What did people make of the initial goal?
NS: People would just laugh at me. Under three hours? They thought I was joking. I was serious. Why bother doing it, if you’re not trying to do it fast?
CC: How did your scheduling work? You’re traveling all across the country for Catfish.
NS: If you look at my run tracker over the last couple months, I haven’t run in one place more than once. I’ve got runs in Florida and all over the country. It’s hard because there’s no consistent way to train. If there’s one sport that lets you take it anywhere, it’s running. I hate running on treadmills.
For the last two years I’ve been pretty good about hitting the gym on the road. I need something to get me out of the hotel, because when you’re in these small towns there is nothing to do. It gave me a good excuse to see these strange towns and find a park. When you’re looking for places to run, you can find some really beautiful spots.
CC: Any weird stories that come from runs in these strange towns?
NS: I hit a 12-miler in Orlando that resulted in me running around Disney World. That place is so strange. It’s not designed for pedestrian traffic. I just kept running and going. Ran past some ticket booths. They yelled for me to stop but I just kept running. It’s amazing that when you’re running, you can kind of get away with stuff. They’re not going to run after you, if you look like a runner.
CC: Your longest run before the marathon was 18 miles. How come you weren’t worried about hitting “the wall” or anything past 20 miles?
NS: On that long run, I felt my body start to fatigue but I thought, ‘This is good. You don’t need to kill yourself right now. This gets tough. When it’s the real race, I’ll have adrenaline and just power through.'
I had the opposite of a runner’s high. After the long run, I felt so good and thought ‘Eh. I just ran pretty far. That was good. Do I need to do more than that? What am I trying to prove to myself?’ The rest of my training, I thought I’d just keep up my speed.
CC: What was the toughest part Sunday?
NS: I tried to pee into a Gatorade bottle at the starting line. My good friend, Casey Neistat, who many people would probably know from YouTube, said that it would make me feel much better. I just caught stage fright in front of thousands of people. I couldn’t do it. I had to stop to pee. The mental struggle to get myself to use the bathroom was tough.
But actually, in all seriousness, all I kind of remember from the second half is ‘Just keep going. Don’t stop.’ A lot of it was a blur in the second half. I crushed the first half but there was a moment where I started to slow and I knew I wasn’t going to break three hours. At 12 or 13, I saw I was over 1:30 and I told myself that it was fine and I could still get a great time. It was OK. It was hard to accept because I said I would try for less than three and I told everyone. It was tough but there was also an intense burning sensation in my toes.
CC: You mention that you’re working on a new show. What are you allowed to share?
NS: There’s some project that I’ll be in and others where I’ll be a producer. I’ve got a second series with MTV that we’re shooting right now and I’ll balance with Catfish. That’ll air on the heels of Season 5 of Catfish. The show is new territory for me. We’re taking people in real and close relationships – like families and best friends – where one person is concerned or suspicious that the other side is keeping something secret or suspicious. The idea is we help figure out what’s going on and offer that person an opportunity to reveal whatever their secret is in hopes that it helps alleviate whatever difficulties they’re going through. That’s been very emotional and eye opening to some issues that I never really got into?
CC: Ever hear of LetsRun.com?
NS: No, actually.
CC: It’s an anonymous message board for all things running chatter. I know there’s definitely a couple getting married that met on there, but it could be a platform for you to tie in some running and Catfish.
NS: That’s awesome, especially if they had to run from opposite sides of the country to meet. We’re always looking for new forums and platforms to explore. We haven’t even tapped into the gaming spectrum where people meet on things like World of Warcraft and become a couple.
CC: What’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned from the marathon?
NS: The biggest thing that I take away from this race is humility more than anything. I was very ambitious. I had an aggressive goal. It was very clear to me from the second I started the race that I would be getting passed the entire time. You have to let that wave wash over you and let people be better than you at something. I like to be the best at what I do. There was not a single second of that race that I felt that I was the best and that was a really important lesson: You don’t have to be the best. Just do it for you.
Having a blind woman fly past me at 123rd street or someone pushing their father in a running chair was incredible. It was very humbling.
CC: People sometimes catch the marathon bug immediately and start to think of the next one. Are you planning on it yet?
NS: I totally would. I ran the entire race in a pair of New Balance. It wasn’t the shoes but I need to find a way to not get blisters. I always seem to get them in the same two spots and it hurts. Once I find a way to not get blisters, I’ll be back at it.