Running a marathon sounds really, really hard. Running a marathon less than six months after giving birth? Hmmm, well, suffice it to say, we wouldn't really know about that! Jennie Finch, superstar softball player does though (what can we say, she's tougher than us).
Last week Finch, the face of international softball for the past decade, announced that she'd be running in this year's New York City Marathon, as part of an effort to raise money for the New York Road Runners in conjunction with Timex. What's the big deal about a world-class, gold medal-winning athlete running a marathon? Well, Finch is beginning her training just weeks after the birth of her second child. We met up with Jennie to discuss her training, her book Throw Like a Girl, and the positive role athletics can play in girls' lives.

Last week you announced that you'd be running in the New York Marathon, just a few months after giving birth to your second child. Tell me why you wanted to do this?

Jennie Finch: I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to run a marathon after my softball days were over, and it was a great opportunity with Timex and partnering up with the New York Road Runners youth programs. Timex offered to donate a dollar to NYRR for everybody I pass, so that was like, OK, this is too good to be true.

How is the training for a marathon different from the training you've done in the past for softball?

Jennie Finch: A mile and a half [run] used to be my workout. Now it’s my warm-up and my cool-down is another mile and a half, so it’s a little bit different. Timex hooked me up with the Timex GPS watch, which has been brilliant as far as allowing me to maintain my training process. They also gave me a running coach from California, so she can log in and see my workouts minute-to-minute which has been nice. It’s been interesting. The biggest thing is that it’s time consuming and as a mother of two, it’s a little bit different.

Tell me about the Timex GPS watch. How does that work?

Jennie Finch: Basically you can watch your pace, your time, your heart rate, all of those things by looking at your watch, which is awesome. You can basically go out and run, you don’t have to map out a route, or run with your iPhone. It’s all right there, which is pretty neat. And I can just plug it into my computer, and my whole workout is uploaded. So my coach can look and follow where I was at this point and how far I ran in this amount of time.

So even people without a coach could use this as a coach or to help them train.

Jennie Finch: Right. No doubt, for sure. Before, when I just had the watch, it was sort of a guessing game. I’d run for 45 minutes and I’d hope I make that [distance]. Or I think this is two miles but not knowing for sure. Actually knowing and seeing your progress, knowing if your heart rate is getting better, if your fitness level is getting better, it’s kind of rewarding. You can visually see and visually track your progress.

Your second was born in June, right? That’s a quick turnaround to start training for a marathon.

Jennie Finch: It is, it is. I’m excited. It’s going good. Luckily he wasn’t too bad, he was easy on me. I’ve been able to get out and run, so we’ll see. We’re still a long ways out and the hardest training is yet to come, so I look forward to racing.

When did you start training?

Jennie Finch: Probably three weeks ago, like seriously, every day. Before that I was just jogging here and there.

The New York Road Runners. Tell me a little bit about them.

Jennie Finch: They basically promote running to inner city kids. Running is free and it’s empowering to the youth. There’s nothing greater than being a kid and running outside. In this day and age, that’s lost. So if we can introduce more young kids to running and being active and healthy then the better this society will be. I’m hoping to raise a lot of money for them; if I can pass everyone that would be nice.

You’re going to start at the very end of the field, and every person you pass, Timex is going to donate a dollar. Do you have a number in your head of people you'd like to pass?

Jennie Finch: I don’t. Amani Toomer ran it last year and he passed 25,000, so that’s kind of [the benchmark]. I have a competitive edge, so that’s in there right now. I think as my training progresses, I’ll get a better idea of where I’m going to be at or what’s realistic.

That’s a big number. How well do you know New York? Have you driven the course or anything yet?

Jennie Finch: Never. No, just I'm trying to pick up any tips I can get. My trainer said that five miles of it is uphill. So, I’m preparing for that. We’ll see. I’m excited about it. I get to see New York in a different way. Usually it’s by air and train and cab. Now it's weird to see it on the ground level.

This is your first marathon?

Jennie Finch: Yes, and here I'm starting with the best. I hear this is the best.

You've also got a new book out, Throw Like a Girl. Tell me about why you wanted to do that specifically.

Jennie Finch: Being a female athlete, there just is not much information out there about it. I remember being a girl and wanting to get my hands on any material [I could]. Just being able to share my story. It’s been a dream of mine to share the life lessons that I’ve learned, both on and off the field. There are so many things that transcend outside the playing field, and it’s a crazy world out there today. If I can be a positive light to young athletes or just encourage young girls along the way by sharing my struggles, my failures, my obstacles, just all those things with them.

Where do you think female sports are right now and where would you like to see them in, say, 5-10 years?

Jennie Finch: I think they’re right there on the edge ready to break through. It’s so exciting; you can pretty much Google any sport and see a female athlete represented. When I was a young girl, that wasn’t true. I looked up to baseball and basketball athletes, the Dodgers and Lakers being in Southern California, and now you see a lot of people competing on TV, which I never got to see. It’s crazy to see how far it’s come in the past 15 years. It’s pretty awesome. I’m excited about the support of everybody, and it’s so awesome to see the progression. We've come a long ways, but we still have a long ways to go, and there are more barriers to be broken. They’re getting there and I’m just excited to see the opportunity out there. Just collegiately and getting your college education paid for by playing a sport. I think there are so many positives, and studies prove what being involved in sports does for young girls. I think in this day and age, that’s what we need. Positive reinforcement.

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