This feature appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on Nov. 5, 2005, almost two years to the day before the talented distance runner died of a heart attack while competing in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in New York City.

Shay aims for better results at NYC Marathon

By Ed Odeven

Today, Ryan Shay will begin his morning like millions of other Americans — with breakfast (his usual meal: oatmeal with honey).

And then he’ll get to work.

In reality, he has no time to relax this weekend. After all, the New York City Marathon is today, and Shay will run 26.2 miles through Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island. The race ends at Central Park.

Shay finished ninth at the 2004 NYC Marathon, becoming only the fourth American in the past 11 years to place in the top 10. He ran the race in 2 hours, 14 minutes and 8 seconds. (South Africa’s Hendrik Raamala won last year’s race in 2:09.28.)

In a recent interview, Shay, who has spent much of the past several months training at NAU’s Center for High Altitude Training, said he feels he’s on pace to do even better this year.

“I would like to see a minute PR (personal record) in the marathon,” he said, resting on a bench at Lumberjack Stadium. “If I can run between 2:12 and 2:13, I’d be happy.”

The ex-University of Notre Dame runner, placed 15th at the 2005 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in October in Edmonton, Alberta. It was the best-ever finish by an American male at the competition.

So how excited is he for the start of this morning’s race?

“Right now I don’t want to waste any more emotional energy than necessary,” the 26-year-old Michigan native said. “But when I actually do get to New York the excitement level will raise quite a bit. … It’s always good, exciting energy when you’re coming to New York City.”

An estimated 35,000 runners will race today, but not all of them will begin at the same time. A group of 50-100 elite runners will start before the main group.

“I think the field in New York City is a little more difficult than last year,” Shay said. “It’s going to be tougher competition. I think they recruited a few more top-quality international runners, so it’s very possible that I could run a minute faster and still place the same. … I’m a competitor so the goal of mine is to once again finish in the top 10.”

Shay runs between 120-140 miles per week. He runs on various trails and hills and also does what he calls “interval work” at Lumberjack Stadium.

“The training is going well,” he added. “I like the progress I’ve made so far.”

Perhaps the key to Shay’s excellent condition is that he doesn’t take off-days while training for a marathon.

“I won’t take any days off, but I will have a couple recovery days a week,” he said. “Typically, a recovery day will follow a hard interval day or a hard workout day will be followed by a recovery run.”

Shay’s other workout activities, including muscle-core-strengthening exercises using a physio ball, plyometric drills and the use of a speed ladder, have been done at DeRosa Physical Therapy here in town.

“Some people are like, ‘Well, why does a marathon runner need to do that?’ he said, in reference to the muscle-strengthening exercises. “Well, in the marathon you need those smaller stabilizing muscles to help support the larger muscles.”

When he begins today’s marathon, Shay, the 2003 USA Marathon champion and ’03 USA Half-Marathon winner already knows how he’ll approach the race.

“I like to not think about the race for the first half of the marathon,” he said. “I just want to get into my goal pace that I’m going to run.”

Then he said, “You get into your groove, so to speak, and then I just try to take in my surroundings to try to make the time go by a little quicker, at least for the first half of the marathon. … As you begin to hurt more, then you are focusing more on racing and it’s more of a conscious effort now to maintain pace.”

The last four miles, he continued, is when “the racing really starts. … It becomes almost a race of attrition, who can basically maintain the longest.”

In recent years, Shay has trained in Mammoth Lake, Calif., with Abdi Abdirahman, a 2000 U.S. Olympian in the 10,000 meters. The two got along well and came to Flagstaff to train together. The Center for High Altitude Training’s head coach, Dr. Jack Daniels, and Joe Vigil, the center’s senior coaching consultant, have assisted them in their training.

The two feed off each other during practices, Shay revealed.

“With Abdi training with me, I think that he’s maybe learned how to train harder, more consistent, because he always tells me I train harder than anybody he’s ever trained with,” Shay added. “And I’ve learned from Abdi basically how to stay within my limits more to be a little smarter how to push a run and when not to.

“If you want to be a good marathoner, you have to be patient and I feel I’m pretty patient. I had to learn that, though,” he continued. “I wasn’t at first. But with a marathon, it’s patience (that) goes hand in hand with emotional control.”

This means “learning not to exert all your energy too soon.”

Shay predicted that Abdirahman, who has made the jump from the 10K to marathons in recent years, can be a bona-fide threat to win the NYC Marathon today.

“If everything goes his way and he has a great race, he can win it,” Shay added. “He’s that talented and he’s put in the work. … I think for him a top-five finish is definitely reasonable.”


“It’s a long race. There’s so many variables. On any given day, anything can happen. … The marathon is one of the hardest events to predict a winner,” Shay said.