November 6, 2011
By, Brian Cazeneuve
NEW YORK — Apolo Ohno turned into Central Park to a wave of screams Sunday. Arms reached over barriers to clap, holler and hold signs for their friends, family, and for the familiar face under the bandanna.
“Go Apolo,” shouted one voice. “Look, there’s Ohno,” said another. There was even the obligatory, “Apolo, wait for my number” that probably wasn’t a race number.
The cheers were familiar, but the venue was entirely unknown. Ohno had just crossed into the 23rd mile of the New York City Marathon, and as the most decorated U.S. winter Olympian in history, he had also crossed into new territory.
With the lure of still another run at the Olympics tugging at him, Ohno completed his first marathon, a task that fulfilled his competitor’s reflexive zest for challenge, but one that surely did not prepare his legs and body for the specific rigors of short track speedskating.
Ohno completed the course in 3 hours, 25 minutes and 14 seconds. As he crossed the finish line, he gave a hug to Todd Rushworth, his trainer, and Mary Wittenberg, the race’s director.
“Awesome,” Ohno said. “Can’t beat this, man. You really can’t.”
Spoken through the instant haze of endorphins or not, those were still striking words for a man who has eight Olympic medals on his résumé. Unlike many other athletes who retire from their respective sports and later run a marathon — Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier finished in 4:14:27 on Sunday — Ohno, just 29, admits he is still pondering a final run at an Olympics that is now just 15 months away.