Bill Demong, the only American to win an Olympic Nordic combined gold medal, will test his endurance at the New York City Marathon on Nov. 2.
“Intermittently, over the last however many, 15 years, I have had the desire and done some running races,” Demong said in a phone interview while driving in rural Germany on Monday. “I’ve kind of had a desire to do a marathon, especially while I’m relatively fit.”
Demong, 34, won gold and silver medals at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. He came back for a fifth Olympics in Sochi, and placed sixth with the U.S. team and 24th and 31st in individual events.
It was reported in Sochi that Demong would probably retire after those Winter Games, but he will partially compete this season, hoping to help the U.S. Nordic combined team regain funding following U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association cuts after Sochi.
Demong hopes to average six minutes per mile at the New York City Marathon, with a finishing time around 2 hours, 36 minutes. He said in 2003 he ran a 37km Colorado road race (three miles shy of a marathon) over a mountain in 2 hours, 17 minutes, but said he was in better running shape then.
Demong’s work ethic is well-known among U.S. Winter Olympians.
“He will wake up at four in the morning, go hike up some insane mountain with his cross-country skis, find a field and go trudging around cross-country,” ski jumper Anders Johnson once said. “Then he’ll come back down for breakfast, go do intervals on his bike for two hours, come home and eat lunch. … Then he’ll go and do a bike race. … I don’t think the guy has taken a day off since he was 13.”
Demong’s experience in cross-country skiing endurance training for Nordic combined should pay off in New York. He pointed to other cross-country skiers who performed well in distance running, such as former Dartmouth skier Ben True. True was the second-fastest U.S. man in the 5000m this year.
“Certainly having that cardiovascular base helps immensely, already knowing that given a few training sessions you can easily go out and probably run a marathon,” said Demong, whose summer roller-ski training over the last two decades included three-, four- and five-hour sessions at 10 mph. “The catch is, of course, that just because you could finish one doesn’t necessarily make you, a) fast — not all cross-country skiers cross over well into running — and b) in cross-country skiing, you’re used to going out, uphill, as hard as you can and then recovering. Obviously, in a marathon if you go and burn it in the first three miles, you’re not coming back. That’s going to be the challenge.”
Demong will join a long list of Olympians to take part in the five-borough race.
It includes his U.S. Winter Olympic teammate Apolo Ohno, who clocked 3:25:14 in 2011. Ohno recently completed the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
Outside of Olympic distance runners, Olympic champions swimmer Summer Sanders and sprinter Marie-Jose Perec also ran the NYC Marathon in 2013.
Caroline Wozniacki, a two-time Olympic tennis player, will also run this year’s NYC Marathon.
Olympic triathlete Gwen Jorgensen, the reigning World champion, will race the Dash to the Finish Line 5k in Central Park the day before the marathon.