Give Derrick Eidam credit. A lot of credit.
Oh sure, he’s yet another in a long and extremely uplifting cohort of local runners whose motivation for running has skyrocketed as a result of the awesome One New York Virtual Challenge — Race Across New York. That’s the easy part — although, there’s nothing easy about logging 10, 15, 20 miles in a day so you can see your little stick figure meander across the virtual map from Buffalo to Albany right through our mid-Hudson Valley, and eventually to Montauk Point!
The difficult part for Derrick Eidam — heck, for most of us in 2020 — is looking in the mirror and owning up to what the past several months have done to us on an emotional level. After the 38-year-old Highland resident was able to do that, he was then more prepared to lace up his sneakers and go for a long run — culminating in his first marathon finish, on his first Father’s Day, June 21.
“With so much uncertainty in the world caused by the pandemic, I also started to become a little more anxious, even depressed at times,” Eidam said in an email interview last week. “This led to a lack of motivation and I nearly stopped training altogether. As more information about the coronavirus came out, I began running with a face cover, but it wasn’t until the start of the One NY Challenge in mid-May, which was an endurance based virtual run, that I got back on track.”
Eidam’s pathway to his first 26.2-mile marathon finish was not common. Other than working as a rock climbing instructor at the old Dutchess County YMCA in Poughkeepsie while a student at Our Lady of Lourdes High School, he did not run or play any organized sports. In fact, he wasn’t all that athletic throughout his time in school at Dutchess Community College and then SUNY New Paltz.
It wasn’t until four years ago, spurred on by a desire to lose weight, that Eidam started regularly running. After a year of improved diet, general exercise and consistent running, he dropped 45 pounds and said he was really enjoying it “quite a bit.” He added: “I decided to expand on it by running faster and longer distances. Everything to that point was recreational.”
Two years later, in 2018, he entered his first race – the New Paltz Challenge 5-kilometer, on Father’s Day. “From there,’’ he said, “I became obsessed with running and set out to see just how far I could take it.”
Because of his relatively recent introduction to road racing, Eidam has probably done more virtual racing than traditional road races. In 2019, he was able to notch personal-best times of 22:35 at the Hand-in-Hand 5K on the Walkway Over the Hudson and a 1:47:35 at the New Paltz Challenge Half Marathon.
At that point, Eidam made the next logical progression — move up to the marathon. He diligently followed an 18-week training plan in preparation for the Philadelphia Marathon in November, but ultimately he got injured mid-race and had to be driven back to the medical tent. “It wasn’t the ending I was expecting,” he said, “but I was determined to pick myself back up and try again in the future.”
That future of road racing got scuttled by the pandemic. So, too, did the rest of our lives. Eidam works in the business office at Ellenville Regional Hospital, but like so many he quickly transitioned to working at home. This was a blessing, as he was able to see each milestone of his 6-month-old daughter all day, every day.
After adjusting to the new routine, Eidam was able to rekindle his motivation. With the help of his friends in the Fleet Feet Poughkeepsie training groups — as well as the One NY virtual race — he found the fire to get out the door, again and again, mile after mile.
The virtual race across the state led to Eidam’s training mileage going “through the roof,” and he completed the virtual 500-kilometer (310.75-mile) challenge in a mind-blowing 21 days. “That was basically a full training plan worth of miles,” he said, “so I saw the opportunity to replace the cancelled race with another marathon attempt. Sure, it wasn’t an official race, but it was no longer about that. It was about covering the distance.”
And so, on Father’s Day, when he had originally planned on running the New Paltz Challenge half marathon, he set about to run twice that distance; his first marathon, a personal payback after the injury in Philly.
Eidam’s course was largely set on his favorite running pathways: the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, starting at the Walkway parking lot in Highland. Along with two of his Fleet Feet friends, Ian Becker and Christopher Regan, he ran from there toward New Paltz and back, then crossed over the Walkway and onto the William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail and back.
“With the heat and humidity, we wanted to start early to avoid the worst of it,” he said. “I personally brought more water with Nuun Hydration electrolyte tablets and Honey Stinger energy gels and chews to make sure my nutrition was on point for the tougher elements. The goal was to maintain as close to a 10-min/mile pace as possible. Then I started adding a little bit of walking breaks every 1-2 miles.”
Along with Becker and Regan, there was even a cheer section by the Morgan Lake WRS/DRT trailhead that really energized Eidam toward the end. “The end product,” he said, “was a run I will remember forever, which we completed slightly faster than the intended pace!” His overall finish time was 4:20:35.
“Derrick has really done an amazing job progressing as a runner in such a short period of time,” Fleet Feet Poughkeepsie owner Kim Caruso said. “He’s so enthusiastic about improving his running, always dedicating time to training despite a busy work and home schedule. He’s always around to encourage other local runners and is a big supporter of Fleet Feet, which we really appreciate.
“We really do have such a great community here,” she added. “I love them all!”
Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club member Pete Colaizzo, the track coach at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, writes on running every week in Players. He can be reached at email@example.com. For more club information, go to www.mhrrc.org