One of the hardest parts about being a surgeon who runs marathons is having to train while being on-call. Luckily for Meghan Bishop, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon who works at the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in New York City, she’s only been called in a few times while on a run.
“One time, I was doing my long run in a park by the hospital, and I got totally lost in the trails,” Bishop told Runner’s World. “Then I got a call telling me I had a dislocated shoulder in the waiting room. I found my way back and everything worked out fine with the patient, but I’m more careful now about not exploring too much when I’m on call.”
Over the past year, Bishop, 34, has perfected the art of balancing a demanding work schedule and training routine. Earlier this spring, she won the New Jersey Marathon in a three-minute personal best of 2:42:17, which qualified her for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta next February.
“I was happy with Chicago because it was a big PR, but it also really motivated me to get under 2:45,” Bishop said. “Since I was so close, I knew I could tweak a few things in my training to go faster the next time.”
To dial in the speed and strength needed to slip under the 2:45 barrier, Bishop adopted a flexible training plan that included 5 a.m. treadmill runs, marathon-specific workouts, and strength training—and left enough time for hospital rounds.
Moving From Middle Distance to Marathon
Bishop first started running as an active preteen growing up outside of Philadelphia. In high school, she began to pay more attention to track than field hockey and landed a spot on the state champion 4×800 relay team. Her success in the mile and 800 meters caught the attention of the College of William & Mary coaches, who recruited her to run in 2003.
Though she focused on mid-distance events in high school, Bishop learned to love longer distances in college. As a Griffin, she ran 16:18 for 5K, 9:31 for 3K, and 20:40 for 6K.
“William & Mary had a pretty high-mileage program, which made us stronger for longer races in track and cross-country,” she said. “I started running 60 miles per week in my freshman year, and by my senior year, I was running between 80 and 90 miles per week.”
The year after graduating from college in 2007, Bishop began medical school at George Washington University. Over the next four years, she took a break from competitive training, running just three miles every few days. It wasn’t until she started residency at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia in 2012 that she began training seriously again.
A key motivator for Bishop’s return to running was having a team to train with. As a medical resident, Bishop joined the , a competitive local running group with several other health care professionals on its roster. In 2014, Bishop finished her first marathon in Philadelphia in 2:55:31.
“It was hot that day and I had a huge positive split,” Bishop said. “I was just getting my feet wet.”
After her debut, she doubled down on training at times that fit with her schedule. Since she had to arrive at the hospital at 4:30 a.m. to see patients during residency, she met with her club teammates at night for runs and workouts. “I never had time to double,” she said.
The commitment to training paid off: at the 2017 Hartford Marathon, she clocked 2:48:38, then lowered that time by three minutes in Chicago the following year. Though she moved to New York City in 2017, she kept in touch with her Philadelphia teammates throughout her quest to OTQ in 2019.
Finding Top Speed While Training Solo
In the Big Apple, Bishop typically trains alone—but solitude doesn’t bother her, she said.
“I’ve had enough consistent years of running under my belt that I know what workouts are best for me,” she said. “While having people to run with is great, running alone helps me follow signals in my body better. I do certain paces based on how I feel that day, rather than just doing what the group is doing. That keeps me from overtraining.”
To train for New Jersey, Bishop ran between 65 and 75 miles per week, often doing loops in Central Park. She did the majority of her runs after she finished work at night, but a few times a week, she did an early-morning run on the treadmill. On those days, she started running at 5 a.m. to give herself enough time to get to the clinic by 7 a.m.
“I have to get creative with running with my work. I don’t have much time in the morning, so I do all of my hard workouts at night,” Bishop said.
Bishop’s bread-and-butter marathon workouts included 4×2-mile repeats, 3×3-mile repeats, and a ladder workout comprised of one-, two-, and three-mile intervals. She often included a tempo segment in her long run, such as 12 miles at marathon pace (about 6:12 mile pace). In March, she split 1:16:27 at the NYC Half Marathon. With a successful tune-up under her belt, Bishop felt prepared to OTQ at the race on April 27 .
“I was pretty confident I could,” she said. “The goal was just to get the time. I was really happy to be two minutes under, though.”
This fall, Bishop was selected as the medical director of the Philadelphia Marathon, where she discussed health and injuries with runners and oversaw the medical needs of participants. “I think being a runner has made me 100 percent better at taking care of my patients, because I can relate to what they’re going through,” she said.
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With the Trials now less than 100 days away, Bishop is planning her training strategy to get to the starting line healthy and fit. In December, she’ll race the Ted Corbitt 15K in Central Park, then she’ll do a tune-up half marathon in Naples, Florida, in January.
“My goal for Trials is to get out there and compete the best I can,” Bishop said. “Of all the races I’ve done, that will be hands-down the most competitive. It’s an honor to toe the line.”
Digital Editor Hailey first got hooked on running news as an intern with Running Times, and now she reports on elite runners and cyclists, feel-good stories, and training pieces for Runner’s World and Bicycling magazines.