Shlomo Fishman’s brain was telling him that he could stop. Not even halfway through the Atlanta Marathon on Feb. 27, the Silver Spring resident’s brain was saying, “You don’t have to finish.”
Fishman had to push the negative thoughts away.
Not only did he finish, but the 30 year old took first place among the thousands of runners in the 26.2-mile competition.
“As I was approaching mile 9 or 10, my brain was like, “It’s raining. Why do I need to be doing this? Just stop,’” Fishman said. “I could quit. Nobody would know. If I just stopped my watch, walked off the course, went back to my hotel room I could be so much more comfortable right now.”
But Fishman braved the rain and 40-degree weather to finish in 2 hours, 37 minutes,and 32 seconds.
The Atlanta Marathon is a two-loop race, which means that runners complete the same 13.1-mile track twice. When Fishman crossed the finish line, he was only halfway to the end.
The rain and race setup proved to be challenging, but Fishman said he was able to use his brain — which he described as his secret training weapon — to maintain a positive outlook through the race. He kept repeating mantras to himself: “One step at a time. One mile at a time. Keep it simple, Shlomo.”
Fishman, a certified recreation therapist and member of Young Israel Shomrai Emunah of Silver Spring, began running 10 years ago.
“It was the cheapest way to be active and healthy after high school,” he said.
He keeps it up because “I love seeing people in communities doing things that they love.”
On that cold, rainy day in Atlanta, Fishman knew he could not control what place he finished in, but he could control his pace. When he got to mile 16, he had been running for one hour and 37 minutes. He knew he would be able to maintain a six-minute mile for the final 10 miles to beat his previous personal best.
“I only recognized that I was in first place and was going to actually win the event in the final mile,” Fishman said. “I looked around and I saw there was no one around me.”
Finally, Fishman crossed the finish line, winning his first major marathon since he started racing in them in 2012.
“There was a lot of blank space between mile 25½ and the finish line when I realized I was going to take the victory,” Fishman said. “Knowing that I was going to win, I was able to be in the present moment even more. And I was able to focus on — and be appreciative of — all the people around me that have allowed me to get to where I am today.”
Atlanta is known as a hilly marathon, compared to New York or London. Fishman said the hills complemented his running style better than a flat course, as he engages different muscle groups depending on if he’s going uphill or downhill. This allows other muscle groups to recover in the meantime. Fishman said this breaks the “monotony” of the race.
At home in the Washington area, Fishman has run in the Marine Corps Marathon and Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run multiple times. He volunteers for Montgomery County Road Runners, which promotes long-distance running.
“Do something you enjoy, do something you love,” Fishman said. “Even if it’s just one minute today, go out and enjoy. Put one foot in front of the other and just continue supporting the people around you. Because that’s what the world needs.”