Nordic-combined Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong ran like a champion in the 2014 New York City Marathon. Despite having never raced a road marathon until Sunday, the 34 year old ran the 26.2-mile road race in 2:33:05 and placed 51st overall.
What set Demong apart from the estimated field of 50,000 was his ability to adapt to the challenging conditions. With wind gusts reaching 50 miles per hour and chilly temperatures, Demong said that the race felt more like a nordic competition than a marathon.
“It was way more of a cross-country race than a normal marathon because of the weather and the terrain,” he said on the phone Monday. “There were a lot of sharp corners and not-so-good pavement in places.”
Hoping to run the race in 2:36:00, Demong was surprised that he surpassed his goal by three minutes on a challenging course in trying conditions.
From the beggining of the race he ran with a pack of “sub-elite” racers that included many Scandinavians. However, the group set a blazing pace that Demong knew he wouldn’t be able to maintain while running through the five boroughs of the city.
Demong and several other runners eventually broke off the back of the group, but were still running mile speeds that were 20 seconds faster than he wanted.
“At that point I was like, ‘Well let’s just see. My legs feel all right. I’ll just keep going,’ ” he recalled.
Even with the rapid pace at the beginning, Demong said that he was able to maintain his energy throughout the race and have a strong finish.
“I didn’t ever feel like I fell apart. I really pushed it to the line,” he said. “I’m ecstatic given the conditions and the course. It was really far outside of what my training put me at. My training put me at that pace on a perfect flat day with no wind in Chicago, not in New York on the hardest day.”
Demong, who was the 15th American male to cross the line, explained that he wanted to compete in a marathon for over ten years — dating back to his last competitive endurance running race in 2002. He had originally registered for the Oct. 12 Chicago Marathon, but due to a conflict with his team’s overseas training camp in Switzerland, Demong decided to run the New York City Marathon instead.
It was a decision he didn’t regret.
“I was astounded at how awesome it was,” he said. “It was a two-and-a-half hour adrenaline rush .”
Demong may be in top running shape, but the 2010 Olympic gold medalist said he’s less prepared for the upcoming ski season than in years past. He explained that while his jumping is on-par, he is skiing roughly a minute slower on average than he did in previous years.
After the Olympic games in Sochi, Demong was unsure whether or not he was ready for another season of competition.
However, the nordic-combined veteran eventually decided to compete in the 2014/2015 season after the national team began to face its financial problems.
One of Demong’s main goals for the year is to regain his paid spot on the World Cup so that the U.S. team will have future opportunities to send skiers to nordic combined’s highest level of racing.
Once that goal is accomplished, Demong hopes that he will be skiing well enough to help the U.S. be competetive in the team relay at the 2015 World Championships in Falun, Sweden.
“We’ve had some guys who have really stepped up this summer, and we have a good team on that squad,” he said. “Hopefully I can be good enough to add to that dynamic and put us back in medal contention at World Championships.”
U.S. Nordic Combined will begin international competition Nov. 29 and 30 at the opening weekend of the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup. Demong, however, will not attend the races in Kuusamo, Finland. Instead, he will start his World Cup season in January, when he believes that he’ll have overcome any training deficiencies.
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.