Member Spotlight: Justin Pierce Baldwin Gerald

What excites you most about running the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon?
My first marathon was NYC 2013 (after training in 2012 and The Sandy Situation), and it was really the first time I’d really proven to myself and to others that I was no longer the clumsy, out of shape nerd I’d grown up as.

This year, I’m shooting for a goal that would have been an absurd pipe dream just two years ago (sub-3:00), and I’m most excited to feel the crowd push me along to what I hope will be a strong race with a strong finish. And I love the course, the bridges, and the city.

What is your favorite place to run and why?
I actually commute to work by running. I live in Sunnyside, Queens, and I work on the East Side, so, almost every workday, I shove my work clothes in my backpack and power over the Queensboro Bridge. Because the rest of my run is city streets and often slowed down by traffic lights, the best part of my commute is the bridge that everyone else hates because of its placements in the marathon. But I love the Queensboro Bridge, because I’m in the middle of the city, above it, and away from it all at the same time.

If you run with music, what are your favorite artists or songs to listen to?
I don’t, so I’ll explain how that happened. I used to be really really tied to my music and my playlist because that’s how I started running. In 2012, TFK coaches advised me to avoid music during the race, and I panicked. However would I manage to do this?!?! But one day, chance intervened, and I got caught in a rainstorm on my first 20 miler with TFK. And so my ipod was ruined, and I took it as a chance to adapt. Now I wouldn’t even dream of it. But I still use music to lift weights or for cross-training, and for those, it’s a lot of hip-hop, specifically because those songs have three verses and it helps with my sets.

What is your favorite post-run meal?
If I’m just training, it’s water, then Gatorade, then chocolate milk, then peanut butter sandwiches.

If it’s a race – and I did well – then, after the water/Gatorade and whatever they shove into my hands at the finish line, it’s all of the cheese pizza (I’m a pescetarian). All of it. 100% of it. You might think you’re eating cheese pizza after the marathon, but actually I will have already eaten it.

When did your relationship with running begin and why?
The funny thing is, as a little kid, I was a terrible runner. We got little badges for every mile we completed on the circle in Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn Heights, and I always gave up after two loops, so I never even got the mile badge.

When I was older, I failed at every sport you can think of – most prominently, but not only, basketball, baseball, tae kwon do, and rugby – and, as a short (5’5″ now, smaller then) and formerly scrawny guy, speed would have been one way to succeed even if I couldn’t really catch, throw or shoot. But I managed to be both small and slow. I was definitely picked last for everything.

I lifted weights for vanity from high school on, but I wasn’t actually in shape. And then I gained weight in college, as you do when you have a college diet.

My family made fun of me (that makes them sound bad, but we’re a loving family with a lot of teasing), so I decided to start running. The first time I went running, when I was 20, I ran for about thirty seconds. And I didn’t get much better for about five years. I always had an excuse not to run.

But then, in 2011, I lived in 1st avenue, near mile 19 of the race, and I saw all the regular people running, not superstars, not pros, but people who looked like me, and I thought about how exceptional it would be to do what they were doing. I signed up for Team For Kids a few weeks later after a friend suggested it to me.

Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions, if so, please explain?
Night before, lay out my clothes, pin my bib on, pack my bag. But that’s normal.

Morning of? Up, shower (to wake up), oatmeal, wait around and listen to music that pumps me up. Walk out the door ready to conquer.

Why 26.2?
Because I don’t want to run 26.3 (but I do anyway, weaving around people).

But, no, it’s just that the NYC marathon makes me love my city more and more and I wanted to be a part of this amazing race. I will run other marathons after this one, but I’ll always run my city.

Tell us a little more about yourself
I was born in Manhattan and raised in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. I went to college in NJ, then came home and my dad told me I needed to move out, so I moved down the street… to South Korea, to teach English. I came back home to go to grad school and to help the people of my city, and now I work in nonprofit education management and I help adult immigrants learn English and computers.

I love my city, every bit of it, and running has done so much to help me appreciate my life, my city, my world. I will never leave running or NYC because they’ll never leave me either. And no matter how many miles I run (more than 2,000 in 2014 alone), it will always be TFK that made me into a runner.

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