Sean P. Diddy Combs
I'm a broken man," Eric Alexander says as we meet at noon for a run around the reservoir in Central Park. Thanks to his 19-month-old son, Alexander has been up since 8 a.m.—which wouldn’t be a big deal, except that he went to bed at 3 a.m. after headlining at Smoke, a jazz club on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The June sun is high and bright, drawing sweat to his fair skin and providing a constant reminder of his less-than-ideal hydration of the recent past.
"I took it pretty easy last night," he says. "Think I had only four beers. It’s rare to get through three sets on less than four. Maybe it was five." Alexander still has to take part in a photo shoot and give a saxophone lesson before leading another three sets that evening at Smoke.
So why, despite his comfortable, conversational pace, are we passing each and every one of the hundreds of other runners circling the reservoir? It probably has something to do with the fact that the only race of Alexander’s life was a 2:58 marathon. continue reading
All he wanted to do was beat Oprah's 4:29:20 time at the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon. And in 2003, after only 8 weeks of training (!), P. Diddy ran the New York City Marathon in 4:14:54.
What made you run the marathon?
I went with my family to watch the runners go by at the edge of Central Park because we had a friend running. We went to cheer her on. And what I saw was so inspiring I turned to my wife and said "I'm going to do this next year." That was it. I saw these people going by who had done this incredible thing. Ordinary people like me. I thought "I could do this too."
Was it hard to train for?
That's a funny story. I applied on the New York Road Runner's website and I did not make the computer lottery. I was rejected. And I thought "oh well I'll try again next year." And at the very end of September I got an e-mail from the Road Runner's Club telling me they had such a precipitous drop off in the number of overseas applicants because of 9/11 that they were inviting me back in, so to speak. So I said great and I wrote back and I accepted. The only problem was that the New York Philharmonic, of which I am the principal cellist, was about to leave for a nearly month long tour of Asia. And at the end of September, I had what...about 5 weeks in which to train. So I did all my training on the road in places like Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and Manila. It was very unusual, to say the least. My training was pretty haphazard and not at all thorough. I already was maintaining a basic level of fitness, so I knew at least I could finish the race. It wasn't a big leap to try to get ready for the marathon. Although, this ext time I'll do it a little differently, I'll certainly start considerably farther in advance.
Was it hard to perform after the marathon?
Just the walking part. Fortunately, when I work, I sit down. But I remember taking a week off from running.
When the Philharmonic travels do you run in foreign cities?
Oh yes. All the time. Quite a few of us do. All the runners in the orchestra know each other and sometimes we arrange to go out in pairs or in groups. Or otherwise we'll see each other in the hotel gym on the treadmills. There are a couple of runners in the horn section and the other member of the orchestra that ran the same marathon is the assistant principal clarinet. Another runner is the second oboist.
Do you run before a performance?
It energizes me completely. I always feel better and more prepared mentally and physically after I've run. It doesn't tire me.
Do you run after a performance?
There's no reason not to, it's just that most performances take place at night. We're nocturnal creatures. But after a matinee for example there's no reason why I wouldn't want to go. I do have to say it's more likely it would happen the other way around because running energizes me but concerts deplete me. I find performing much more tiring.
Does being a musician help your running?
Not directly. But I think they both demand the same kind of discipline. The difference between a professional and an amateur in any field, certainly in music, is that the professional cannot depend on the inspiration of the moment to produce a high quality product. You just have to be able to do it even when you don't want to. If you're feeling lousy or if you just had a fight with someone, nobody cares, you just have to go out and do it. So, I try to apply that same type of discipline to my workouts. There are plenty of days where I just sit on the sofa with a magazine and veg out. But I try to maintain a commitment to fitness. It's like practicing everyday. There are lots of days when I don't feel like practicing either.
Have you ever run with a cello?
Strapped to my back? Only to catch a bus. I don't recommend that.
[incidentally, I have a friend who ran the Boston Marathon with a tuba on his back!]
Do you run to a beat?
Oh, definitely. I almost always have music going through my head. I bet a lot of people do. It's a very natural thing. Very often it's some piece that we happen to be performing that week.
If you know of any other musicians that have also completed a marathon, please let me know!