Erik Kuhi in the runner's spotlight.

Editor’s Note: Erik Kuhi is a network engineer at Monmouth Medical Center, a facility of RWJBarnabas Health, generous sponsor of the 2017 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon & Half Marathon Saturday Kids and Family Festival and 5K. RWJBarnabas Health is fielding more than 100 runners in the marathon, half marathon, and half marathon relay. Erik shared his story as part of our New Jersey Marathon “Runner’s Spotlight,” a focus on the training, trials, and triumphs of New Jersey Marathon participants.

Here is Erik’s story:

“My first marathon — the 2010 New York City Marathon — was my stamp on quitting smoking after being a smoker for more than 20 years. After many failed attempts using several different methods, I was finally able to quit using Chantix for a couple months, and a bonus of my training has been that I have found it is a great way to lose weight and stay in shape after becoming slightly overweight after quitting.

“Since that first marathon, I’ve completed seven half-marathons, a second full marathon, a 13-mile Tough Mudder, two 50-K trail races, a 40-mile trail race, and three 50-mile trail races.

“I’ve worked for Monmouth Medical Center (MMC) for 13 years as a network engineer with the IT department, and I have two daughters — ages 3 and 4 — so work and family keep me very busy and it can at times be a challenge to keep up with my training plans.

“To prepare for my first marathon, I used a training plan I found on the Internet, but since then I’ve tailored my own plan to meet my needs. I don’t stress if I can’t stick exactly to my plan, and have found that it works to slim my training plan down to two four- or five-mile runs during the week and a long run on the weekend. For the long runs, I usually start at eight miles the first week and add four miles per week. It varies depending on the distance of the event I’m training for, but I mostly rely on getting the long runs in on the weekends.

“When I do my long runs I focus on the distance and I don’t push for speed. To fuel my body during training and races, I use energy gels, Gatorade, and water. I’ll walk to recover whenever I feel it is necessary. I think that approach avoids any issues with injury or exhaustion. I would warn someone new to marathon training that pushing might get quicker results, but at the risk of injury.

“I enjoy training both alone or with a group; they both have pros and cons, but my preference is probably running with my dog Ollie. When I run with my dog or alone, it usually helps clear my head and gives me clarity. For example, sometimes I’ll use the time to figure out my plan for the upcoming week or what needs to get done before Monday – there’s always plenty to think about when I’m running for three or four hours. Conversely, running with a group usually makes the time go by quicker – you spark up a few conversations as you go, and before you know the run is over.

“I do most of my training around my neighborhood in Farmingdale. I have a four-mile loop that works well for me. I also enjoy running along the Manasquan Reservoir, along Ocean Avenue in Long Branch, and any of the local parks that have running paths.

“My favorite part of running is crossing the finish line and enjoying that accomplishment. I think I enjoy distance running because I’m not fast, but I can keep going for awhile. In fact, I have to say my favorite race so far has been the 50 miler. My hope is to finish a 100-mile race one day — the farther, the better, I say. I also enjoy the reactions I get from people when I say I’m running 50 miles, especially the ones that say it’s not possible. Those are my favorite.

“I’m hoping to share my love of running with my children. My daughters have yet to participate in a running event but I think they are just about ready and hope to have them take part in the RWJBarnabas Health Family Festival events on Saturday, April 29. I know that they and my wife will be there at the finish line cheering me on the next day.”