Running Home: The Training Begins

Dominique Burton.

Dominique Burton (Nique) has always had a dream of running a race through the streets of New York, the place where she grew up and still calls home despite now living in D.C. This fall will mark her first New York City race, and it’s major.

On Sunday, November 6, 2022, Nique will be one of 50,000 runners lining up at the base of the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island for a marathon race.

Born and raised in Long Island, Nique is a long-time, multisport athlete who is no stranger to races, matches and meets of all kinds. Growing up, her parents filled her schedule with sports like swimming, dance, and track and field. Like many athletes, the sense of family and community that comes from team sports is a huge part of why she continues with activities like flag football and distance running.

“Community is huge for me; I’ve created long lasting bonds by connecting through sports,” says Nique. “It’s also why RUNGRL is so important - a community of supportive Black women who can relate to my experiences, which has made the sport that much more enjoyable. I’m never alone in this.”

Nique is one of six co-founders of RUNGRL, a digital media and events platform for Black women that uses running as a vehicle to impact wellness in the community. By thoughtfully curating content and events that share their voices and stories, RUNGRL is changing the existing narrative on what it means to be a runner.

RUNGRL redefines community and inspires Black women to keep going while also celebrating accomplishments along the way. Like Nique, the support of a running community is key for many runners, particularly when training for races as challenging as the New York City Marathon.

Dominique Burton runs through the road.

The Road to the Race

Nique describes her current physical conditioning as the healthiest she has been in her life. Already an accomplished runner, Nique has completed three marathons: the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., the Chicago Marathon and the Puerto Rico Marathon.

Nique knows that this long-term conditioning will play a critical role in her performance as she takes on her biggest race so far. While previous marathons saw lack of training and horrible weather get in the way of race day goals, she won’t allow her past experiences to get in the way of positively planning her training journey for New York.

“No runner goes into a marathon thinking it will be cake walk,” she says. “But, once I commit to something, I’m all in. The hardest part for me is the four to six months of training commitment before the race. Once race day comes, there’s nothing I can do but show up the best I can on that day.”

Using Personalizing Race Training

Before the Chicago Marathon, Nique had only run half marathons, and rarely stuck to a training plan.

“With Chicago being my first marathon, I was an extreme novice and my training was all over the place,” Nique says.“I wouldn’t complete a full week of training, maybe I completed a few long runs, but it was a running joke every time a race came up. Friends would ask if I trained, and I would reply ‘a bit.’”

However, she’s since seen the results that a structured training plan can deliver and knows what a difference it can make to have one. Nique plans to use the marathon training plan created by her D.C. run crew, District Running Collective, while adding cross training with activities like swimming, weight training and HIIT workouts.

New York is known to be a hilly course, crossing over multiple bridges, so Nique plans to include lots of strength training in her workouts to prepare for this challenge. Her runs will include hill repeats and track workouts for speed so that she can prepare her body for the course.

She will also monitor when to include certain types of workouts around cyclical training in order to achieve peak performance. She credits the book “ROAR” by Stacy Sims, PhD., which focuses on ‘how to match your food and fitness to your unique female physiology for optimum performance, great health, and a strong, lean body for life’, as a helpful tool in teaching her a new way to train.

“Most training programs and apps are designed around the male athlete,” she adds. The book emphasizes, ‘women are not small men. Stop eating and training like one.’” Nique is adapting nutrition, hydration, and training to her physiology so she can work with, rather than against, her female physiology.

Dominique sits in the weight room.

Sacrifice and Staying Power

Two things Nique says will help her stay consistent in the months of training ahead: commitment and balance. Motivation will come and go, but consistency is key.

She wants to tackle this training differently than she did in the past. Balance will be a priority as she makes space in her plan for rest and rewards. She plans to take Sundays off to enjoy acts of self-care and reward herself with things like brunch after long runs or tough training days.

Mindfulness and meditation will also be important parts of her weekly plan, including journaling every day, reflecting on each week and setting actionable goals for the days ahead.

“I am training my body, mind and soul. All aspects of self play a part on race day, so I need to train and take care of the full athlete, meaning to really take care of myself holistically,” she says.

There will also be some sacrifices needed while training for such a challenging race. Not everyone in her social circle is a runner, which means not everyone will understand what her commitment means.

“Listen, I love being social! But the community looks different when you’re training,” she says.

Her Friday nights in the coming months will not be spent staying out late or partying. She’ll need to be in bed early and up with the birds on Saturday mornings for her long runs. She’ll still have time for fun though, since Sundays are her rest days.

As she reflects on what it means to start on this wild journey, Nique is confident this race will be one for the books. She’s been low-key about her expectations, but feels her goal pace is attainable.

Her belief in herself is something that sets her apart and it’s her confidence that will have her finishing strong in that last uphill sprint into Central Park and over the finish line this November.

“I know I can train to be better,” she says, “and training starts on Monday. Let’s get it.”

RUNGRL and Fleet Feet will be checking in on Nique’s marathon training this season in this monthly series we call Running Home. Check back in to follow her journey each month on the road to New York.

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