NEW YORK -- Mark Messier has been running different roads and all kinds of routes near his Connecticut home over the last 30 weeks in preparation for his first big race day.
Messier, the now 50-year-old six-time Stanley Cup champion and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, announced Thursday from the Empire State Building that he will be running in the 2011 ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 6. Messier will be running for two charities -- the New York Police & Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund and the Tomorrows Children's Fund.
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Messier's former Ranger teammates Adam Graves and Mike Richter, as well as fellow Hockey Hall of Fame member Pat Lafontaine, have in previous years completed the famous 26.2-mile race through the five boroughs.
"It's a huge challenge for me," Messier said from the observatory atop the Empire State Building during an event for the New York Police & Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund. "I was never a runner when I trained to play hockey. This is something at 50 that has been a big challenge. Re-training all my muscles completely from skating has been a challenge.
"I don't really have any goals, but I think finishing would be a tremendous feat for me."
Messier, who still works for the Rangers as the Special Assistant to the President, has been training by himself, running mostly on the hilly roads in his hometown of Greenwich. He researched the proper techniques for running and nutrition, but said mostly he is doing it all by trial and error.
He doesn't use headphones when he's running because it would disrupt from the "deep contemplation" he feels when his legs are churning.
"It has been an incredible form of meditation for me, a great way to contemplate and jump inside your own head and just think," Messier said. "That has been very gratifying for me. In a way it has been a 10-month prayer for these charities and thinking about how best to serve these charities over the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years."
As much as the charities mean to him, Messier is also running for selfish reasons.
He always told himself that at 50 he would try do something big. Twenty-six miles for a guy who isn't a runner is pretty big.
"I still don't know if I can do it, but I'm going to give it my best shot," Messier said. "Sometimes you just have to turn to yourself when you want to do something big for charities like this. The way I could do that is by doing something for myself, and hopefully that alone is appealing enough for people to join along."
Messier's longest training run was 19 miles, though he said he is now scaling back in order to be at his best on race day.
"I felt like I could never take another step for the rest of my life," Messier said of the 19-mile run. "My feet were sore, killing me. Every bone in my body ached. It has been a challenge in that regard, but the good thing is I'm recovering quickly. What an education on a different sport."
Messier joined the Rangers for their two-mile run on the first day of training camp, and was happy to say he was in pace with many of the players who are half his age.
"My ego got the best of me for the first lap of the two miles, and realized that when you're 25 you can run a lot faster than when you're 50," he said. "But I finished and didn't do too bad."
Now he's hoping to be able to say the say the same thing on Nov. 6.
"At least you know what the goal is at the end. That is always important," Messier said. "Having a finish line has always been something I enjoyed, knowing I'm training for something tangible. That has been something very familiar."