The Latest EMS News · 22 August 2023

Going the Distance

Carissa Garcia running marathon

Meet the marathon runners of EMS

To succeed in running a marathon, it takes determination, hard work, and practice. These are some of the personal attributes (of the many) that EMS students develop throughout their journey at our school.

Our Head of School, Marek Beck, Ph.D., knows that achievement and one’s growth mindset are tied together and that mental and physical abilities can develop through hard work and commitment. When training for his first marathon, Dr. Beck overcame challenges. “It was all about setting smaller, attainable, and incremental goals,” he says. “I couldn’t run 26.2 miles straight in my first week of training, but I could run 3 miles. I couldn’t run 26.2 miles straight in my fourth week of training, but I could run 5 miles.”

Dr. Beck persevered and was one of the nearly 48,000 runners who finished the 2022 New York City Marathon.

“Completing the New York City Marathon has been a life goal of mine since childhood,” he says. “Running the marathon has been the single biggest physical challenge of my life. The experience reinforced for me that hard work, coupled with strategy and believing in yourself, are the most important factors in achieving success.”

After sharing Dr. Beck’s marathon post with our community, we learned that other Elisabeth Morrow School community members share his love of running and have participated in marathons across the world. This was no surprise. A love of learning and growing — whether in the classroom or on the pavement — is ingrained in our EMS values.

We decided to take their stories and (pardon the pun) run with them.


“You have to train [for a marathon] in a way that you can always be a runner if you want to be. It takes a long time to get to that point, and you have to maintain your fitness in a way that a casual runner wouldn’t,” says 3s/4s Chilton House teacher Carissa Garcia P: ’31, ’33. “In my classroom, we are fostering lifelong learners. It’s not like our students are learning to read to get to the next grade; they are learning to read so that they can always read and learn something.”

Garcia’s teaching methodology and dedication shine through in her approach to running. To date, she has conquered six marathons (shown at the top of the page).

Her love of the sport began at an early age. While she comes from a family of runners, she was inspired to start running “just for fun” by her grandfather, Henry, a marathon runner. She recalls seeing him returning to his house wholly drenched and wondering how one person could sweat that much.

“A lot of times when I’m running,” says Garcia, “I can solve a problem, think of a lesson, or find a way forward in challenging things in life. It’s all of those things depending on what I need.”

While each marathon has its own story, Garcia says her most memorable race was the Chicago marathon. She recalls it was a brutally hot day, and everything and anything that could have gone wrong did. But a small act of kindness from someone watching on the sidelines turned into a poignant moment she will never forget.

“Toward the end, in the later half of the race, we were running toward a residential area. There was this man in his front yard — he had to be in his 90s — and he was holding his garden hose over his head and was spraying whoever would pass by,” recalls Garcia. “I saw him and thought, ‘This is the kind of person I want to be. This is the part of humanity that is so beautiful when people are showing up for each other.’ And you know those moments can change you in any context, but I think especially in a marathon.”


Every fall, on the day of the New York City Marathon (the first Sunday of November), you can find Ed Kaufmann P’27 and his daughter, Charlotte, cheering on the sidelines of 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. Kaufmann knows the magic of being on the other side of the pavement; he ran the NYC Marathon in 2018.

“Running was just a way to try and find my best self,” says Kaufmann. “I kind of got on this kick where I was feeling a little older than I wanted to, and so I started exercising a little more and started running a little bit — not very much, just a mile here and there.”

Ed Kaufmann running a marathon

It was the last day to sign up for the NYC Marathon lottery, and a friend suggested he give it a shot. While he didn’t get picked for the lottery, Kaufmann was inspired to try to qualify for the race through an alternative route. So, he raised money for a charity and snagged his spot.

From there, his training began. “It was this whole few months of really throwing myself into this thing that had really positive intentions and pushing boundaries I never thought I would cross,” says Kaufman.

While a tracking app and a perfectly curated marathon playlist are standard accouterments for running a marathon, Kaufmann’s run was tech-free. He struggled to get his running app to work when the race began but quickly realized the sights and sounds of the city were enough to keep him motivated.

“I didn’t track anything. I didn’t try to go fast. I just appreciated every block. People were handing out bananas and paper towels and had signs and were cheering. It was such a great experience because I was present in the moment and hyper-aware of the things around me,” says Kaufmann. “I am really happy I didn’t have headphones. I truly think that, within itself, doubled the amount of magic [of the experience] instead of being insulated in my own world.”
Kaufmann shares that throughout his marathon journey, his commitment to self-care was paramount to his success and that taking care of yourself impacts your relationships with other people, reminding him of the 4 C’s.

“Sometimes I think we put mental barriers around ourselves, and we think we can’t do something when, in actuality, we can,” says Kaufmann. “It’s about having a positive mindset and committing to being kind to yourself. If you practice self-love and self-care, it spills over into other areas of your life, including how you treat other people. When you practice self-love and self-care, you see the world in a different way, and you find opportunities to extend that.”


“How do you know someone is training for a marathon? Because they’ll talk about it. All the time,” quips Jon Mann ’86.

But for Mann, running is no joke.

“I always loved Field Day at EMS. It was my favorite time of the year,” says Mann. “I did the running events, so that’s my earliest memory of running. That, and playfully being chased around the playground at EMS.”

Throughout his youth, Mann’s commitment to and love of running grew through participating in track. He began trail running as an adult after his wife suggested they try it.

Jon Mann marathon

“I really got into it. It was a lot of fun, and we would do these races every other month. We were doing 5K, and 10K trail runs with a lot of elevation,” says Mann. “Then, last year, I decided I would go the distance.”

He began to focus on running half marathons, and then Mann’s aunt, who owns a brand identity firm and works with the New York Road Runners on their branding and design, encouraged him to sign up for the NYC Marathon. She said she could help him get into the race. While full marathons weren’t on his “list of things to do,” Mann went for it.

In training for the marathon, Mann says that getting to school every morning and shaking Miss Chilton’s hand set the foundation for having a daily regimen and sticking to it.

“I think learning those first elements of discipline and the progression that comes from learning helps with training for a marathon since it’s all about progression,” says Mann. “You have to build a base of running miles to get your body used to it, and then there’s this really regimented but scientifically proven progression that gets you from, ‘Hey, I’ve been running 5K’s and 10K’s’ to ‘I can survive 26.2 miles.’”

Mann had such a rewarding experience that he celebrated his birthday in June by running Washington’s Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon, thus named because the first two miles of the course go through an old rail tunnel. “The tunnel was cold and dark, as expected…but then it opened up into
a wonderful tree-lined trail that ran past several waterfalls and half a dozen bridges spanning flowing creeks and rivers. I will definitely run it again next year,” he says, adding that he ran a personal best during the marathon, taking 34 minutes off his NYC Marathon time.

Mann, who resides in Washington, describes how running in the Northwest, with its lush landscape, turns his workout into a moment of meditation and a break from work.

“I have open-ear headphones, so I can still hear everything around me. It’s peaceful,” he says. “I can hear the running water around me when I run around Lake Washington, and I’ve had hawks swoop down along the trail and fly by me, which is both scary and amazing and spiritual. It’s nice getting back out in nature and away from the desk and screens.”


When Jamal Khan P’31 finished his first marathon in New York City last fall, he took his medal, engraved it with his son’s name, Ayaan, and gave it to him as a gift. For Khan, the medal held meaning beyond the finish line.

“In training for the marathon, I’ve learned I’m on a journey with my wife, son, and family. I’m setting an example for Ayaan with my discipline,” says Khan. “I don’t want to run some days, so I’ll lift weights. Running is not just about running. It’s about the strength training and mental strength you build.”

Jamal Khan marathon

In 2019, Khan began taking better control of his health. He had been working out at the gym to get back in shape but moved his workouts outside when the world seemingly shut down due to the pandemic. It was there that he discovered his love of running. Being a part of “the elements and nature” became his favorite part of the sport.

He signed up to run his first half marathon, and the experience was exhilarating.

“I saw almost 25,000 people there who were as crazy as me running,” recalls Khan. “And first hitting that ceiling of 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 7 minutes, I thought, ‘Wow, if I’m able to do that, can I run a marathon?’ And at that point, the journey started and inspired me to sign up for my first marathon.”

When advising those interested in running a marathon, Khan says to “follow a plan, believe in yourself, and buy your spouse a nice gift.” His gratitude for his wife is beyond measure, as he could not stay committed to his running without her unconditional support.

“When I leave for two- to three-hour-long runs, I am leaving at 6 a.m., and I won’t get home until 10 a.m.,” says Khan, praising his wife for taking care of their son during that time.

What’s the ultimate lesson Khan has learned from running? Stay positive.

“I take all of these lessons and bring them back to Ayaan to teach him how to be a stronger person and a positive thinker,” says Khan. “Positive thinking is very important in running. You will get there. You’re not there yet, but you will get there. And that’s what we have taught Ayaan, that when he says, ‘I can’t do it,’ it’s actually, ‘I can’t do it, yet.’”


From pliés to personal training, living a healthy and active lifestyle has always been a part of Gia Alvarez’s P: ’25, ’30 life. A former ballerina, she trained with the Royal Ballet of London and danced competitively through college.

“When I moved to NYC, I joined run clubs to meet people,” says Alvarez. “Everyone was running marathons, so I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Gia Alvarez marathon

She ran her first marathon in New York City in 2007 and has participated in 18 marathons in various cities, including Boston, Berlin, Los Angeles, San Diego, Nashville, and Richmond.

Alvarez says her favorite is the NYC Marathon. “It has a magic about it,” she says. “The city is alive, and it feels like everyone is on your team. You can’t help but smile for miles and miles.”

While working in the fashion industry, Alvarez was continually training for races and running in marathons. She started leading successful running clubs in New York City and privately training athletes to help them reach their marathon goals.

In 2018, Alvarez founded Juma Fit Studios, a boutique fitness center located in Tenafly, N.J., that guides clients through their fitness journey, helping to create a curated fitness program that best fits their needs and lifestyle.

Alvarez says staying committed to her running goals is like “standard practice at EMS,” where students learn the importance of never giving up.

“Becoming a dedicated marathon runner takes perseverance, dedication, and patience,” says Alvarez. “I have dedicated myself to fitness in both my personal and professional life and have realized that, in order to obtain my running goals, I must continuously remember to dedicate myself daily, persevere through difficult runs and fitness challenges, and be patient with myself when I don’t complete a run in the way that I had anticipated.”

Soundtrack for Success

Our runners share the songs that keep them moving.

“I have a playlist for each marathon that I create while I’m training, and a lot of it is nostalgia. I pick songs that bring me back to a happy moment or remind me of my childhood. It’s constantly changing, but some are always on there, like “Living on a Prayer” [by Bon Jovi] and “Fighter” [by Christina Aguilera]. — Carissa Garcia P: ’31, ’33

“When I was training, I listened to a lot of heavy metal, like epic dragon slayer, ‘Yeah, we got this!’ kind of music.” — Ed Kaufmann P’27

“Foo Fighters, Jack White, Atomic Drum Assembly. Good tribal beats and anything energizing.” — Jon Mann ’86

“Kings Of Leon, Sultan of Swing, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, DJ Tiesto — I have a two-hour playlist, and I just go.” — Jamal Kahn P’31

“Everything from Beyoncé to Fleetwood Mac. I’m happy running to it as long as it has a good beat!” — Gia Alvarez P: ’25, ’30

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