This man ran a marathon on his 23-foot balcony during COVID-19 lockdown—here are the mental tricks he used to finish

After the Barcelona Marathon was postponed, Elisha Nochomovitz ran a marathon on his 23-foot balcony in the South of France.
Courtesy of Elisha Nochomovitz.

Running races from the Boston Marathon to the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So marathon enthusiast Elisha Nochomovitz ran the distance of a marathon on his 23-foot balcony — twice.

Nochomovitz, 32, who lives in Balma, a city in the south of France near Toulouse, had been gearing up to run the Barcelona Marathon on March 15, but when the race was postponed until October due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he had an idea.

On March 17, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron ordered a lockdown for the country, Nochomovitz ran his first virtual marathon on his balcony.  

"I just thought that it was a crazy idea," Nochomovitz tells CNBC Make It. "When I said to my girlfriend, 'I want to run on my balcony,' she said, 'Do what you want to do, but just clean up the balcony.'"

Though the couple have a nice view of the Pyrenees Mountains in the South of France from their balcony, Nochomovitz says running thousands of laps "back and forth, back and forth" for 26.2 miles was a mental challenge, not just a physical one.

Before trying to run the balcony marathon, Nochomovitz says he struggled with self-doubt. He imagined that someone opened a window in his mind, saying, "Man, you don't be able to finish. Stop training." But closing the imaginary window gave him strength to go on, he says.

The mantra that he told himself to stay motivated throughout the race was, "Where there's a will, there's a way."

Nochomovitz works as the manager of a restaurant, and has been furloughed for the past 14 days. Planning his solo marathon was one way he could re-focus his attention on something positive, he says.

"I wanted to prove my mindset, that whatever the situation, I was able to finish," he says.

For motivation and mental strength, Nochomovitz also thought of those suffering through the pandemic. He saw the run as a tribute to "the real heroes of our planet," the medical professionals who give their lives to save people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I cannot help them in the hospital, but maybe I can prove to everyone that you can [exercise] at home," he says.

To pass time on the balcony, Nochomovitz listened to music "that makes me [feel] much stronger," like Sia, Deadmau5 and Hans Zimmer. He also took in the view and thought about "everything for the planet."

At the 21-mile mark, he had to stop and take a break to charge his watch. "It was hard to go back to work when you stop your effort, and you must go run more, it's very difficult for the body," he said. "It was a challenge for my mindset to prove me that I was able to finish." 

In total, it took Nochomovitz six hours and 48 minutes to finish the marathon (significantly slower than his best time in previous marathons which is three hours and 32 minutes). But his girlfriend was there to cheer him on, deliver clean shirts when he got too sweaty and keep him hydrated.

Many were inspired by Nochomovitz's run after his story caught the attention of American and French news outlets, and went viral on Instagram. But there were also "haters" who didn't believe him, he says. Nochomovitz says he tracked his run using the social running app Strava (he provided CNBC Make It with screen shots) and a Suunto running watch, for which he is a brand ambassador. 

Nochomovitz is also a brand ambassador for Brooks Running, but he says he was not paid and the run was not a marketing stunt. Brooks Running tells CNBC Make It that it did not pay Nochomovitz. Suunto did not immediately return a request for comment.

But the haters inspired Nochomovitz to another 30 miles on his balcony on March 24, he says (but he did not use the Strava GPS function this time). 

"It was like a real competitor," he says.

Of course, Nochomovitz is a seasoned runner who has completed more than 30 marathons. But this one was certainly different. "It was my perfect race because it was at home, I [had] everything near to me and I had a lot of time," he says.

Whether you're a runner or other kind of athlete, Nochomovitz says there are plenty of ways that you can stay active while inside. "I received so many messages from people who were training on their stairs, around the garden [and] around the house," he says.

(For what it's worth, exercising outdoors at least six feet from other people is safe. So if you want to go for a run outside of your home, that's fine.)

Nochomovitz hopes that his marathon accomplishment resonates with others and they get the message that you should stay home to stop the spread of the virus. He said his neighbor heard about his race and was inspired to walk on his own balcony.

"Coronavirus was maybe a message from our planet, like, 'Hey guys, go slowly now,'" he says.

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