Lauren Ridloff: ‘I run for peace,’ says Marvel actress after completing her first marathon


“If you ever lose faith in human nature,” Kathrine Switzer, an influential figure in women’s running, once said, “go out and watch a marathon.”

It’s a thought that rang true with Lauren Ridloff on the streets of New York City earlier this month as she ran side-by-side with 50,000 others across the city’s five boroughs.

Ridloff has been running most of her life – a form of solace in the busiest and most intense periods of her acting career. But the collective spirit and struggle of her fellow competitors in the New York City Marathon, her first run over the 26.2-mile distance, was unlike anything she had experienced before in the sport.

“It was truly a transformative experience for me,” Ridloff, whose recent credits include Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” and post-apocalyptic TV series “The Walking Dead,” told CNN Sport.

“I really absorbed everyone’s energy and felt so good,” she adds. “To see so many people going in the same direction with the same goal and getting to the finish line – it’s hard to explain, really, but it was a nice feeling. It felt like a unit.

As she approached the end of the race in Central Park, Ridloff found herself at war with her body as she forced herself across the line – ultimately finishing in four hours, five minutes and 48 seconds.

“The very last mile, I just wanted to throw up,” she says. “I don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden I felt the need to end it.”

The conditions for this year’s NYC Marathon were brutal, especially for those competing for the first time and unaccustomed to running in the heat.

But for Ridloff, moving to Austin, Texas in July may have inadvertently held the keys to his success.

Temperatures in New York were abnormally hot and humidity levels were high on race day, but nothing like the 40-plus-degree (105-degree Farenheit) heat she experienced in Austin at the start of her training program.

“This is my first experience of heat exhaustion,” says Ridloff. “I had chills while I was running. And when I shared that with Kevin [Hanson]my trainer, he’s like: ok, it’s not sure.

“That’s when I learned the importance of drinking water and running in hydration vests just to keep me cool. I wore very light clothes; gels were very important. It was actually my gain [in New York] because I felt very comfortable in the time – better than Austin.

Ridloff was running the New York City Marathon to raise money for PS347 – the American Sign Language (ASL) and English Lower School where she taught. Along with five other runners, she raised $20,604 for the school’s pantry and theater program, while athletic apparel brand Brooks also contributed $25,000.

The cause is close to Ridloff’s heart. She’s been deaf since birth and is a pioneer in the acting industry, playing the first-ever deaf superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when she played Makkari in “Eternals” last year.

Fittingly, one of Makkari’s powers is superhuman speed.

Ridloff ran the New York Marathon to raise money for PS347 in New York City, where she was teaching.

Speaking through an ASL interpreter, Ridloff explains how his deafness provides a unique perspective on his approach to running; unlike non-deaf runners, she cannot be distracted by music, podcasts or any other noise around her.

“I immerse myself in the effort,” says Ridloff. “I’m very aware of every step I take…I really focus on my body, my breath and my thoughts. It’s the best time of the day.

Having first started running as a young girl with her grandfather, then went on to high school, she says her motivation – which was to run “to look a specific or feel a certain way” – has evolved over the years. Today, it’s mostly about escape.

“Now I run to find peace,” says Ridloff.

Such was the case in her Broadway debut four years ago, when she played Sarah Norman in “Children of a Lesser God,” Mark Medoff’s 1980 play set in a school for the deaf.

“Between shows, between afternoon and evening, I would go for a run in Central Park—five miles as fast as I could—because that was my way of resetting myself,” says Ridloff.

“The piece was very emotional, it’s a heavy piece. How do I clean up my palette, so to speak, for the rest of the day? With my running.

Ridloff, who is eyeing the Austin Half Marathon in February for her next race, finds a meeting point between action and racing — especially with the stubborn mindset she says is needed in two disciplines.

“It takes a lot of mental preparation and a lot of rehearsals,” says Ridloff. “Repeat my lines, repeat my steps.”


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