Buster Skrine knows the few weeks after the NFL season ends can be a little bit of a waste. Some players go on vacation and step away from the athletic world completely. Some decide to make up for lost time by partying once the offseason hits. Just about everyone heads home and decides to take it easy for a little while before they have to start gearing up for the next year.
Skrine, who is about to become a free agent after spending the past four seasons with the New York Jets, came up with a different idea for he and some of his teammates this offseason. The defensive back often works out in New York with a trainer named Matt Nolan, who’s always spending time preparing for marathons. Watching Nolan train was enough to pique Skrine’s interest.
“I’m like, ‘Man, who would want to just run 26 miles?’” Skrine said Tuesday. “But I guess it’s like on a lot of people’s to-do list in their life. And you look it up, and people cry and stuff, just dealing with the accomplishment.
“I said I’m not going to go to that extreme and run 26, but we can do 13 miles.”
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On Sunday, Skrine will bring one of the most unusual groups of runners to the Miami Marathon to run the 13.1-mile half marathon, and raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of America chapters in Atlanta and New York. In addition to playing in the NFL, Skrine also runs Versatile NYC, a marketing firm and talent agency that represents athletes, models and entertainers. Through his agency, Skrine represents Jets teammates such as fellow defensive backs Marcus Maye and Terrence Brooks and defensive ends Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson. Those four will all accompany him in Miami, as will Chicago Bears defensive back Marcus Williams and models Evan Betts and Sherelle Sebastian, all of whom are Versatile clients.
“Nobody’s ever run a marathon before,” Skrine said. “We said why not start the year off with a challenge and make it fun, too.”
For the six NFL players slated to run through Miami and Miami Beach, the half marathon has been unusual to prepare for. Their typical training gears around exerting maximum energy in bite-sized bursts. Some people make marathon training a year-round exercise, particularly first-timers trying to build their way up to running a full 13 or 26 miles.
Skrine and his fellow NFL players don’t have the same luxury. New York’s season ended last month when the regular season concluded. The Bears’ year ended Jan. 6 with a 16-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the playoffs. All six have had less than a month to get ready to do something none of them has done.
Skrine has spent the past few weeks in New York, training alongside his teammate Williams. Skrine has built his way up toward the 13 miles and completed a nine-mile run Sunday, so he feels pretty good about his progress.
“I’ve been training,” Skrine said. “Can I say everybody else has been training? No.”
Most of his other teammates are strewn across the country as they prepare for their weekend in Miami-Dade County.
Anderson, whom the Jets’ roster lists at 6-6 and 301 pounds, has been in Georgia working out alone. He took a week-long vacation when the season ended, then spent another week just hanging out with his fiancee at home before he started to gear up for the Marathon.
He admits his training hasn’t been as strenuous as Skrine’s. He typically does about 30 minutes of low-impact cardio each day — something like riding an exercise bike or working out on an elliptical — and bumps it up to about an hour three days a week.
Anderson actually ran a 5K race when he was in high school and remembers thinking he could just run at his typical mile pace the whole way. At the end of the first mile, Anderson was gassed. Now he knows to use a different strategy and hopes it will let him manage well enough Sunday.
“That one didn’t go too well, but I’ve got a little better strategy this time. I’m probably going to take it a lot slower, do a lot of walking, just have fun and not try to set any records,” Anderson said. “Hopefully I’m not going to die out there on Sunday.”
The group will arrive in South Florida on Friday and share a house together on Star Island in Miami Beach. On Saturday, the Miami Marathon Expo will host an autograph signing with the NFL players from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Mana Wynwood Convention Center in Miami. The donations the players have received as they’ve trained are going to the Boys & Girls Clubs, but donations from the autograph signing will go to Life Time Foundation, which helps school districts and food-serve professionals work to replace processed foods with natural alternatives across the Miami metropolitan area.
At 6 a.m. on Sunday, they will take off with the rest of the field outside of AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. Once the race begins, the only goal is to finish, but Skrine hopes the race will have farther-reaching benefits on all the football players.
“Instead of just going home and partying and getting fat for a month, why not like stay in shape?” Skrine said. “The timing of it, after we’re done we can put the weight back on and if anything you just lost fat, so it’s a benefit at the end of the day.”