Brian d'Arcy James of Netflix’s series 13 Reasons Why, Academy Award-winning film Spotlight, and Tony Award-winning Broadway hit Hamilton is set to take on the 26.2-mile-long challenge of the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 8th and raise money to support cancer patients and their loved ones served by the Cancer Support Community.
We were lucky enough to have Brian answer some of our questions about the marathon, his connection to Cancer Support Community, and music.
Q: Why is your team called Team Tom?
The name comes from a team that already exists and was started by my fearless cousin Tom who is battling cancer now. My father Tom James died of cancer at the age of 50. So these two great men, these two Toms, inspire me, and this is a way to say how lucky I am to have them in my life.
Q: Why did you choose to honor your father and cousin by running a marathon?
I'm 49. My father died at the age of 50. I've always wanted to run a marathon and thanks to my brother's encouragement (he's running with me) it's happening. The achievement of training for and finishing a marathon was something I've wanted to tackle and also seemed to be a great way to honor the memory of my father as well as support my cousin and the Cancer Support Community.
Q: How are you preparing for this intense physical challenge?
I've been using a Nike Run app with a training program. I also work with a trainer, the amazing Kirk Benjamin, who has helped me with additional strength and conditioning. Trying to eat right, staying true to the program...all the basics in a training effort.
Q: What is the hardest part about training?
For me, consistency, especially with physical setbacks and what's required getting through the day in "real life.” It takes time to train, and sometimes it's difficult to manage that. But, I've learned that if you put your mind to something and really want to achieve something, you'll make and find the time to do what's necessary. And if you can't do it to the letter, don't punish yourself, it's wasted energy, just get back out there as soon as you can and keep moving forward.
Q: You are running with your brother. What has it been like to share this experience with him?
It's been really great. Training can be a very solitary thing, at least it has been for me. It's hard to communicate all the things you learn while training to those who aren't doing it, particularly all the things you'll need to get right, i.e., hydration and carb intake during long runs, the right shoes, the right socks, the right apparel (um, chafing...). So sharing all those revelations with someone who is learning at the same rate is really helpful. Andrew has also been a great source of advice and encouragement. We've both dealt with physical setbacks during training that can be psychologically tough to process as it takes the wind out of your sails. It's nice to have someone who can say, don't worry, I've been there, you'll get through it. So even though we're not literally training together, we're sharing notes, etc. All very helpful.
Q: What will you do the day before the marathon and the day after?
Day before: the only thing for sure is a big pasta dinner and an early curfew. After: cold bath, and then...we'll see.
Q: Why did you choose to support the Cancer Support Community?
I was invited to sing a few songs for the organization about 5 years ago at one of their galas, and I was completely blown away by what this group does. I knew nothing about them, but spending an evening with supporters and those who've benefited from their great work always stayed with me. CSC was the first and only place I thought of when considering marrying the marathon run with an outreach effort to support a cause.
Q: Has running for CSC influenced your training?
It has indeed. It's been a great source of inspiration. When your efforts become something larger than yourself, and you feel like what you're doing can be of assistance in any way, it's a source of energy. The CSC team has also been very encouraging to me personally in this endeavor, and it's really been a big help. I'm also extraordinarily touched and grateful to those who have contributed and supported me and the CSC, it's something I'll never forget.
Q: Has your training as a singer and actor been helpful?
I think so. Breathing is obviously a big component with an aerobic effort like a marathon run. I've always been conscious of how my running strengthens my breathing and how it helps me as a singer. Additionally, my training as an actor is also a good framework for understanding the overall effort it takes to work at building a skill. You don't go from A to Z overnight while learning anything; it takes day to day work to evolve as an actor in training. Same is true with training for a marathon. I think having that experience at the start of my career and life as an actor has served me well in running.
Q: You have an incredibly difficult schedule. Over the past year or so, you have completed a number of Hollywood and indie films as well as television projects and returned to Broadway in Hamilton where you resumed the role of King George which you originated in the show’s off-Broadway run. What has kept you motivated through all of that to train?
I won't lie, it's been challenging. I've been traveling quite a bit at the tail end of my training, shooting a couple of different projects, so it's been difficult staying true to what's required. I've also been dealing with a little calf setback that has slowed me down a bit. But what I'm learning again and again, is I have to deal with what's in front of me and trust that the training I've put in, all the steady and constant previous hours will pay off even though life slows you down a bit. Would I have liked to go uninterrupted in my training, of course. Life sometimes doesn't always agree with YOUR plans. So you roll with it.
Q: What is harder, rehearsing for a Broadway show or preparing for the Chicago Marathon?
Ha. Good question. I'd say a week and a half of tech of a big musical is close to a marathon prep. But the marathon wins.
Q: Do you sing while you run? And if yes, what?
I don't sing while I run. But music is most always playing in my headphones. It motivates me, it keeps me occupied. I love isolating things in the production of a song I've listened to a million times to appreciate it in a new way. However, I've been experimenting with running without music lately so I don't have to rely on it. A friend who has run a few marathons advised to keep the earbuds out for a while and really experience the communal aspect of a marathon. There's tremendous support from spectators; I should know, I've done it myself for NY marathon runners. I find it incredibly moving. I'm really looking forward to being on the other side of it and I want to absorb it as much as possible.
Brian was nice enough to share some of his favorite running music. Check out some of Brian’s running playlist!
If you are interested in showing your support to Brian and CSC, consider making a donation to ensure that no one faces cancer alone.
We’re so grateful to Brian and his hard work. And we’ll be cheering him on Sunday, October 8!