I'm a Runner: Paul Sparks

The Boardwalk Empire actor likes to stay fit and clear his mind by hitting the pavement

December 6, 2012
I'm a Runner: Paul Sparks

41, New York City

When I run, people say, “You’re that guy on Boardwalk Empire who killed his wife.” I say, “No, no, I’m Mickey Doyle, the guy they threw off the balcony.” They’re like, “Oh.”


Back in 1999, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. When I exercise, I can inject less insulin. I don’t like gyms, so I started running.

Two years ago, in a midlife crisis sort of way, I told my wife [actress Annie Parisse], “I’m going to run a marathon.”

Train with these expert marathoning tips from the masterminds at Runner's World!

By mile 16 of the New York City Marathon last year, I hadn’t eaten much. At mile 19, I was like, “Am I still running?” I was a shell. I ran 3:52:46.

During that race, I ran near Minnie Mouse. For an hour and a half people yelled, “Way to go, Minnie Mouse!” I thought, I’m going to go crazy.

This year, I’ll do the Honey Stinger stuff. I guess they’re gels. Rubbery, gelatinous stuff you suck out. (If you’re not a fan of gels, try these alternatives in Five Items That Give You a Boost.)

Once while running, I kicked a rock, shattered a toe, and fell on my face. A homeless guy asked, “Are you okay?” If you’re lucky, you get injured at the beginning or end of a run. This was the middle.

I run to This American Life, that show on NPR. I met the host, Ira Glass, and have never been so starstruck. I could barely speak to him.

Steve Buscemi [“Nucky” Thompson on Boardwalk Empire] keeps hinting he’s interested in running a marathon. I think I can trick him into it.

I’m running New York for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation again this year. They aren’t just saying, “We are here for a cure.” Everybody wants a cure. They put an emphasis on living with it. (Looking for your own inspiration to run? Check out our list of 101 Kicks in the Butt to get motivated. )

I don’t know how people run and push strollers. I’m afraid I would kill my 2-year-old son because I would get tired and fall. I respect those people, but are they, like, leaning on it?

A guy once told me, “Run happy.” Worrying takes energy, and endurance training is all about energy.

Training for a marathon is pretty exclusive. There’s an inherent respect between the runners who do it.

Search: Marathon training

Location: F.S.C. Barber, New York City

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