"As I experienced more success in longer track races, I thought, 'OK, I've done well in the 10K, let me try a half-marathon.' Then I did well in the half-marathon, so I thought, 'OK, the next logical step is the marathon.' I would say it popped into my mind recently, probably within the last year."
Another motivating factor for Curtis was the fact that the marathon, he said, "has become sort of the glamorous event for distance runners nowadays.
"There's more money to be made in marathoning, more opportunity," he said. "I want to see if I can be good at the marathon because that means a lot of good things for my career."
Curtis did not make the U.S. team for the World Track and Field Championships this year, but he did clock the fastest time by an American - 27 minutes, 24.67 seconds - in the 10,000 meters. He ran his first half-marathon two months ago in Philadelphia, finishing first among American entrants and ninth overall in 1 hour, 1 minute, 52 seconds.
Since then, he has put in four weeks of training in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. He said he averaged 100 to 110 miles per week, and had one week of 130 miles.
Curtis, the 2008 NCAA 5,000-meter champ at Villanova, is one of more than 45,000 contestants expected to compete in the race, which winds through all of New York's five boroughs before finishing in Central Park. Marathon officials said city workers toiled long hours to clear park paths of trees and branches downed by last weekend's snowstorm.
A number of American runners have chosen to skip New York City to rest up for the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, which will be held Jan. 14 in Houston.
As for his race strategy, Curtis said he wants to keep a conservative pace and not find himself falling apart when he gets to the 20- or 22-mile mark. He said his ideal pace would be 64 minutes, 30 seconds for the first half of the race.
"If the leaders are going out in a pace that I perceive to be reasonable, I'll go with them," he said. "If I think it's too fast, you've got to say to yourself, 'Look, pick another day to fight that fight.'
"I won't go out any faster than 64:30 - that is the line in the sand. If the pack is going slower than that, I'll be with them. If they're not, then I'll be by myself."
Curtis said he won't be a one-time marathoner, but he is focused on making the 2012 U.S. Olympic track and field team in the 10,000. He doesn't think the two events are mutually exclusive.
"You can do well on the track and then marathon preparation can lead to good things on the track," he said. "Even if I make the transition to marathons, I would still go back to the track because I think it's good for you as a runner."
Another former Villanova distance runner in the field is 37-year-old Jen Rhines, whose best finish in New York was 18th in 2005.
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org.