NYC Marathon Tips & Tricks

I ran 6 rainy and cold miles this morning (including a lap around the res with Kelly), so all that stands between me and race day is an easy 2-3 miler on Saturday. I’m getting VERY excited!

Dear Farmer Ted,

Your turnip casserole recipe was a fail. I did not like it.

Love, Megan

The thought of leftovers was NOT appealing last night, so instead the roomie and I ordered take out. I can’t think of a better way to carbo load than a big dish of pad thai with shrimp.

Megan 1, Pad Thai 0. Completely dominated!

Besides eating lots of yummy things, my plan for today is a visit to the race expo. The NYC marathon has a cool program for runners in local running clubs. If you meet a certain time standard (sub-1:35 half marathon for my gender/age), you can gain access to the “local competitive/local elite” corral. I’m never going to be an Olympian or win a race, but getting into this start corral makes me feel special!

Dear Megan,
Congratulations!  You have been accepted into the 2010 ING New York City Marathon Local Competitive Program.  Athletes in the Local Competitive Program will have exclusive access to the Local Competitive staging area located near the runner entrance by the Verrazano Bridge Toll Plaza (private toilets, tents, Gatorade, etc).  Look for the “Local Competitive” sign attached to the fence near the entrances.   Runners will be asked to show their bib number before entering this area.

Wahoo! For those interested in tracking me on race day, you can check out the details here: Athlete Alert My bib number is #668, green start, wave 1 (9:40am).

Some of you have been asking what my goal time is and honestly…I’m still not entirely sure. Barring any major catastrophes, I should break 3:30. If I can run somewhere between 3:20-3:29 I will be really happy. And 3:15-3:20? I think it’s possible, but everything will have to fall perfectly into place. My plan is to approach the marathon with a 10-10-10 strategy. I will run the first 10 miles about 10 seconds slower than goal pace (7:45), the middle 10 miles will be run 10 seconds faster than goal pace (7:25), and the final 10k will be at goal pace (7:35 or whatever I can manage). This will put me in the 3:19-3:20 range. The idea is to start out slowly, pick it up and pass people in the middle miles (when runners typically start slowing down…), and then run with guts and heart for the last 10k.

I’ve only run the NYC marathon once (back in 2008), so I’m no expert, but living and training in the city have taught me a few things. If you’re running the NYC marathon on Sunday:

  • Dress very, very warmly for the start. If you have an old space blanket from a previous 1/2 or full marathon, bring it. You can sit on it or use it to block the wind. Also consider bringing some hand warmers (you can buy them for $1 at CVS/Duane Read) and a fleece blanket that you can toss at the last minute.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not go out to fast. When you come off the Verrazano Bridge (it’s a downhill) at mile 2 and enter the crowds of Brooklyn, it’s an amazing experience. You’re going to be hyped up on adrenaline and running faster than your goal pace is going to feel like a breeze. But if you go out too fast, I promise you, you’ll pay for it on First Avenue. In 2008 I was running around 8:00 pace for the first 10 miles and felt AWESOME, but when I got to mile 17/18, my legs turned to lead. I think my last few miles of the race were in the 9:00 range. Learn from my mistake!
  • Start drinking before you’re thirsty. Eat a gel before you think you need it. By the time you start feeling woozy or tired from lack of water/electrolytes/carbs it’s almost always too late. Hitting the wall means your body’s muscles are depleted of glycogen (energy). Everyone’s fueling needs are different, but my personal plan is to eat a banana + pb &j on a bagel a few hours before the start (~600 calories) and then take gels/Gu’s at miles 8, 16, and 21 (if I need it). I’m also going to carry a little mini bottle of Gatorade with me on the bridge. I’ll toss it after the first mile or so and then start alternating sips of water and Gatorade every few miles.
  • Instead of dreading the solitude of the Queensboro Bridge (miles 15/16), embrace it! The quietness of this mile was actually one of my favorite parts of the marathon. I was able to calmly collect myself and prepare for the hardest miles of the race. Plus, you know that a screaming wall of adoring fans wait on the other side!
  • Don’t go crazy during mile 17. Yes, the crowds on 1st Ave are awesome, but if you don’t pay attention, you’ll pick up the pace too much. Case in point: In 2008, I dropped a 6:59 mile on 1st Ave and at mile 18 thought “HOLY SH*T, I still have 8 more miles to go”. Not fun.
  • 5th Avenue is probably going to suck. There’s no way around it. There’s a gradual hill from 110th to where you enter the park at 90th street. You’re going to be at mile 23 and you’re going to be hurting. Think of a mantra to get you through these final miles. Play your favorite “pump up song” on your ipod. Ask your family and friends to cheer for you here instead of at the finish. Do whatever you can to prepare yourself mentally.
  • The finish. Congrats! You made it! And your reward? A mile walk in the cold to get your baggage. Woo. Wrap that space blanket around you and drink some Gatorade. Eat some pretzels and nibble on an energy bar. I don’t care of you’re nauseous, euphoric, or completely out of it. EAT AND DRINK SOMETHING ASAP. If you’re meeting your friends and family, try to choose a meeting spot away from the W. 60’s (it’s going to be crazy crowded). Try something like – the Northwest corner of 82nd and Columbus Avenue. Be as specific as possible!

If you’re spectating the NYC marathon on Sunday:

  • Look at the course map, plot out your transportation, and tell your racer EXACTLY where you’re going to be. Race day gets crazy and with 40,000+ people participating in the marathon, it’s very easy to miss your runner. Tell your runner specifically where you’ll be – i.e. on the west side of the street, on the corner of Flatbush and Lafayette Avenues in Brooklyn (mile 8). Get there a few minutes before you expect them to pass by – you don’t want to be late!
  • Spectating is almost a marathon in itself. Prepare accordingly. Dress warmly, wear comfortable shoes, don’t carry a lot of crap with you, and bring along some snacks.
  • For the love of God, do not tell us we’re “almost finished” when we’re only at mile 20. The only time you should be yelling anything about the finish is when it’s clearly in sight.
  • Be enthusiastic! Seeing a smiling face on the course is one of the best parts of the marathon experience. Clap loudly, hoot, holler, etc. And specific cheers are always appreciated – for example, yell “look straight ahead, relax your shoulders” or “keep focused on the guy in blue, catch up to him!”. I always appreciate these types of motivation rather than a general “good job”. Although ANY sort of cheering is always a good thing 🙂
  • Your marathoner is going to be tired and probably feelin’ a little out of it at the finish. Encourage them to drink some Gatorade. Help them put on sweat pants. Don’t insist on a 3-course dinner or bar crawl right away.

Readers – what accumulated wisdom do you have for us marathon runners and spectators??

  • love this post, it’s great! I was FREEZING last year on the Verazanno and very glad I kept my gloves on! Queensboro was great too, all the other runners and the anticipation of the crowds on 1st got me through it! I loved running but I’m definitely looking forward to spectating again! I’ll look for you near the finish, I’ll be in the stands! Congrats on the local competitor status, that’s awesome!

  • Claire

    These tips are so helpful (slash are kind of making me want to throw up, I’m so nervous)! I am really terrified about the hills at the end, eek. That is so awesome that you’re a “local competitive runner.” I didn’t know such a program existed, but you definitely deserve to be in it. I am looking forward to your “what I’m going to wear for the marathon” post. I am torn – shorts or legging!?

  • WOO! I am also in the Local Competitive Start– hope you won’t find it creepish if I try to say hi! 🙂

    Your tips are so helpful, too! I didn’t even think to bring a blanket to the start area to be able to sit on and keep warm, and now I definitely am. Also stocked up on $1.50 toss away gloves at Target, yay. I’m checking out the expo tomorrow, hope you enjoy it today! I can’t believe we’re almost to race day already…eek.

  • Love the tips and the pad thai looks amazing! Someone told me to wear throw away sneakers in case it’s muddy (ie: it’s raining today and tomorrow, might not be completely dry by sunday…)

    I’m heading to the expo tomorrow, can’t WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • These are great tips! As someone who has been a spectator for my friend Amelia at 2 marathons and some half marathons I really agree with you on these. I would only add that its good to know what your runner is wearing and for them to know what you’re wearing if you are a spectator. You want to be able to spot each other. As a spectator, wearing bright colors/ having bright signs will make you stand out.

  • I’m headed to the expo later today! For spectators – if you are cheering for specific friends/family – buy some same color balloons and let your runners know your location and the color of your balloons. It’s a lot easier for them to spot you than for you to spot them and the balloons make it easier.

  • Great tips! I’ve never run NY, but from Boston I can say not going out too fast is the best thing you could ever do (AND resist the urge to weave incessantly – you will waste tons of energy and run farther than you need to). Remind yourself you need to be patient, and it’s a lot better to be able to pick it up a little bit than to hit a wall around mile 20 because you’re already dead. Also (on a more positive note) trust your training and have confidence – you can do it! Have some phrases ready to tell yourself in the later miles just in case you start to doubt that 🙂
    Good luck on Sunday!!! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  • Thanks for the tips! I am planning to run NYC next year so this was interesting to read. Good luck on Sunday! I also agree with the spectator tip not to tell runners they are almost there at mile 20! I hate that!

  • Maren

    Great tips! Now, remember to read them to yourself!!! 🙂 Good luck this weekend Meg, you will do GREAT! I’ll be thinking about you!

  • I’m a New Yorker living in Texas, and signed up to run Houston in January (I did Austin last year). But after reading this post, I am going to run NYC as soon as possible! So exciting! Best of luck to you – can’t wait to hear how you do!

  • Awesome post, lady. I find the hardest part of being a spectator is figuring out what to say to the 1,000 runners who pass by. It’s always nice when they have their names on them, or when they have a flag – yelling “GOOOOOOOOO COLOMBIA” is fun and gets a neat response.

    RIP turnip casserole.

  • great tips! i definitely think that having your name written somewhere on you is a must. it totally pumps me up to hear “personalized” goooooooooooooo! shouted at me 🙂

  • Jen

    The greatest piece of advice handed to me when I ran my first marathon last year (NYC) was to put my name on the front of my shirt.

    Hearing people yell out your name gives you that extra push- when I was full of energy in Brooklyn and when I felt like crap at the end- hearing people say my name and ‘you can do it Jen’, ‘you’re looking good Jen’ really helps you push through.

    You can get colored duct tape at Home Depot or in my poor fashion- I sewed neon orange safety tape into the shape of my name. Hey, it worked.

    Best of luck on Sunday! I’m so sad I’m not running this year. I will be supporting though on 1st!

  • Congrats on getting in that coral. I just ran my first race that had a corral system and it was seriously amazing–running with people who had a similar time to me made me go faster! Good luck at your marathon 🙂 Sounds like you have a great plan!!

  • Excellent post. I am all jazzed up just from reading it… NYC marathon…ahhhhh!! Very excited for you!

    PS. Is it a requirement among all marathons to have a soul-sucking hill at mile 23? Because that was my experience, and that’s also what I’m finding as I read marathon course reports. I can’t tell if it’s because these ubiquitous “Mile 23 hills” are actually significant, or if it’s just the reality that anything resembling an incline feels soul-sucking at mile 23… 🙂

  • Morgan

    AMEN to the “You’re almost finished” from the spectators! I’m fairly certain I’ve given people evil looks (and maybe a middle finger) to those who yell crap like that or “the finish is just around the corner”.

    Good luck-I will have a posse at miles 16 and 23 to cheer you and the other runners!!

  • Ohmygosh, I’m so excited for you!!! I know you’ll rock it. I’ll be watching, so hopefully I’ll catch ya. Cheering tips are noted 😉

  • Congrats on being an elite runner!!! Good luck!!

  • I’m so bummed that I’m not running – minor leg issues, but nothing is minor when it comes to marathon training – that I’ve been imparting advice to every one about what I’ve learned from my six races. I concur heartily with every single word Megan wrote. None of us can emphasize enough how freaking cold it will be on Staten Island and the Bridge and the 1st few miles. And the best warning we can give you is that it may warm up mid-race, causing you to toss your hat, gloves, and extra shirt, and then temps may plunge around mile 21. Be prepared – wrap that last shirt around your waist, tuck the hat & gloves in your pocket, etc.

    My somewhat duplicative blog post:

  • Liz

    Thank you for this post, Megan! I’m running NYC on Sunday; it’s both my first NYC marathon and first marathon ever, so these tips are doubly helpful.

    Congrats on getting into the Local Competitors program!! That is very cool. Good luck on Sunday – maybe I’ll see you in the green corral (I’m green wave 2, #42538…a far cry from #668!). Have a blast!

  • Christina

    I’ve never posetd before but I’ve been reading your blog for a few months and I finally wanted to post and tell you good luck and have an amazing race!!!

    My only race advice is you can push your body harder then you think.

  • sooo excited for you!! i love watching/ running with the marathon (along the course) in brooklyn. not a lot of people around, and i sorta kinda feel like i’m a part of it. can’t wait to watch you rock it on sunday, mss megan!

    oh and i thought from the very beginning that the whole turnip casserole thing looked kinda nasty. boo.

  • loove this post! Yay! I shall listen to you and a) not go out too fast and b) dress warm at the start! I think my advice for spectators would be, make a fun, ridiculous sign. I also think I’ll cave and put my name on my shirt with athletic tape so people can yell it 🙂

    I think you will kick a whole ‘lotta ass on Sunday. SO EXCITED!

  • Congrats on the corral- so impressive! I’m not a marathoner, but these tips are fantastic. And definitely good tips for us spectators, too. 🙂

  • Great tips for everyone! Congrats on getting into the local competitive corral. Good luck on Sunday!

  • Call me biased, but I think this is your best post ever. Seriously excellent.

  • Pingback: The Spectator’s Guide to Running « Washington Ran Here()

  • Awesome tips! You are going to kill it tomorrow. I can’t wait for your recap. I’ll be on first ave with all those screaming peeps!

  • Just came across your blog while searching tips for the NYC Marathon.  Great suggestions!  I have run several marathons and halves so I’m an experienced racer but not nearly as fast as you :).  I’m a bit under trained for this one and living in the midwest, do not have nearly as much opportunity to train on hills, but going to run NYC for the experience and enjoyment as opposed to my normal all out effort.  Obviously a bit worried about it but based upon your tips and description, know that this will be a memorable race – regardless of my time!