The New York City Marathon is coming up this weekend, which means that over 40,000 people will be making the long trek out to Staten Island in the morning in order to make the long trek back to Manhattan by foot. New York is known for being a challenging course, but it has produced some fast times over the years (Alberto Salazar famously set the World Record in New York in 1981; the current course record is 2:05:06, held by Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya). More than anything, the race is a logistical challenge and an exercise in being patient, from a running and non-running perspective. Here are my tips on how to approach the race to enjoy the experience as much as possible.
Hurry Up and Wait
Because of the size of the race and the fact that it’s a point-to-point course, along with the fact that the race is a World Marathon Major held in New York City, you have to get to the starting area early and spend a lot of time waiting. Plan ahead. Even if the weather isn’t cold by your personal standards for race day, you will be nervous before the race and you’ll feel colder than usual. Get some inexpensive clothes that you can throw into the donation pile just before starting the race, and dress in layers. Bring one more layer than you think you need, in fact. This way, you can save your energy once you get to the Athletes’ Village and just relax. Spend that time recalling your race plan, chatting with other runners, or doing whatever else you need to keep your brain occupied. But, save your physical energy for the race.
No Space to Warm Up?
As I mentioned in a previous post, the warm-up for a marathon should be relatively minimal. That said, you need to get yourself warm before the race so that you can perform your best. In New York, there is little distance between the holding areas and the start, so you can’t really jog from one area to another. When it’s time to get warmed up (plan to finish the warm-up just a few minutes before it’s time to get in the corrals), spend about 5 minutes jogging around the perimeter of your holding area. Then complete your dynamic moves and a couple of short strides if you can find some space to do so. If it’s really cramped, make sure you at least complete your active isolates stretches, leg swings, and a few gentle lunges and squats wearing all of your warm gear. Wait until the last possible minute to remove your extra clothing, even waiting until the corral if the race marshals will allow it.
There are a few places where people tend to get themselves into trouble in New York. Remember, it’s a marathon, after all, so you have to be patient with your effort. And, New York has bridges throughout the race and then hills in Central Park, so it’s a challenging course even without all of the encouragement to run too fast, too soon. It’s the other people–the big group of runners with you and the hundreds of thousands of fans lining the course–that make it hard to stay smart.
Among marathon experiences, New York is in a select group of races. No other race assembles an international field like New York, and no other race provides a city tour quite like New York. With the right approach, you can soak up all of the excitement, and run a fast marathon at the same time. Just remember: Be very patient, don’t get ahead of yourself due to the crowds, then use all that energy around you to finish the race strong!
About Coach Caleb