Tips to a PR in the TCS New York City Marathon

Chief Petty Officer Noah Bray from Coast Guard Sector New York crosses the finish line at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon, Nov. 2, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons.)

Chief Petty Officer Noah Bray from Coast Guard Sector New York crosses the finish line at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon, Nov. 2, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons.)

It’s nine days to Marathon Sunday here in New York City. For a lot of runners that means nine days of excitement, anticipation and tapering. For many others it may mean nine days of trepidation, anxiety and stress. It doesn’t matter where you fall on the emotional spectrum, your feelings couldn’t be more valid as it relates to this marathon. Trumped as perhaps the best and one of the more challenging marathons out there, the hype is real and you will need all of your wits and will to master this course and wring a PR out of it.

The competitive runner understands that each race is different and that despite a well-executed training plan one has to be ready and willing to look at all avenues and consider all possibilities if the aim is finishing within a goal time.  As it is, the TCS New York City Marathon boasts a field size of 50,000 runners, the largest in the world, who are geared up to run the race of a lifetime hoping for the experience of a lifetime. It will be their special time on the running world stage where everyone gets a moment to shine – a shot at glory – if you will.

As a two-time New York City (NYC) and all-round ten-time marathoner I have found this to be a tough and challenging course if you’re running for a goal time. If you’re simply wanting to finish, then you can easily do that, the crowds will get you there. However, if you’re looking for a personal best, a PR or sub 3:30, whether you’re a newbie or a repeat marathoner, you may want to bear these pointers in mind:

  • November’s weather can be very unpredictable. In the days leading up to the race pay careful attention to weather advisories and prepare your body by eating well – carbing up, hydrating well and resting well. This is standard pre-race procedure and will serve you well on race day in being alert, focused and feeling energised.
  • Use a foam roller or the stick the night before race day to get out any kinks or muscle tightness. Roll out leg and thigh muscles especially, it leaves you limber and loose and ready to run.
  • Dress appropriately. Use layers that can be efficiently discarded on the course since it’s very likely that the start will be cold. I like to run at least the first three miles with a heat sheet so my body temperature slowly builds to comfortable race temps, then I discard it.
  • First time marathoners or first time NYC marathoners should be wary of the start. If you’re in the early corrals, the start can be really packed and chances are you’ll be running toe-to-toe with other runners for a few miles, be prepared to adjust or slow your pace to accommodate this.
  • Engaging in dodging and weaving in the early segments of the race utilizes a lot of energy and can cost you later on. It is better to follow the crowd while awaiting the opportunity to increase your pace.
  • It is also very easy to get caught up in the crowds and excitement in the beginning, be wary of going out too fast too soon; pace yourself and stick to it until you’re at least half-way there.
  • Ideally, you want to go for a negative split and up the ante at the halfway point, just be careful to increase gradually.
  • To stay properly hydrated and energized, I would suggest a grab and go strategy at each fuel station indulging in a brief sip before discarding.
  • Alternate between water and Gatorade if available.
  • Add energy gels every four miles after mile 8 (miles 12, 16, 20, 24).
  • Try not to stop at the fuel stations and stick to the outside of the pack in order to get to the middle or end of the tables to grab your fuel so you don’t get caught up in the rush at the onset of the stations.
  • Drink just enough fuel. This a good strategy that will save you time, energy and discomfort as you want to minimize or eliminate any bathroom breaks or any stops at all as this will impede your goal time.
  • Appreciate the crowds and volunteers who are there to make your race experience an amazing one. Buy into the cheers and raves and encourage them with a smile, a wave, a clap and/or a thank you; it adds to your momentum especially in the latter part of the race when you’ll be needing all the encouragement you can get.
  • At this point it will be helpful if you have a number, name, country, or cause on display that the crowds can tie you to. They will use it to call you out and cheer you on and you’ll appreciate that.
  • Look out for the Queensborough bridge ( you cross five bridges in the NYC Marathon), it’ll be around mile 16, at this point you’ll be on the threshold of tiredness and pushing real hard. If you can keep the momentum going up this seeming mountain then you’ll be rewarded on the other side with the rising crescendo of voices, all cheering for you. What a thrill! You’re treated to the screams and cheers of what feels and may very well be a million spectators, from all over the world, as you enter 2nd Ave in Manhattan. This is the reason you run, there’s no greater feeling for a runner than right there and then. Remember that and own it.
  • Running down Fifth Ave from the Upper East Side in Manhattan may feel like the toughest part of the race for some, it appears to go on forever ( for about four miles) lean into it, use the energy of the crowds to push you and provide momentum heading into Central Park at 72nd Street.
  • Now is the time for what I call the fishing strategy: keep your eyes on the runner just ahead of you and slowly aim to pass him or her ( as if to reel them in). This will do two things: give you an immediate goal , which feeds your competitive spirit, and take your attention off yourself and whatever discomfort you may be experiencing.
  • Use the downhill in the park, lean into it and glide. On the other hand, power through the inclines feeding off the crowds and knowing that you’re almost there – less than a mile and a half away at this point.

Finally, getting out of the park and onto 59th Street/ Central Park South, it’ll be your quarter mile final stretch before heading into the park once again at Columbus Circle. You’ll hear the roar of the crowds, see the flags lining the roadway to the finish line area as you get into your final turn, the voice of the announcer and spectators will be urging you on; enjoy it, smile for the camera, finish strong. You did it.

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A Recap of Running The Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon

 

The Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon 2015

The Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon 2015

Last Sunday dawned awash with color across the New Jersey sky, the beautiful face of sunshine setting the tone for a stellar day weather-wise and otherwise. We stood at the start wrapped in our heat sheets, an anticipated chill in the air. The buzz was high. Many were expecting to do good here; rumor had it the course was a fast one. Having observed no worrisome inclines on my review the evening before, I was excited to see how it would pan out. Part of my excitement stemmed from the “unknown factor.” I enjoy discovering a course while running. My adventurous spirit revels in the uncertainty and mystery of what will come next and I was not disappointed. I had heard a bit about the twists and turns following mile 13 but I wasn’t concerned, as long as there was some variety to be had, I had nothing to fear from monotony.

As it turned out, our 3:30 pace group leader was a veteran marathoner with 50+ marathons under his “shoes,” most recently Boston two Monday’s ago. His humor was trying at best as he attempted to entertain us early in the race; though on a marathon course, you learn to appreciate anyone who tries. He did however, marshal us into maintaining a steady 7.5 pace for first half of the race, which had a few of us antsy considering the burn out issue. Still, there were others who were interested in upping the ante, feeling strong then I guess. I’m headstrong yes, but not stupid, and I am fully aware of the idiom – marry in haste, repent at leisure – no way was I even interested in trying to outdo myself at such an early stage. Good sense prevailed and we stayed together and strong. You can tell New Yorker’s anywhere you go and that was true of those running in the group; chatty, competitive, brash even but open and warm. Some willingly carried the pacer’s sign, which he promised to ditch early on, right to the end. For much of the way, miles 1 through 16, we poked fun, had the odd conversation, commented on pace and fed off the crowd, which was a surprise in itself – there were quite a bit of cheer going on. We were thankful for that and showed our appreciation with waves and mouthfuls of thank you. The volunteers, as instrumental to the race as ever were a beautiful bunch; filled with encouragement and fuel, they were with us every couple of miles along the way.

The fight and challenge to finish strong came around mile 18. So far it had been a scenic, flat and full-out sunshine course. The wind was co-operating fully with just the right amount of ruffles to make the sun a pleasure but suddenly it wasn’t so easy anymore. The sun was now head on and hot, the stretches began to seem to long, no one was talking anymore, the pacer appeared to be going too fast, I could hear grunts coming from my far left, where was the guy with the time pick? And the other one who was beside me for much of the way? We appeared to be losing people, a couple were ahead but surely some were behind. Shouldn’t the pacer check to see what was happening to the group. It was then I realized that it was all he could do to remain focused and stay the course. He had set the pace and carried it for three-quarter of the way, it was our job to take it home. I felt we had lost some time, a few seconds of the last two miles maybe, but with four more miles to go and the shore beckoning, it was doable, it was happening. I recall his last words before my heart took over – a hug at the finish.

It’s what is known as heart running. When you feel like there’s nothing left to give. You’ve done all you can, all the training; cross training, speed work, running, has culminated into this moment right here..this is it. With two more left to go, it’s breakaway time. My heart is thumping, my legs are unreal..I don’t even feel them, all I can see is the stretch in front of me, all I can hear is the voice in my head – you’re almost there, over and over – I’ve left them behind, the crowds are thickening, the waves are crashing, my feet are pounding, I can see the finish. This is so happening. With 800 meters to go I stagger and look behind me and there’s my girlfriend who ran the entire way with me, I thrust out my hand to her – “come on, come on,” I say. She reaches out, I grab her hand and we sprint to the finish; huge smiles on our faces for the camera as we cross the finish line. I pull away, retching with my head between my knees and she’s gleefully saying, “we did it! We did it! Sub 3:30! Are you ok?” All in that order. A few minutes and I was fine, the pain would follow in a bit but just then I was super excited to have PR’d and qualified for Boston 2016 by just over ten minutes. We did indeed indulge in those hugs and a few tears following the reciept of our medals. They say pain is temporary, pride is forever. I’m so proud of me.

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