Category Archives: Fitness

NYC Marathon: Tips for Spectators AND Runners

I originally wrote this post 4 years ago (please see: baby face), but I think it’s worth reposting again today because all of the tips still apply! I’m both excited and terrified to run marathon #7 on Sunday, but mostly excited.

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I was on an email chain with these lovely ladies, and one of the ladies said she was “so excited, it felt like Christmas. Is that weird?”

NOT AT ALL. It is not my first marathon or my first New York, and I am just as excited. (When NYCM was canceled last year, she ran 26.2 all in the park, like the original marathon. DAMN.)

I know lots of people are first-time NYCMers or first-time marathoners, and I thought I’d give you some tips from my perspective.

SPECTATORS

There are a few places that I think are great to spectate, both from having spectated there and from having been cheered on from there.

Mile 2/3: Bay Ridge: While you don’t need crowd support that early in the race, it’s always fun to be cheered on. My book club cheers from here, and I remember there being people out cheering but the crowds being a little thinner than they are farther in the race.

Mile 8: This is where the three different-colored starts come together, and you can also get here by almost any subway: C to Lafayette, G to Fulton, 2/3/4/5 to Nevins, B/D/N/Q/R to Atlantic/Pacific. My friends and family cheered for me from here last time, and although it was pretty crowded, they were still able to see me.

OKAY GO GET BACK ON THE SUBWAY AND GO BACK TO MANHATTAN if you’d like to be able to see people in more locations.

Remember those R.L. Stine Choose Your Adventure books? Let’s play that, and let’s do three different adventures.

A. Looking to party? Take the 4/5 back to 42nd, switch to the 6, and take it to 68th or 77, and walk over to First Ave., where the party is waiting for you with half the city.

B. Looking for your marathoner and want to see them hurting when they’ll really need a boost? Take the 4/5 to 42nd and the 6 to 96th. Walk over to First, see your marathoner at Mile 18, walk over to Fifth, see them at Mile 23.5ish just before they enter the park.

C. If it is important to your marathoner to see you close to the finish, take the N/R to Fifth Ave. or to 57th Street, and watch somewhere along Central Park South or near Columbus Circle. I remember in 2011, running through here, seeing it LINED with people, and loving reading everyone’s signs. This also gives spectators an easy spot to get in and out of to meet up with runners without getting caught in the mess that the park is after the race.

Runners and spectators: have a plan where you will meet. This is crucial. CRUCIAL. With near 50,000 runners and millions of spectators, cell phone service is spotty at best. There is technically a Family Reunion Area, but I would imagine it turns into a massive cluster. I’d say to meet somewhere west of Central Park West or south of Columbus Circle. Last time, JackRabbit had an area in their W. 72nd Street that you could drop belongings off at the day before. EITHER WAY, MAKE A PLAN.

RUNNERS!

IT IS HERE.

There is no experience in the world like this, so take it all in. Every crazy second of this week.

Expo. Get there as early as you can. In 2010, I didn’t run, but met Lizzy at the expo on Saturday. The line wasn’t long but the expo was PACKED. A marathon is a once-a-year thing for me, so I enjoy everything that goes along with them, and I like the expos, so it was annoying to navigate such a packed expo. As you all know, I’m a very social person, but expos are NOT THE PLACE TO BE SOCIAL. There are way too many people. Go with no more than 1 person. Otherwise, you will want to kill everyone else trying to stick together or find each other. Plus, if you go before Saturday, you will be saving yourself from all that time on your feet.

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I went tonight with Jen and got to the expo at 6:55. Bib pickup was closing at 7, and the expo was closing at 8. I flew threw the security line (FYI, they go through your bags and there was no wait then but I could see those lines backing up ), and then to the ID check line and then to the actual bib pickup line.

Coming straight from work, I was luckily too tired and overwhelmed to want to shop much, so I walked out with minimal damage: two more SparklySoul headbands (THEY HAVE A CHRISTMAS ONE NOW!) and Dave McGillivray’s book, which I wanted to get at the RW weekend. Jen and I tried out the Roll Recovery, which looked and felt INSANE.

Food. If you don’t have plans yet for Saturday night, and you want to eat out, MAKE THEM NOW. I REPEAT, MAKE THEM NOW. If you are here from out of town, look on OpenTable to see what’s still available. There will definitely still be places you can walk in, but do you really want to have to worry about walking from restaurant to restaurant the night before a marathon?

Sleep. Go to sleep early Saturday night, duh. Also, Friday night, since two nights before is when your quality sleep matters most. Maybe sleep on top of your foam roller.

Getting There

In 2011, they didn’t check when you get on the ferry. This time, your ferry time is on your bib. Personally, I’m not sure I’d take the risk of getting on a different ferry…but just putting all the information out there. From the ferry, you take a bus to the Start Village. I know some people have said they hang out in the ferry terminal until they absolutely have to get on a bus, but I’d rather be cold at Start Village and know I’m there.

I remember there being a million port-a-potties: when you first get off the bus, in the Start Village and then in each corral. (The corral area is truly ginormous.) Awful segue, but I also recall Dunkin’ Donuts being out there with coffee, hot chocolate (I think?) and bagels. Last time, we waited maybe half an hour before it was time to get into corrals. I ate my breakfast on the bus from the ferry and then had half a dry bagel while waiting.

Corrals

They were really strict with checking your bib last time to make sure you weren’t jumping ahead, but you can jump back to run with friends. (Tina did to run with me!)

Standing at the foot of the Verrazano last time listening to New York, New York was so emotional last time. I’m definitely going to lose it this time, FYI.

Course!

Mile 1: You will feel awesome. Of course you will. This is the best marathon in the world, and you are surrounded by energy. You also still have 25 miles to go. Slow down. Yes, there is a hill, but you will barely notice it with the adrenaline.

Miles 2-3: End of Verrazano, then running through Bay Ridge. This is where you start to really feel the energy of the spectators, and that energy just continues to build.

Miles 4-14: You run through Park Slope, Williamsburg and Greenpoint. There are some gradual hills in this part of the course, but your energy is ridiculously high from the crowds, although around mile 11 or 12, you start to wonder when you can leave Brooklyn and get closer to the finish. (No offense, BK.)

Mile 14: While, in distance, you’re more than halfway there, you’ve barely just begun. 14 miles was a “shorter” long run. You’ve got a while to go, honey. Here, you go over the Pulaski Bridge to cross into Queens, where you don’t spend much time. The Pulaski Bridge is fairly short and not too steep, but it is still a noticeable hill.

Mile 15: Just a quick little jaunt through Long Island City. I remember from last time that you run past Silvercup Studios, where 30 Rock was filmed. I did not, however, see Tina Fey.

Mile 16: Yeah, you know what this is. The Queensboro Bridge. Last time, Tina and I swapped stories over the bridge and it went by quickly. If you are running with someone, wait until this point to tell them some crazy story. If you are running alone, pull out your headphones or your mantras or whatever you need to power through this hill. I’ve never found it super-steep, but it is long (but so is the downhill!)

Mile 17-20: First Ave. And then some more First Ave. 17-18 are packed with spectators; closer to 19, the crowds start thinning out. Don’t run too fast from 17-18 out of excitement, but do let that energy give you a boost to power through this long, gradual incline.

Mile 20/21: If you’re a first-time marathoner, you’re probably crossing into unfamiliar territory at this point. BUT YOU’VE GOT THIS! You run over a small bridge to get into the Bronx, and run there for about a mile or so. The crowds are smaller than in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but they make up for it in energy!

Mile 22-24: You are back in Manhattan! You are almost done! The Lululemon cheer station is at mile 22, and I wanted to stop and hug all of them last time. The course begins yet another long, gradual incline as it leads back to the park, but good news! There are approximately a million spectators again.

Mile 24: GLORIOUS. YOU ENTER CENTRAL PARK DURING THIS MILE, AND YOU ARE ALMOST DONE. It is absolute, sheer magic in the park at this point. The course is fairly narrow in here, but you still have room to pass people if you’re feeling up to it. You’re running south and encountering some gradual hills.

Mile 25 – Mile 26: MORE MAGIC. You exit the park onto Central Park South, and it is a wall of people on either side cheering for you. Last time, I was smiling and blinking back tears at the same time. At this point, you know you’re almost done! You will finish this. When you enter the park again, you’ll have just a bit more than .2 to go. That lats .2 has a gradual small incline toward the finish, but nothing compared to the other hills you’ve conquered.

26.2: YOU DID IT!!!!! Go find your family and friends and celebrate.

Any questions/other tips you’d add???

New York City Marathon 2013 Recap: Sub-4 and I Did Not Bust!

I’m reposting this today because it was one of the best days of my life and I want to re-live it. 

Sunday, I broke four hours and ran my fourth marathon.

Spoiler alert 1: it was not easy.
Spoiler alert 2: it was worth it.

I began the morning in a slightly dazed panic, attempting to gather everything I’d need to sit out in the cold in Staten Island and then run 26.2 miles back to Manhattan.

I woke just before 6, made my mom watch the Alec Baldwin video with me and jumped out of bed. Other marathons, I’ve tried to extend the warm time under the covers, but this time, I was ready.

I was on a 7:15 ferry and took a cab at 6:50 down to the terminal, making it there in an impressive 8 minutes from Chelsea. I walked in alone and completely overwhelmed. I walked upstairs and hoped I’d run into someone I knew. Sure enough, I found Carla and Emilia! We boarded the ferry and Fiona, Steph and their friend Russell found us. I was so happy to see my RBs, as we’d discussed maybe starting together
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The 7:15 ferry got us into Staten Island around 7:45 and we lined up for the buses. It felt as though it had gotten significantly colder already. Awesome.

The bus line took much longer than it had last time, as the cops were checking each bus one by one. Annoying, sure, but I’m glad they were taking every precaution after Boston. By the time we boarded and took a little trip around Staten Island, it was 8:30 when we got off.
I’d decided to eat my breakfast in shifts so that I never felt too hungry or too full. I had a banana on the ferry, a Picky Bar on the bus and half a Luna bar in the start village. I also had a water bottle of Nuun that I probably had about 8-10 ounces of. Jess and I had discussed fueling and my concern was that I didn’t want to have to stop to pee during the race.

We got off the bus and walked to the village with a million other runners. Steph wins Throwaway Clothes of the Year award for her Christmas flannel jammies. She was always easy to spot if the group got separated. We grabbed fleece Dunkin’ hats and hot water and sat down to finish breakfasts. I tried not to drink all of the hot water, because I really didn’t want to have too much water pre-race, but I wanted to warm up. The time went by really quickly as we nervously chatted. We hit the bathrooms, and while we were inside, we heard that our corrals were now open. WHOA, OKAY.


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We went to line up. We were all in different corrals, but we decided to jump back to Russ’s corral, orange 34, so that we could all start together…on top of the bridge, not underneath it (like a troll, as my mom said the night before.) I remember in 2011, that they actually checked your corral number; this year, they just checked your color. We said we were jumping back to go with Russ and they let us go ahead. We hit the port-a-pottys in the corrals and joined a huge mass of people. If you’re trying to visualize this: you don’t really line up by corral. You join a mass of people in bib numbers from, say, 30,000 – 39,000. It was here that we began shedding layers to prepare. I took off the pajama pants I was wearing, and left on a sweatshirt.

We lined up in view of the bridge..and it was real. We were going to run over that thing, and then run for a few more hours after that. The starting gun went off, and it was REALLY LOUD. And scary, given all the coverage we’d all watched of Boston. They started playing New York, New York, and I started crying, and we all started singing along…and we were off!


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Mile 1: The bridge was harder than I remembered from last time, and more crowded. As we started, Fiona said “you need to go do your own thing.” Or something like that. I’d been planning on doing that, but then I thought maybe I could run the first 10 with them and then take off. We all hit the first mile at 9:24, and I decided I definitely had to do my own thing. The pacing plan Jess gave me was: run the first 10 at 8:56-9:16, the second 10 at 8:36-8:56, 20-23 with whatever I had, and turning it up from 23 to the finish. I love my friend, but 9:24 was not part of my plan, and I was going to stick to that plan like white on rice.

Miles 2-4: I remember a small incline at mile 2 that seemed kind of hard, and I got really nervous about all of the upcoming hills. Every time I looked down at my watch, I saw numbers that were faster than they should have been, and I began a fierce internal dialogue. “I feel great! I can keep this up!” “Um, of course you feel great. You’ve run 3 miles. Slow your roll.” Splits from this section: 8:24, 8:46, 8:41. Oops. I knew I’d be seeing my book club around mile 3.5, and I focused my gaze to the left to look for them. I saw them and smiled and waved happily.

Miles 5-8: That fierce inner dialogue continued, and I wanted to keep my pace between 8:58-9:09 in that range. An average 8:58 pace would be 3:55 (my secret goal, to give me a buffer to hit 4), and a 9:09 pace would be 3:59 and change. Any time I looked at my watch and saw 9:0x, I think I actually gave my watch a thumbs-up. I knew I’d see my mom and maybe my boss at mile 8, so that was what I next focused on getting to. I’d decided to fuel around every five miles, so I took a few Shot Bloks at mile 5, and then I saw my high school buddy Sara and her sister Ali just after mile 5. At some point in this stretch, Russ caught up to me, and we ran together for a bit. My efforts to slow down a bit here actually worked pretty well: 8:54, 9:00, 9:03, 9:13. I saw my mom and friends at mile 8 and high-fived them.

Miles 9-13: I didn’t think I would see anyone I knew in this section, so I focused on just enjoying it, since I’d really liked this part of the course last time. I focused on keeping within my pace range until getting to 10. 9:13, 9:17…and then it was time to turn it up. I, honestly, was really nervous about this. 16 was still a long way to go. I remember at mile 10 last year, Ericka saying “it’s just like a 16-mile training run from here!”…and wanting to kill her. 16 miles is still really far. I knew anything could happen from 20-26.2, and I was really nervous about turning up my pace in this section even a bit, but since my goal was to leave it all out there, I embraced it. Uh, or tried to: 9:05, 8:51, 8:53. I was internally motivated to meet my goal, so I hadn’t thought until the half point what people tracking me at home might be seeing, but just before the half point, I decided I wanted to log a solid first half, so people at home would know I was doing well. Although, again, anything could still happen. I hit the half at 1:56:55, and smiled a smile that must have been a mile wide. Two years ago, I struggled to break 2:00 in a half; I’d just broken 2:00 in the first half of a marathon. We ran over the Pulaski, and memories came flooding back: running over this with Tina two years ago in the marathon with some knee pain after a bathroom stop, running over it a few weeks ago with my friends.

Miles 14-16: Probably the most boring part of the course, running through Long Island City. All I remember about this part is smelling McDonald’s french fries and them smelling REALLY GOOD. I focused on staying strong and mentally preparing myself for the Queensboro. A long bridge with no spectators, it can be a difficult part of the course. I prepared myself for that possibility, and ran strong over it. I took more ShotBloks at just before mile 15 in preparation for the bridge. I channeled the strength I’d had running over it in 2011 with Tina and a few weeks ago with my friends. I’d told them stories running over the bridge those times, and while I couldn’t do that this time, or talk to myself, I channeled that strong feeling and powered over the bridge. It’s here that my watch got messed up. I knew I might have slowed down a bit, but I was certainly not running a 16:00 mile. When we hit 16, my watch said we were at mile 15.5. Awesome. From here on out, I relied on my watch for my overall time and for my current pace and ignored the mileage. I’ll stop sharing splits here because they don’t match up to the actual mileage.

Miles 16-20: Good god, I love this part of the course. I’m pretty sure I saw everyone I’ve ever met on First Ave. I saw my mom and Lacey, Lauren, a high school friend, the NYJL sponge station at mile 17. I’m pretty sure I smiled all the way up First Ave. I felt strong, and I was back in Manhattan. I was happy. It’s here where it hit me that I was really racing a marathon. (Against myself and the clock, not anyone else.) I tried to keep my pace between 8:40 – 8:50 here, and more importantly, I tried to not let that psyche me out. That is a big, fast scary number for a marathon for me. I thought of strong runners I admired like Michelle, Michele, Janae  and Jocelyn and thought about recent speed increases for all of them and how they just kept pushing, and used that to motivate me. WWM(orJ)D? I hit mile 18.9 (30K) at 2:46, and this is the first time when I had a strong feeling I’d sub-4. (Well, when I hit 19.) I’d wanted to hit 20 just under 3:00, to give myself a little cushion for those last 6.2

THIS IS WHEN THINGS GOT REAL. They say that it’s a 20-mile warmup with a 10K at the end, and, yup. Mentally, the last 6.2 was harder than the first 20 by leaps and bounds.

20: That damn bridge going into the Bronx. In my pacing strategy, Jess had said to prepare myself for hitting the wall around 20-22, and I steeled myself for this. Mile 20 was okay, but slightly more difficult, and I just kept reminding myself to stay strong, that I’d come so far and was so close. I’d taken half a banana from someone on the course handing them out around mile 19 (my mom never said not to take bananas from strangers), and I think I took 1-2 Shot Bloks at this point. I knew I needed to fuel up for this last tough stretch.

21-23: This is easily the hardest part of the course. You’re past 20 but not into the park. You’re starting to question EVERYTHING (literally, all life decisions leading me to this point were questioned here), and it’s a long gradual uphill. I remember seeing Laura’s mom and the Lulu cheer station, and I remember wanting nothing more but to walk. But, I wanted sub-4 more than I wanted comfort here. I didn’t want to miss my goal again. I didn’t want to go out and try to do this again. I didn’t want to ever run another marathon again at this point. My watch kept saying 9:4x-9:5x at this point, and I told myself that was okay, so long as I didn’t walk. I told myself a little negotiating with myself was okay, but I would not shortchange my goals here. I was uncomfortable but not in pain, so I kept soldiering on. It’s supposed to hurt at this point. Jess had said to turn it up at mile 23, but I wasn’t yet in the park, and I didn’t have the strength to turn it up yet.

Then we hit the park, and it was a total different story.

I hit mile 24 just around 3:40, and I knew at this point that sub-4 was mine! I knew that I’d be able to turn it up in the park, so I would be just fine. I grinned entering the park, and I remember spectators cheering my name and telling me how strong and happy I looked in the park. I remember being so happy I’d trained more in the park this year, that I knew the ups and downs so well. I COULD NOT wait until the downhill that would take me out of the park and onto Central Park South, where I knew I’d see Anne and hopefully my mom and Lacey and hit mile 25.


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And I saw Anne!!! She said when she first saw me, before I saw her, I was grimacing, but that my face lit up when I saw her and I had more pep in my step. I even managed to high-five her and Matt. However, all I could think at this point was “was this this hard last time?” And then I remembered I wasn’t trying to sub-4 last time. That I was running nearly a minute per mile faster than I was last time. I saw Shannon and her mom at the very end of Central Park South, and thought they had the best spectating spot ever, and it gave me a great last-minute boost.

I re-entered the park, and WAS SO HAPPY. I WAS ALMOST THERE. I was about to meet my goal. I’d run from Columbus Circle to the Tavern on the Green so many times, and I channeled that and the finish line intervals I’d done with Jess here and just turned it up. Things were so uncomfortable here, but I told myself I could certainly be uncomfortable for a few more minutes. When the finish line was close, I saw I was at 3:56:xx, and zeroed in on that. I would finish in 3:56-something. I would leave everything out there.

3:56:24.

I thought I’d be so emotional at this point that I met my goal, but I had expended literally all of my energy.

I crossed the finish line, and I immediately felt woozy. I thought I was going to pass out, and I grabbed onto a barrier. The volunteers were wonderful, and came right over to see if I was okay. “I think so?” I told them. “I just feel kinda woozy.” A wonderful volunteer named Andrea grabbed my hand, elevated it, and made me keep walking to get my medal and heat blanket. As we got to the medical tent, she asked if I wanted to go in. “No, not really,” I told her. She told me it wouldn’t hurt, and I agreed and went in. I started seeing a bit of a halo around the tent as I walked in, and realized that going in was the right decision.

They gave me some diluted Gatorade, salt under my tongue, and pretzels, and I felt better quickly. I’d guess I spent no more than 10-15 minutes in there, and they sent me on my way.

I’d done no baggage, but it still seemed like an interminable walk out of the park. We exited at 77th, and then they sent us walking back down Central Park West to 72nd.

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They gave us these orange fleece-lined ponchos, which were pretty awesome.


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I walked over to Cafe Tallulah, where I had the best burger and bubbly of my life (what? They totally go together) and did some celebrating with my NYJL ladies, Lacey, Shannon and my mom, before heading back to my apartment to see my dad, who couldn’t come watch because of a bad knee. He’d watched on TV and with Bailey and wanted to congratulate me.

I can’t believe I finally met this goal, and that I took off more than an hour from my first marathon! I am so, so, so happy and so thankful for all of the support from my friends, family, coworkers and YOU!

They print the finish times (I think up to 4:30?) in the New York Times, and I checked it obsessively yesterday to make sure my time was real.

It was.

3:56:24

I DID IT! I am a part of the sub-4 club. Meghann promised to teach me the handshake the next time I see her.

What’s next, you ask? I have no idea. Maybe some tris next year? I actually sort of miss swimming. For now, I definitely want to focus on some strength and lifting things heavier than a fork or a wine glass.