The training is done; all that’s left to do is check the weather forecast obsessively and finalize your race day plan. Here are our insider tips on how to make the most of your NYC Marathon racing experience.
(1) Respect it. This is NYC after all. If you don’t give it the respect it deserves, it’ll eat you up and spit you out. By now, you should have a pretty good handle on how challenging the course is. It won’t let you down!
(2) Hold back the entire first half, especially those first two miles, because the second half of the race is harder. Read that sentence again — maybe even a third time until it sinks in. This is absolutely not a race to attempt banking time up front.
(3) The Expo. It’s exciting, HUGE, a bit overwhelming and can be very draining. Go as early as possible (like tomorrow morning) to avoid the crowds and get the t-shirt size you want.
(4) The Finish Line near Tavern on the Green. It’s worth a trip to Central Park to soak in the glory of the finishing chute and grandstands before the chaos of race day, and sharpen your mental picture of yourself crossing that line feeling strong. The magnitude of the race and the preparations by the city are impressive; take it all in. Now. But if you can’t make it there by Friday, skip it.
(5) Staten Island is COLD AF. Wear even more layers than you’re currently planning on race morning! It’s downright loco to expend precious pre-race energy just by shivering in the cold because you didn’t feel like shelling out a few bucks for some thrift store sweatpants. The start village is very close to the water and gets really windy, so be prepared and get creative — you’ll see runners wearing everything from pajamas and bathrobes to sleeping bags, old race heat sheets, trash bags, recycled Halloween costumes and everything in between. Don’t forget an extra hat and gloves, and don’t discard anything until the cannon is about to go off. You’ll see runners hurling their layers into donation bins as they exit the corral, but hold on to yours! From the time you leave your corral til you actually cross the start line could be another 30 minutes or more. Shivering for a half an hour is energy you’ll wish you had back in the Bronx.
(6) Bring trash bags to sit on in the start village, especially if it's wet from rain that day or the day before.
(7) If it’s really wet, consider bringing an old pair of shoes to wear in the village because some areas are very muddy, then switch shoes when you head to the start. Or, bring plastic grocery bags to tie around your race sneaks to keep them dry.
(8) The boarding times for bus and ferry are bogus. Go early and just get on. No one will check for your assigned time.
(9) There are port-o-johns inside the corrals with shorter lines than the start village.
(10) Bring a second breakfast and snacks. Many hours will pass from the time you leave your apartment/hotel til you actually get to run. Plan meals and digestion time accordingly.
(11) Just because you close your eyes when you pee in public does not make you invisible. But do what you have to do, because everyone else certainly will!
(12) Put your name on your race shirt. Make it big and legible, so enthusiastically intoxicated people can shout it all day! This is key. It’s part of what makes NYC unique.
(13) The bridges are placed at just the right points to really hurt. The first mile of the course on the Verrazano Bridge is an uphill climb that's usually windy, and the second mile is a smoking fast downhill. Most likely, your GPS won’t work til you're off the bridge, so rely on internal pacing. Bottom line, if you go out too fast, you’ll pay for it later on. The Pulaski Bridge hits right at the halfway mark, and it’s more of a bump in the road than a big hurdle. But the Queensboro at Mile 15/16 is where things get real. Bonus: you’ll lose GPS there, too. But once you crest the top, you’ll hear the crowds on First Ave waiting for you, and that’ll give you a huge boost. From there, you’ll make your way to the Willis Ave Bridge in the Bronx, and then you’ll hit the Fifth Ave mile, starting around 106th St up to Engineers Gate. That mile up Fifth Ave isn’t particularly steep, but it’s long, and it hurts. Your legs and brain are pretty shot at that point, so the wheels start to fall off and it feels harder than it should be. Be ready. Most experienced marathoners start to find their fifth gear with 10K left on the course. But for NYC, save something in the tank all the way to Mile 24 when you enter the park, then let ‘er rip.
(14) The Clutch PT cheer station will be at 116th and Fifth Ave, runners’ right. We’ll be ready with high fives to get you up that hill!
(15) Race your own race. Some runners will take off with guns blazing at the start. Don’t get caught up in the excitement and emotion of the moment. You will never suddenly run faster than ever before in a marathon, so pace yourself accordingly from the get go.
(16) Make specific plans with your spectators. Know in advance exactly which corner(s) your crew will be on. If they’re on the east side of the street and you’re running on the west side, there’ll be too many runners for you to cut over (without really pissing off some people.)
(17) Don’t rely on GPS for pacing. You can't rely on your watch for pacing — GPS gets wonky and unreliable on the bridges and other parts of the course. If you’re concerned about pacing, get a pace wristband and definitely switch your watch to manual split at the mile markers.
(18) The finish line is at the top of a hill. Nothing about NYC is easy! The marathon finish is no exception. Prepare mentally for one last challenging kick at the end.
(19) The course is crowded, the whole way. But it’s also lined with screaming spectators. It’s electric. The first time I ran NYC, I felt like I was flying just because of the energy. Allow yourself to take it in!
(20) Beware of aid stations. 50,000 runners translates to a jillion and a half discarded cups, every single mile. Aid stations can be quite slippery and a bit of an obstacle. Step carefully.
(21) Entering Central Park at Engineers Gate is kind of a tease. You’ll destroy what’s left of your quads heading down Cat Hill, but the crowds are deafening, so you may not even notice! But when you get to the south end of the park, you have to exit and run to Columbus Circle outside the park, then re-enter one last time a few tenths of a mile before the finish. It feels like Jedi mind tricks to enter the park, leave, and come back in, so be prepared. Ahhhhh, NYC.
(22) Don’t bother having anyone meet you anywhere near the finish or in Central Park. Choose a street corner on the Upper West Side, west of the park. (Columbus Ave and anywhere in the upper 70’s/low 80’s.) Or, just meet at a restaurant/bar/hotel.
(23) Run with a Metrocard and take the subway or be prepared to walk west to get a cab — they’ll be hard to come by.
(24) Don’t even consider hopping into that pedicab! It will seem tempting but they overcharge at astronomical rates that day.
(25) Grab a copy of the special marathon edition of the NY Times first thing Monday morning. They print the names of all finishers as space allows. Grab it early; newsstands will run out.
(26) Bask in your glory. NYC is an incredible experience and hugely challenging course.
(26.2) Wear that medal proudly — you earned the crap out of it, and you’ll need an excuse for waddling down the subway stairs on Monday.