Tips for running the NYC Marathon.

A week or so ago, a friend of mine from middle school asked for tips for running the NYC marathon and I happily wrote him a monster of an e-mail all about my favorite race. As a lifetime New Yorker and a four-time NYC Marathon finisher (2009-2011, 2014), I know this race. I have actually had very detailed dreams of running this race (not exaggerating, I was once told I was talking in my sleep and calling out the mile markers). This race is a part of me. 

nyc-marathons2014 NYCM Recap

2011 NYCM Recap

2010 NYCM Recap

Because my friend is probably not the only person looking for some advice this week (it’s marathon week, baby!), I’m taking that e-mail and putting it out on the interwebs. 

Tips for Running the NYC Marathon

Pre-Marathon

  • If you haven’t already done so, put your name on your shirt. People will call your name out and it will be all sorts of amazing. Because people will be screaming your first name all day, it may be hard to recognize when it’s someone you know screaming your name. Ask friends/family to call you by your last name if they can’t get your attention.
  • On that note, know where your friends/family will be ahead of time and most importantly, know which side of the street they will be on. I cannot stress the importance of the side of the street more.
  • If you don’t already have throwaway clothes for the start line, get them now. Ask friends/family for old sweats/hats/gloves/whatever. Everything at the start line gets donated. If you want, use old baseball socks as throwaway arm sleeves. Cut the feet off and put them on your arms until you feel warmed up and then drop them along the course. This has helped me during marathons that are in-between weather.
  • For the start, it’s a good idea to bring something like a garbage bag to sit on, even if you’ll be in a tent area. If it rained the day or days before, it will be muddy, so bring extra garbage bags to sit on, wear old sneakers that you won’t mind parting with and then switch into your race sneakers last minute or cover your sneakers with bags so they don’t get muddy and wet prior to the start. Also, bring yourself some toilet paper. It’s not uncommon to see people standing on the port-a-potty line with their own roll of TP.
  • Come up with a plan/strategy for when things got rough, I’m thinking specifically for 5th Avenue before the park. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, this is the worst part of that course. My first NYCM, this is where I told a random stranger that I wanted to quit. My coach for the 2014 NYCM told me to come up with my strategy for this section early and it helped. I focused on who I had tracking me and who was waiting for me in the bleachers and I literally repeated their names in my head for the entire mile. My good friend last year tried to focus on her husband but it wasn’t working for her so she switched to mentally baking cookies in her head and spent the mile working out the recipe. Figure out a plan for this spot and then figure out a back-up plan.
  • Come up with a meeting spot with your friends/family for after the race. Do not count on cell service being good at the finish line. If you can, avoid the family reunion area and pick another part of the UWS or UES (I heard from a NYRR staff member that they will have East side access for the first time this year). In 2014, I met my family in front of the Jack Rabbit on 72nd near Broadway. Pick a street corner, pick anything, as long as it is a specific location

Race

Brooklyn
  • Start slow – holy hell just go so damn slow. Don’t weave on the bridge. If you do this right, your first two miles should be your slowest.
  • When you get into Brooklyn and the crowds start to thicken, it may get emotional. It’s okay, just don’t speed up because of it.
  • You don’t want to add any extra mileage by weaving. The course is measured exactly 26.2 miles from the middle of the street (marked by a blue line that may be faded by the time you start). Unless you’re super familiar with the course, running the tangents isn’t a good strategy here. When in doubt, run in the middle of the street. Run only to the side when you know you have a family/friends on that side.
  • These miles are generally flat with some rolling hills and the crowds are good. Enjoy them. No lie, this is probably the best you’ll feel (physically) all day. Be smart and run slow. Your legs will thank you.
Queens
  • This area is typically not so crowded so it’s a good place to see people.
  • Be careful to conserve your energy here because you’ve got the 59th street bridge ahead of you.
  • People walk on the bridge and/or slow down significantly, try not to get frustrated and definitely do not weave. Get around slower folks by moving just the bare minimum amount to get by them.
  • Forget your pace and focus on exerting the same amount of effort that you were before the bridge. Having people on 1st Avenue is good because it gives you something to look forward to on the bridge. I’ve used the bridge to focus on who is waiting for me and that if they’ve been tracking, they know I’m getting close.
Manhattan
  • It’s exciting and too easy to pick up the pace on 1st Ave. Try to keep yourself in check and maintain pace. There is a steady incline and lots of miles ahead.
Bronx
  • You’re only here a short time but the Bronx typically has good crowds so enjoy the atmosphere.
  • Concentrate on the fact that you’ve only got one more bridge and then you are in the final borough!
Manhattan/5th Ave
  • There’s no way around it, the closer you get to Engineer’s Gate (where the course turns into Central Park), the more everything is going to suck.
  • Having people here is good (it’s where I always stand to cheer!)
  • It is a nasty, no-good, horrible, slow incline up 5th and into Central Park. Use your strategy to get through this little rough patch. If it doesn’t work, use your back up. If that doesn’t work, come up with a new one. Anything. Focus on the person’s feet in front of you and count their steps. Think of the finish line as being the turn into Central Park. You just need to get to the park.
Central Park
  • THIS. I could cry just thinking about this. You are in the most famous park in the world, running the best marathon in the world. You have people waiting for you at the finish line or people at home following your every step and waiting to see that you have finished.  This is a huge fcuking deal.
  • When you get to the bottom of the park, you exit out and run along Central Park South. I’ve made the mistake of trying to pick it up here thinking I was close. I was an idiot. The finish is still far enough away. Soak up the crowds and focus on that turn back into the park.
  • When you get to the 800m mark in the park, that’s your time. Pick it up, leave nothing out there. You will feel like you’re barely going anywhere. Last NYCM, I picked up my pace and had you asked me then, I felt like I was running 12 minute miles. Turns out, I was at an 8:30. Nothing feels normal at this point. Just move your damn legs as fast as they can. You can do anything for 5 more minutes.

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For everyone running, ENJOY THIS RACE BECAUSE THIS IS AS GOOD AS IT DAMN WELL GETS. Love every second of this day and of this city. It’s a 26.2 mile party and you’ve got a VIP pass.

As for me, I’ll be out there next year running my heart out. This year, I’ll be on the sidelines cheering my heart out. Happy running, NYC 🙂

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Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

When we woke up in the morning, we knew we had a long day ahead of us so it was tempting to sleep in a little bit more… buuuuut this is Disney and who has time for that?!

Halloween at the Magic Kingdom

Halloween at the Magic Kingdom

We ferry boated over to Magic Kingdom with a plan: get as many rides in as possible before leaving around 1:30-2 to go back to the hotel, rest, and change into our costumes for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Our FastPasses took us in a counterclockwise direction in Magic Kingdom and we were able to hit most of our favorites before it was time for lunch.

magic-kingdom

Once back at the hotel, we rested, attempted to nap (read: watched TV), and began changing into our costumes: Dole Whip and a Dole Whip chef!

When we bought the tickets for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, I knew we’d want to dress up. I figured a lot of couples do the prince/princess combo and I wanted to do something different. An added bonus to whatever costume I chose would be if it could double as a running costume. After some sparkle skirt stalking and Pinterest browsing, my Dole Whip costume was born!

Everyone loves a Dole Whip!

My Dole Whip costume consisted of:

The Dole logo really made the costume because people walking by me picked up on what I was immediately. I was so excited that my costume seemed to be such a hit!

halloween-magic-kingdom

After some photos, we walked over to the new restaurant, Jungle Skipper Canteen. I was super hungry at this point so any food would have been good but I genuinely enjoyed the food here. Also, the theming inside is fantastic.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

After dinner, it was time to get ready to execute our Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party plan:

Get photos with characters. Mickey and Minnie were my top priorities. We originally got on the line for the seven dwarfs but it was barely moving. Since they weren’t my highest priority, we opted to get off the line and get in line for Minnie, Donald, and Daisy. Jack Skellington and Sally also have huge lines but I have a few photos with them from runDisney races so I didn’t want to spend precious Halloween party time waiting for them. In the end, we got photos with Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy.

halloween-party-characters

Buy Halloween party merchandise. There is Halloween merchandise that you can only purchase during the party. Justin researched online about the party merchandise so we knew exactly what we wanted and where to buy it once the party began. If you want to buy merchandise, I suggest looking at the locations on the Halloween party map ahead of time and figuring out where and when it makes the most sense to get on a merchandise line.

mickey-halloween

Ride the Haunted Mansion. We rode during the day but wanted to get a nighttime ride in as well. The cast members are dressed up for the party and it’s awesome.

Cinderella's Castle - MNSSHP

Cinderella’s Castle – MNSSHP

View Celebrate the Magic. I can’t get through a Celebrate the Magic show without choking up so seeing this was a must. Plus, it’s right before Hallowishes. We got ourselves a perfect spot in front of the castle and waited on line for photos while waiting for the show to begin.

View Hallowishes Fireworks. YOU GUYS I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS. The finale was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The fireworks circle you completely and the Magic Kingdom lights up like it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon. You have to experience this.

Photo op during Celebrate the Magic

Photo op during Celebrate the Magic

Get halloween-specific desserts. Justin wanted a certain cupcake, I wanted the candy corn soft serve. In addition to these two desserts, we lucked out and received a free sundae in a giant creepy pumpkin mug thing when the gentleman in front of us accidentally ordered two and turned around and gave us his extra one. #winning

Take magic shots. True story: about a week before we left, I had a dream that Justin and I forgot to change into our costumes and didn’t take any magic shots during the party. Justin corrected me that I had a nightmare, not just a dream (I picked a smart one). We stalked Instagram prior to our party to figure out which magic shots we wanted and decided the cauldron and hitchiking ghosts were top priorities.

hitchhiking-ghosts-magic-shot

Watch Boo-to-you Halloween Parade. So many villains! And ghosts! I loved this parade so damn much. If you can, attend the second parade because it’s much less crowded. We walked by the first parade to get to Mickey’s photo spot and it was absolute chaos. Also, after the second parade, you can move to the front of the castle to wait for the last Villain’s Spectacular of the night.

boo-to-you-halloween-parade

Attend Villains Spectacular. The Sanderson sisters and other Disney villains? I was in heaven. This was a major highlight of the night for me and I wish we had squeezed ourselves up just slightly closer.

After the show, we exited the park quickly and got on a boat back to the Grand Floridian. After the quickest shower ever, I was in bed and passed out in a matter of seconds.

The party goes by extremely quickly. When we were planning, I kept saying things like, “it’s 5 hours long, we’ll have plenty of time to get everything done.” I was an idiot. You need to have a plan. You need to prioritize everything you want to do/see to get the most out of your time. And if you can, you should stay late.

MNSSHP

MNSSHP

We had an AMAZING time and I’m still giddy thinking about that fireworks finale. We went in mid-September on a Tuesday so the price was “low” (tickets are tiered and increase as you get closer to Halloween) and the crowds were light. I can confidently say that we’ll be back.

The only downside was that we were absolutely beat the next day. Next time, we’ll schedule a full day of hotel pool lounging the next day to recover from our magical time 🙂

See you in February, Disney World!

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Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

When I told Justin that I wanted to go back to Disney World in September, one of the biggest points I made (errrr maybe the only point I had to make) was that the timing would coincide with Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival. No joke, he got into bed one night and showed me the map he had made of Epcot, including the location of the stands he wanted to hit and exactly what he wanted to buy at each spot. I’m pretty sure he also made an Excel spreadsheet. #thatsmyboy

Before heading to the park and stuffing our faces with deliciousness, we set out on an easy run around the Grand Floridian and Polynesian resorts.

Grand Floridian from lagoon running path

Grand Floridian from lagoon running path

The plan then was to spend the rest of the morning at the front of the park going on rides before heading to World Showcase for the remainder of the day and night. We were able to ride the new Soarin’ Around the World, Living with the Land, Test Track, and Ellen’s Great Energy Adventure before heading over to the Italy pavilion’s Via Napoli for lunch.

Epcot's Food and Wine Festival

Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival

The pizza (and sangria omg the sangria) at Via Napoli is incredible so we didn’t want to pass up a chance to indulge ourselves. We figured we’d have salad and pizza for lunch and then snack around the world for dinner.

After lunch, we had FastPass reservations for Frozen Ever After in the Norway pavilion. Because of FastPass grouping, we had to choose between FastPasses for Frozen or for Soarin’ and Test Track. We elected to grab the FastPasses for Frozen and just hit Soarin’ and Test Track early.

If you’re heading to Epcot and are choosing FastPasses, I’d pick Frozen Ever after because the Soarin’ and Test Track standby lines were not bad and the Frozen Ever After standby line was absolutely insane.

Also, I just want to take a minute to talk about HOW UNBELIEVABLY AMAZING Frozen Ever After is. While it is no secret that I love Frozen and all things Olaf, I really loved the Maelstrom ride and was upset to learn that it would be no more. Disney did an unbelievable job with the Frozen ride and the technology used for the characters is incredible. The movements are so real and lifelike that you almost believe you are in the movie. Both Justin and I were very impressed.

Romantic stroll (ehh stumble)

Romantic stroll (ehh stumble)

After enjoying the Frozen ride, I was in the mood for a frozen treat (see what I did there? bahaha). Dole Whip with coconut rum was high on my list of “must-haves” for the day and it did not disappoint. This may most definitely will be a treat I have to enjoy again when we go back in February for Princess Weekend.

Dole Whip and coconut rum!

Dole Whip and coconut rum!

Later in the day, because it’s Florida in September, the skies went from blue and cloudless to dark and ominous in roughly 3.7 seconds. We waited out the storm in the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival before running through the rain (in our ponchos – these are a vital item on all Florida vacations) to Spaceship Earth. Luckily, once we left Spaceship Earth, the rain had stopped and we were able to walk around and enjoy the remainder of the World Showcase. We kept our ponchos on, though, just in case. #FloridaProblems

After a long day of running/walking around, eating and drinking, we were ready to head back to the hotel to get some solid sleep. We had a long (and magical!) day in Magic Kingdom ahead of us 🙂

Epcot - Spaceship Earth

Epcot – Spaceship Earth

This was my first time at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival but it will definitely not be my last. I liked going in September because the festival had just opened and the crowds weren’t all that huge yet. Next year, Justin and I plan to run the Wine and Dine Half-Marathon so we’ll be back for Food and Wine but expect the crowds to be much larger.

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Next up: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

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Fall Foliage 5k.

A couple weeks ago when my BC friends were in New York as a 30th birthday surprise, my ol’ roomy asked if there were any short races this fall near the house. I did some searching and found the Fall Foliage Half-Marathon and 5k in nearby Rhinebeck, NY. Even better, it fell on Garlic Festival weekend!

Even though the race was upstate, there was packet pickup on the UWS during the week so I was able to pick up our bibs and swag on my way home from work one day. I left JackRabbit with 4 bibs in 4 bags and somehow within the next 24 hours ended up with 3 bibs in 4 bags. As any runner who is only used to large races would, I freaked out. I called every place I visited in Manhattan to try and locate the “lost” bib and had no luck. I ended up tweeting and emailing the race organizers in a panic and was assured that all would be fine.

Yea, I didn’t believe them.

i-dont-believe-you

Friday night, we drove upstate with two of our friends (my work wife and her husband). After some rental car snafus, we were on our way and out of the rainy and dreary city. Once we got upstate and my beautiful Boston roomy got in, it was quick to bed. #werenotincollegeanymore #justrathersleep

Saturday morning came all too quickly and I was very thankful for a later start time (5k began at 10:20am). We had a quick breakfast and got in the car to the start line at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds.

Fall Foliage 5k

Swag: Shirt (women’s cut, soft cotton, great design), water bottle, deodarent, flashlights, protein powder samples

Start Line

I rarely (read: almost never) run small races so this start line was such a treat for me. Parking was easy, there were indoor restrooms, and there was literally zero issue with the fact that i lost my friends bib (sorry, Fall Foliage email and twitter responders for not believing you).

sorry-anchorman

Course

Note: there is no timing mat at the start so if you’re going for time, you want to be as close to the start line as possible (this isn’t difficult to do since it’s such a small race field).

Fall Foliage 5k - Start Line

Fall Foliage 5k – Start Line

The 5k course is an out-and-back and doesn’t get far enough to run along the Hudson like the half-marathon (an argument for running the half one of these years).

The course was pretty and time ticked by as I admired the adorable little houses we passed and chatted with Jenny and Justin (Kudz ran ahead and ended up coming in 3rd overall female like the badass that she is). There was water and Gatorade twice during the 5k and I heard the announcer at the start line say there is water/Gatorade every 2 miles along the half-marathon course.

I wasn’t looking to do a particular pace (as I write this, I actually have zero idea of what our finishing time even was) so I just trotted comfortably alongside Jenny and behind Justin (I guess he was too cool to run next to us).

Fall Foliage 5k - Finish Line

Fall Foliage 5k – Finish Line

As we soared trotted through the finish line, the announcer screamed something along the lines of, “here comes Jenny and Angela!” We high-fived because we’re awesome and basically famous now. #PleaseEmailAnyAutographRequests

After grabbing some finish line cookies (so good!), we got back in the car to go home and get ready for the Garlic Festival 🙂

Hudson Valley Garlic Festival

Last year was my first time experiencing the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival and I couldn’t wait to go back. The forecast was horrific for the entire week leading up to Saturday so I made sure to pack my poncho (and because I packed my poncho, the weather gods kept the rain away. Had I forgotten my poncho, there’d have been a hurricane).

Hudson Valley Garlic Festival

Hudson Valley Garlic Festival

We took advantage of the cloudy and perfectly fall temps and walked around the festival for almost 4 hours.

For lunch, I had a sampling of a few different things: garlic chowder, garlic knots, and garlic arancini. I also tried as many samples as possible and ended up purchasing the Tart Cherry Juice from Singer Farm (the best tart cherry juice I have ever tasted), three packages of garlic from Ireland Farms (two Asian Tempest packs and one Music pack), and a little chainsaw-carved black bear.

Me: Can you take a picture of me and my black bear? Justin: Go by the fire, it's more romantic.

Me: Can you take a picture of me and my black bear?
Justin: Go by the fire, it’s more romantic.

I named him Benny and he’s now in my living room dressed in a necklace my grandmother made and chillin’ with some pumpkins because #fall.

BENNY!

BENNY!

I  now randomly burst into song ala Elton John every time I walk by Benny, constantly reminding Justin how lucky he is to live with me.

So in summation: I will definitely be back next year for one of the Fall Foliage races, the Garlic Festival is always awesome, I have a black bear named Benny, and Justin gets a free concert every time I walk through our living room.

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Next up: Epcot Food & Wine Festival and Halloween in the Magic Kingdom. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

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