Category Archives: marathon

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.

__________

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 🙂

Leave a Comment

Filed under marathon, marathon tips, new york city, running, tcs new york city marathon

Selecting a race: best and worst race experiences.

First up, workouts from last week’s Brooklyn Half “training:”

brooklyn half training

Selecting a Race

With a good chunk of races occurring in the fall (especially here in the Northeast), it’s about that time of year to pick a goal race if you haven’t already done so (like myself, whoops – I’ll get to it). Even if you’re not looking for a goal race but just a race in general, there are a few things to consider.

For me, the biggest factors affecting my race experience are:

  • Family/friends/spectators along the course
  • Course route
  • Organization (before, during, and after the race)

It’s these 3 main things that have made my past race experiences either positive or negative.

Best Race Experiences

Chicago Marathon

  • So much about this race felt EASY (not including the running, although, I did have a good day and the running felt great too).

chi marathon

  • Getting to the start line was EASY, finding my family along the course was EASY, it was EASY for my family to see me in THREE(!) different spots and barely travel a few blocks, getting my medal/food/foil was EASY, finding my family after the finish line was EASY. Chicago, you are doing it right.

Disney

runDisney

  • It’s no surprise that Disney puts on great races. Everything is so well organized and free race day transportation makes getting to and from the race simple. While the routes do travel on local highways, they also include multiple character stops and the chance to run through Disney parks before they open. Also, it’s very easy to convince people to go to Disney World so you’ll either have a running buddy or a gang of spectators just for you.

NYC Marathon (2010, 2011, 2014)

  • This race is obviously near and dear to my heart but, I promise, this race is incredible no matter where you are from.

  • It’s my local race so whenever I’m running, I have people to look for throughout all 5 boroughs. I’ve learned as a New Yorker and a 4x NYCM veteran that choosing the ferry for race day transportation is the best option if you enjoy sleeping and not being cold on Staten Island all morning. The course offers amazing views of the city and runs through so many different types of neighborhoods and let’s not forget the spectators who are ABSOLUTELY OUT OF THIS WORLD. Seriously, be prepared to get choked up multiple times during these 26.2 miles.

Worst Race Experiences

Las Vegas Half-Marathon

  • I ran this the first year it became a nighttime race and it was a fiasco from start to finish (and beyond). I’ve since heard that Rock ‘n Roll has improved upon the issues from that first year but my experience was enough to make it so I’ve never run another Rock ‘n Roll race.

vegas half

  • The corrals were not managed properly, the course was not well lit in certain areas, there was a WAIT to cross the finish line (yes, you read that correctly), there were no signs in the finish area, I couldn’t find my family or the buses for a significant amount of time post-race, and I later heard that they ran out of water and medals for those finishing later. Eek.

Philadelphia Marathon

  • The only reason I was calm during the security line nightmare at the Philly Marathon was because it wasn’t a goal race and I knew I had Nicole with me for the entire 26.2 no matter when I crossed the start line.

philadelphia marathon finisher

  • Long line story short, the security line for runners barely moved, many runners missed their start time, and when the race started, it seemed security “gave up” and just started eyeballing and patting down runners as they walked ran through to try and get to the start line.

NYC Marathon

  • Are you confused? Wasn’t this on my list of best race experiences? Well, yes… and I want to put it out there that I truly believe that the NYC Marathon is one of the greatest marathon in the world (I’m only slightly biased, right?), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that can’t be improved.

4:11:09 (9:35 pace) - 13 minute PR

  • NYRR has done a lot to try and improve the finish line/post-race experience but the truth is, it’s still a bit of a mess. You can help yourself out by electing to not check a bag but even then, it’s one of the worst ways to end such an overwhelmingly incredible marathon. The walk out of the park is extremely long and the ponchos aren’t handed out until the very end. In 2014, I was freezing and on the verge of tears by the time I had my poncho and was able to make my way to my family.

I’m still in the process of finding a goal race for this year (and also mulling the idea of not  having a goal race). At this stage in my running game, I find myself getting pickier when it comes to which events I choose to spend my money (and time) on. I see an intense search in my near future.

______________________

What have been your best/worst race experiences?

Any race suggestions for me?

Visit Eventbrite for local events (remember my race day factor #1!) or to create your own event, visit Eventbrite’s Event Management page.

Happy running 🙂

Leave a Comment

Filed under chicago marathon, half-marathon, ing nyc marathon, marathon, new york city, philadelphia marathon, previous posts, running, walt disney world marathon

2016 Dopey Challenge: a 48.6 mile journey ends with an amazing 26.2.

This race marked my 8th marathon and 2nd Dopey Challenge!

For those just tuning in, the Dopey Challenge is for runners who think the below sounds magical:

dopey challenge

2016 Dopey Challenge posts (2015 Dopey Challenge posts found here):

Dopey Challenge Day 4: The Marathon

A little bit of Disney magic mixed with complete exhaustion that had me snoozing by 8:30 pm made the 3:15 am wake up feel easy-peasy.  All of our running gear and nutrition was out and ready to go from the night before so Nicole and I were, once again, ready in under 20 minutes. Damn it’s nice to be low maintenance.

The nice thing about not “racing” a full marathon is that you can worry a little less about pre-race nutrition timing. Who cared if I had to pee during the race? Not me (luckily, Nicole didn’t care either and we made a port-a-potty stop once during the middle miles).

We had no issue getting onto a bus and making it through security once we reached the start village. With the warm temps, the wait didn’t feel bad at all and we relaxed a bit before starting the 15-minute walk up to the corrals.

dopey challenge marathon

Once the race was underway, we began our “8 and 2” run/walk method immediately to keep our legs fresh and feeling good as long as possible. Just like in the latter miles of the half, we adjusted the 8/2 to account for the time we waited for photos or if we were running a particular stretch where it made sense to extend our running time (such as the track in ESPN WWOS).

Just like last year, I was anxious to get to the 2 mile mark because that meant we were halfway through the Dopey Challenge miles! In a marathon, these little things make a huge difference mentally.

After the 2 mile mark, I anxiously awaited the first park of the day, Magic Kingdom. Once we turned onto Main Street, ALL THE FEELS came pouring down and I practically pranced through the entire park with the goofiest of smiles on my face.

Naturally, I sent pictures to my family group chat during these miles (and even John was awake to respond to them!).  This was my first marathon that my parents weren’t at and I wanted to make sure they were being updated with all the fun they were missing back in cold NYC.

dopey challenge marathon mk

Going through Animal Kingdom was fun and I found myself dancing to all the tunes they had blasting through the speakers. Because Nicole and I thought that Safari Mickey would be outside the park like in previous years, we elected to skip the character stops in Animal Kingdom. But Safari Mickey or Minnie was nowhere to be found so we kept on our way, wondering where we’d spot Mickey on the course.

Our plan was to get to mile 16 and then change our 8 and 2 run/walk into an 8 and 3 run/walk. There’s a long highway stretch during these miles and that extra minute proved to be more of a mental benefit than a physical one (although it was that too!). Knowing that after every 8 minutes of running, we would be “rewarded” with 3 minutes of walking was HUGE in keeping us strong mentally.

Maybe because I had a run/walk strategy this year or because I had amazing company (or the combination, probably), I found ESPN WWOS less of a struggle than I did last year when I started bargaining with myself during these miles (“you can walk for 5 minutes once you get to that tree”).

Also, I spotted Mickey! He was kind of hidden and I think a lot of people missed him because the line was so short in comparison to other characters. Thankfully, I essentially have a degree in spotting hidden Mickeys 🙂

It was also during these miles that I saw a sign with Psalm 26.2 on it (“Test me, Lord, and try me.”) and I may have teared up a bit. Thank you, random spectator.

dopey challenge marathon middle miles wwos

Next up was Hollywood Studios! Last year, making it to this park was huge for me. I had seen Alec here during her first marathon and I jumped in because OMG ALEC LOOKS AMAZING AND SHE PASSED MILE 23 AND AH DISNEY IS SO MUCH FUN. Also, last year this meant that I was only about a mile away from seeing my family. I <3 spectators.

Hitting mile 23 is such a rush. The absolute best miles are ahead (Hollywood Studios, Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Club, Epcot) and the atmosphere along these miles is exhilarating.

We felt so incredible that we adjusted our plan… get to mile 25 and run it on in to the finish line!

I made sure to send the family a pic of the 25 mile marker. ONE MORE MILE UNTIL MY SECOND 48.6!

dopey challenge marathon hollywood studios epcot

Just like last year, I experienced every emotion while running through Epcot and at times had to hold back tears. It truly felt like we were running on air this last mile. Mile 25 (or, well, mile 47) was our fastest mile of the entire challenge (around a 9 minute pace) and we ran the last .2 around an 8:30. Whaaaat?!

I knew once we passed the famous choir, the finish line would be in view and this amazing journey would be over. It’s a mix of emotions because you’re so happy and proud but you’re also bummed because the magic is ending. Yes, all 48.6 miles are magical.

dopey challenge marathon finish

I felt amazing during the entire challenge (yet again!). We trained well (oh hey there, Philly Marathon) and ran smart. And I got to spend 48.6 magical miles with a pretty awesome lady. #luckypants

After a quick recovery lunch, we were off to the spa at Saratoga Springs for a post-Dopey massage and then took the riverboat over to Disney Springs for some shopping.

For dinner, we had a reservation at the restaurant in our hotel, Boatwright’s Dining Hall. My family and I ate here last year after the marathon and it was perfect because not only is the food delicious, it requires zero travel to get back to the room and get in bed after what is a very, very long day.

We cheered to 48.6 miles of magic with good beers and good food before moseying on back to the room to pack. Side note: packing to leave Disney is not nearly as fun as packing to go to Disney. 

You’d think that after 2 Dopey Challenges that I’d want to retire from the early mornings and running a ridiculous number of miles while on vacation but no, not even close.

2016 dopey challenge 6 medals

Disney, you were incredible. See you in 23 days for my first Princess weekend. 

5 Comments

Filed under marathon, walt disney world marathon

Dancin’ in the streets: 2015 Philadelphia Marathon.

It’s been more than 2 weeks since the Philadelphia Marathon so I guess it’s about time to actually write a recap. It’s so easy to let time pass and not get anything down but I want to make sure that this is out there for everyone googling “philadelphia marathon recap” next year. #wealldoit

Even though this was never a goal race and mostly just a training run for January’s Dopey Challenge, I still had a really good day out there. It ended up being my second fastest marathon and my biggest negative split at the marathon distance (3 minutes).

4:21:35 (9:58)

4:21:35 (9:58)

Philadelphia Marathon: The Recap

Start

As my and Nicole’s families were driving into Philly in the morning, it was super convenient that Parking Panda allowed for runners and their families to reserve parking spots near the start/finish lines. We pulled into a lot about a mile from the start line before 6am, knowing we’d have plenty of time to get through security and into our corrals for the 7am start time based on previous runner’s experiences.

FAIL.

We got to the start area and got on the back of a monstrous line. It was pretty obvious within the first few minutes that the line was barely moving and we were not going to make the 7am start. Thankfully this wasn’t a goal race for either of us so our nerves remained pretty calm. As it got colder and windier and the line was still barely moving, I found myself getting more and more frustrated. There are definitely ways to keep things moving efficiently without sacrificing safety.

As it approached 7am, the line really started moving (seemed like security stopped whatever they were doing and just started patting down runners). We decided to make a port-a-potty stop (where I ran into a BC friend on line – BCMB is everywhere!) seeing as though we’d rather start late than have to make a pit stop along the course.

Luckily for us, the start was a little delayed and we ended up making our wave time. This definitely helped as we didn’t have to worry about weaving through slower runners at the beginning.

Phew.

First 13.1M

The first 13.1 miles of the course are a lot of fun. At one point, I turned to Nicole and said that this is a great half-marathon because the crowd support is fantastic for almost every mile. I had my headphones with me just in case I needed them throughout the marathon but didn’t need to turn them on once. This is where I should probably thank Nicole for listening to me yap for 26.2 miles. Thanks, lady!

running buddies 1

Nicole’s mom had texted her with everyone’s exact location at mile 1 so we were on the lookout for the fams pretty early on. Once we passed them and gave out some quick high-fives, we resumed our conversation, happy that we were going to see them again in less than an hour.

We spotted our fans for the second time somewhere between miles 6 and 7. The crowds here were thick and Nicole only spotted them because her father is tall and stood out. I gave my mom another high-five and kept on running along.

Our family was supposed to then travel to see us around mile 13 so we were looking forward to that. Unfortunately, mile 13 came and went and we didn’t see them. We thought that perhaps it was because they were where the half-marathoners cut off from the full marathon but turns out, they had issues navigating through the finish line set-up and weren’t able to get to where we would be running through. As much of a bummer as this was, there was nothing to do but continue on, knowing that they’d be tracking us and making sure they saw us at the finish line.

These first 13.1 miles were very enjoyable. The course is mostly flat with some hills and the crowd support is fantastic. Nicole and I were keeping a steady pace while chatting up a storm and dancing through every music station. Did you know that some marathons are for racing and some are for dancing? Now you know.

Second 13.1M

The second half of this marathon is really challenging. Yea, it’s a marathon so obviously you expect the second half to be more physically challenging but that wasn’t even the issue here. The second half of the course is mostly an out-and-back, meaning that you spend roughly 6-7 miles looking at runners who are ahead of you. Bleh.

At first, it wasn’t so bad because we were watching the first men and women runners coming down the final stretch and it is incredibly inspiring to cheer for them. But then came the “regular people” who are just really, really fast… and instead of incredibly inspiring, it’s incredibly mentally defeating.

Mile 18-19 was the worst because we were running on one side of the street and saw mile 19 on the other side and were all “Hey! Look at that! The turn-around point isn’t all that far away!”

LIES.

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES WHILE RUNNING A MARATHON.

Anywho, while the out-and-back was rough during this half, I managed to keep a positive attitude throughout. I think I’m definitely more physically and mentally equipped for the marathon distance than I am for smaller distance races.

running buddies 2

I began starting conversations with other runners on the course, shouting things like “We can do hard things!” and counting down the number of minutes left in Netflix episodes. I ran (quite literally) into a former TFK coach, a former TFK teammate, and a gentleman running his 70th marathon on his 70th birthday (BADASS!).

What works best for me in the latter miles of a marathon is breaking these miles down into chunks. The first hurdle I identified to Nicole was mile 20. We just had to get to mile 20. That was our “finish line” for the time being. Then after a “DO YOU HAVE 6 MORE MILES IN YOU?!” scream, I split the remaining miles into 20 minute chunks.

I couldn’t wait to get to mile 24. I needed that mile 24 so badly. And when it came, I nearly burst. I turned to Nicole, “DO YOU HAVE 20 MORE MINUTES IN YOU?!” Not-so-spoiler alert: she did.

Finish

Having missed our families at mile 13, we were very concerned we were going to miss them again near the finish line. We had no idea where they were and were starting to worry that we had passed them when we saw the finish line straight ahead. But there they were… literally right next to the finish line. We did some celebrating in front of them before running through the finish. We high-fived, we hugged, I fought back some tears. #marathonemotions

philadelphia marathon finisher

The finish area was very easy to navigate and we were able to get our medals, blankets, food, and drinks without issue. We took some finish line photos that are well, finish line photo fails (link to Nicole’s funny post about these).

It was super easy to find our families and we were walking to the cars within minutes of finishing, albeit slightly slower than the walk earlier that morning.

Philadelphia Marathon: The Review

The Good

  • The course is pretty “easy” as marathon courses go. It is mostly flat with some hills.
  • Parking was extremely easy and efficient and we were able to drive in and out of the city without any issues.
  • The course is spectator-friendly and your fans can see you in multiple locations without moving around too much.
  • The finish line is very organized and finding spectators after the finish was simple.
  • The medals are awesome. They have the Liberty Bell on them and actually ring. Fun!
  • It is the perfect marathon to use for Dopey Challenge training because it falls 6 weeks out, making “training” between Philly and Dopey easy-peasy!

The Not-So-Good

  • The security for runners getting into the start line was a mess. Hopefully they’ll have figured out a better system for next year.
  • The course is by far the most mentally challenging marathon I have ever run (compared to NYC, Chicago, and Disney) because of the out-and-back nature of the second half.
  • Water stations are not always on both sides of the street, creating congestion and unnecessary sideways movement.
  • It’s a late November race which means that you need to be prepared to run in any kind of weather (true for most fall marathons but especially true for late fall).

philadelphia marathon medals

I don’t know that I’d ever run the Philadelphia Marathon again unless I decide to run the Dopey Challenge again (completely possible because I am apparently quite dopey). The timing is truly perfect and my “training” for the Dopey Challenge is even easier than last year.

If anything, I am most likely to run the Philly Half. It’s a great course with lots of crowd support and definitely very spectator-friendly for those who want to see their runner multiple times.

Thanks, Philly, for the 26.2 mile tour.

_______________

Next up: 48.6 magical miles. 

2 Comments

Filed under disney, marathon, marathon tips, philadelphia marathon, running