Ten tips for running the New York Marathon

We flew back to Arizona today. It was an uneventful day. It’s good to be home back with Missy.

I reflected some more on the New York Marathon and wrote down these ten tips. I made plenty of mistakes. I hope these tips and tricks will help you in 2016 and beyond. Here is a link to my race report. If you are planning to run the New York Marathon, make sure you read this post and my race report. Here are the top-10 tips and tricks:

  1. While training, run hills (I didn’t and paid for it). Even for long runs, mix it up with a few hills especially towards the end of your long runs. The bridges of New York are killer. They will bite you hard if you aren’t prepared for them. The entire course is up and down.
  2. Getting to the starting line takes longer than you think. Carry a bottle of water with electrolytes and a banana (or your choice of comfort food; PBJ sandwiches may come in handy). I didn’t and paid for it.

    If you are coming from Manhattan (like I was), you first take a subway to Bowling Green. You then walk to the Staten Island terminal and wait in crowded chaos. You then board the ferry and make the slow but comfortable 30-minute journey to Staten Island. Find a seat on the right side of the ferry and sit down. Close your eyes and meditate. If you are carrying a camera (or smartphone), take a picture or two of the Statue of Liberty. When you disembark, you will once again enter a chaotic scene while boarding a bus to the starting line. Be patient. Try to conserve energy. I was frustrated by this time and was expending nervous energy. The bus ride will take another 30 minutes to the starting line.

    The start line too is utter chaos. If you are late, get into your corral as quickly as possible. There are restrooms inside the corrals (I was to start in wave 2, corral F, but was late and started in wave 3).

  3. The first 4 miles of any marathon are crucial. At the New York marathon they are even more so. Start slow, go easy. The first mile is straight uphill. Regulate your heartrate to level 1 (I didn’t and paid for it). Don’t weave left and right to pass people. It is okay to walk a bit. Expect your time to be slower by about 2 minutes in the first mile than your goal race pace. The second mile is straight downhill. Once again, go easy. Your heartrate should naturally come down. This is good. Keep it lower than you think you may need to. The third and fourth miles are gentle uphills. Again, go easy on these. Jog if you have to. Use up as little energy as you can.
  4. After the fourth mile, there is a water station at every mile. Unless you are fast enough to start the marathon in wave 1, you will encounter traffic jams for at least the next 15 miles. Make the most of these jams and drink up. Instead of getting frustrated, take a mini 5-second break (I didn’t and paid for it). Thank a volunteer. This will come in handy in the long run. Besides, it is always good to build good karma. You never know when it will pay you back!
  5. The next 2 significant uphills (mile 13 and 16) are both bridges. Consume some calories about five minutes before these. Take salt pills too (I didn’t and paid for it). Your heartrate will inevitably climb up as you go up these steep bridges. Instead of paying heed to your speed, pay attention to your heartrate. Let it not flirt into level 3. If you do, you will surely pay for it (just like I did).
  6. Coming down the Queensboro Bridge is a pretty steep downhill. After the lull of the bridge, you will see tens of thousands of folks cheering you on. You may feel rejuvenated and may want to pass dozens of runners on this downhill. Resist this temptation (I didn’t and paid for it).
  7. They say that you should not try out new things during any endurance event. At the New York Marathon, on mile 18 they were giving out Powerade Gel. I sucked down a vanilla flavored gel and immediately felt queasy in my stomach. The lesson here is obvious. Carry your own nutrition, calories and salt pills.
  8. If you listen to music while you run, do so only off and on for the first 20 miles. Take the headphones off for the final 10k. Enjoy the crowds cheering you on. The crowds are vibrant and fun. The will high-five you. Even if you are not having the best of races, high-five a few spectators. Thank a few volunteers. Take a selfie with a few people. If you are single, ask someone for a phone number. On marathon day, there is nothing sexier than a sweaty runner. You are the gladiator fighting a battle in the stadium today. You are the hero (or heroine) of your own movie (ok, ok, maybe I am getting carried away here; but you get the point).
  9. Write your name on your bib. I was wearing the Snapathon bib and people were shouting “Go Snapathon.” I heard various shouts of “Go Joe” and “Go Jennifer” around me. It is an automatic spirit-lifter when strangers are cheering you on by name!
  10. Lastly, finish strong. As you take the final right at Columbus Circle to enter the chute to the finish line, soak it all in. You have earned it. It may be your first marathon or it may be your fiftieth; in a few seconds, you will have run the New York Marathon, one of only 6 marathon majors in the world.

    It is like the US Open of tennis and now you have run it. It is like the Augusta of golf and now you have run it. It is like the playoffs in football, basketball or baseball and now you have run it. It is like the world cup of cricket or rugby and now you have run it. Bask in the glory. Wear your medal proudly for the rest of the day and the next day. Go ahead and drop some dollars on finisher merchandise. Get your medal engraved. Brag about it on Facebook. Tweet about it to your friends. Post some pictures up on Instagram. 

Finally, sign up for another marathon! If this is your first rodeo, you will be hooked. If it is not your first rodeo, you are already hooked! My goal is to run all 6 marathon majors. With Boston and New York down, I have London, Berlin, Tokyo and Chicago to go.

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