As any other “coach/ athlete” relationship, the same is true for us. The season began with many of your own training ideas based on what has worked and not worked in the past. We discussed ideas how to improve that training by incorporating techniques you may not have tried before. You put in some great long runs and long workouts. You stuck through it with the rest of life beating down your door – work, family, etc. You got through your last long run and your last true interval workout and now it’s time to taper and enjoy this week.
It’s game time – this is where you put everything learned into the field of play.
Enjoy the atmosphere!! The excitement on Staten Island on Marathon morning is palpable but keep in mind you will be out there for a couple hours. Don’t get too excited too early – save it for the corrals. Look around and enjoy the sights – and think about what you’re going to do the rest of the day.
- Get out comfortably and enjoy the atmosphere. A solid first 10K will propel you for the race of your life. It doesn’t have to be crazy, but stay relaxed the entire time. Be patient over the Verrazano and ride the roller coaster that is a slow first mile and a quick second mile. Don’t tighten up and get flustered by the crowds. Weaving to move up may be required but avoid sudden jerks and look for comfortable openings to cruise through. Maybe even get in behind someone doing the same and go with them but save most of this until Bay Ridge.
- The second 10K will be the easiest of the day. You’ll finally be warmed up and cruising! The packed crowds at the start have lightened up and moving through the pack becomes easier. Here is where reining it in and resisting the urge to accelerate is important. Execute your race strategy. You’re not half way yet, remember that. Settle into a rhythm, take some deep breaths, make sure to take in fluids and other ‘comforts’ in this section – don’t forget about them! You’ll cruise down 4th Avenue in Park Slope past Atlantic Terminal and through North Brooklyn crossing the half feeling nice and relaxed, but here is where the work begins.
- I always say the third quarter of any race is what determines the outcome. Don’t fall asleep after crossing the Pulaski, passing through Long Island City and over the Queensborough Bridge. Run those miles confidently and on target. Similarly, don’t get too amped up on the Queensborough descent and the right turn up First Ave. Look around and spot a couple people in the crowd. Make sure those people stay around you. Don’t get caught focusing on one person because if they slow down or speed up, you will go right along with them. Find multiple people. Hopefully a Whippet will be in sight to help you along. Strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. Whatever works! Just make sure you are not going faster than or slower than the entire group around you. This is your tribe!
- The final 10K is all about positive reinforcement and the Whippet cheering squad in the Bronx will remind you of your awesomeness. You’ve come too far to let it slip away now… and, gosh darn it, you deserve to be there! As a distance runner, there is no better feeling in the world than knowing you are running the race of your life and you’re going to do what you set out to accomplish – and maybe even faster! All the runs and workouts completed have not only prepared physically but mentally for the race. In the last 10K, start remembering all those workouts and long runs and remind yourself that getting through those helped you to be where you are right now – and they are going to get you to the finish. This is a quote from Ryan Hall after finishing 4th in the 2009 NYC Marathon: “Over the last 10K I made it my goal to let out whatever was inside of me. I had trained very hard for this moment – too hard to let it completely slip by. This is when the battle becomes about personally overcoming your own body and not giving in to the desire to completely fold when the chips are down.” Make this your mantra the final 10K!
For the more experienced marathoners, I offer you one last piece of advice: Do NOT be afraid of the bonk! If you are, then you will run too cautiously in the first half and not meet your time goals – and you’ll be mad at yourself for that. How many people have you heard say, “I ran a good time but I felt like I could have run faster.” Take the chance and go for the race you know you can run. If you bonk, so what? You won’t regret it, I promise. You’ll just walk away and say it wasn’t your day. Of course you’ll be bummed, but at least you’ll be happy in knowing you went for yours. But if you are afraid of the bonk and run too cautiously, you start losing your chance to get the times you want right from the start.
Also, whether you want to admit it or not, the marathon is in fact a race. In the last 10K, ‘engage’ with people. If someone passes, make even the smallest effort to go with them for 30, 60, 90 seconds or longer. It will help take your mind off the fatigue and begin to race. A philosophy I believe in from the mile to the marathon is the ability to run a faster time comes from racing people; not the clock. At the end of the race, choose a “no pass zone” where you will try not to let anyone pass from that point to the finish.
You – yes, YOU – are the reason 2 million people will be lining the streets of New York City. Use the cheers of these fans as the additional fuel you cannot ingest. The crowds at the Atlantic Terminal, the roar of Manhattan coming off the Queensborough Bridge and up First Avenue, the Whippet crew set up in the Bronx (remember to wave!), people standing 10 deep in Central Park, the final turn from Columbus Circle back into the Park and the sight of the blue and orange finish line banner. There is nothing like the excitement of the New York City Marathon. Enjoy all of it!
You’ve had a tremendous training season. Time to show New York and the world how great it has been. Good luck and see you on the course!