Whippet Wisdom: Staten Island Half Marathon Race Strategy

For those running the marathon, the Staten Island Half Marathon is your key event during the marathon training cycle. Your time goal for Sunday should be to run as fast as possible. With that said, notice the training plan does not include any additional rest or tapering heading into Sunday. This is because your goal continues to be the marathon so racing as hard as you can on tired legs is optimal.

Staten Island also provides a terrific opportunity to put many different race techniques into use in one event:

  • Warm-up and cooldown routines discussed in paragraphs 3 and 4 of this post
  • On-course nutrition discussed in the paragraphs 2-4 of this post
  • Racing strategy for those final miles discussed in the 4th paragraph of this post
  • Learning to run tangents – discussed below

Over the years, I’ve spoken to many people and seen many posts regarding folks running further than the promised race distance when compared to their GPS watch. There are two main culprits to this:

  1. All USATF certified courses are measured one meter long for every kilometer. This means a marathon (42K) is 42m longer than the promised distance
  2. During the race, not running the shortest distance in and out of the curves and on straightaways (otherwise known as tangents)

We’ll start with the second point first. I was standing half way up Cat Hill in the grassy section on runner’s left during 2015 Team Champs and saw many people run that section correctly. Coming from the Boat House, folks made their way toward the left side curb from the right side delineators in a nice even fashion. However, I noticed many people staying right, along the double-white line between the bike and pedestrian lanes. Doing so adds distance to your race and you are doing so while running up hill! This is perfectly acceptable during workouts to prevent ramming into oncoming runners but, on race day, the mind set must adjust to find the shortest possible route.

Because of various reasons – race crowds, water stations, etc. – it is not always possible to run the shortest distance but striving to do so is helpful and doing so requires course awareness at all times. Throughout the race, lift your eyes up from the ground and survey the oncoming landscape for turns in the road – 90-degree turns, a faded turn, “S” turn. Once the change in the road is noticed, pick a spot in the horizon at the apex of the turn and run towards it. In a crowded field, this is easier said than done but continue to aim for that point. Be careful not to trip anyone from behind by stepping on their feet but sometimes a little suggestion – tap of the arm, etc. – is needed to get where you want to go.

As mentioned in the first point, USATF certifies a course as if no one else is around and access to the shortest distance between two points is available at all times. The course has a couple long, sweeping turns. Remember to use the entire space between the curbs and the orange delineators. You are entitled to the entire space but also remember the shortest distance/ straight line does not always mean running to the far edges – especially in “S” turns. Here are several key sections to think about during Sunday’s race:

  • At mile 2.5, you’ll take a right onto School Road, straight for 200/ 250m then follow a long, sweeping left turn with an island dividing the roadway. After making the right, look up to find the “Keep Right” sign on the island and slowly make your way toward that sign putting the island curb immediately to your left
  • There’s a nice downhill just after the 5K mark with a gradual right turn. Coming out of it, the roadway makes an “S” turn by turning to the left before turning back to the right again. Stay right thru the downhill turn, fade left toward the roadway island then back right again
  • On the way back, shortly before mile 8 features a mirror image of the above “S” turn (left to right to left) and, this time, you’ll be going uphill. All the more reason to pay attention to these turns!
  • Mile 8.5 to 10 features eight turns – right, left, left, right, right, left, left, left – so be sure to run tangents fading from one side of the road to the other in these turns
  • Lastly, as you climb the incremental hill just beyond 20K, the road turns left-right very quickly with a train bridge in the middle. Bay Street features a very gradual “S” turn with another roadway island so run from curb-to-curb-to-curb when possible. This is especially important as, again, you’ll be running uphill

Over the next couple days, visualize the race course in your mind to prepare yourself for race day. Review the elevation chart and put the hills in proper perspective as they relate to hills you frequently train.

As always, we’re here to help so let us know if you have any questions. Have a great week!
Chris 40

Chris Forti

More about Chris Forti

Chris grew up just outside of Boston where he competed at the high school and collegiate level. In Boston, he coached athletes with varying objectives - from youth to high school to adults - and went so far as to marry his favorite athlete. He joined the Whippets in 2013 and is excited to be coaching for this highly motivated group. He works at siggi's yogurt in New York City as a demand planner and can be found playing "catch the red laser dot" with his favorite kitty, post-run. He calls himself "40" because "Forti" is evidently too many typeface characters to handle and can be found on Facebook, Twitter (@chris40runs), and Instagram (@chris40runs)

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