Whippet Wisdom: Tips from the Coaches

Grete’s Half Marathon Race Strategy

For those running the marathon, Grete’s Half Marathon is your key event during the marathon training cycle.  While we want you to run as fast as possible for the race distance, 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.

Grete’s also provides a terrific opportunity to put many different race techniques to use in one event:

  • Warm-up and cooldown routines discusses in paragraphs 5 and 6 of this post
  • On-course nutrition discussed in paragraphs 3-6 of this post
  • Racing strategy discussed in the 4th paragraph of this post
  • Learning to run tangents – discussed below

Over the years, I’ve talked 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 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. Central Park is littered with faded “S” turns so aiming for the tangents is crucial to making the race as short as possible.  Remember to use the entire space between the curb on the left and the orange delineators on the right.  You are entitled to the entire space but also remember the shortest distance/ straight line does not always mean running to the far edges. Here are several key section to think about during Sunday’s race:

  • Like Cat Hill, Harlem Hill also is an “S” turn going from right to left to right. Run diagonally across the road as the road turns while going uphill
  • After the fading left turn before the East Side flat (85th Street), hug the curb past the Lebow Statue/ bridle path entrance. No reason to move right as the next turn is another fading left at 94th Street
  • After the long downhill on the West Side from 86th to 74th Street, the course flattens out then climbs again to Tavern on the Green. It’s another “S” turn but left to right to left. Look up and find the best line

Over the next couple days, visualize the race course in your mind to prepare yourself for race day.  For those who practice in the park, take advantage of this weeks’ easy runs to check out the turns and select the best lines for Sunday.

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


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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