Richard Blais

Chef by trade

Friday, November 3, 2017

Your First NYC Marathon

So you’re going to run the NYC Marathon? Here are some of my thoughts; I’ve run four and trained for five, as well as having completed a number of halves and 10k’s. Take my thoughts any which way you want, but hopefully one or two things will help you during your race experience this weekend.

The NYC marathon is incredible. I’m always struck by the universality and community of it all. And most of this has nothing to do with the race itself, so I’ll start with some non-race stuff.

Be wary of your diet the two days before. The temptation of the great restaurants in NYC weighs heavy, but to put it simply, you don’t want to be burping up octopus 17 Miles in…or hot dogs, pastrami or edible soil and charred carrots from that new hit restaurant. Keep it simple and basic and within what you’ve been eating to prepare.

Don’t run too much the days prior, or walk too much for that matter. You are going to need something extra for this race, so make sure you are well rested, literally and figuratively. Sleep well if possible. Usually, without even trying to, I walk ten miles a day in Manhattan. Not on this trip. Be mindful of your steps.

Stay appropriately hydrated. Most people who die in marathons do so from over hydrating (or so I’ve heard). You should be hydrating more than usual, but not slugging gallons of water. Your urine should be the color of a poorly made lemonade, not clear and not turmeric-laced yellow.

Prep your gear ahead and do all the little things you’ve read about like pinning your bib and laying out your clothes. Basically, because it’s an early call time.

The morning of, if you’re staying in Manhattan, you’ll be en masse on a ferry or bus with 49,999 other people. The thought of this makes me socially cringe. But realize this is where the camaraderie truly begins.

Dress warm with clothes to discard at the start of the race. I’ve heard the Girl Scouts collect all the discarded layers and donate them to charities so you’re doing a good deed as you strip down. You’ll be in queue waiting for the start for a few hours, it will be cold and windy. Prepare for this.

When you head to the corral to start the race, that’s where people start discarding clothes, doing crazy shit, urinating on the sides of buses, and performing whatever rituals they have. Just a heads up.

Are you running with your phone? Packing gear to get at the end of the race? I’d suggest bypassing the “grab your gear at the end” option. You don’t want to spend an extra hour getting your stuff, you’ll want to find your family and drink Gatorade.

A quick note on the end of the race. You’ll have to walk at least two miles afterward to get out of the park and clear of the intense NYPD security. The best plan is to meet on Central Park West, maybe the Time Warner building as a general meet up space, as its nearby. Regardless, you’ll want to meet up west of the park.


Now for the race.

The first mile is amazing! You are so hyped and the excitement level is so high. You are running over what was once the longest bridge in the world. There will be helicopters hovering and the runners are dense. Slow down. It’s real simple. You will want to cut around slow runners and the temptation will be there to track specific people and maybe you now have a time goal because you had a conversation with a stranger earlier and you think you can take him. Stop it! You have 26 Miles to go. Even with trying your best to slow your pace, you will naturally still be slightly faster than you want. The Verrazano bridge is also the largest incline of the race. Oh, and bridges can be windy. I’ve had a sideways wind blow my feet out from under me in mid-step in races past.

You’ve finished one borough already and now you have 10 Miles or so of Brooklyn in front of you. I really enjoy Brooklyn as you get a sense of the different neighborhoods and you’ll start to see the colorful spectators, music and bands of all sorts, that this race is known for. Look around. Enjoy it. Truly. You want to remember that stuff, and it’s more important than a minute or two of time.

You should be hydrating every other water stop at worst. Don’t downplay hydration here. You are losing 4,000 plus calories during the race. You’ll need a few ounces of water at every other water station, at minimum. I cramped my first race, no doubt, due to under hydration coupled with running too fast and changing my stride. Sports drinks? Your call. Personally they make my mouth dry and sweet and annoy me. Until the end, where I end up guzzling Gatorade at mile 23-25 for the hit of sugar and calories.

The first 10k should feel silky smooth because you’ve trained for this. Do a periodic body check. I pretend I am Jarvis from Iron Man and go through a mental checklist like an operating system booting up, especially for the parts of my body and mind I know are possible trouble spots. Right knee? Check. Lower back? Adjust posture. Breathing, check. Left calf, adjust stride, etc.

I’d suggest NOT ever stopping for a port-o-potty or selfie with a friend or at a hydration station. This is a personal thing, but I’m just not real good at starting and stopping. This year I actually trained for this, or at least trained for the ability to recover quickly from pace changes.

You have to go to the bathroom? Suck it up. Your body will reabsorb urine. This is weird but I’ve experienced on long runs. If you have to go while running, if you can, it takes some training, the 59th street bridge is a common spot. It’s the only part of the race (at mile 13) where there are no spectators. It’s eery. The audio is amazing, as all you hear are thousands of footsteps pounding over a bridge…and maybe a few people peeing. It’s as romantic as it gets until the finish line.

Beware of the Pulaski street bridge which is a few miles before the 59th street bridge. If you aren’t super aware of the course ( I wasn’t during my first ) you may fall victim to thinking the Pulaski is the 59th. That’s a few miles of a difference but it can be mentally devastating.

Speaking of mental devastation, this is a little scary but there may be times on the course where you forget what mile marker is ahead. It’s the worst, your body gets disoriented, be ready for it.

Once you clear the 59th street bridge, it gets real...

You’ve run a half marathon now, you are most likely feeling ok, and when you round the corner off of the quiet bridge you are met with a raucous roar of cheers and Manhattan and dense crowds of spectators. You may start feeling like it’s over and you are going to sprint the rest of the way. You may high five your family and just be on a runner’s high.

Calm this tidal wave of adrenaline. The next five to seven miles are straight down 1st Avenue and my least favorite part of the race. It’s long, straight, slightly uphill, and loud and now it’s getting messy with water cups and runners’ trash. Check yourself here because you need to start mentally preparing for the WALL if you haven’t already.

The WALL is real. Maybe you’ve confronted it during training, maybe not. But it is when your body has exhausted all of its energy. It’s why you need to ingest nutrition during the race. And it’s where people quit. You however are not people. You are a lion. A warrior. A mom. A dad. A wife. A husband A sister. A brother. Whatever works for you. I just go with lion and save dad and husband for when I’m really struggling around mile twenty three or twenty four.

The wall happens in the Bronx. Mile 20-22. The Bronx is a little weird because it’s typically less crowded. There are two small bridges. There will be a DJ. An elderly lady trying to hand you a banana. Your mom may call you at this point. It gets weird in the Bronx.

Did I ask if you’re carrying your phone? I do. And I’ll make a few calls to the family for support and an update. If you don’t train with your phone though, I don’t suggest starting now. Time may make you want to chuck it in a river. Small things get super annoying at distance.

After the boogie down, you are back in Manhattan, way the F up town and within a few miles of Central Park. You’re getting close but still 10k away. There will be a smaller park, Marcus Garvey, that’s not Central Park, so don’t get excited yet. Keep hydrating, do another mental check in with your body. Get ready for the home stretch.

The final drive is in Central Park but its still a few miles through the park. The crowd gets condensed and saturated and you are in a cow chute situation. It’s rather claustrophobic actually. Also, the park is winding hills. And the community of runners that were high-fiviing and hugging each other in the start corrals, now get gnarly and mean as half of the field is trying to hit a certain time while the other half is just trying to survive. People say mean shit like get outta my way, move, etc.

When you exit the park onto Central Park South you are a mile away from the finish line. Enjoy this part because you now can allow your body to recognize that you will be finishing the race. You’ve run how many miles? What’s one more. You may even pick up a little pace. You will sadly be running by people who have injured themselves, or are struggling here. People fall down and crawl and shit at this point, it gets dramatic. Speaking of dramatic, there will also be a handful of assholes during the race that, run in a full business suit, or dribble basketballs the whole way, or carry a large American flag. Try not to let them bother you, they are at worst fun Instagram stories.

The turn off of Central Park South back into the park for the last quarter mile should be everything you hoped for. The World’s Best City in its most iconic location. Hundreds of thousands of people surrounding you and soon a medal worth wearing for a day, at least. Wear that medal, because not many people complete a marathon in their life, but you did! Also, they give you pretzels and an apple because it’s New York and everything...




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