Spectating the New York City Marathon

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Image courtesy of NYRR

It’s finally New York City Marathon week in NYC! I have started seeing visiting runners touring the city, events and group runs are being advertised on Facebook and social media channels and signs and flags are at every corner. Similar to the way Boston treats Marathon Monday as a holiday, the city comes alive this weekend with a contagious energy that runners and non-runners alike can feel and experience. Even though I am not personally running the NYC Marathon, I have more than ten friends who have put in countless hours of training. After running five marathons, I understand the commitment and time it takes to reach the starting line. This Sunday, by 10:45 AM I will be at mile 7 prepared for two straight hours of cheering. I will be equipped with a book bag full of Body Glide, Gatorade, water, extra fuel so I can provide my friends and strangers alike with anything they need.

Earlier today, a friend who is running the NYC Marathon for the first time, asked me for tips and tricks he could share with his parents who are flying in from Scotland to support him this weekend. As I put these tips together, I realized that many people can benefit from the years of experience Bo and I have since we’ve participated in the marathon seven different years, either spectating, volunteering or running. If you’re one of the 50,000 runners this year, share this post with friends and family who will be spectating. If you’re a NYC local and aren’t running, take these tips and consider heading out for even just a few minutes of cheering. It’s one of the most energetic days in New York City and whether you have a beer and one hand and a poster in another or you’re spectating your favorite elite distant runner, it’s a great way to spend your Sunday. Who knows, like many of us, the energy may just inspire you to sign up for your first marathon!

If you are running this year, I suggest you check out these posts:

Now, let’s focus on all the things the spectators need to know this week. 

  1. Realize that your runner will experience a range of emotions this week. You’ve most likely started to feel the building stress and emotions that can accompany the famous “marathon taper.” Whether it’s phantom pains, nervous energy or panic do your best to support your runner in any way possible.
  2. Understand that the best thing they can do between now and Sunday morning is rest, hydrate and rest more. If you are in NYC visiting and supporting a runner, realize they will not want to play tourist with you.
  3. Be conscious and sensitive to the fact that even though you will feel you’ve earned a beer and celebratory evening after cheering all day, they may crave nothing more than an ice bath, huge burger and bed. Often times we runners think we’ll want a huge celebratory dinner and toasting with friends but the marathon drains of us energy by the end. I have cancelled post-marathon plans four out of my five marathons.

 

Tips and Tricks for Spectating

Spectating is harder than it sounds. Many times friends say they’ll be at one spot but suddenly realize that public transportation is running slower than normal and end up missing their runner. If your runner is depending on you for back-up fuel, extra water or anything else this can be detrimental. These few tips as well as suggested spectating areas will help your day run smoother.

  1. Download the NYC Marathon app and upload your runners who you want to trackHowever, realize that like all things, this app is not flawless. There is a good chance that runner tracking may be delayed on race day. 
  2. Ask your runner(s) their goal pace per mile so that if the app fails, you can manually do the math to figure out when they’ll reach each mile marker. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to remember all these numbers. Write them down or enter them in your phone.
  3. Bring a spare battery as you will drain energy on marathon day between pictures, texting, Google maps and the marathon app. 
  4. Wear bright, obnoxious clothing. While those huge heads and fun signs are great, if you’re going to move locations during they day, they can prove difficult when hopping on the subway or getting in an Uber. Instead, choose the most obnoxious color clothing to wear so your runner can easily spot you. One year Bo wore a bright red jacket which when paired with his red hair, stood out quite well in the crowd. Another year, my dad wore neon green t-shirt and a neon hat. He looked hilarious but I saw him for blocks away.  If you there are a group of you spectating, try to all wear the same obnoxious color. If you don’t have anything, head to Target or order something on Amazon. You still have time!
  5. As you map either your own personal route or the routes below, keep in mind that traffic will be horrible on Sunday as many main streets are closed in most boroughs. I highly recommend using the subway or Citibike as much as possible. 
  6. If you’re not a local, see if you can cheer with one of your runner’s local friends or family members. This will make your day far less stressful since they will know the city better. 
  7. It is better to be realistic than optimistic. Do not expect to see your runner five and six times. In most cases, a single spectator sees their runner 3-4 times MAXIMUM and many people only end up catching their runner two times. Trust me, two times is far better than none and they will love the support.
  8. Certain areas such as First Avenue and Central Park have spectators five and six people deep. There will be plenty of energy in these areas. Consider cheering for your runner in the more desolate areas. Okay, based on all this – here is what I’d suggest. This is what Bo did for me 2 years and it was AWESOME
  9. Plan a meeting spot in advance. The years I ran the race I had horrible reception in Central Park after finishing and couldn’t get service until I exited the park, an hour later. Choose a meeting spot in advance and keep in mind that it often takes runners at least an hour to exit the park.
  10. Do not carry anything for your runner that they absolutely must have. My friend once had her boyfriend carry most of her fuel for her because she didn’t want to run with a waist pack. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find her and she had to ask fellow runners for fuel.

Okay, keeping these tips in mind, here is the spectating route that we have historically used.

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Brooklyn/Long Island City/Fifth Avenue

  1. Start in Brooklyn at the Mile 7 marker which is easily reached via F/G/R subways. This area isn’t too crowded and easy to reach via three different subway routes. If you stand as close to the mile marker as possible it is easier for your runner to spot you.
  2. From this spot, you can easily hop back on the G and head to Court Square which is Mile 14.5. This typically takes around 35 minutes, so based on the speed of your runner you should have time to get from mile 7 to mile 14.5 in time. This area is typically pretty quiet and your runner can use all the energy boost before they head to the daunting bridge and into Manhattan.
  3. Give yourself a huge pat on the back. You’ve already seen your runner three times! Now, head back into the city towards mile 23. This is a great final spectating spot as the crowds aren’t TOO thick and the runners will have just exited a quieter portion of the course. This should take around 30 minutes as you can take the E to 53rd street then the 6 uptown to 125th street.

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3B. If you really want to spectate closer to the finish line, head into Central Park towards mile 24.5. You will catch your runner with less than 2 miles to the finish and get to enjoy the beauty that is Central Park in the Fall. This option will also give you more time between cheering spots in case you need to grab a snack or take a break.

Good luck runners and spectators alike! Sunday is a magical day for the entire city and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Your turn – What would you add to the list?

 

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Finding Inspiration

Happy Monday! IMG_5839

The discarded cups and thrown confetti has all been cleared from the streets of New York, but the inspiration I gained from yesterday’s race is still very fresh.

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For the first time in six years, I spent yesterday spectating, cheering and supporting friends and strangers alike as they conquered 26.2 miles. Back in 2009, when I last spectated, it was from the sponge station on First Avenue, while volunteering with the New York Junior League.  I didn’t know a soul running the race but watching these strangers conquer such an intimidating race, lit the fire inside of me, inspiring me to join the New York Road Runners and qualify for the New York City Marathon via 9+1.

From my cheering spot on Fourth Avenue I was able to cheer, scream and motivate runners as well as spot my friends Ireen, Theodora, Frank, and Kelly before lacing up my shoes for a few miles with Melissa. These running inspirations made it look so easy yesterday!

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After a less than stellar final month of training due to an injury, Melissa was hesitant about yesterday’s marathon. In order to help her achiever her goal of finishing, I offered to run alongside her for a few miles, taking her mind off the marathon while providing her with some fuel and water. Exactly on plan, around 11:45, I spotted her as she crossed the mile 7 marker and quickly hopped in. We had a blast for 3.5 miles, as I gave her a tour of the Brooklyn sites. Humorously, a few friends spotted me, very confused including Emily and Kim.

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As I prepare to conquer the heat and humidity of this weekend’s Savannah Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon, my third half marathon this season, I’m going into the weekend more excited than ever before thanks to these friends. I know the 80% humidity and predicted temps of 75 degrees aren’t ideal for racing but my goal is to finally break that elusive sub-2 hour half marathon mark. The sweat, tears, smiles and determination that these friends showed during yesterday’s marathon reminded me that so much of racing is mental. I can’t control Saturday’s weather but I can control everything I do leading up to the race, so I can go into the race feeling physically rested, mentally strong and smiling.  Until Saturday when I’m not working, you’ll find me foal rolling, sleeping and reading posts like this, reminding me of the most important things to do before racing in humid and hot conditions.

So here’s to you marathon runners, thank you for showing up yesterday and giving 110% to the boroughs, bridges and streets of New York City. A huge congrats to those I knew yesterday including Sashea, Camille, Jen, Theodora, Frank, Melissa, Chloe, Kelly, Greg, Ireen, Kayla and Dani.

Your turn: Did you spectate or watch the marathon this weekend? For those half marathon runners who have recently achieved new PRs, what are your tips? Do you run in humidity and heat often? Any tips?

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New York City Marathon Tips

You all know that even though I’m living abroad, my heart is still in New York City. I love that city for so many reasons, one of which is the New York City Marathon. Whether you are a running or spectating, the day is a special one.

The city buzzes with excitement while runners conquer the undulating bridges and locals line the streets to cheer on friends and strangers alike. Even though I think a break from marathons is a good idea, you and I both know that if I get into the NYC Marathon via lottery, I will be running those streets next year!

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Did you see the awesome memorabilia Lululemon NYC created in honor of the marathon? I love the been there, run that and skyline detail! Since I’ve run the marathon twice, I may have to have Theodora buy either the crops or a top – they look awesome! The picture below is from Leticia’s Instagram account as a few of my NYC buds were able to preview the gear today!

In honor of this Sunday’s New York City marathon, I wanted to share one of my favorite New York City marathon tips & tricks post with you along with some links and other great information for this weekend’s marathon!

New York City Marathon Recaps Pinterest Board

2010 New York City Marathon Race Recap

2011 New York City Marathon Race Recap

New York City Marathon Tips & Tricks: Marathon Week

Below, is one of my most popular posts, originally published on October 29th, 2012 just days before the marathon was cancelled due to the Hurricane Sandy devastation.

A few weeks ago, during the New York Flyers 3 Bridges Run, I spent over an hour of the run answering questions about the New York City Marathon. While I am not the fastest runner, I have experienced the amazing and wonderful chaos that is the New York City marathon two times and am about to enjoy my third time in less than a week!

After the conversation, Meghan suggested that I actually dedicate a blog post to sharing some of the things I’ve learned over the past two years which I am going to remember come November 4th in order to hopefully PR and enjoy the day more than ever before.

To get things started, let me introduce you to my New York City Marathon Pinterest page, where I have over 20 different New York City Marathon recaps pinned for your reading pleasure.

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I have read almost all of these recaps this week and plan on reading the rest of them since I’ll have more time thanks to the TAPER.

In order to conquer the questions in a somewhat sensible order, I’m going to approach marathon week in chronological order, therefore organizing my tips from a week out to November 4th. I hope this helps and feel free to email, tweet, or Facebook message me with further questions!

Marathon Week

  • Have two race outfit options ready to go so you’re ready regardless of temperature. Based on the past few years, the temperature shouldn’t be lower than mid 40’s to mid 60’s. Remember that there is a big difference in the temperature at 10:55 versus 7:55. The New York marathon starts later than most and for this reason many people end up at the start with more clothing than they really need. If it’s in the 40’s you may want a long sleeve option or crop pants but if it’s in the 60’s you’ll want less layers. If you don’t want to put your name on both shirts, remember that you can use a piece of fabric on which to write your name and then pin it to either shirt option.
  • Head over to CVS, Walgreens, Duane Reade, or your local Salvation Army to find throw away clothes for the start on Staten Island. Depending on your plans, you could be hanging around the island for as long as 4 hours and it can get chilly just due to the fact that you’ll be sitting still. $5 fleece robes are a great option from your local drugstore as they are long enough to provide full coverage and are soft as well. Grabbing an extra magazine or two can be a good idea as well since you won’t want to drain your iPhone or iPod for entertainment. Also, in light of this week’s weather, grabbing a trash bag or two to keep you dry from the mud may be a good idea. In addition, don’t forget to pick up some food and water for race day. Normally I carry a bottle of water, banana, 1/2 bagel, and peanut butter to eat an hour before the race.

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  • Go to the expo as early as possible. I’ve actually never gone to the expo on Thursday and each year have grown to regret my decision more and more. Saturday is a complete shit show filled with tourists, people panicking last minute,  long lines, and selection of both official marathon gear and other merchandise is picked over by this time. I didn’t expect Friday to be as bad but last year Theodora and I were both pretty overwhelmed by the time we left and just wanted to get out of there. This year, Bo and I are heading over Thursday after work in hopes of enjoying the expo together and checking out some of the gear. While I know there will be a post work rush it will still be far less people than Friday or Saturday. Also, you can take the MTA Bus to the expo if you’re in from out of town. There are 2 that run to the Javits Center: M34 and M42.IMG_0178
  • Be careful what you eat at the expo. The New York City Marathon expo is the largest I’ve ever experienced and each year there are more booths offering food samples, drinks, new power gels, and more. It’s never a good idea to try something new this close to the marathon especially when you don’t know how it will affect your system. Take the freebies and save them for after the race unless it is something you have used before. In addition, beware of being persuaded to try something new last minute. Many of the people working the booths are trained salespeople. They could make Eskimos buy ice just like they convinced me to spend over $200 during my first marathon expo.

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  • Take advantage of the knowledge: Are you worried about the course? Need someone to help you keep a steady pace? Want to figure out how to fix your Garmin? Need to have someone KT tape your leg? Didn’t get to squeeze in a massage session before the marathon? There are experts everywhere at the expo and the other events that NYRR and ING are organizing this week. Take advantage of their time and ask them questions and use the expo map to help you figure out the best places to spend your time depending on your needs.
  • Bring cash.  Each year there are a few stands at the expo that only take cash. Last year, all we wanted were cow bells and they were sold by a stand that only took cash. Of course, we didn’t have cash and nor did we have time to wait in an ATM line or scour the Javits center for the ATM.
  • Respect the taper: While it may seem weird not to be running everyday this week or breaking a sweat at Crossfit, Soul Cycle, etc it is important to give your body this time to rest. Be sure to focus on sleep, especially on Thursday and Friday night. According to Gia, this week’s food is the most important of the training cycle so make sure to eat clean and rely on vegetables, grains, and fruits for some healthy carbohydrate increases versus processed foods. In addition, relax in an Epsom salt bath or two this week to help relax your legs and release toxins, especially after a long foam rolling session. If you feel especially anxious, go to Yoga on Demand and do a restorative yoga class or this great Yoga for Runners session which is free on YouTube.
  • Realize that many of the Italian restaurants in the city will be jam packed with runners. If you’re local, I suggest dining at home in the comfort of your compression socks and pajamas. If you want to dine with friends, invite them over! It’s a great way to relax your nerves before the big day without stressing out about reservations, crowds or slow waiters. If you’re coming from out of town, make reservations in advance.
  • Don’t forget to bring a form of identification and your registration form to the expo. While there are plenty of information and help lines their lines tend to be long and the last thing you want to do is have to wait at the expo or go back to the hotel or your apartment to get your id or registration.
  • Download this AMAZING marathon guide from Jack Rabbit Sports! I have used this each year and the first year especially, when I was on pace for almost all my miles, it worked like a charm. It allows you to figure out your pace depending on how you’ve trained (positive or negative splits), the time you start, and more. It also turns this info into a pace bracelet! Share the finished product with your spectating friends and family so they’ll know the exact time you should hit each mile marker.
  • Send your friends and family who are spectating a picture of you in your marathon outfit. Remember, there are 45,000 people running down the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Harlem, and the Bronx on November 4th and it is hard to spot people. Make sure to put together a plan in advance especially if you know you need to see them in order receive fuel, water, or hand off clothing. My recommendation is to choose a side of the course on which to run, stick to it, wear at least one differentiating piece of clothing or accessory, and tell them to stand as close to the mile markers as possible. It’s pretty tough to miss the mile marker signs but it’s easy to miss your family’s race sign they made which is being held down at foot level since they aren’t expecting you for a few more minutes. For example, this year I’m wearing my hot pink Zensah calf sleeves along with a hot pink sparkly skirt I’m borrowing from Shannon. In addition, in my email to friends I’ll let them know that I prefer the left side of the street and will hug that side as much as possible.

Have more questions about race week preparations and the New York City Marathon? Send them my way.

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