Monday, November 9, 2015

Video: 2015 TCS NYC Marathon

I love my hometown race because it's a 26.2 mile party. The energy in the City that crescendos on Marathon Sunday is unlike like anything I've experienced in another race city.

If you're a runner, you HAVE to experience this race. Period. Full Stop.

As usual, the GoPro was in my hands and I captured some of what I hope was the essence of the day. You be the judge.

For my full race review, check out this post.

Hope you like the video!

Friday, November 6, 2015

My Experience at the 2015 TCS NYC Marathon

It's been a few days and my quads are starting to feel a bit more normal. 

I'm finally ready to talk about my 14th marathon and 8th time running from Staten Island to Central Park.

If you read this space, you know that I've had a tough running year. It would be really easy for me to blame it on my son (who turned one the day before the race this year), but if I were to be rigorously honest, I would admit that I just had a hard time balancing life and time this year.
Me and the boys at Fort Wadsworth - all smiles before the race.
As you can probably guess, I didn't have the best race of my life. Now, that's not to say that I didn't have a great day, I mean, it's the NYC Marathon, even at your worst, it's pretty difficult to NOT enjoy the day. As someone posted on Facebook, it's like pizza, even when it's bad, it's still pretty damn good.

That said, I did have a pretty bad run.

So here's how it went down. 

The week leading up to the race was pretty typical for me in terms of eating, running, sleeping, hydrating, etc. I pretty much subscribe to the "Nothing New on Race Week" philosophy. The one difference was, I worked the Expo on Thursday in order to get my +1 and guaranteed entry to the 2016 race.

On Saturday, I ran the Dash to the Finish Line 5K (I love this race, running through the City streets and crossing the finish line) celebrated my son's birthday with family and got a great night's sleep.

Sunday at around 5AM, I met up with my buddy Rob (who was running NYC for the first time to make up for missing it in 2012 due to Sandy) and John and got to the Ferry early.
My friend Anny and I at Fort Wadsworth (she crushed her second NYC Marathon this year)
We hung out at Fort Wadsworth, met up with some other friends and made our way to the corrals with plenty of time to relax and get our heads together.

When the gun went off and we set out at a moderate pace. Knowing that I only trained for 12 weeks, and the year that I had, I wasn't planning on a PR. My goal this year was to finish and feel good.

Rob, John and I set out at 15-20 seconds faster than we were planning. Being in the first wave surrounded by fast runners and the cheering crowds, it was REALLY difficult to take my own advice and SLOW THE F DOWN! 

By mile five, we started walking through water stations which helped cut our pace down, but by the time we hit the next one, we were right back at the faster pace. 

By mile 10, I was starting to get a little too far into my own head. I was still running with Rob (John had disappeared in the crowds in front of us and weirdly kept showing up behind us) and my hips started complaining. And this was my downfall.
With Rob (far left) and John (blue shirt) at the 13.1 mark.
I started thinking about the pain and how I wasn't going to be able to sustain running for another 16 miles. So by the time we hit the 13.1 mark, I was so far into my head, I'm surprised I still had the will power to continue.

At the base of the 59th Street Bridge, I told Rob to go on, that I was stiffening up and I didn't want to hold him back. With a bit of a confused look on his face, he pulled away and left me to my own race.

And it wasn't pretty. I struggled up First Avenue, into the Bronx and down 5th. I saw my wife and baby at mile 19 and my parents at mile 22. Seeing all of them gave me the much needed psychic boost I needed to go on, but it was still an awful struggle.

By the time I made it into the Park I was crushed. My goal time, that was really only known by me, was long past. I have never been so happy to see a finish line in my life.

Along the way, I kept thinking, "Maybe I'm not a marathoner anymore? Maybe I'm too old? Maybe I'm meant for 13.1s moving forward? Maybe I'm supposed to be on the sidelines of NY cheering?" 
I bumped into my friend Alysia on 74th Street after securing our ponchos from the Poncho Angels and she said she had the same thoughts. It was at that moment that I realized what happened.

I ran the race I trained for. I don't mean, I trained for the NYC Marathon and I ran it. I mean, I got out of the race the training that I put in. 

Did I train for 18 weeks? No, I trained for 12.

Did I do speed work? No, none.

Did I do 3 20 milers? No, I did one.

Was I consistent every week and stick to the plan laid out for me by the coaches? Not. Even. Close.

My annual shot of my one year old my earned hardware
And despite my lack of effort, I still crossed the finish line (and not as far off my goal time as I would have thought after I sat down and thought about it rationally).

So, what does this tell me? It tells me I'm a marathoner that needs to get my mojo back. I know it's there, I know I can find it, and if I can cross the finish line this year as unprepared as I was, I am mentally tough enough to do the right training and run this race again (and again, and again, ad infinitum)

I'll be back in 2016 NYC. And respectfully, I plan to show you who's boss.

Keep an eye out over the next few days for my 2015 TCS NYC Marathon video.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

TCS NYC Marathon Expo and Dash to the Finish Line 5K

I love the week leading up to the NYC Marathon and it only gets better on Thursday, the day the Expo opens and 50,000 people filter through the convention center to pick up their race credentials, buy running gear and gawk at all the new shiny new gear they want from vendors.

It's like the holidays came early! And I had my eye on one specific thing (which doesn't get released to the greater public until the holidays, but I knew would be sold at the Expo), so I was double excited! 
This year I planned to spend a little more time at the Javits than in past years as I still needed to fulfill my volunteer requirement in order to get guaranteed entry to the 2016 NYC Marathon.

What better way than to hand out bibs to runners? I mean, I get to talk to runners all day, most of whom had never been to NYC, let alone run what Peter Ciaccia, the TCS NYC Marathon Race Director calls the "biggest block party in NYC!" I was made for this gig.

I fulfilled my requirement, picked up my own race credentials and made my way to the Garmin booth to pick up the just announced Forerunner 630.

And, as Bill Bowerman chided, nothing new on race day, so I decided at the last minute to sign up for the Dash to the Finish Line 5K on Saturday to test the new gear, work out the settings and get in a super scenic shakeout the day before the Big Dance.

It was all I could do to make it through work on Friday and get to the start line of the Dash. I love that this race runs through the streets of Midtown Manhattan, where I've worked for years and into Central Park, it literally ends at the finish line for the marathon. Seriously, what better way to celebrate the marathon (I mean, besides run it).

I brought the GoPro with me to record the race as it runs by some pretty iconic NY places (the UN building, Grand Central Station, the NYC Public Library, Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall). And the streets of Midtown are shut down just for us.

I'm putting the finishing touches on my 2015 marathon video and will have it posted in a few days. In the meantime, enjoy this little slice of NYC running.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TCS NYC Marathon Infographic

The folks over at PR Week wrote up a nice article on the inner workings of the NYRR PR team as they prep for the marathon. As someone who is in PR for a living, I love stuff like this.

As an accompaniment to the article, they put together this nifty little infographic that I liked enough to share with you.

Enjoy some random NYC Marathon facts courtesy of PR Week:

Monday, October 26, 2015

It's NYC Marathon Race Week!

Yesterday at 7:45AM, I made my way to 1st Avenue and 59th Street to meet up with my friend Natalie in what has become, my “Sunday Before The NYC Marathon” tradition. We ran the last 10.2 miles of the race course.
Natalie and I at the last of the five bridges we'll cross next Sunday
I did this the first year I ran the race, as it’s a great way to learn the course and know what you’re in for in the last 10 miles. I continue to do it for a variety of reasons, superstition, familiarity and it’s a great way to get one last longish, easy run in before the big dance.

There are now only six days left until I make my way to the Staten Island Ferry and board a bus to Fort Wadsworth for the opportunity to line up with 50,000 of my friends and endure 26.2 miles of cheers, elation, pain and accomplishment.
At the site of what will be transformed into the finish line
I wait all year for the excitement in my hometown to crescendo around this race and it’s evident everywhere I look. Street banners, bus and subway ads and the brand new TCS NYC Marathon Pavilion at Tavern on the Green!! It’s only a matter of time before the statue of Fred Lebow (founder of the race) gets moved to the finish line so he can continue to watch all of the runners as we cross the finish line.

The TCS NYC Marathon Pavilion awaiting hordes of runners!
This is technically part of my taper and there are a few things I like to keep in mind while doing so:
  • Even though I’m not running as much as I have been, I need to keep my caloric intake at roughly the same level. It’s okay to drop it a little, but now is the time to pack some carbs into your diet. Rather than going out for that one HUGE pasta dinner the night before the race, add 20% more carbs to your daily intake.
  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! I’m pretty good at hydrating, but the week before the race, I’ll practically double it. I get to the point where I think about just setting up shop in the bathroom since that's pretty much where I’ll spend most of my time anyway. The payoff will be on race day when I can hit every other water station and not worry too much about dehydration.
  • I sleep every chance I get for as long as I can! Now’s not the time to be out partying at the clubs. I like to bed down early and train my body to wake up at the same time I will on race day (which for me is EARLY since I’m Wave 1 and Staten Island isn’t the most convenient place to get to)
  • Lastly, I’m preparing for the Expo to GET PSYCHED! I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to being in a giant room with fellow crazies who are just as excited as I am for this event.
It's race week people! It's like Christmas came early!

Friday, October 23, 2015

My Best Training Partner

You are the longest-running, most consistent training partner I've ever had. From the coldest winter day to the muggiest summer morning, you're ever-present.

Today when I went out, you joined me during the second half of my first mile. You were probably there before then, but I first noticed you when you started weighing heavy on my upper lip. Very shortly after, I felt you sliding down my left temple.

By the end of mile one, you had completely covered my bald pate. Despite the humidity, we were feeling good. Actually, because of the humidity, you were around more than usual today, with so much moisture in the air, it's hard for you leave. But I knew at the outset this was going to happen, I was going to get overheated; so today I was smart and compensated by choosing a flat course and keeping my pace down.

By mile two you had started taking over my shirt. I became acutely aware that this was going to be one of those runs.

By mile four you were slipping into my shoes. Over the eight years I've been running, you've ruined more than one pair of my running shoes. I pride myself on a lack of foot odor and at the risk of over sharing, the shoes I train through each and every summer need to be thrown out long before I've run the soles into the ground. I know this at the start of the season, yet it always surprises me.

By mile five you were in my sight. Literally. You were so ever-present that you had taken over my eyelashes and were in the process of doing to the same to the inside of the lenses on my sunglasses.

When I got back to my apartment, you were everywhere and you wouldn't let up. My arms and legs were covered. You had gone from taking over my shirt to taking over my shorts, my socks, and my shoes. You were all over the floor, on the chair and almost covered the mat after I finished stretching.

So why do I put up with you? On the surface, you're not a good running partner. You cause me to freeze after runs in the winter and how many times can I replace headphones that you've shorted out? You make me spend untold amounts on new technical running clothes only to destroy them, leave stains everywhere and not to be cruel but you smell bad. 

So what do you really bring to the table?

I'll tell you.

You make me feel like a warrior. Your presence inspires me to push myself harder. I used to think you were a nuisance, but I was wrong. When you slip down my face and into the corners of my mouth, you taste like victory. You give me the strength and determination to push myself to limits I didn't know I had. When you soak my clothes, I know I'm getting stronger. When you drip off my fingertips you push me to run faster. When you sting my eyes, I feel like you're telling me I'm doing the right thing. When there's so much of you streaming down the inside of my shirt that my heart rate monitor chafes, I'm not only happy but full of endorphins.

So thank you. Thank you for being ever-present, for inspiring me and for helping me realize my dreams.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Blessed Taper

I ran my last long run before the NYC Marathon this morning and I’m in the zone of what I call The Blessed Taper. It’s a blessing and a curse as most of you know. I need to keep my head together for the race but somehow curb my eating and my sanity with running a LOT fewer miles every day and consuming a lot less calories.

If you read this space, you know I’m part of a blogger network and get asked from time to time to try some products and talk about them. Well, this is one of those times and it fits perfectly into my needs thus very day. The Vitamin Shoppe is introducing a new category in its 700 nationwide stores (and online) called Protein Pantry. It includes 40 protein-packed foods such as pancake mixes, nut butters, powdered peanut butter and more.

The fact is, when I’m in taper mode, I need to increase my protein intake as it fills me up faster which helps me from gaining unwanted weight leading up to the race on November 1. And nothing satisfies after along run or while I’m tapering like protein (and its great for building lean muscle too).

Some of the product names were a little funny to me (like Buff Bake and Mancakes) but when I got home from my 20 miler this morning and heaped D’s Naturals Chocolate Fudge Cake Batter protein infused almond butter on a banana, I was in heaven!

And while tomorrow is Monday, I’m dying for it to come already so I can whip up some P28 White Chocolate pancakes (from a high-protein, non-GMO mix) or event a Flap Jacked Cinnamon Apple Mighty Muffin. And between you and I, since I ran 20 miles this morning, I may just make them both!

I don’t need to tell you that supplementing protein intake with on-the-go foods can be a convenient way to meet daily nutrition needs, especially when you’re in taper mode!

Who else is counting down the days until the NYC Marathon?

This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Vitamin Shoppe. All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Video/Race Review: 2015 NYRR Staten Island Half

It's back and better than ever!

The Staten Island Half was last Sunday and for me, it usually signals the last long run before the Big Dance on November 1st (the TCS NYC Marathon).

This year was no different, I, along with thousands of other runners took an early ferry across New York Harbor, dropped off our gear at bag check and set out to run anywhere from 3 to 10 extra miles before the official start of the race.

My buddy and I planned for an extra seven, but got stuck in the bathroom line longer than expected and were only able to do five before the start. (And rather than do two after the race, I opted for a week extension on my training and a shorter taper - not the smartest move but I was crushed after the race and have done a short taper in the past.)

The Course
From just after mile six, the course was almost all new and it remains a little controversial (I'll get into that in a bit). Rather than start in the parking lot of the Staten Island Yankees and round up to Richmond Terrace (as it has the seven times I've run this race prior), it started on Richmond Terrace. The race wound through, what I can only assume is downtown Staten Island and on to Father Capodanno Blvd. (the course became more direct to Capodanno Blvd. since Hurricane Sandy and this part has remained the same since).

Every time I've run this race, there's been a turn around a few miles down Capodanno and you trace your steps back to Richmond Terrace - this year was different. At about mile five I noticed there was no one coming back on the other side of the boulevard. At that point I should have at least seen the race leaders. I wasn't running that fast, and when I got another mile into the course, my suspicion was confirmed when I looked to my left and out near the water, I saw a line of runners on the boardwalk.

I was kinda psyched, heading to Capodanno, there's a decent size hill you run down and on the way back, at mile 9 of the race (and 14 if you ran five pre-race miles) that hill can be a little bit of a nuisance and this meant I wouldn't have to run it this year.

Little did I know what I was in for.

We hooked a left during mile six and headed closer to the water where we ran across some flagstones and then up to the actual boardwalk for a little more than a mile.

Here in lies the controversy.

At first I was pretty happy about it, I love that the Brooklyn Half ends on the boardwalk, but then, I noticed the bouncing. See, in Brooklyn, you're on the boardwalk for about 1/10th of a mile. Here, we were on it for a little more than a mile. The surface was just too soft for me and I was getting annoyed with the bounce (as did most of the runners I spoke with during and after the race). Some went as far as to say they didn't feel safe, like they were going to get tripped. I wouldn't take it that far, I just found it to be an annoyance which was ultimately outweighed (for me) by being closer to the water and on a new course.

We ran down off the boardwalk and into the Gateway National Recreation Area at Fort Wadsworth, the military installation that houses Athlete's Village and the start corrals for the TCS NYC Marathon.

And inspiration ensued.

Despite a steeper hill up than what is on Capodanno which we had to run up to get back onto the city streets, I was feeling great and only getting more and more excited about the Big Dance. See, this new course wound through Fort Wadsworth and right under the bridge that will start our 26.2 mile journey in a mere few weeks.

And it's fucking cool and awe-inspiring!

After the bridge, we ran past where the marathon busses drop us off and back towards downtown. This year, we took a quick right just past mile 11 and were treated to some great views of the skyline of downtown Manhattan (including the Freedom Tower). This is an older part of the course that we didn't run the few years after Sandy. It's nice to see that the recovery of the borough is such that we were able to run there again.

Winding back up to Richmond Terrace, we make a right just before the Staten Island Yankee's stadium down a short hill and into the field where the finish line is at home plate. If you're lucky, Peter Ciaccia, the race director for the marathon is standing there giving out high fives.

It was a beautiful day in the borough that Manhattan forgot, check out my video to see parts of the course yourself.

Friday, October 9, 2015

2015 Tips and Tricks for the TCS NYC Marathon

I’ve written two other versions of this post. The first two years ago, then another last year and after running the TCS NYC Marathon for the seventh time, I decided to write an update. 

As a seven time race veteran and New York City local for 20 years, I have a bit of an insider's view and am able to offer some tips I’ve learned about "what to do when" and how to get around. It’s a long post, but I promise it’s full of useful information!

Here’s what you need to know:

The Expo
If you can get there on Thursday or early Friday do it! It gets busy and I mean BUSY on Saturday and the last thing you want to do the day before a 26.2 race is to stand in line for hours!
Photo courtesy of
The Expo is at the Javits Center and is about as far west as you can get (34th Street and 11th Ave.) and there is virtually nothing around it. The MTA just opened an extension to the 7 train which is less than a block from the Javits. Bring a loaded MetroCard with enough for everyone in your party and ride the subway in style just like a local.

If you don’t want to kick down for a Metrocard ($2.75/ride), get yourself to Paragon Sports (18th and Broadway) in the Union Square area. Every year they offer a free shuttle from the store to the Expo and back. Not only do you get a free ride, but they’ll also give you a 20% discount card (or at least they have in past years).

Take your time at the Expo, walk around, kick down for that TCS NYC Marathon jacket, this is the largest marathon in the world and you’re going to want to show off the fact that you ran it for years to come!

If you time your Expo trip right, you’ll get to meet some of the professionals who are running the race. Meb, William, Mary and Tatyana all do meet and greets. And then at the booths, folks like Matt Long and Bart Yasso are around pressing the flesh, if you’re a running geek like me (and chances are, you are if you’re reading this), it can be a pretty awe-inspiring place to be.

And bonus you can come meet me if you're there on Thursday. I’ll be fulfilling my 9+1 volunteer requirement to get into the 2016 NYC Marathon by doing bib handout on Thursday until 3PM. I don’t know what number range I’ll be working, but look for the bald guy with the big head (most likely with a GoPro recording his bib handout duties).

Race Day
You've trained to run 26.2, but there are some thing you may not have considered, like:

Put your name on your shirt!
Want to hear your name cheered for most of the 26.2 miles? Put your name on your shirt in BIG BLOCK letters! It may sound cheesy, but there’s nothing that gets me up 5th Avenue (mile 23) faster or past that last stretch on Central Park South than some random person looking me in the eye and saying something like, “You’ve got this Eric, you’re almost there.” It can be a huge boost.

Don’t have good handwriting or don’t want to risk messing up that new tech shirt you bought? Go to any hobby store and buy transfer paper. You can print out your name, an image, a quote or anything you want and iron it right on your shirt.

Strategically Place Your Friends and Family on the Course
Have people coming to watch you during the race? Make sure you know where they are. It’ll be easier for you to find them and virtually impossible for them to find you. Let me repeat that, because this is the question I get more often than any other: It’ll be easier for you to find them and virtually impossible for them to find you. Don’t rely on the app from the NYRR. It’s a great way to get a general feel for when a runner will be at a certain place, but it is far from perfect.

I always ask my friends and family to hang out on First Avenue above 100th Street but before The Bronx – the crowds thin out a little there. And if your friends hang out on First Avenue, they can easily walk over to see you on your way down 5th Avenue – it’s just a 15-20 minute walk for them.

What to wear
I’ve run the race for six years and have usually worn shorts and short sleeve tech shirt. In 2014, there were high winds and the temp had dropped significantly on race day. I wore heavy arm warmers and tights and I regretted it almost as soon as I stepped off the Verrazano. I would have been much happier had I paid attention to my own advice.
With fellow NYRR Social Reporter Robin at mile 17 or so
See what I'm wearing? See what she's wearing? Guess who was more comfortable.
I’ve been lucky that it has never rained (hopefully I didn’t jinx this year). I usually go to a discount store before the race and for $30 get sweat pants and a zipped/hooded sweatshirt. The hood offers extra warm or rain protection and the fact that it’s zippered makes it easier to remove while I’m running. I take the sweatpants off just before the start and I’ll chuck the jacket when I get warm enough – usually after the Verrazano Bridge. I also wear the cap and pair of throwaway gloves (more on that below), but hang on to them a bit longer.
Wearing a LOT of extra clothing at the start
While you’re at the discount store, buy yourself a pack of long athletic/tube socks, you know, the white ones with stripes that you used to wear as a kid up to your knee (if you’re the same age as me that is). Take one pair, cut off the toes and voilĂ ! You have a pair of arm warmers that you won’t worry about throwing away during the race. Make sure when you put them on that you pull the elasticized opening on first, with the elastic at the top of your arm they won’t slide down.

On almost every major street corner you’ll find vendors selling hats and gloves. Treat yourself to a street hat and a pair of street gloves. This is the best way for you to get super cheap throw-away gear that will keep you warm for the start of the race.

There is no waterfall of urine on the lower level
If you’re running the race and have gotten assigned a Green corral (running on the bottom level of the Verrazano Bridge), you’re probably worried about the waterfall of pee you’ve heard about. I had the same fear at my very first New York City Marathon.

I’m here to tell you from personal experience that the rumors are 100% false. First off, that would have to be one very powerful stream of pee to reach from the top level of the bridge – I’m talking about at least 20 to 30 people in a synchronized urination. And it’s virtually impossible for it to happen – there’s the wind blowing in all directions, not to mention people on the top level can’t just hang off the side of the bridge to pee. There are guardrails that keep you a good five feet off the edge. I’ve since run the top of the bridge and have never seen anyone stopping for a “natural break” let alone 30 people doing it together. I can’t say for sure, but there are so many DOT workers on the bridge, I don’t think it would be possible to stop without being told to move on (and you’d probably earn yourself a DQ to boot).

Getting to Staten Island/Fort Wadsworth
By now you’ve already chosen your transportation option. You’re either on the bus or taking the Staten Island Ferry. I can’t comment on the bus since I’ve never taken it. I can tell you that the Ferry is easy, it’s fun and you get a great shot of Lady Liberty as you make your way across New York Harbor. Don't worry about your assigned time. Guess what, the Ferry is open to the public and perfectly free. This means the race organizers can't check passengers and turn them away - you could be just another person heading to Staten Island for the day. And once you're on Staten Island, no one checks before you get on a bus to get to the start village at Fort Wadsworth. It's impossible to try and check everyone who is getting on those busses. If you're wearing a bib, you're in!

You’ll load onto busses with loads of other runners and get chauffeured to Fort Wadsworth where you follow the color of your bib (blue, orange or green) to your start village.

You don't want to get to the start village too early, keep in mind it's November in New York. The weather can be anything from 60 and sunny to 40s with wind and rain. I like to get there about an hour before my start time, grab a quick bite or cup of tea and then head to my corral.

I save the heat sheets from previous races and use them as blankets at the start village near my assigned corral. I wear my throwaway clothes for warmth and seek out a Dunkin Donuts tea and bagel for some extra calories while I’m waiting to my corral to open. Bring a magazine or some other form of entertainment that you can easily toss. You may be there for a while.

At your assigned wave time, the cannon will fire and you’ll start to make your way up and past the starting line to Frank Sinatra serenading you to New York, New York!

The course
You’re in Staten Island for all of two miles. Make sure you don't trip on any of the clothing discarded by runners in front of you as you make your way up to the start line after the cannon (and if you're discarding clothing, please try and throw it into one of the receptacles the organizers put out there). 

Once you make it past the start you're on the Verrazano Bridge - and it's a hill, make no mistake but it’s also the start of the race so the chance of you noticing the hill is pretty slim. Hold your pace. Take it all in, look at the NYC skyline ahead of you. Watch the NYFD Fire Boat with water cannons going full blast saluting the start of your epic journey and gawk at the helicopters buzzing the bridge (some are media, others are security). Enjoy this, you will be feeling great and super excited for what you’re about to accomplish.

Once you get over (or through) the first of five bridges, you’re in Brooklyn and one of the best parts of the course. Keep your head together here. You want to make sure you’re not going out too fast. Trust me, it’s easy to do. Between the crowds, the bands and the fact that the course is practically flat the entire length of the borough means you need to keep a close eye on your pace.

You’re on Fourth Avenue for miles four through eight. Stay to the left side of the divider in the sunlight, it can get cold and breezy and if you stay on the left side, you’ll be a lot warmer. That said, pop over to the right for a huge burst of energy – this is where the bigger crowds are. If you run with your name on your shirt (which I highly suggest you do) you’ll get personal cheers. And, high fiving all the little kids on the course is fun!

Further into Brooklyn you’ll pass through South Williamsburg. Don’t get freaked out! Not only is it home to New York Hipsters but one of the largest concentrations of Orthodox Jews in the City. Chances are the cheering will be a lot less here and you’ll get some awkward looks (it’s considered immodest to wear form-fitting clothing). Sunday is also a workday for this community and you’ll likely see people darting back and forth across the course while you’re running.

Brooklyn takes you to the halfway point where you cross over the Pulaski Bridge (the second of five bridges) and enter the borough of Queens. This is really the first rise (I won’t call it a hill) of consequence since you crossed over the Verrazano. Just pace yourself and remember to keep a good cadence. Throughout Queens, the course undulates between sea level and ~50 feet above.

You then hit the 59th Street Bridge (three of five bridges). It’s easy to get psyched out. Maybe you’re starting to get tired and your legs are starting to complain a little. This really is a hill. To make it worse, no spectators are allowed on the bridge so it can get eerily silent. For the first time on the course, it’s just you and every other runner plugging away at the miles. But it’s not as bad as you might think. Trust your training, stay out of your head, eat a gel and maybe chat it up with another runner. Or pick someone in front of you and try to stay on his or her tail. It’ll be over before you know and then you hit what has been described as a wall of sound.

You’ve made it to First Avenue. The first thing you’ll notice is that where the 59th Street Bridge was silent – First Avenue is like the second coming of The Beatles. Coming off the bridge you hit an indescribable rush of cheers that doesn’t stop for the next three miles.

First Avenue is the hill that you’ll never feel (because of all the spectators and cheering). Remember to pace yourself here. Five years ago I found myself doing 7:30s for the three miles up to the Bronx – for a guy who was running 8:30s for the rest of the race, I put the back half of my race in jeopardy.

The crowds will carry you from 59th Street all the way up to the Willis Avenue Bridge (four of five bridges), which connects you to:

The Bronx
One of the most enthusiastic areas of the race, it’s almost like the residents know that we’re about to hit the wall. Again, keep your head (stay out of it), eat a gel, take in the musical entertainment provided by the organizers, look for yourself on the giant video screen and remember to move your feet. You’re almost in the home stretch.

The course takes us back over the Madison Avenue Bridge (five of five bridges!) and you find yourself on 5th Ave.

Manhattan and the Home Stretch
5th Avenue from 138th Street down to 110th Street is pretty benign. At this point in the race, I’m always just concentrating on getting into Central Park at 90th Street. It can be challenging. From 110th down to 90th is a gradual one-mile hill. You’re climbing about 100 feet of elevation over one mile which give you an average grade of 1.8% – easy peasy, right? If that doesn’t help you get to the top, the crowds will be so loud, you won’t be able to hear any of the negative thoughts in your head.

At 90th you enter Central Park and hit a bit more undulation. Are you using a mantra? Now’s the time to employ it. You can almost smell the finish line.

Shoot out of the Park and onto Central Park South where once again, the level of noise will be about Pearl Jam level. Either way, the crowds to Columbus Circle will again carry you up the gradual incline.

At Columbus Circle, you re-enter Central Park. Make sure your bib is visible at this point. If it’s not, you run the risk if getting stopped by Bandit Spotters. You don’t want someone to break your stride when you’re so close to the finish line.

Enter the park, up a slight grade and relax, you’re done. You’ve run one of the most iconic races in the world and you’re part of the 1% – the 1% that are marathoners that is! You’ve earned the tech shirt you picked up at the Expo and can wear it with pride.

Post Race
Get your medal and take a heat sheet (in fact, take two, one for your shoulders and tie the other around your waist), grab a recovery bag. They usually have Gatorade recovery formula in there. I highly suggest you drink as much of that as you can (I find it too syrupy but try to choke down as much of it as I can). Regardless of what your hydration plan was on the course, I’m willing to bet you’re going to be dehydrated and this will help.

I can’t comment too much on where to meet up with family and friends after the race, I live about a mile from the finish and usually just walk home to meet my wife and parents.

I can tell you that if you chose the No Baggage option, you’re in for a treat. Here’s an excerpt from my 2013 race review which I think captures the essence of the treat we were subjected to as “no baggage” runners:

So, we're all trudging along, limping out of the park and make it up to Central Park West where they are handing out the ponchos. I reach the area and go to grab one from one of the many volunteers handing them out but a volunteer ever so gently pushes my hand away. 

In a very soothing voice she says, "please, let me put this on your shoulders." After she draped it on me and secured the velcro, she asked if I wanted the hood up. It was all I could do to nod my head. I was mesmerized by this angel who was taking care of me like I was her child. I half expected her to kiss my forehead as she sent me on my way. There were literally thousands that opted for the ponchos and I only hope they were as well taken care of as I was. Whoever you were, thank you from the bottom of my still-sore toes.
Photo courtesy
On Monday make sure to pick up a copy of the New York Times. Every year they print a special section with the names and times of all finishers under 4:30:00! And if you don’t have to go to work, head to Tavern on the Green, last year the NYRR offered free medal engraving.

If that wasn’t enough to get you excited about the race, how my videos from the past two years? I can’t wait to see what the 2015 edition of this epic race holds in store!