Insider Tips for the New York City Marathon #TSCNYCMARATHON

running-advice-bugIf you’re looking for my article on tips about the New York City Marathon that ran in US News Health, here it is:

Runners celebrate in the NYC Marathon

Runners celebrate in the NYC Marathon

Runners from around the world are about to converge on New York City for the TCS New York City Marathon, and they will all have something in common: They want to have the best experience possible. The marathon is huge, loud, packed with deep crowds and lined by some of the city’s most iconic sights. For the uninitiated, it is an inspiring – if a little bit overwhelming – experience. If you’re one of them, take heed of these tips and get the inside track:

1. Bundle up.

While the forecast looks good for this year’s race, the weather in New York City can be unpredictable. Some of my most intense memories of the New York City Marathon are of nearly freezing before the start in the staging area at Fort Wadsworth. Plan to spend hours out in the weather prior to the start with little to no shelter. There are a few tents, but for the most part, runners are out in the open and exposed to the wind and potentially cold temperatures. You may want to wear some old clothing, such as heavy cotton sweat pants and a sweatshirt, and then discard them at the start. In the past, race organizers have collected abandoned clothing and donated it to shelters. That way, you’re keeping yourself warm doing something good for the community at the same time.

2. Don’t be late.

Race organizers have devised an effective plan to get the thousands of runners out to the start, but it’s up to you to make sure that you’re on the correct ferry or bus. If you miss your ride, you may have a really difficult time getting to the start. I have heard stories of people thinking that they could “grab a later ferry,” only to find themselves out of luck. Every seat will be full, so stick to your assigned slot.

3. Bring only what you need.

Security will be tight this year at the New York City Marathon, as it has been at most major marathons over the past few years. If you’re thinking about bringing anything other than your running gear and energy supplies, you should check the prohibited items list on the marathon’s website. Keep in mind that sleeping bags and tents – which seem like appealing ways to stay warm at the start – aren’t allowed.

4. Understand the first few miles.

The start of the New York City Marathon is a massive undertaking that uses multiple waves and multiple corrals in each start. The course is actually split into three separate routes for the first few miles, with all of the courses eventually converging. What this means is that if you are trying to see or meet someone on the course, you need to understand that you might not be talking about the same “mile 5.” Also, keep in mind that there are separate color-coded mile markers on the course until mile 8, after which they all finally converge.
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How to Make the Most of the Chicago Marathon

running-advice-bugIf you’re looking for my article on tips about the Chicago Marathon tha ran in US News Health, here it is:

Some of the lead runners at the Chicago Marathon in 2015.

Some of the lead runners at the Chicago Marathon in 2015.

Runners know the Chicago Marathon as one of the greatest marathons in the world. With about 40,000 participants, it’s one of the largest races and its flat course can make for fast times.

As someone who has run the Chicago Marathon a number of times and prepared more than 500 runners for the race – including a group of 150 that I will be coaching this Sunday – I know there are a few things that set seasoned Chicago Marathon veterans apart from those who haven’t run the race. Here are some tips to give you the inside track:

1. Arrive early.

Getting into the starting area in Grant Park has always taken some time. You’ll be navigating throngs of people, covering a lot of ground and dealing with many closed streets that can wreak havoc on your travel plans. Since the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, race officials have significantly heightened security at the start area. You’ll now need to undergo a security screening in order to get into Grant Park, so give yourself an extra half hour on top of the time it takes you to get to the park.

2. Follow gear check instructions carefully.

Listen to race organizers about the types of bags you can use for gear check, and make sure you only bring what will fit in your bag. Most races, including the Chicago Marathon, provide clear plastic bags for gear check to make security screening quicker. This means that they may not allow you to bring your own backpack or another opaque bag.

3. Ensure you’re in the correct start corral.

Start corrals are assigned according to your estimated finishing time, with the fastest runners starting first. The Chicago Marathon is strict on ensuring that people only go into their assigned corrals. If you feel you need to change your corral assignment, contact the race organizers ahead of time or ask an official at the Race Expo. No changes will be allowed on race morning in Grant Park.

4. Keep your pace steady during turns.

The first few miles of the Chicago Marathon course include many right and left turns. The crowd will tend to slow down as it approaches these corners and then speed back up after them. This changing speed can be quite fatiguing, making the first few miles feel like an interval workout. Focus on keeping an even pace, and move to the outside if that’s not possible.
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Mental Games — Stick With Your Decisions

running-advice-bugI was talking with a friend that other day that had made a big life decision. It was early on and she had no new information yet with which to judge whether she’d made the right choice. I had given her some advice that she needed to slow down and trust her decisions. I told her to trust the process and let things play out. With time she would know if she made the right decision.

I was racing this weekend and I was thinking about how the many smaller decisions we make can add up to a particular result and how we need to both acknowledge those decisions and embrace them when we stick to them. Even if it means a result that we hadn’t predicted. Here’s what I mean. In the race this weekend, I came in second overall by about 30 seconds. It was a small margin to come up without the win. In my head, of course, I immediately went into the cycle of “I could have won this IF ONLY. . .” but then I needed to review the decisions that I made before the race.

Decision one — “this was intended to be a training race for me.” I am currently training for Duathlon Worlds. This particular race was a triathlon. To underscore this point, I haven’t swam in six weeks since my last Ironman race. The choices in my training are to focus on Duathlon right now. This shouldn’t have been a race I was trying to win. Hindsight aside, this decision still makes sense.

Decision two — “I want to work on my bike segment time.” I went into the race with the desire to hammer the bike, at the expense of anything else. I did that. In fact, I was more than two minutes faster than the overall winner. Success, right? Well, of course it is easy to think “if I hadn’t gone so hard on the bike, I would have had more for the run.” But the point was to kill the bike (I did), even if it killed me (it did). Good training workout. Good decision.
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Training — Preparing for the Dumbo Double Dare

running-advice-bugOne of the coaches that I am advising came to me with the following question regarding an event called the Double Dumbo Dare, which combines a 10K on day one and a half-marathon on day 2. First the question and then I’ll share with you my thoughts on preparing for such an event.

“I was just assigned a group of people who are doing the Dumbo Double Dare (10k Saturday, 1/2 Marathon Sunday). What should I do differently in coaching a half-marathon training program to handle this so that they are prepared for the extra challenge?”

First, you have to love the name: “Dumbo Double Dare.” I thought that “Goofy Challenge” was funny, but Dumbo is really saying it, isn’t it! We’ve written about the Goofy Challenge in the past. Goofy involves a half-marathon on Saturday and a full-marathon on Sunday. That’s no small challenge. The Dumbo Double Dare is a shorter in distance, but still presents a significant challenge, especially for those that aren’t used to running longer distances.

There are two skills that are at play here for which you are preparing participants. These skills are 1) the ability to run when fatigued and 2) the ability to pace properly to avoid over-running the first race (and thus killing oneself in the second).

As a side-note, preparing runners to “double” itself isn’t a new thing. In track meets, the athletes often have to run 2, 3 or even 4 times over a couple of days. In an event like the Olympics, the runners will have to run qualifying heats, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final events — all of these are their maximum speed. But often in these situations, the distances of the events are the same for each heat. So the twist here is that the two races are different distances and thus this puts a wrinkle in learning to pace the two events.
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