Editor’s note: Carissa, a longtime runner and writer for HalfMarathons.Net, ran the New York City Marathon earlier this month, finishing with a time of 3 hours, 24 minutes.
1) Train for hills
While the elites and age groupers can post fast times thanks to roaring crowds and healthy competition, the course is certainly far from flat. There are bridges, rolling hills, and sometimes, uneven pavement. I knew the course wasn’t completely flat, but I underestimated the rolling nature of the course.
2) Train for a late morning
If you are a morning runner, keep in mind that you will likely have many hours to burn on race day morning as the earliest wave starts just before 10:00 a.m. Make sure to get at least a few runs during your training that will mimic that later start.
You might consider eating more calories when you first wake up and then topping off your energy stores 1-2 hours before the race. By the time I began my race, I had already been awake for 5 hours and had walked 2 miles.
3) Have a transportation plan
Getting 50,000 runners to the starting line is a huge undertaking by the NYRR. Make sure that you allow for plenty of time to arrive at your transportation pickup and hydrate knowing you might have to wait 2 hours before reaching a porta-potty.
I lucked out that I didn’t have much to drink that morning, but that was just dumb luck and there were plenty of runners squirming on the bus.
4) Spend your energy running, not weaving
Yes, the first few miles can feel a bit crowded. But if you can relax and just make moves when absolutely necessary, you’ll save a lot of time and energy than those that are looking for the next free pocket.
The field spreads out with each mile and you’ll have plenty of space heading into the second half of the race. I stuck to the left median as much as possible to force myself to not zigzag too much.
5) Enjoy the views
As runners, we often spend much of our time looking at the ground to ensure our feet meet safely with the ground. And while you don’t want to spend the whole race trying to sightsee, it is fun to look up every once in awhile to soak in the scenery.
From the Manhattan skyline and the sea of runners on the Verrazano Bridge to the fall foliage in full display in Central Park, I spent a few moments each mile scanning the horizon.
6) Embrace the crowds
It is said over and over about NYC, but the crowds are what truly makes this race magical. From the initial onslaught in Brooklyn to the roars on Fifth Avenue, you will feel like a rock star for nearly all 26.2 miles. I soaked it all in by giving kids high-fives, doing the YMCA mid-race, and giving silly signs big thumbs up.
7) Be a good runner
With so many runners, it is important to be a good competitor. Toss your cup as far to the curb as possible, thank volunteers, and look back before moving anywhere but a straight line forward.
If you need to walk, step to the far right or left side. I found it easiest to grab cups from the last couple of people at hydration stops as runners often bunched up in the beginning.
8) Save some for the finish
Once the course enters Central Park, runners begin to anticipate the finish line. However, there are still a couple of miles to go and they are certainly far from flat. Even the stretch from Columbus Circle has a bit of an uphill!
Plan strategically if you want a strong final kick and don’t lay on the gas too early. I got excited in the first downhill mile in Central Park and had to really work hard to stay on pace the final mile.
9) Have an exit strategy
The race finish line is not the actual finish line for the day. There is still a long walk to either bag check or your poncho before you can even exit the finish area. It is important to have a plan (and maybe a backup plan) to meet up with family and friends and/or how you will get back home or where you are staying.
I was glad I decided last minute to make sure I could get back into our Airbnb as it took my husband longer to get back from spectating!
10) Have a post-race fuel plan
Restaurants will be busy everywhere with hungry runners post-race. Make reservations if possible or try to get a little further out from the finish line area. If I did it again, I would definitely plan to have a few possibilities so we weren’t wandering around rungry!