new york city marathon

2017 NYC Marathon Race Report #2 - Josh Hatcher

by Josh Hatcher

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How many marathons have you run? Why did you decide to run NYC'17?

This was my fourth marathon, and my second NYC Marathon. The marathon is my favorite distance, and racing it is always a remarkable, spiritual journey. In my admittedly limited experience, there's nothing more spiritual than NYC. Marathon day in New York is a rare time when everyone seems to light up. There are over 50,000 participants in the race. Obviously the hardcore athletes among them are gung-ho about competition, and there's ample space to get competitive. But thousands of people who aren't super serious, or have maybe never even run a race before, are welcomed into this ritual. Folks who don't run, folks who don't pay the slightest bit of attention to this sport still get amped to watch and cheer. Whole neighborhoods of every borough enthusiastically welcome runners in. New York can often feel lonely and isolating, and it also has serious issues with segregation, so for a single event to so strongly bind the communities of the city together is extremely meaningful for me.

Tell us about your marathon training.

As with my last two marathons, I followed the 55-70 mile/week Pete Pfitzinger plan. "Advanced Marathoning," by Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas is, in my eyes, the bible for competitive marathon training. It includes some great, multifaceted training schedules, but also has whole sections devoted to seemingly every dimension of race prep, from pacing, to cross training, to nutrition, to figuring out how best to hold the paper cup so that you don't spill the Gatorade all over your face. My PR prior to this race was a high 2:46 from Chicago last year, and I made the arbitrary goal this year of going sub 2:40. NYC is a much tougher course than Chicago, and 6 minutes is significant, so this goal seemed very ambitious and possibly delusional. But, barring health issues, one is generally in solid shape to meet their goal if they follow the training schedules closely.

Due to such health issues, my overall training didn't go so well. The summer heat wasn't particularly bad, but I missed at least four weeks of training due to an ankle injury. It made me anxious watching my teammates cruise through a seemingly flawless training cycle, and to see them get stronger and stronger, while I was just trying to get healthy enough to go on a single long run without feeling like my foot had been put into a meat grinder. Once I got better, I accepted that there wasn't ample time left, and that I wouldn't be going sub-2:40. I had a very good last few weeks of training, but I still had little idea of what to expect. I decided that if I got any sort of PR, I'd be satisfied. It was sort of a bummer, but I figured it was better to be realistic than set myself up for disappointment or go out too fast and have to bail out.

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Night before marathon - what was going on in your head? did you sleep?

I've got a pretty specific pre-race ritual, which basically involves domestically pampering myself over the course of several hours. I find it helps me sleep and keeps the nerves at bay. I get home super early so I don't have to rush through it. I put on a record and take a bubble bath. I will have run 3 or 4 miles easy that morning, and I do some foam rolling and light stretches to make sure my muscles are loose. I charge my Garmin, and put out my race clothes and bag with everything I need in it, so I don't need to think about it the next day. I make a cup of herbal tea. I cook up half a pound of plain pasta with a little oil and various spices. If it's still relatively early, I allow myself a single beer, but otherwise I drink water. I skim through the pre-race chapters in "Advanced Marathoning," particularly the sections about pre-race nerves, which calm me down. Then I curl up in bed around 9:30, set my alarm for 4:30, and read until I'm dozing off. It's an extremely romantic solitude.

Tell us about your 5 borough experience - how’d you start out? too fast, too slow, just right?

As I mentioned earlier, I had deemed my initial goal unattainable, but I still kind of wanted to hit it. So I was left without a really good idea of how fast I should go out. Generally I try to run my first mile slightly slower than goal pace, but what was my goal pace? Even though it still seemed unrealistic, I figured I would just shoot for a 2:42 marathon, which translates to about 6:12 pace. I got through the first mile in about 6:13 - OK, cool. The second mile of the marathon is straight downhill off of the Verrazano Bridge though, and it's an ongoing joke how everyone's second mile is absurdly and excessively fast. My second mile was around 5:45 pace, so I chalked it up to the downhill, and committed to calming down, and easing into a more conservative and relaxed pace. Thing is, the next few miles, which felt relaxed, were all slightly sub 6-minute pace. The crowd support up 4th Avenue definitely helped, and I expected the excitement to grow as I climbed into North Brooklyn and began seeing more of my friends. I started getting concerned I was getting too excited and setting myself up for implosion. But I kept feeling good. At some point, it dawned on me that if I kept this up, I could go sub-2:40, which was my initial goal. I decided to say screw it. I didn't have anything on the line with this race except my personal goal. I wasn't making any money or supporting my family here. Worst came to worst, I would fall apart, I would have to drop out, and life would go on.

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First thought crossing? Did you hit your goal? Any regrets?

I started hitting the proverbial wall with around 4 miles to go, which is to be expected, especially given how brutal the last four miles of the NYC Marathon are. However, the final stages are relatively easy to mentally break up. For example, running parallel to Central Park from 110th to 90th Street is probably the most torturous point in the race, but it's only about a mile, so going into it, I kept telling myself "just get into the park, and then it'll get easier." Then, running across the base of the park on 59th Street, I told myself "just get to Columbus Circle and then there's less than a mile to go." The final 0.2 miles feels insurmountable in the context of the race, but you can see the bleachers ahead, at the start of the last straightaway, which makes it feel closer. Breaking up the course into pieces and duping yourself into thinking you're "basically done" after each section is a good way to stay sane in those last few miles. As I was running down the final straightaway, I saw the clock above the finish line tick from 2:39 to 2:40. I came in at 2:40:12, 12 seconds off of my initial goal, which I had deemed impossible, given my training. I was privately a tiny bit disappointed I didn't go under 2:40, but as a whole I was completely taken aback that I had come so close. Having resigned myself to maybe getting a small PR if I was lucky, getting that close to a seemingly unrealistic goal felt amazing.

Did you bleed? cramp?

One bloody nipple. I didn't even notice it until someone pointed it out at bag check. Adrenaline is great anesthesia for such things.

What race do you want to do next? (or not)

This time qualified me for the Berlin Marathon, so I decided to bite the bullet and register the next day. Pending any issues with my application, that will be my next marathon.

Any shoutouts? Who helped you along the way?

This phenomenal club we have is honestly the main reason why I still live in New York. The inclusivity of NBR allows for runners of all abilities to come together, train, and develop friendships. For this particular race, I feel especially inclined to shout out my teammates, Jack Mulvaney, Ben Leese, Alex Walsh, and Jeff Poindexter, with whom I trained a lot this summer and fall. Those four have instilled a sense of discipline in my training and really inspired me to work hard. They're also generally great guys and have become wonderful, supportive friends.

What advice would you give someone about to run the NYC marathon?

Just have fun. As competitive/team-based runners, it's easy to get caught up in the intensity of training and our goals and the pain and everything else. But remember that we do this for fun. I can't speak for everyone, but the less pressure I put on myself, the better I generally perform. The marathon is a unique race in that you're capable of feeling very good for a very long time. Don't take that for granted - soak it up and enjoy every minute of it. No better place to do so than on the loud, exciting streets of New York. Your fellow New Yorkers will have your back the whole damn way.

OMG: Last-minute Running-A-Marathon Tips

by Cherie Yanek

This is adapted from the North Brooklyn Runners workshop from the 24th of October, where we shared our ideas on how to prep for the marathon. As the Educational Member Program Coordinator, I provided framework and ideas; everyone also shared their own great tips. While this is geared towards the NYC Marathon, you can apply many of the tips to any marathon. Ultras break all the rules, so many of them won't apply...unless, of course, they do!

BEFORE THE MARATHON

Last minute tapering...

  • You can't cram in all the last minute training. These last two weeks, it's about maintaining your fitness and resting. Don't try anything new, don't exhaust yourself in workouts.
  • Add in a bit of speed if you can - but nothing you won't recover from. Your mileage should be cut way down - 1/3 of peak to even 1/4 of peak. Less is best.
  • If you haven't trained properly, tell yourself that under-training is better than over-training, because with over-training you risk injury.

Nutrition

  • Eat normal food, nothing out of control new.
  • Old school carb deprive/carb load is out. 
  • You don't want to carb load with too many carbs. Sorry, you really don't need to eat 18 bagels.
  • Low fiber the day before. If you have stomach issues, pay attention to the fiber you eat. I know a runner who (no joke) does a liquid diet the day before races because of her stomach issues. (Sounds miserable to me, but she swears by it).
  • No beets the day before. No. Just no.

Marathon Expo

  • Try to go earlier so you don't tire yourself out.
  • Buy new clothes/gear is okay; using it race day might not be a great idea.
  • Usually cheap place to buy gels - but so is Amazon Pantry. You pay $6 for a box and you fill it with goods. But don't buy new snacks to try marathon day. No new clothing or shoes for race day!

The Night Before

  • Remember - Daylight Savings - fall behind!
  • Set as many alarms as you possibly can. 
  • Try to get lots of sleep all week long - it will make up if you don't sleep well the night before the race.
  • You should have been hydrating all day long (and all week long really) but stop drinking an hour or two before bedtime. You don't want to wake up to pee 12x.
  • If you can't sleep, try to relax. Meditate, rest as well as you can, maybe even read (but nothing too stressful ... like don't read articles about the current state of politics in the US).

MARATHON DAY

Breakfast and Coffee

  • Only have coffee if you know it works. (Coffee makes you poop)
  • Low fiber breakfast - no more than 9 grams of fiber.
  • Hydrate - but maybe stop drinking an hour or so before you get on the bridge.
  • Hydration and coffee make it easier to poop.
  • A little bit of protein for breakfast w your carbs. Some examples: peanut butter on toast or bagel, banana pancakes (Don't those sound delicious?), maybe even maple pecan oatmeal (small portion, or a smoothie.

At Fort Wadsworth

  • Stay warm. Bring throw-away clothes to stay warm. Hideous is fine, as long as it's warm.
  • Keep your bib on the bottom layer.
  • They have tea, coffee, bagels, & bars - but don't try anything you haven't had before.
  • Keep a disposable water bottle to carry with you into your corral.

First Few Miles - Halfway

  • Use a pace bracelet (available at the expo) to keep track of your pace.
  • Try to stay even to your pace.
  • Don't get too excited too early.
  • High fives are fun, but don't waste time high-fiving everyone.
  • Tell spectators to wear bright clothing or carry a specific balloon or sign - it's HARD to see them, and for them to spot you.
  • Tell friends and family to track you with the app.
  • If someone loves you, they can see you three times! By Atlantic Terminal, go onto 1st ave up in the 90's, then go to 5th ave to see you one more time before they meet you at the finish.
  • Set mini-goals (vs. "I have to run 12 more miles, shoot me...."): the next water stop, the crowds at 1st Avenue; seeing my BFF at mile 20; that huge TV screen in the Bronx; etc.
  • Grab your cup - pinch it twice if you can.
  • If someone wants to cheer for you, tell them chances are, you might be choking on water right after the aid station, so they shouldn't wait right there.

The Wall

  • Get your calories in early. 100-300 calories is recommended every hour. Most people take a gel every 45 minutes or so (and take it with water).
  • Regular nutrition can help prevent the wall. If you start to bonk, liquid nutrition will be absorbed faster - and thus help you climb out faster. Gels are great because they contain more calories than Gatorade
  • Send a friend to the Bronx - helps to have someone to look forward to.
  • Set a goal - running in honor of a family member or friend - it's easier to dig deep for someone else than yourself. (I ran in honor of my Uncle Jimmy who died of leukemia. Seeing all of the TNT peeps meant a lot to me that year he died.)

The Finish

  • Last mile feels like forever, but the crowds at the bottom of the park ROCK.
  • Don't look at your watch at the finish - it will ruin your finishing photo (and how can you get your photo on the bus then??). The will have your exact time online by the time you're ready to look anyway.
  • Have your family meet you in the family meeting area.
  • If you have a drop bag, add some sandals, socks, and a complete change of clothes. Also, add a tasty snack with some protein if you are picky or if you want something more delicious post race.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Change your clothes if you can or at least get that wet sports bra off.

AFTER THE MARATHON

  • Go run the next day. You will hate me for saying it, and it can be the slowest run you've ever done (seriously, 16 minute miles is fine), but just get out there and DO IT. You'll get some of that crap out of your muscles and feel better. Then, take off the next week if you really want.
  • You will want to eat everything in sight - the next day too. Protein helps with muscle recovery. Try to eat 15-30 minutes after you're done - something with protein.
  • Get lots of sleep. You just trashed your body and your immune system is shaky - get lots of sleep.
  • The engraving on your medal the next day is pretty freaking cool.
  • Pick out your next marathon!!!!

Team Spot Check-in: Russell Wight

NBR: Tell us a little bit about how you came to be part of  NBR. What was your first run? How long have you been involved?


RW: My first NBR run was back in January 2012. It was a Wednesday night run. I was fairly off and on for the first two years, however. I only really started getting serious when I did the 9+1 in 2014 and doing races and stuff. I became a Monday night run leader in October 2014. 

NBR: How is marathon training going? Are there any specific workouts that are really moving things along for you? Tell the NBR world a good long run story.


RW: I’ve been doing a lot of strength training the last month or so. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to transition into more running. I’ve followed the Hanson’s training plans for my last few big races. My favorite workouts are the long tempo runs. I really feel that those runs help to get you focused on running a steady pace for a long time. 

NBR: Which NBR runs are you attending regularly to train? Are there any NBR members who inspire you to train hard(er)?


RW: I lead the Monday night run, so that’s my jam. I also do Tom’s Plyo workout Monday nights. Aside from that, I bounce around a lot, doing the Saturday or Sunday long run, Wednesday night run, and Thursday track

NBR: What does it mean to be chosen by your peers for a coveted NBR Marathon Team Spot?

RW: It’s pretty awesome. I know there’s a lot of people who have worked really hard to contribute to NBR over these years, and it’s really wonderful to be chosen to represent NBR in the greatest race ever! My goal this year is to run under 4 hours.. I’ve run two marathons already, and in both races I hit the wall pretty hard. I’m hoping to use the lessons from those races to put together a great race and give everything I’ve got. 

NBR: What do you plan on eating post-marathon? What about the night before?

RW: I’m a fan of barbecue - you may see at Mable’s smokehouse right after the race. As for the night before - I’ve done Thai Curry the last few big races, and surprisingly it’s worked well. And I’m pretty sure that I do Peter Pan donuts both before and after the race. (It’s carbs, right?) 

NBR: What is your running spirit animal and why?

RW: Hmmm, not entirely sure.