10 TIPS FOR MARATHON RACE DAY
by BRIAN METZLER |
10 IMPORTANT PRE-RACE TIPS FOR THE NEW YORK CITY MARATHON
RACE DAY: 11.07.21
You’ve trained long and hard for the 26.2 miles to the marathon finish line. Before you collect your medal in Central Park, merely getting to the start line in NYC can be a marathon in itself!
We asked our running shoe guru and multiple-time New York City marathoner, Brian Metzler, to share his top ten tips on how to make the most of your time once you arrive in The Big Apple.
1. Arrive Early
The Big Apple has plenty to see and do, but there’s no need to take any of it in before your race. My best advice is to arrive Thursday evening or Friday morning in time to visit the New York City Marathon Expo (and get it out of the way before the massive crowds congregate on Friday evening and all-day Saturday) so you can rest up, do shakeout runs on Friday and Saturday and then rest up for the race.
Keep in mind that everything takes longer in New York, including getting from the airport to your hotel and to the expo (at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center) and back, so plan accordingly. Save any sightseeing for after the race or another trip to the city.
2. Don’t Dawdle at the Expo – Move through, move on
The expo is different this year, and rightly so. With the pandemic limitations, check in and get your bib number and move on. There will be a JackRabbit Expo Store for last minute marathon essentials. Even if you’re going to be in and out, take a water bottle with you and snack to keep hydrated and fueled. This is not the time to mess up!
3. Don’t Run in New Gear
If you buy anything new before the race, don’t wear it on race day. That goes for shoes, socks, shorts or a shirt or sports bra. If you haven’t worn something running yet, you don’t want to find out on race day that it fits awkwardly, chafes or just doesn’t make you feel as fast and free as possible. Wear the stuff you brought with you, if nothing else as a testament to all the training you did in that gear.
4. Organize Your Race Kit
Check the weather for the race and know exactly what you’re going to wear on race day the on Saturday morning. Lay it all out out on your hotel bed (and yes, take a pic for Instagram) and pin you race bib to your shirt. If you’ve forgotten socks or gels or safety pins, it’s better to figure out with enough time to run to the corner store.
If you have last-minute needs on Saturday, don’t go back to the madness of the expo! Assuming you’re staying in Manhattan, head to the New York Running Company powered by JackRabbit at 10 Columbus Circle adjacent to Central Park. The stores are stocked for race weekend and ready.
5. Run in Central Park
No matter where you are from or where you’re staying in New York, Central Park is a place to behold—especially for runners. When some New Yorker friends told me years ago that they ran in the park almost every day, I scoffed, knowing that I ran different trails every day of the week in my trail running paradise in Boulder, Colorado. But the first time I ran there, I completely understood the magical aura and cherished wonderland of the park. Yes, it’s one of the only places New Yorkers have to run freely, but aside from that, the park is huge.
Central Park has numerous routes, trails, features and sights and you can sense a methodical rhythm of locals and tourists alike enjoying their daily affirmation. On race weekend, you’ll see runners from all over the world doing pre-race shakeout runs and taking pictures at the finish line. Head out for a light jog, but don’t get too caught up in amazement.
6. Eat Early
New York City revs up for dinner later than many cities, and it’s always crowded. Consider heading to dinner (or ordering room service) much earlier than you normally would (by 6 p.m. at the latest) so you have time to relax, rest, review the course map and allow your meal to digest before you fall asleep. Don’t eat anything spicy or potentially volatile to your system! Also, drink plenty of water before you go to bed and continue the moment you wake up.
Plan in advance where you’ll have breakfast and what you’ll eat, taking into consideration the calories you need and what your system will be comfortable digesting (including coffee or tea). Best advice: Eating a bagel, a banana or cereal stashed in the mini frig in your hotel room is much better than battling lines in the hotel coffee shop. If you’re planning on ordering room service, do it as early as possible.
7. Plan Your Morning
The toughest part of the New York City Marathon is getting to the start village adjacent to the starting line on Staten Island on race morning. Shuttle buses are an option (especially for some affiliated organizations and training groups) but you have to sign up in advance. If you plan on taking a cab, Uber/Lyft or subway to the tip of lower Manhattan, plan on starting the process early because there might be a long wait and you’ll still have to catch the Staten Island Ferry from the Whitehall Terminal.
Expect the journey from your hotel room to the starting line to take as much as 90 minutes, but hope for much less.
8. Dress Warmly
It’s typically chilly, often breezing and sometimes raining when you get to Staten Island. You’ll probably have at least two hours hanging around in the athlete’s village prior to getting into your starting corral, so either sign up in advance to transport your morning layers of clothes via the race’s gear bag service or dress with an extra layer that you consider disposable. (Consider an old, long-sleeve race T-shirt or a plastic garbage bag with holes cut out for your arms and head.)
Keep those extra layers as you head to your starting corral and wait to ditch them just before you start. (If it’s raining, keep the makeshift plastic bag on until you get to Brooklyn!)
9. Fuel Up and Hydrate
You should be sipping water (or an endurance sports drink) from the time you wake up and on your journey to the starting line. Consider consuming an energy gel or bar in the hour before you start. And if you’re going to need to use a porta-potty, get in line early. Word to the wise: Carry your own toilet paper tucked in your shorts just in case.
Keep sipping from that bottle until you get into your starting corral. If you need to pee, hold it until the first set of toilets you see after crossing the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in Brooklyn.
10. Stay Positive
As you meander to your starting corral, you’re bound to get nervous and a bit out of your element. This is an important time to trust in your training, no matter how fit you think you are. Everybody around you trained as well as they could given their own life situations and everybody dealt with missed workouts, illness, work and family stress, fatigue and plenty of other variables.
As you’re about to embark on a monumental run up and over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, give yourself an emotional high-five for embarking on this grand endeavor and making it to the starting line. You earned it!
Put a huge smile on your face and know that the ensuing 26.2 miles through New York’s five boroughs will be an experience of a lifetime, no matter how long it takes to get to the finish line in Central Park and how you feel along the way.
Have fun, run free and enjoy the journey!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BRIAN METZLER
Brian Metzler has run races at every distance from 50 meters to 100 miles, wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of shoes, is a three-time Ironman finisher and occasionally participates in the quirky sport of pack burro racing in Colorado.
He has run the New York City Marathon three times with lackluster results. But he considers each experience among his most memorable running experiences.