Here are a few things we stress to our City Coach and JackRabbit athletes when preparing for the NYC Marathon.
The start is the hardest part of the NYC course as you climb the Verrazano. If you’re lucky enough to start near the front, be careful not to go out too fast. In fact, if you race well it should be your slowest mile of the day because of the elevation gain. If you’re starting toward the back, you may be tempted to weave around folks to make good time up the hill. Resist this temptation at all costs. Make sure that you run 1.0 miles in the first mile. Wasting energy trying to get around other runners will certainly bite you in the butt later. It may be frustrating to shuffle for the first mile, but the good news is you’ll still have 25+ miles to make up any lost time. (I don’t usually refer to 25 miles to go as a positive, but in this case it is.) After you reach the top of the bridge, you’ll have a fast, downhill mile. Once again, don’t waste energy by attacking the hill to aggressively. Lean into the hill gently and relax.
Once you exit the Verrazano, you’re in Brooklyn. This will be your first exposure to the cheering crowds, and the terrain on 4th Avenue is flat and fast. Settle in and find a steady pace – preferably right around your overall goal marathon pace. Just as you need to resist the urge to go too hard in Staten Island, don’t let the excitement of the crowd push you too hard just yet. Harness the energy. Don’t bother giving a high-five or hugging your adoring fans. When you pass the Williamsburg Savings Bank building (they’re condos now FYI) you’ll still have great crowds and fast terrain. Mile 10 is on Bedford Ave. The terrain continues to be flat and fast. At this stage you should feel great, and hopefully will have maintained a solid pace in Brooklyn. Once again, you need to be disciplined. Too many marathoners decide that they feel good after 10 miles and think they can adjust their goal. Now’s not the time to think on your feet. Stick with your game plan. Assuming that you’re feeling comfortable, that plan should be to pick up the pace slightly for the next several miles. An adjustment of 5-10 seconds per mile is enough.
You’ll reach the halfway point on the Pulaski Bridge as you enter Queens. The bridge is a little challenging. Don’t push it too hard on the ascent. The next few miles include some rolling hills and turns. Be sure to cut the tangents so you don’t have to cover any extra ground. (NYRR has made a few changes in the course in recent years which eliminates some of the tightest turns, so it should be a touch faster than in the past.)
Your next bridge is the Queensboro Bridge/59th St/Ed Koch Bridge. While this is a challenging one, the “wall of sound” awaits you on the Manhattan side. Maintain your mental focus, and don’t get flustered by the quiet. One of the top sections of the course is ahead. When you exit the bridge and head up 1st Avenue, you’ll have a slight uphill for most of the first 1.25 miles, then downhill to 96th and back up most of the way to the Willis Avenue Bridge. As you head north of 96th Street the crowds thin and you’ll probably start to feel the miles. Keep your concentration and discipline, as the next few miles are mentally challenging.
You’ll hit 20 miles as you enter the Bronx. While I’ve stressed the need to stay disciplined and not go “off script” by speeding up and trying to “bank time” earlier in the race, now’s the time to listen to your body. If you’ve raced conservatively, you may find yourself able to pick it up a little.
The course in the Bronx has been extended slightly as compared to a few years ago. As you enter the Bronx, you’ll head across 138th, north onto Rider Avenue, west on 140th and south on Rider Avenue before picking up 138th again. You’ll soon cross the Madison Avenue Bridge and re-enter Manhattan. Look for the official City Coach cheering section on the right side at 136th St as you head down 5th Avenue. The farther south you go, the deeper and louder the crowds will get. You’ll need them as you head downtown on 5th Avenue, as there’s a gentle but seemingly endless incline south of 110th Street. You’ll enter Central Park at Engineer’s Gate and it’s mostly downhill from there. Exit at the bottom of the park, run along Central Park South, then re-enter the park at Columbus Circle. From there, no matter how tired you are, you can gut it out to the finish at Tavern on the Green that you all know so well.