You know the “don’t wear anything new on race day” and all the basics… now, let’s do NYC Half Marathon as right as we can. I have done this race 5 times so far (from 2:06 in its first year, to 1:37 last year) and I keep running into people who haven’t and have lots of questions (let me know if you have any question not covered below!). And in case you want to see photos and read my race reports, go here for all of them, or here for 2013 NYC Half.
PRE RACE LOGISTICS
Make a marathon list of what you’ll need a week or two before and sort it all by stages, here is an Marathon Packing List to start with. Get everything in the list ready as soon as possible.
Plan your nutrition way ahead. You can buy gels at the expo if necessary, but get bagels/oatmeal and whatever you need the day before as there will not be a lot of delis open at 4, 5, or 6 am.
If you need any last minute thing, you can buy most stuff at the expo/bib pickup (don’t forget to bring a printed copy of your reg form (download it here) and photo identification) or here is an organized list with all the running stores by area.
Gear… the weather can be anything from 60s to 20s so so prepare (aka, train in) a few options and decide the day before. Be smart, and make sure you can peel off layers comfortably. If you don’t want to carry your phone, at least carry a $20 bill, a metrocard, and an ID with you, just in case.
Prep some cheap or throwaway clothes to the start. Find a mylar blanket from your last marathon (and don’t throw away the one you’ll get at the finish here!). You will need them until the last minute in the corral (I wear one as pants with tape and one as a cape). I wear my throwaway cardigan or a sweater (cut in the front for easy peeling, kept it in place with a safety pin!) during the first mile too! Go to the dollar store and get knee-high socks, cut the foot and you’ll have throwaway arm warmers! I keep half of it on until I warm up, it can be windy and cold at the start!
Best tool to have at any race: your name on your shirt, do not even question this. If you don’t want your name, write something funny you’ll want people to scream to you all over the course. This is a big race and there will be a lot of spectators along the course and having them scream your name will make your race 100 times better. If you don’t want to ruin your gear, cut the letters our of duct tape (like I do!) and voila, they’ll peel right off!
Headphones or not? If you are used to racing with headphones, bring them. I like to leave them on, and turn them on only when necessary. The Central Park part will be CROWDED, seriously crowded, so it’s smart to keep the music off, or very low so you can hear people around you. Once you are in the West Side Highway, and it gets a little monotonous, go for it. You’ll have a lot of people cheering and you don’t want to miss it, but if you do have the music on later on, still make sure you can still hear what is happening around you!!!!
Place your spectators in spots where you’ll need encouragement (quite probably on the long stretch along the West Side Highway). If they are not the adventurous kind, they could see you anywhere in the park, always on your right, and then head over to the finish. Otherwise, there is an insane amount of combination of spots they can see you at. Study the map with them and calculate how much time they’ll have to get from one spot to the other based on your speed. For example, the 1st spotting would usually be in Central Park, east side, around 85 st, on your left (they need to be on the inside part of the park), that would be your mile 1. After they see you, the walk across the park (it won’t be more than a 10 minute walk) around the Great Lawn to West 86th, where they can see you again at mile 4.5! They have to be on the runner’s right (the outside of the park). Elite runners will be there in 20 minutes, and you can tell them how long it’d take you to do 4.5 miles! So, they have to hurry and cross over the quarter mile in less than 20 minutes or they’ll be trapped inside the park. Once they see you go, wave, exit the park and the B and C trains are right there at 86 and CPW. They could also do this in the 102 transverse (instead of 86) and the trains are at 103 when they exit the park but the time to cross over is a lot less, but totally doable if they zippityzip. C trains go downtown, so they can head over to 14th st, though there is a walk from 8th ave to 11th avenue, so if the C train shows up fast, I’d say yes, otherwise, just keep going to Chambers and head over to the West Side Highway. A cab would make this all a LOT easier too! Once they see you in Chambers, the can head over to meet you at the Finish (find a corner ahead of time, it’ll be CROWDED!) or at some brunch spot! Call ahead to see if they are open at 9 or 10 am so they can wait there and be warm! // It’s important to know exactly on what side of the street they’ll be so YOU can spot them (they won’t be able to spot you!). Send them with something big: a flag, a sign, balloons, huge funny hat, etc. Tell them to get comfy shoes, really warm clothes and bring food. It will be an early and long day for them too! // If you need an extra push, ask for help!! FORCE all your friends to come watch you. Ask them “where are you going to be?”. Then tell them a time you’ll go through there, give or take 10 minutes, and decide if they’ll be runner’s Left or Right. Then make a little-tiny list you can carry in your pocket (Example: 102nd st, John, left / 86st st, Mike, right, etc.) in order or appearance, put clear tape all over it so it won’t get sweaty and basically go from John, to Mike, to etc… Let them pull you along the course and that’ll break the course in parts, instead of think “AH, I gotta go all the way to the end of the island, ugh” you’ll think: “I am just going to 102nd st, to see John, then we’ll see!“
Oh, and have them download the 2014 NYC Half mobile app (will probably be ready to download a week or two before the race) where they can track you and up to 9 more runners at a time.
Get yourself a pace bracelet, and adjust it looking at the course profile: your first half should definitely be slower (look at the course strategy section below).
If you need a short run before the race, go to Central Park. You’ll see many of your race-buddies and get to enjoy the best place in the world as a runner.
Find a mantra, or two, you might really need them. I write them in my hand where I am sure I will see it.
The are are many starts this year! There will be waves starting from 7:10 to 8:10 and in early march you will get a registration card with your bib/wave number and start time.
Getting to the start/Baggage Check. The easiest way to get there is always a cab or running there of course, but if you have to take the train, take anything to 57th or 59th streets or any of the trains that leave you close to Central Park South/59th st. You will have to enter the park through Sixth or Fifth Avenue. Before entering, check your (nyrr provided plastic) bag outside of the park (on 59th Street, between Fifth and Seventh Avenues). Give yourself ample time (as this is weekend schedule) and check MTA for weekend alerts, or try hopstop: make sure your train is running! Also, if you are not sure, I am 100% confident that if you just head over to the closest train stop, you’ll see someone you could follow to the Start // Kiss your loved ones buh-bye, they won’t be allowed anywhere close to the Start!
Last years, the porta-potties were inside the corral, so no need to go stand in a line and then be in the corral half and hour early to do nothing! Now you can just wait in the corral, while you wait to get rid of your last minute liquid nervousness! Make sure you’re in the corral by the time cut-off.
The race WILL be crowded, so PLEASE, if you need to stop for a walk or move over for water, please please please signal with your arms, and look around behind you before you make any moves, DO NOT just stop or go sideways. Be considerate of your fellow runners who could trip! The good side of this is that you’ll always have someone to run with, pace of, or follow when you’re tired. Pick them up when you feel strong, encourage them when they need it, and keep your eyes peeled for anyone who might need help!!
There will be Water/Gatorade around every mile or so, so if you miss one, don’t stress. Don’t go for the first table as everyone will do that. There’s many tables: go to the last one. You’ll find the portapottties where the water is, so keep an eye out and don’t dart sideways! There will be Gels at mile 7.5, on 42nd street between 9th and 10th avenues.
Here is the course map: NYRR New York City Half Marathon course map
This is an easy race to figure out. Basically, you have two parts: the undulating the Central Park (first half) and the straight and flat run to the finish (the second half). Break the race in parts, device a plan, and stick to it no matter what. Plan for negative splits: keep it strong and conservative throughout the park and ram it home once you hit the West Side Highway. I am an average runner and have negative split in this race every time. Basically: you have to believe in yourself and wait for the time of your life. This is how I like to break this race down:
Part 1 – Mile 1: HOLD YOUR FREAKING HORSES!!!!
There are 2.5 hills in this race: Cat Hill as soon as you start, Harlem Hill at 3.5, and going up the Battery Park Underpass at the end. Cat Hill and the Tunnel are short and tiny but annoying because of their locations right at the start and right at the end…! People get excited at the start, and take off like maniacs; if this is going to work, we have to hold it in, climb the hill carefully and let everyone (and their grandmother) pass. Say: Yes, go ahead and go. I’ll catch you later when your quads are screaming, buh-bye.
Part 2 – Mile 2 to 6: EASY, LIGHT, SMOOTH
The park is a string of undulating hills, but after Cat Hill you have the longest flat stretch, almost a half mile (heaven…!) so, use that to get on a rhythm, find your legs and a pacer. It’ll be crowded so I doubt you’ll be able to utilize the tangents but at least avoid tripping, did I mention it’s gonna be CROWDED?
Your goal for the first half of the race is to exit the park in one piece, feeling strong to let it all go in the second part of the race. Exercise all your patience here and keep yourself in good checks to not let yourself go. If you are running hard-comfortable, you are doing it right.
Part 3 – Mile 7 to 10: IT’S ON!
This is where I like to stretch out my legs: the race starts here. From now on it’s flat and steady. When you exit the park you’ll have a lot of space, cheering and excitement to carry you on, and as soon as you turn right on 42nd, you’ll be rolling down. Hit the gas.
Note: Something about Times Square can make you or your gps go crazy. Ooops.
Part 4 – Mile 11 to 13.1: YOLO
ALL. HELL. BREAKS. LOOSE.
That is all. Go Crazy. Bring it in. Drop the Hammer.
Walk, get your medal, take pictures, get your stuff, find your friends/family, go get brunch (there are many good places downtown), enjoy, stretch, ice bath, rest, eat more, sleeeeeep! Tell everyone about your race, plan your next race, have a congratulatory donut. Or at least that’s what I am planning to do, even if this might be my slowest half!!
Questions?? Anything to add? Anything you want to go over?
NYRR New York City Half Marathon course map
The official New York City Half Marathon website.
—-Comment happily: you won’t be asked to create an account!