This is the first part of 6 or 7 series I will write on the NYC Marathon for those of you interested in conquering this incredibly tough course. They say if you havent run a NYC Marathon then you havent really run a marathon. The elite runners of the world continue to say this marathon is the toughest major road race. Why? Well as my friend from New York and avid runner puts it, It’s perfectly designed to seduce, fool and break you down and in the process squash your goals. I feel Brooklyn makes or breaks your race. Brooklyn will seduce you and when you leave Brooklyn and head into the Queens for the short run through here you realize you have been seduced by Brooklyn with all its frenzy and crowds and whistles and crazy energy and you are now in your new reality of feeling spent from going too fast and unconsciously letting adrenaline take over. After feeling really spent you have to tackle the hardest part and most challenging part of the course, The Queensboro Bridge. But I will elaborate further into this when I write my series about Queens.
Back to Brooklyn, as you start the race over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge it is amazing, the sights are unreal and the pay off of all those training months pays off and its real, you are running the NYC Marathon. I took this picture above and when you actually stand still like this the bridge shakes up and down, it’s quite a feeling. After enjoying the feeling of making it here you start to come off the bridge into Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and all chaos breaks loose. The crowds are immense and waiting at the earliest point they are able to greet runners. Depending on what color your bib is you will turn here or there on 95th or 92nd for a block or two until you can get to 4th Ave and this is where you have to make a conscious decision to show extreme discipline. You have been sitting on Staten Island all morning, maybe travelled far away to get here to this day and you get on fourth Ave. and the crowds are a circus and you are so inspired and excited that the natural feeling is to go and go hard. Most runners make this mistake and your race at mile 16 or so turns from a race into just survival, all your time goals are thrown out the race and all you want to do is finish.
Brooklyn is fast and flat and at times a bit of a downhill slope and it’s really easy to push it here. After leaving Bay Ridge and heading into Sunset Park it get more rowdy here. Naturally at mile 4 you will feel like your body has gotten into a groove as it has warmed up here. Trying to hold back becomes the biggest challenge. I suggest sticking to a plan of running the first 5 miles at 8-10 seconds slower per mile than intended race pace. This will help you from taking off and will help you show discipline. The next 5 miles from Sunset Park into South Williamsburg should be run close to race pace, maybe 2-3 seconds slower. This natural progression and discipline will help you stay on target for what lies ahead. As you approach mile 7 in the Park Slope area the crowds will really get out of hand and you will feel the energy. I think the key is to enjoy the sounds and the energy. You can become your worst enemy here. The corner of Flatbush and Lafayette at mile 8 may be the greatest show on earth, you have a water station here, bands, crazy crowds, horns, screaming. It may be the pinnacle of total crowd support. The push up Lafayette is alive with an amazing community of Brooklynites showing their pride. The neighborhood is so colorful and you are still feeling good. Staying close to race pace is key. From Mile 10 to 13 you have to develop the mantra in your head, “hold back, hold back”. It’s easy to turn it on with the turns in this part of Brooklyn. Keeping this mentality will help you prepare to lead you to the Pulaski Bridge and into Queens where the real work will start. The Pulaski Bridge is a nice steep short grade and it will fatigue you so pulling back is important here so you don’t exert your energy.
Above anything else enjoy Brooklyn. It will be one of the best running experiences you have. There is nothing like running NYC and Brooklyn is a huge part of this. As we say in Brooklyn, “how sweet it is”.