In a few days I’ll be running my second New York Marathon. This is the third marathon I’ve trained for, I was supposed to run in 2012, but that one was cancelled after Hurricane Sandy. This year I feel really well prepared, strong, health and confident that I’ll be able to beat my previous time. I’m glad to be mostly (but not entirely) rid of the first-time marathon doubts and jitters.
I made a lot of notes to myself after 2013, here are some things I wish someone had told me before my first marathon.
You will be sitting around for a very, very long time before the race. It will be cold. You will be cold.
Bring disposable clothing. Lots of it. In 2013 I spent several hours in the runners’ village waiting to start. I was cold, I was hungry and I was bored. And I didn’t even get a Dunkin Donuts hat. I remember spending a while huddling next to a small diesel generator for warmth. This year I’m dressing like a marshmallow and bringing a decent second breakfast.
The Verazzano bridge is windy and frigid. Lots and lots of people toss their clothing once they’re back on the ground in Brooklyn. (there’s also a lot of peeing)
As much as possible, know what you’ll be wearing and eating
Know what you’re going to wear on race day well in advance. Stick with what’s been working on the runs leading up to the race. Whatever got you this far will get you to the finish line. A month out, you should probably have your shoes and socks figured out. There will be plenty of time after the marathon to tweak your gait, try different shoes or experiment with different diets.
Don’t stress about your time.
This is probably most important of all. Just deciding to run a marathon at all is amazing–don’t forget that. Relax. Be inspired by you.
I seem to know quite a few exceptional athletes. I don’t count myself in that group. These people roll out of bed and run low-3 hour marathons without training. It’s not normal.
I finished my first marathon somewhere around 4:48. I was disappointed. Months later, my sister-in-law Cheri, who’s a pretty serious runner, told me something which turned that all around. “Finishing your first marathon in under five hours is amazing.” I’d convinced myself I’d be closer to 4 hours. Halfway through, high on adrenaline and running too fast, I remember thinking I might even break four.
Do try to pace yourself. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the crazy city-wide street party and run too fast.
None of us are going to win, but we’re still sharing the road with olympians. The finish line is the same finish line, whether you get there in three hours or six; running, walking or crawling. Do this, enjoy it.
As much as running is a physical sport, it’s also a massive head game. Last year, a runner near me had written a quote on the back of his shirt:
If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
– Henry Ford
The amount of self-doubt leading up to the marathon is astonishing. But I’ve come to realize it’s more of a kharmic deposit, and the return on investment is fantastic.
Get lots of sleep. Eat well and have fun.
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind always be at your back
and may the sun shine warm upon your face.