Your name has been drawn in the lottery. Credit card has been charged. And you've received the confirmation email. You're on cloud nine and telling all your friends that you're set to run through the five boroughs in November. However – you've so many questions, which can be all summed up into one question that covers all the bases: So what now?
First things first – always look out for all New York Road Runners emails. Make sure they don't go to your spam list or junk folder. This simple step could be the difference between you checking a bag on the day or not, or getting the ferry instead of a bus. And there's a chance you could miss out on many events around marathon week.
Yes, the organization will send you an excessive amount of emails about merchandise and training gear – but it's the TCS NYC Marathon. It only comes around once a year. Embrace every bit of it.
Book stuff. Like right now – or five days ago. While you may think it's only your fellow runners thinking about the marathon, you're wrong. Hotels, airlines, and train operators are all too aware of November 6 and what's happening in NYC.
So get your travel arrangements done as early as possible. Looking for somewhere to stay in the city? Although a lot of people tend to stay close to the Staten Island Ferry – the most widely used method of transport for runners on the day – I would say stay closer to the park. The biggest marathon in the world ends on Central Park West and – believe it or not – your legs will most likely be shot after the race, so you won't want to travel too far – or use a lot of subway steps. Staying close to the park means a quick getaway when it's over, a chance to shower and change, and there's also many easily accessible subways to get to that morning to get down to the ferry. Getting a hotel down near Battery Park or so will get you to the ferry in a short space of time on race day, but it's a good trek from Central Park West to Battery Park, so remember that on raceday. Also – NYRR has a partnership with Airbnb for the Brooklyn Half Marathon – so as one of the organization's sponsors, you can be sure to find plenty of options on Airbnb's website. Again, get on these quick as accommodation will go pretty fast.
Oh – and if you're traveling from out of town. Try to stay around the Monday for Finisher's Monday, which is great for those who want finisher merchandise, a picture at the finish line, and get their medals engraved. Most importantly: Make sure you arrive at the Expo before end of day Saturday as absolutely no race numbers are available on race day.
NYRR will give you multiple reminders about baggage options on the day. While the race is months away, start thinking about this well in advance.
Personally, I always choose the no baggage options for three reasons:
1: The Muffin is always there on hand outside Central Park to meet me with a bag of fresh clothes – and badly needed food and 2: Runners who do not pick up baggage have to walk another 0.5 miles or so from the finish line to exit the park. However, those collecting baggage have to walk another mile (so 1.5 miles in total). After going a grueling 26.2 miles, I certainly don't want to go an extra mile and a half. No way. Looking the map, you can see the race ends at the finish line inside the park, which is located beside 67th Street. However, if your bib number is 500-30,999, you can only exit the park with your baggage at 85th street, which believe me – after doing 26.2 miles – is quite the agonizing walk.
And reason number 3: Those not picking up baggage get the magnificent ponchos. So, what's so special about the ponchos? Well, by the time you reach the dedicated NYRR volunteers, who I've seen nicknamed “poncho angels,” your body temperature will have severely dropped. Yes, as soon as you cross the line, you'll be give those light, aluminum heat/space blankets, but as everyone knows, they do little to prevent your body temperature dropping dramatically following a marathon.
In 2014 and 2015, I wrapped myself in two heat sheets and still was shivering by the time I went to exit the park at 77th Street. From the finish line to that exit at 77th Street, it's a further test of endurance – mental and physical – just to keep going until you can exit the park. Aching, in pain, and now freezing, the post-race euphoria was wearing off. Worse was I knew that I still had another 10 streets to walk until I met the Muffin.
And then, I met the “poncho angels,” who come toward you with that big blue lined poncho. However, they not only give it to you, but they wrap it around you – at this points your body and limbs are somewhat useless due to the run and because you're freezing. It's a incredible feeling, the closest you'll will feel to being a baby again, getting wrapped in a blanket. A quick hug, followed by many “thank yous” and suddenly, that euphoric finisher feeling flows through your veins as those chills disappear.
According to NYRR's website: Starting April 14, runners will be able to make their bag-check/post-race poncho selection so stay tuned for more information on options and the selection process.
Ferry or bus
Personally, I've always got the ferry as the bus options were never made available to me – perhaps due to my wave times – I've always been in one of the first few corrals in Wave 2. There's two options to reach Staten Island from Manhattan on race day: the Staten Island Ferry or special NYRR buses that leave from the New York Public Library.
If you can land a seat on the bus, I'd take it as it frees you from the pandemonium of the subway, which is packed with thousands of runners of all shapes and sizes and some stunned looking pedestrians wondering why their early Sunday subway ride is jam packed. It also saves you the hassle of trying to get on a Staten Island Ferry.
The ferry itself is great – there's toilets (with long lines) on board, food and coffee stall, plenty of seats, and of course iconic views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan. When you get off the Ferry, you then board specially organized buses to Fort Wadsworth. However, getting on the ferry can cause a bit of a sweat. The problem with the ferry is that many, many runners do not board their assigned ferry, which causes problems at the terminal as a mass crowd tries to get through the doors. In 2015, I was down for the 6.30 a.m. ferry, but was down at the terminal for 6.10. However, the crowd to get onto the 6.15 one was just so severe, I had to wait for the my designated 6.30 mode of transport. And then, I nearly did not get on it, as the crowd was beyond huge. My major gripe: There were numerous runners boarding the 6.30 ferry who were in Wave 3 or 4 and didn't need to be on-board that early. As a result, many runners – who desperately needed to be on that assigned boat missed it and were forced to get the next one.
Don't get me wrong, you can get any ferry – as nobody is there checking your wave number as you board – but I would hope that runners stick to their assigned boats this year, ensuring that runners who need to be on specific ferries are able to make it.
From Staten Island, you'll then board a bus to Fort Wadsworth to the race village, where you'll be moments away from crossing the start line.
Again, transportation options for this year's marathon open on April 14 so make sure you check back as soon as possible to pick your options.
The day this blog was produced, there were 237 days left until the TCS NYC Marathon. So plenty of time to train for it, right? The 2014 NYC Marathon was my first marathon I've ever attempted or tried. When I got the confirmation that I made the marathon through the lottery, the farthest I had ever ran was only 15km (9.3 miles). Only another 16.9 miles to add onto that. Easy, right?
Soon after I got in through the lottery and that 'Wow, I'm going to run the NYC Marathon” feel-good feeling wore off, I then started to panic about it. How could I go from 9 miles to 26.2 in just under 10 months. To me, it sounded beyond do-able. Impossible even. So I started to research training plans and came across a lot of different options. One thing that someone advised me: Be comfortable running 10 miles at a conversational pace by July. If you are, start your program then and you'll be marathon ready by November.
And the one I settled on – the NYRR Virtual Training Program. I mean, who better to get me ready for the marathon than the team behind it? Three years later and I'm still using the program – for the fourth time. I used it for the 2014 and 2015 NYC Marathons, as well as the Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon and am currently using it for the inaugural Queens Marathon. So that's more than an endorsement of the program, which is worth every penny – prices start at $49.99.
The two best things about this program: it's flexible and adaptable.
During marathon training, life will get in the way. So, if you have a week where you're supposed to run 38 miles and it didn't happen, your program will automatically adapt for the following week. Halfway during the plan, if you're fitness has increased, the plan will adapt. Got an injury and need to curtail the mileage. It will do that for you, too. Also, the plan is completely flexible and not as rigid as others, so you can swap some days around so that you can work, rest, and play – all while getting race ready. There's other options. Runners World, Asics, and NYC-based Jack Rabbit sports offers different options, but my preference is NYRR's program.
Right now, these are the only things you need to pay attention to: Travel, transportation, baggage, and training. Race week, the expo, and race day will all get posts of their own as the event approaches, but for now, enjoy the feeling of getting into the world's biggest block party, but don't ignore all the essential things you need to do well before November 6.