4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Posts Tagged ‘New York City Marathon

New York City Marathon Tomorrow!

leave a comment »

Just wanted to wish everyone running the NYC Marathon GOOD LUCK and HAVE FUN tomorrow.  The weather looks to be awesomely perfect.  My advice is to slllooowww down in the first half.  Don’t underestimate the toughness of the hills in the last 6 miles of the race.

As for myself, I’ve run it 7 times and am pretty much over it.  That said, it is the most awesomest race in the world and still, by far, the most exciting marathon course I’ve ever run, out of 9.  Maybe I’ll try again some year, but, it is super expensive, and hard to get into unless you either want to raise money for charity or commit to 9 NYRR races the prior year.  It is also super big and crowded, and I’m finding I enjoy smaller races more.  The way I figure it, my not running the race gives an opportunity to someone else who otherwise would be shut out 🙂

My NYC Marathon History:

  1. 1996 – 5:27:31 (PR at the time)
  2. 1998 – 5:35:33
  3. 2000 – 4:52:03
  4. 2002 – 5:06:22
  5. 2007 – 4:51:43
  6. 2008 – 4:31:25 (PR at the time)
  7. 2009 – 4:44:05

From the archives, my all of my 2009 marathon related postings, and my 2008 race report:

It’s a little (OK very) messy due to my inconsistent use of tags and categories over the years, but I’ve got other (sometimes interesting) marathon related postings in the Tag or Category.

I don’t think I’ll be able to spectate tomorrow.  If possible, perhaps I’ll get to mile 11/12 on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg which is easily accessible by the L train.  I have great spectator memories from the past.  In the end, my best strategy to watch from multiple points on the course, and hit spots that were less popular, was to watch at mile 7/8 on 4th Ave, then mile 14ish in Queens and then mile 21, just after the madison ave bridge.  Now with the wave starts, it is actually harder to watch from multiple places and still see everyone you want, because of the large gaps between the fast runners and the slow runners.

Again, for everyone running tomorrow, have a great one!





Written by SCL

November 5, 2011 at 11:05 am

New York City Marathon Race Report – Part I

with 6 comments

Wow, hard to believe another year has gone by and another New York City Marathon has also come and past.  This is the third year in a row that I ran, and my 7th NYC since 1996.  As I’ve also run in 4 other marathons, this was my 11th overall.

My goal, of course, was 4:30, obtained at the Austin Marathon in Feb, 4:22, in friendly conditions (downhill, wind at back for much of last 8 miles).  Last year in NYC, I just missed out, finishing in 4:31:xx.  Even though I had put in lots of miles, in fact, more miles in the 12 weeks before this race than any other marathon previously, I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn’t really have it in me to finish in 4:30 (outlined here).  In many ways I had a great race and a great time, which you’ll see here, but, at the end of the day, I started coming apart in mile 19 or so, and totally lost it after 21 miles.  But, let’s go back and start at the beginning.

I was in the 3rd wave this year, which meant I’d have a 10:20am start time.  I was also assigned to the Staten Island Ferry, as transportation to the start.  Although I could actually take advantage of the ferry and get a much later start than in years past, I just found myself so jumpy and nervous about the race, that I ended up getting almost as early a start as I have in years past.  Was up at 4:30, out the door by 5:15, and at the ferry in time for the 5:45 ferry.  Ferry was not super crowded, certainly less crowded than a typical weekday or weekend trip, and everything was well organized.  Took awhile between the ferry ride and the shuttle bus to the start area, but eventually we were dropped off in a HUGE line of people trying to get into the fort.  Line moved slowly and steadily, delay was essentially a cursory bag check, and then we were in the fort!

First job was just to scout around.  Find my corral in the blue start, find the food, all the bathroom lines, etc.  First thing I noticed was that even though the orange and blue corrals are right next to each other, you cannot get through from one to the other.  That worked out nicely for us as there were a ton of port-o-sans in the area that would prove to never get very crowded.  This was my first blue start, Alberto Salazar Village, and I thought it was the best organized of the bunch.  Very large open concrete (key) space right next to the corrals with all the food and drink stations, and then another large tent area further away, again with all the food and drink stations and port-o-sans.  Passed the time with a careful eating strategy, changed into my race clothes and shoes, and checked my bag at around 8:30.  Was not terribly cold out with temps forecasted in the 50’s, so decided to go with short sleeve top and shorts.  With 2 hours to kill, mostly standing around, went with a throwaway long sleeve t-shirt and shell jacket, the kind they sell at the expo.  Spent much of the rest of the time walking around, using the bathrooms, eating, and just watching the insanity at the corrals.

I have to say the corrals seemed much better staffed this year than last.  Last year, it seemed that it there were mostly high school age girls trying to keep the peace, and that was not working.  Or, perhaps, they do a better job with the blue corrals than the green corrals?  In the blue corrals this year, there were big guys from the US Coast Guard trying to keep order.  That still didn’t stop people from rushing the corrals, jumping the fences (much higher than last year by the way) or otherwise loudly complaining about the injustice of their not being allowed in, when they were in fact LATE.  I really find it amazing how people can not take enough self interest in where they need to go or need to be to get themselves to the assigned place on time.  And I have no sympathy for the people that wait until the last minute to go to the race, check their bag, and try to find their place.  This is the NYC Marathon, with 43,000 participants, not some rinky dink 1000 person race where you can waltz right up at the last minute.  When will they learn??  I’ve seen in race reports that the green corrals were poorly done, but in the blue, everything seemed well organized, and everyone that showed up on time made it to the proper wave.

As for myself, I was in the 2nd corral of the 3rd wave.  Even in my corral, after wave 2 had completely gone by, there were many people trying to rush the front of the 3rd wave to catch up.  Even through the gates were completely closed, and those people were completely late, having already missed the cannon, these people were still completely unruly, threatening and downright ugly towards the volunteers trying to keep everything nice and orderly and safe for the rest of us.  Finally, about 5 minutes before the start, they allowed us to walk up to the start line.  After a few turns around a maze of buses parked in the toll plaza, we were in front of the start line!  I had worked my way up most of the way through the first corral of people and was about 5 rows deep from the start line!  Right in front of the place where the announcer guy was doing his thing from, and where a military lady sang God Bless America.  I was literally standing right under her while she sang.  When it was done, after a few short words, they moved us right up to the start, and the cannon boomed, and we were off!

This was my 7th NYC Marathon, and this start will be one to never forget.  It was as if I was in the lead pack going up the bridge.  It was a truly awesome experience.  Since most people in wave 3, presumably, are not faster than 9 min per mile pace (slowest third of the participants, the lead group didn’t even break away from me that quickly.  Virtually all the way up the bridge, I could clearly see the empty bridge ahead, and the running lanes were not very crowded.  It was a great experience.  Unfortunately though, it was windy, really windy, almost directly a headwind, although slightly from the left side.  After a few minutes of fearing I might lose my hat, I took it off and carried it the entire length of the bridge.  Brightroom got 2 nice pictures of me holding my hat!

My goal was to try as much as possible to stay completely “within” myself for as long as possible, and not jump out to fast in the classic areas (bridge, Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, 1st Ave).  A 4:30 marathon is approx 10:18 per mile.  My goal was to keep to 9:45’s or so for the first half.  Each mile clicked off in 9:45, or better, was 30+ seconds that I was ‘banking’ for late in the race, when my pace would most definitely slow down.  So, here, in the first mile, in the lead pack, with little in the way of crowds or obstructions, I tried very hard to hold back, and succeeded.  First mile was in 9:48, and then the 2nd mile, all downhill, was in a reasonable 9:05.  Then I settled into a nice easy 9:30-9:50 pace for the early miles.

Once we hit the 2nd mile, then the faster people behind me in the wave started to pass, and there were a lot of people passing me in the first 5-6 miles.  It did not feel crowded at all though, until we hit mile 4, which is where we merged with the green start.  In theory, the people in the green start are even slower than those in the blue start, and this was likely the case.  While we picked up an additional set of people at that merge, it still didn’t feel too crowded.  One thing that struck me in these miles is that this is where I was having so much trouble 2 weeks earlier, when I bagged on a 21 mile run, and went into the subway at 36th St, after only 13 miles.  On this day, continued breezing down 4th Ave, feeling great and having a grand ole time.  At this point, 4:30 felt totally possible.  I kept telling myself that I felt great and just needed to stay within myself and hold back.  However, the other voice in my head said that it is a long race, and of course you should be feeling great at this early point.  If you were feeling badly this early, then it would truly be a very long day.

At around mile 6, I noticed that I was starting to pass people, slow people, walkers.  Uh oh, this means we’ve caught up to the slower people from wave 2.  This would actually turn out to be an unexpected problem for a long time.  I wasn’t expecting to have to do the dodge and weave thing until much later on in the race.  I guess that is the worst part about being in wave 3.  When I was in wave 2 last year, I didn’t have that problem and didn’t have to worry about passing people, for the most part, until much later on in the race.  My last observation from this first third of the race was the improved merge section at mile 8.  This was slightly altered from years past, and made for a wider and more controlled merge.  Good job NYRR!

  • Mile 1 – 9:48
  • Mile 2 – 9:05
  • Mile 3 – 9:28
  • Mile 4 – 9:40
  • Mile 5 – 9:50
  • Mile 6 – 9:38
  • Mile 7 – 9:48
  • Mile 8 – 9:46

This next section is actually my favorite part of the race.  When you make that right turn at mile 8, onto Lafayette Ave, the nice controlled 4th Ave course turned into what seems like mass chaos!  The street is narrower, so the running lane is packed, and to top it off, the crowd is large and very wild and enthusiastic.  The whole section of Lafayette, from mile 8 to mile 9, mostly  uphill, mind you, just feels great.  The crowd gives some of the best vibes here and really makes for such an enjoyable experience.  Yes, the crowd is better in the last miles in Central Park, but by then, I’m so miserable I don’t really notice it.  Here, in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, in mile 8,9, I’m still feeling fresh, and able to fully experience, enjoy and embrace the power of the crowd.  I do have to remind myself to not push hard here and stay within myself.  The 9th mile, through this area, uphill, was 9:58, and right within what I would expect.

I continued to have very consistent and reasonable miles through this area.  Mile 11 was slower, but that was because I decided to take my first Gu at the 10 mile water stop, adding a good 30 seconds to my time.  Mile 13 was also on the slow side, but that was because I decided to take a bathroom stop here.  That probably added 30-40 seconds as well.  So even though I lost a minute between the Gu and bathroom, I was still cruising along, seemingly on autopilot, at 9:45-10 minutes per mile.  This is EXACTLY where I wanted to be, and I was very pleased, and happy with my race so far.  I still thought it was totally possible to finish in 4:30.  I crossed the halfway mark at 2:09:07, which meant I needed to do the 2nd half in 2:21, or about 10:50 per mile.


Written by SCL

November 10, 2009 at 12:07 am

New York City Marathon DONE!

with 6 comments

Crossposted from DailyMile. Full blog post later in the week:

My 7th New York and 11th Overall. 4:44:05 is good for my 2nd fastest NYC, and 4th fastest overall.

I had a great race on so many levels. Unfortunately, my finishing time doesn’t necessarily show it, 15 mins slower than my goal.

– Getting almost right to the front of wave 3 and starting up the bridge almost in the ‘lead pack’
– Perfectly executing my strategy. Purposely held back in the early miles and in the classic ‘awesome crowd’ spots, hoping it would lead to a strong finish. 2:09:17 in the first half, right in my goal range.
– Seeing Michelle at mile 17 and CW (someone I work) with at mile 18
– Not stopping for a walk break AT ALL on 1st Ave (outside of water stops), a first for me. Not only that, but I also ran the entire way through the Willis Ave Bridge. Even running half of it would be a first for me
– Running the full last mile – from 25.2 to 26.2

– I could tell in miles 19-21 that 4:30 was probably not going to happen. Even though I was ahead of schedule and wasn’t walking, my times were gradually slowing too much. Would have to turn it up to meet goal
– Just past mile 21, started cramping in my quad. Well not quite quad, maybe more like just above the knee? Anyway, stopped to stretch several times, and had to do a lot of walking.

In all, had much fun, as always. Finishing, and pushing through the adversity, is such an accomplishment., and I’m proud I was able to do it. I know others out there had a worse time. Saw a 4:15 pacer having a tough go in the last miles, way behind schedule.

Future plans – my next marathon will be Rhode Races, in Povidence Rhode Island on May 2. I’m thinking of running Chicago next fall, as the race falls on 10/10/10 – I think that would be so cool.

In the meantime, I’ve got to get some speed back and will focus on shorter, faster runs through the winter, and sub 2 hour half marathons in Manhattan and Bronx.

Written by SCL

November 2, 2009 at 9:05 am

Final thoughts before New York City Marathon

with 2 comments

In about 23 hours, I’ll be crossing the start line of the New York City Marathon, on the Verrazano Bridge!

On the one hand, I feel over-confident in the sense that I’ve run this race 6 times before and feel like I know everything there is to know about it, the hills, the bridges, the bends, the crowds, the morning preparation routine, etc.  I’ve also spectated a few times.

On the other hand I don’t feel like I’m properly ready.  I’ve put in a lot of miles, but not as many as I’ve wanted with nagging groin and shin injuries lately.  Also, my last long run was cut from 21 miles to 13 miles.  Also, my speed is down from where I’ve been in the past.  In short, while my goal is to beat last years 4:31, and to beat 4:30, I really am not sure I have it in me this time.

4:30 is definitely possible, but I’ll need to run a smart race and have everything fall into place. In particular, I need to make sure I hold back in the spots later in Brooklyn where the crowds are really great, Clinton Hill from mile 8-9, and in Williamsburg / GreenPoint from 11.5-13.  Those are spots where I tend to go too fast, and I think part of the reason I start to lose it at the end.

4:30 comes out to about 10:18 per mile.  So, the trick, and the key, is how long can I keep the miles in the 9:45-10:00 range.  For every 9:45 mile, I gain 30 seconds to allow for slowing down at the end.  In a perfect world, I would not be slowing down at the end, but in practice that always seems to be the case.  My strategy is to run 2:07-2:10 in the first half, and be fresh enough so that I could run the second half in under 2:20.  A tall order, and something I’m really nervous about, but welcoming the challenge.

The one thing I have going for me is my mileage base.  I analyzed back 12 weeks prior to each marathon I’ve done since 2000, and I’ve put in more miles for this one than any other!

  • 2000 Vermont City – 180.8
  • 2000 NYC – 164
  • 2002 Jersey Shore – 139.5
  • 2002 NYC – 187.1
  • 2005 Big Sur – 201.5
  • 2007 NYC – 137.1
  • 2008 NYC – 217.6
  • 2009 Austin – 232.9
  • 2009 NYC – 242.9

Some years, the mileage was pathetic, like in 2007, where my goal was, of course 4:30, but I finished in a disappointing 4:51.  The 242.9 miles I’ve done in the last 12 weeks (just over 20 miles per week) is the stat that helps to alleviate my anxiety.  You can also see from the screenshot below, that I’ve had a nice steady progression and taper. (Daily Mile has some great metrics as part of their latest updates!)




Running - Past 26 Weeks

With the exception of week 30 (back spasm) and weeks 35/36 (sick), my running numbers, for me at least, are pretty solid.



In terms of preparation, ate a nice big pasta dinner last night, with those leftovers planned for tonight.  Drinking a lot today to stay hydrated.  I will drink a ton today, and then once hydrated, will hardly drink in the morning before the race.  This strategy has worked very well for me in the past and prevents me from having to use the bathroom multiple times during the race.  Of course, will have some candy tonight, after trick-or-treating is all done!

Also just trying to stay calm and relaxed.  By myself in my NJ house last night, so it was very calm, peaceful and quiet.  Just me and the 5 loads of laundry assigned to me 🙂  Also had a really good night sleep.

I like to get to the race early, and sort of enjoy the calm before the storm at Fort Wadsworth, and so will probably take the ferry at 6 or 6:30.  The best advice I can give anyone running this race for the first time, especially if you are in the first wave, is to get there as early as possible.  You will not believe how crowded it gets, how long it will take for you to use the bathroom, check your bag and find your corral.  Last year there were almost fistfights between the marshals (mostly high school kids best I could tell) at the corrals, and the people fighting to get into their space even though they were late.  Anyway, I will get there early, get my bag checked in a leisurely fashion, and just have extra throwaway layers so I don’t get too cold during the wait.

The weather is looking to be pretty good.  Rain is forecasted for tonight and maybe early in the morning.  Once the rain clears out, it will be in the 50’s tomorrow, but maybe windy.  That is the biggest wildcard.  If it is windy, it will be out of the north, which means we would be running into the wind for much of the first 20 miles.  Will cross my fingers that it is not so bad.

In the end, I just want to have fun and enjoy the experience.  Especially since this will be my last NYC Marathon for awhile.  Starting next year, I’m going to run fall marathons in other states, so want to make sure I savor this one, and hopefully with an under 4:30 finishing time!

Written by SCL

October 31, 2009 at 10:24 am

New York City Marathon Expo

with 10 comments

48 hours to go to the start of the New York City Marathon, and I have caught the bug! No, I’m not sick, although my wife and Katie (my 8 year old) are.  I think they got sick from me, so I’m safe!  The bug I’ve caught is the super excitement of what may be the greatest mass participation sporting event out there!  The city is really transforming this week into marathon mode, and yesterday I headed to the expo to take part!

On a side note, when I checked my RSS feed this morning, I *already* had 4 completed marathon expo reports!  Wow, I’m behind the times!  Check out their great blogs…

Don’t have time to go into full details, but I had a lot of fun.  The only complaint that I do have about it (its human nature to complain about something, right!) is that the exhibition space is relatively small (the Austin Marathon exhibition space was almost as big), with much of the space is taken up by the big name vendors, Asics, Nike, Foot Locker, Garmin, Timex, Polar, Saucony, Poland Spring, Gatorade, and so on.  There were not a whole lot of the smaller vendors with more interesting items.  Yes, there were some, but just not enough!  I think that is why I liked the Austin Marathon expo so much, because there was a greater mix of bigger vendors and smaller vendors.  Here, many of the smaller vendors were actually a subset of the large Paragon section.

Anyway, expo really was great overall, and I picked up lots of stuff, including:

  • tech tee
  • White cap
  • Heavy gloves
  • singlet
  • long sleeve under layer
  • throwaway jacket
  • light gloves
  • Amphipod
  • Socks

In short, I went hog wild!  Here are the pictures I got on my phone:

My favorite ‘swag’ item is the Timex refrigerator magnet where you can punch out the pieces of a digital clock grid to show your finishing time, just like a real digital race clock! 

In all, spent about 2 hours wandering around, very tiring work.  Was also able to meet up with Michelle and chat for a few minutes.

Can’t wait for Sunday and will try and write up some final thoughts beforehand.

Written by SCL

October 30, 2009 at 9:04 am

New York City Marathon Course Changes Confirmed (???)

with 2 comments

About a month ago, when reading the NYRR Runner magazine, I noticed a brief mention of  course changes in the New York City Marathon for 2009.  There have been slight course changes through the years, and I’m always interested in logistics such as these.  The original quote from the magazine was:

“This year, a few adjustments – including a new placement of the start on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and an expanded loop in the Bronx – will make the route faster and more exciting than ever.”

At the time, the map posted online was unchanged from last year’s map, but in this, the final run up to the marathon, I took another look and found the updated course map here.  I’ve noticed 2 subtle changes so far.  The quote suggests that the start will be higher up the bridge, which can’t be confirmed, of course, until race day.  The other changes seem to be:

  1. McCarren Park – In some past years, the marathon went through north Williamsburg on Berry Street and thus around the west side of McCarren Park.  In the last few years, the route went up Bedford Ave, but then made an unfortunate end around the park, with a left turn on N12th and then a right on Nassau, essentially going around the park, rather than continuing straight up Bedford.  Well, this year, looks like the course will go straight up Bedford, and through McCarren Park, eliminating the 2 turns required to go around the park!  This more direct route actually is shorter, so this length needs to be made up elsewhere, namely in the Bronx.
  2. Bronx – In past years,  after Willis Ave Bridge, there would be an immediate left on 135th St, a right on Alexander Ave, and finally a left on 138th St to the Madison Ave Bridge.  Will be different this year.  Wonder if it is related to the massive construction occurring on the Bronx side of the Willis Ave Bridge, but instead of the left off the bridge, we will continue straight to 138th St, make a left, and then take an odd detour around Morris and Rider Aves, up to 140th St.  I guess what is unfortunate about this is that it adds back the 2 turns that we lose in Williamsburg!  I seem to remember 135 being a downhill and Alexander being an uphill, so I wonder if the new route eliminates a hill – that would be a bonus!

Anyway, not sure why I’m so interested in the logistics, but in case it is not highlighted in the pre-race materials, thought you should all know!

Written by SCL

October 25, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Taper time for New York City Marathon

with 3 comments

Really wish I had more time for posting here.  So much to tell, and no time to sit and write it down.  In a nutshell, things are OK.  Not perfect, but still very much OK.

I’ve had a mixed go of it in my long runs.  The good news is that my best long runs have been my races – awesome job at the Tune Up 18 mile race and the SI Half Marathon.  My other long runs have been OK, but less than spectacular, and then my last long run, this past Sunday, was cut down to 13 miles, from a planned 21, due to the cold and windy weather, but also because of my not so fresh legs.

My legs are a bit of a concern.  In the last few weeks, I’ve had issue with a shin split on the right side.  Been manageable, but it is ‘there’ and I have to pay attention to it.  I do not fear it giving me a hard time in the marathon, since uphills always loosen it up, especially at the start of a run, and, the New York City Marathon has one long hill to start the race!  But also, I’ve had problems with my groin.  I’ve had nagging groin issue for probably almost a year now, but it had not been a problem at all when running.  However, last week, I somehow tweaked the right side playing softball, and it has been much worse in the last week.  I’ve been resting quite a bit, working it out in the gym, icing, stretching, etc, and I seem to have it under control.  Did a hard 4.6 mile run last night with no ill effects. Not so much worried about it, but a little concerned about what it will do when I’m 20 miles into the race and ready to push hard in the last miles to get myself under 4:30.

All in all, I’m in really high spirits, and very excited about marathon week.  Hoping to join in on some Tweetups, or DailyMile meetups, etc, and meet some of the great people in person that I’ve met online in the last year.  I’m also really going to try to savor the week and race, as I do not intend to run this marathon for at least 5 years.  This will be my 7th in New York City, and I will start running fall marathons in other states next year, so I can add to my state collection – which stands right now at 4 – and maybe hit 50 states sometime around when I turn 65!

Anyway, good luck to everyone out there preparing for the big race, and I’ll try to be better about posting updates here.  Looking forward to the Nike Human Race on Saturday in Prospect Park, despite the rainy forecast.

Written by SCL

October 21, 2009 at 4:46 pm