marathon

An Insider's Guide to the NYC Marathon

As race day approaches, tier 4 coach and marathon expert Chris Heuisler shares motivational secrets that will move you through the miles.

This Sunday, you and 45K+ runners will be taking over 26.2 miles of New York City. The sacrifices to get here are great: countless mornings in a warm, cozy bed, birthday parties, shots, may be even a few toenails. But so is the glory. By now, your muscles are primed to pound out the pavement of all five boroughs, but mastering a mental game plan is equally crucial, says Chris Heuisler, an Equinox Tier 4 coach who ran NYC in 2010 in pursuit of passing Lance Armstrong’s time of 2:46:43 (that’s just shy of a 7 minute mile). While the result is hush until the debut of the documentary “Personal Record” in early 2013 that captures his quest, Heuisler shares a few of his race day pointers to Jedi mind trick yourself into having a good freaking time every inch of those 26.2 New York miles:

AT THE START LINE…
Slow and steady is going to win the race—or at least get you through it. “You’re held up in that corral for like an hour, so you feel like a horse coming out of the gate and you want to just fly out of there, but holding back is going to do your body a whole lot of good later on,” says Heuisler. And don’t let that adrenaline rush fool you: “The Staten Island Bridge is the biggest hill in the entire race but no one realizes it because they’ve got such a high happening,” he says.

AT MILE 2…
Run these first two miles at a leisurely pace. Even though you’ve just entered Brooklyn and your adrenaline-filled takeoff is still rearing to go. “Only two percent of runners actually have a negative split,” says Heuisler. As bodies push past you, remember: You will mostly likely, as statistics prove, be passing them later on in the race. When it matters.

AT MILE 4…
You’ve got a few miles under your belt, and you’re feeling pretty darn good. It’s time to step it up, literally. “Now is a great time to try and find your groove,” says Heuisler. Don’t get hung up at the packed mile 4 water station. Plan your attack ahead of time—whether you want to grab and go or prefer to slow down and sip. Even better? Have a friend waiting about half mile past the chaos.

AT THE MIDWAY 13.1 MARK…
As you make your way to halfway, think of your bigger, more time-centric goals. “Gauge your time and maybe try to be there at 1:45 or two hours,” says Heuisler. “If you do, great, if not, no worries.” And regardless, of what the clock says, feel the power of the people. “Right around mile 13 in Greenpoint is the Tour de France tunnel of the marathon,” says Heuisler. “The people lining the streets close in on you, and it feels like they are on your side, pulling you up the hill,” he says. “Make sure you look around—it’s a beautiful thing.” Your goal here: do 10 high fives to complete strangers.

AT MILE 16…

Unlike the former mayor that it’s named for, the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge (the 59th Street Bridge), is not beloved by all. It’s the quiet before the First Avenue storm—and it’s this sudden ability to hear your breath that can make many runners freak out. Make the silence work for you: “Listen to the sound of the footsteps of all the runners and know that you are going to run it the best you can,” says Heuisler.

AT MILE 18…
You’ve just soared down First Avenue re-energized by the 10-deep bar hoppers raising their beers in your honor and calling out your name. And now, you may be hitting the ‘wall.’ “For the next eight or nine miles, have a person in mind for each mile and in those miles only talk to that person,” says Heuisler, “Maybe you dedicate that mile to someone you know who is going through something tough like battling cancer. You’ll realize that what they are going through is a whole lot harder.”

AT MILE 20…
You’ve just stepped off the Willis Avenue Bridge and are making your way through the boogie down Bronx. Think of the rest of this bad boy as nothing more than the 10K that it is. “Some runners look at the marathon like a 20 mile warm-up plus a 10K race,” says Heuisler. “It’s sort of like you’ve been just getting heated up and then at mile 20 is when you turn the car on.”

AT MILE 24…
Finally, after a seemingly never-ending Fifth Avenue mile you have reached the mecca of Manhattan: Central Park. But don’t get your hopes up just yet. “You don’t want to set up that you hit the park, and you’re done because that is not the case—you’ve still got 2.2 to go,” says Heuisler. The good news? Two words. Down hill. Charge Cat Hill, the quarter mile that you can use to your gravity advantage. The bad news? Horse manure. Right about now, you’ve either charged through the ‘wall’ or you just ran right smack into it. “The home stretch is your chance for a mental win,” he says. “You could either start to feel real sorry for yourself or you can finish with a smile even if your time goal has tanked.”

AT THE FINISH LINE…
A statue of avid runner Fred Lebo, founder of the NYC marathon, checking his watch, spends 364 days on the East side of the Park, however, on this one day he is waiting for you at the finish line. “In his wildest dreams he would never have thought the race would be what it is today,” says Heuisler. “For what it’s worth, get there for Fred.” But whatever you do, don’t look down at your watch like him during your finish line photo opp: “Raise your hands over your head, then hug the runner next to you and thank as many volunteers as you can,” he says. And most importantly, “There are other marathons that are faster but NYC is by far the best experience—you’re going to feel like a rockstar—enjoy it.”
 

Get more tips from Details' Senior Editor and 13-time marathoner Sheila Monaghan. 

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