You would think that training for the NYC Marathon in New York City would make things easier. After all, there's electrifying energy on every corner, endless ways to train and stay fit, and every health trend at my fingertips. However it has been a challenge in some unexpected ways.
The No. 1 thing that has hindered my training program is being confronted with the very essence of life in the city. Before you plan your next big race, mull over these things that are key for a successful marathon.
The courses I've discovered in New York City are incredible, and I'm never bored. There are always different people doing weird things (or downright disgusting or annoying things), and a plethora of smells (some good, most terrible) and exciting chaos going on. Plus the views. My favorite course to run is along the West Side Highway running path, which has a direct view of the Freedom Tower the entire way down, then around Battery Park (which overlooks the Statue of Liberty) and swooping up to the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Bridge Park (the photo above shows the view from there). If I'm doing a long run, I'll extend it to Williamsburg. Either way, every section of the route is different and inspiring. (I'll never forget running down the West Side Highway a couple weeks ago when a tall man passed me. As I looked at the back of his T-shirt, I saw the word "survivor" followed by the date "9/11/01." I looked back at the Freedom Tower and picked up my pace.)
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Water and Food
I never have to worry about getting stranded on my runs without fuel or drinks. The only things I bring with me are my phone, keys, subway card, and credit card. (I've learned not to bring cash the hard way after getting to a store mid-run and pulling out sweat-drenched bills.) I know that if I start feeling sick, tired, or ravenous, I can pop by a fruit stand, market, or juice bar and pick something up for a quick jolt. It's taught me what to expect on race day without having to endure massive discomfort when I'm sorely unprepared.
Some times you just need to be saved when you run that far away from home base. When I sprained my foot a few weeks ago, I was worried that I wouldn't even be able to walk myself home if it was too painful the next time I tried to run. When my foot started to ache, I just hopped on the subway and was home in 15 minutes.
I'm really surprised how many people have been willing to run with me. The buddy system is crucial. But while it's always fun to have someone there to motivate you when the going gets tough, the downside is that sometimes it’s hard to coordinate schedules, so if I need to, I go it alone.
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New York City has every niche of gym class you could ever want. I have tried many strength, HIIT, and spinning classes at my local gym, but I also adore Bikram yoga, which is just a short subway ride from my apartment. Finding activities that I love has been essential through my training since just strength training in the corner of my gym sounds like the most boring thing ever. But because my marathon training coach through Team USA Endurance, Andrew Allden, the women's cross country coach at the University of South Carolina, advised that I shouldn't try new fads for risk of injury, I'm sticking to what I know.
There are so many other races happening in and around NYC, I think I probably could have kept up the majority of my training just by completing every one of them. For example, I am doing the Bay Ridge Half Marathon tomorrow, which is a place I haven’t run before and it's also right next to the start line of the marathon. Then next Saturday I'm completing the Rock 'n' Roll Brooklyn 10K. Although it's tempting to run races, if you have a long run scheduled, you may have to run extra miles by yourself after one or do your long run a couple days later instead.
Socializing, staying out late, or making a last-ditch effort to meet up with friends during the week just don't really happen anymore. I knew it was going to be difficult to keep up a work schedule, social schedule, run errands, and get enough sleep while training, so I told everyone in my life at the start of this adventure that if I ignored them for the next three months, they shouldn't take it personally. I've found time to see them on a more sporadic basis, but generally my priority is run, work out, go to work, and get some serious rest.
Finding my own pace in New York City has been liberating and is like finding a calm within the storm—it's been absolutely necessary to plan for its unplanned distractions.