Marathon Recap Article 3 – Marathon Weekend

This article is the third of six detailing my personal experiences from Week One of Training to finishing the 26.2 miles of the 2013 ING NYC Marathon. For the previous posting, please click here.

The Taper

Finally after four solid months of running, I found myself heading into the taper period in the last couple weeks leading up to the race. This is when a runner eases up on mileage in order to let all the small muscle tears that have built up over training get a chance to heal and to “top off” the muscle glycogen before the race. This is definitely a weird time for a runner used to packing on the miles and now expected to just stop and eat a bunch of spaghetti. It’s counter intuitive and plays games with your head. However it is the right thing to do. It’s the many weeks of training that get your body ready. With two weeks to go, there really isn’t anything more you can do to prepare and there’s also not enough time to lose fitness before race day. I personally was lucky enough to be a Red Sox fan and enjoying their epic push to become the 2013 MLB World Series Champions…I really didn’t have too much trouble forgetting about running or getting those extra carbs via my good friend Miller Lite…quick note: having a few beers during training will not ruin your performance. The worry is more about disruption of sleep cycles…you can fill your steins responsibly and still be a marathoner; just drink some water along the way and plan to get extra sleep.

Marathon Weekend
With the NYC Marathon always on a Sunday morning, Friday and Saturday become important prep days that can set the tone for the race. The key to Friday is to do whatever you can to get some sleep knowing that even with the assistance of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 providing that extra “Fall Back” hour, you’re probably not going to sleep much Saturday night. It’s also a good time to hit up the Expo at the Javits Center, which is like a Toys-R-Us for runners with an endless supply of cool gear and gadgets…just don’t stay to long and wear out your legs (or your wallet). During the day Saturday I opted for one more “shake out” run of only a couple miles to get loose and clear my head, followed by one last pasta meal early on. I didn’t have a big dinner because I wanted to avoid any chance of a mid-race pit stop. Saturday night I read some of the stories in the New York Road Runners program and sacked out early.

The alarm rang at 4:30AM to begin Race Day. Getting out to the start on Staten Island is a process in itself. I took the official bus from the Meadowlands leaving at 5:30AM. This drops you off at Fort Wadsworth just before sunrise and I spent the next four hours trying to stay warm and sane. I had been assigned to the third of four starting waves so I had plenty of time to explore the starting villages, get coffee, have a bagel, and to finally meet my fund raising teammates from The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. As one of the main sponsors, Dunkin Donuts was handing out free hats and it was a Godsend with the windchill dipping into the 30s. I also purchased a sweet $12 sweat suit from Target that I donated to Goodwill on my way into the starting corrals. I kept the DD hat through Mile 22…

The wait proved to be the last mental challenge before the marathon itself. It is fairly nerve racking to hurry up and wait knowing the challenge you’re about to take on. There is no training that prepares you for it and speaking with veteran marathoners, I’m told it never gets easier. I found myself passing the time making a name tag to elicit some personalized cheers, chatting with random people about their own personal marathon journeys, taking care of business at the Porta Potties, and just sitting in silence. I found my own spot next to a tree surrounded by hay and burrowed in to stay warm…did I mention it was cold?

At 9:40AM I made it into my starting corral. At this point it was game time and the energy was contagious. You and the 999 people next to you are guided slowly but steadily towards the start and eventually you turn to your left and see the top of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge towering over the starting line. With the singing of God Bless America, the blast of a cannon, and “New York, New York” blaring over the loudspeakers, the race for which you’ve been preparing every day for half a year starts.

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