At the start of the NYC Marathon yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg commented that the marathon is something that “anyone can do, there are no barriers to entry.” Well, that’s only half true, Mister Mayor. You do need a basic level of fitness and the determination to complete the rigorous, time-consuming training.
But yes, the marathon is one of those gargantuan accomplishments that is bizarrely attainable. It speaks to all of us, and never more loudly than on race day. Watching 40,000 runners stream across the Verrazano Bridge to Sinatra’s New York, New York and then 26 miles later cross the finish line in Central Park makes us weepy. Not only is the marathon an athletic rite of passage, it’s a New Yorker’s rite of passage as well.
This year we find ourselves thinking yet again, “next year will be the year,” so we touched base with two of our favorite marathoners and asked them to share their experiences about what went right and, just as interesting, wrong during their training.
JEN MURPHY, travel editor at Food & Wine Magazine, was an accomplished runner before training for the marathon. She planned to run her first marathon last year, but she started training too late–two months before the event–and had tendonitis that flared up during the 18-mile practice run. She listened to her body (and her physical therapists), and decided to sit out the 2008 marathon and to train harder for 2009. Yesterday, she finished in 3 hours 21 minutes, 19 minutes faster than her goal!
WHAT SHE LEARNED: I paid a lot more attention to my training the second time around. I started 14 weeks before the marathon; I replaced my sneakers at the proper intervals. I did lots of cross-training to stay injury-free: yoga, weight training, and using the stationary bike and elliptical trainer. Also, I found that having training buddies really helped. I’d always been a solo runner–running clears my head–but I met two other runners who run at a similar pace. They were on top of everything. They’d wake me at 4:30 a.m. for our tempo and speed runs and they had the geeky watches that mapped out our pace. It was amazing. Doing the speed and tempo work really improved my time and made me a stronger runner.
HARDEST PART: The taper period felt really strange. You go from running 40 miles a week to half that. So I went surfing in Barbados with a friend and tried to forget about the race. I came back feeling totally refreshed.
RACE HIGHLIGHTS: Brooklyn has the longest stretch of fans and they’re amazing. Also, the Wall of Sound coming over the 59th Street Bridge was incredible. It gave me the chills.
WHAT SHE LEARNED: Most of my training was concentrated on the weekends. I wish I’d found the time to do shorter runs during the week. Also, I could have improved my time by doing speed and tempo work. Hill training also would have helped. From my half-marathons, I knew that I’d have IT Band issues if I didn’t cross train, so I did Pilates to increase core strength, and I also did a boot camp once a week.
RACE HIGHLIGHTS: Running through the neighborhoods is the best part. I love the Brooklyn crowds and Fort Greene with its brownstones was especially pretty. Queens got a little depressing, but we crossed the bridge and turned onto First Avenue, that was incredible.
SURPRISES: I ended up running with my training buddy for the entire race. We hadn’t planned on that but we ended up running the race at exactly the same pace and crossed the finish line together!