Spectating the New York City Marathon


Image courtesy of NYRR

It’s finally New York City Marathon week in NYC! I have started seeing visiting runners touring the city, events and group runs are being advertised on Facebook and social media channels and signs and flags are at every corner. Similar to the way Boston treats Marathon Monday as a holiday, the city comes alive this weekend with a contagious energy that runners and non-runners alike can feel and experience. Even though I am not personally running the NYC Marathon, I have more than ten friends who have put in countless hours of training. After running five marathons, I understand the commitment and time it takes to reach the starting line. This Sunday, by 10:45 AM I will be at mile 7 prepared for two straight hours of cheering. I will be equipped with a book bag full of Body Glide, Gatorade, water, extra fuel so I can provide my friends and strangers alike with anything they need.

Earlier today, a friend who is running the NYC Marathon for the first time, asked me for tips and tricks he could share with his parents who are flying in from Scotland to support him this weekend. As I put these tips together, I realized that many people can benefit from the years of experience Bo and I have since we’ve participated in the marathon seven different years, either spectating, volunteering or running. If you’re one of the 50,000 runners this year, share this post with friends and family who will be spectating. If you’re a NYC local and aren’t running, take these tips and consider heading out for even just a few minutes of cheering. It’s one of the most energetic days in New York City and whether you have a beer and one hand and a poster in another or you’re spectating your favorite elite distant runner, it’s a great way to spend your Sunday. Who knows, like many of us, the energy may just inspire you to sign up for your first marathon!

If you are running this year, I suggest you check out these posts:

Now, let’s focus on all the things the spectators need to know this week. 

  1. Realize that your runner will experience a range of emotions this week. You’ve most likely started to feel the building stress and emotions that can accompany the famous “marathon taper.” Whether it’s phantom pains, nervous energy or panic do your best to support your runner in any way possible.
  2. Understand that the best thing they can do between now and Sunday morning is rest, hydrate and rest more. If you are in NYC visiting and supporting a runner, realize they will not want to play tourist with you.
  3. Be conscious and sensitive to the fact that even though you will feel you’ve earned a beer and celebratory evening after cheering all day, they may crave nothing more than an ice bath, huge burger and bed. Often times we runners think we’ll want a huge celebratory dinner and toasting with friends but the marathon drains of us energy by the end. I have cancelled post-marathon plans four out of my five marathons.


Tips and Tricks for Spectating

Spectating is harder than it sounds. Many times friends say they’ll be at one spot but suddenly realize that public transportation is running slower than normal and end up missing their runner. If your runner is depending on you for back-up fuel, extra water or anything else this can be detrimental. These few tips as well as suggested spectating areas will help your day run smoother.

  1. Download the NYC Marathon app and upload your runners who you want to trackHowever, realize that like all things, this app is not flawless. There is a good chance that runner tracking may be delayed on race day. 
  2. Ask your runner(s) their goal pace per mile so that if the app fails, you can manually do the math to figure out when they’ll reach each mile marker. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to remember all these numbers. Write them down or enter them in your phone.
  3. Bring a spare battery as you will drain energy on marathon day between pictures, texting, Google maps and the marathon app. 
  4. Wear bright, obnoxious clothing. While those huge heads and fun signs are great, if you’re going to move locations during they day, they can prove difficult when hopping on the subway or getting in an Uber. Instead, choose the most obnoxious color clothing to wear so your runner can easily spot you. One year Bo wore a bright red jacket which when paired with his red hair, stood out quite well in the crowd. Another year, my dad wore neon green t-shirt and a neon hat. He looked hilarious but I saw him for blocks away.  If you there are a group of you spectating, try to all wear the same obnoxious color. If you don’t have anything, head to Target or order something on Amazon. You still have time!
  5. As you map either your own personal route or the routes below, keep in mind that traffic will be horrible on Sunday as many main streets are closed in most boroughs. I highly recommend using the subway or Citibike as much as possible. 
  6. If you’re not a local, see if you can cheer with one of your runner’s local friends or family members. This will make your day far less stressful since they will know the city better. 
  7. It is better to be realistic than optimistic. Do not expect to see your runner five and six times. In most cases, a single spectator sees their runner 3-4 times MAXIMUM and many people only end up catching their runner two times. Trust me, two times is far better than none and they will love the support.
  8. Certain areas such as First Avenue and Central Park have spectators five and six people deep. There will be plenty of energy in these areas. Consider cheering for your runner in the more desolate areas. Okay, based on all this – here is what I’d suggest. This is what Bo did for me 2 years and it was AWESOME
  9. Plan a meeting spot in advance. The years I ran the race I had horrible reception in Central Park after finishing and couldn’t get service until I exited the park, an hour later. Choose a meeting spot in advance and keep in mind that it often takes runners at least an hour to exit the park.
  10. Do not carry anything for your runner that they absolutely must have. My friend once had her boyfriend carry most of her fuel for her because she didn’t want to run with a waist pack. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find her and she had to ask fellow runners for fuel.

Okay, keeping these tips in mind, here is the spectating route that we have historically used.


Brooklyn/Long Island City/Fifth Avenue

  1. Start in Brooklyn at the Mile 7 marker which is easily reached via F/G/R subways. This area isn’t too crowded and easy to reach via three different subway routes. If you stand as close to the mile marker as possible it is easier for your runner to spot you.
  2. From this spot, you can easily hop back on the G and head to Court Square which is Mile 14.5. This typically takes around 35 minutes, so based on the speed of your runner you should have time to get from mile 7 to mile 14.5 in time. This area is typically pretty quiet and your runner can use all the energy boost before they head to the daunting bridge and into Manhattan.
  3. Give yourself a huge pat on the back. You’ve already seen your runner three times! Now, head back into the city towards mile 23. This is a great final spectating spot as the crowds aren’t TOO thick and the runners will have just exited a quieter portion of the course. This should take around 30 minutes as you can take the E to 53rd street then the 6 uptown to 125th street.


3B. If you really want to spectate closer to the finish line, head into Central Park towards mile 24.5. You will catch your runner with less than 2 miles to the finish and get to enjoy the beauty that is Central Park in the Fall. This option will also give you more time between cheering spots in case you need to grab a snack or take a break.

Good luck runners and spectators alike! Sunday is a magical day for the entire city and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Your turn – What would you add to the list?


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2014 Berlin Marathon Race Recap

After a week of reflecting and thinking about the marathon, I’ve come to realize that this marathon hurt more than any other because I put so much of myself into training. My heart and soul went into this year’s training, pushing my body to try new things and reach new paces that I’ve never felt before. I’m very accustomed in my life to working hard for things but then, at the end of the day, seeing the rewards of that hard work come to fruition in either grades, business results, increased readership, etc.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, after weeks of training the results I saw when I crossed the Berlin Marathon finish line were not the ones I expected based on my training. There is a feeling of sting and disappointment that comes with this realization. In years past I had put myself through the training but never pushed the way I did this year. I had spread myself too thin whether across different types of workouts, commitments, or second guessed my body’s abilities and therefore not pushing to that next level of speed, hill training or long runs.

So now, a week later, it’s time to set aside all the emotion and give you a run down of the 2014 Berlin Marathon.

First and foremost, would I run it again or recommend it to others?  Yes, yes yes! I loved Berlin and believe that they put on a great event complete with special activities such as the Breakfast shakeout run the day before to the enormous expo. It is a great race for anyone, whether it is your first or your 20th marathon!


Marathon morning I left the hotel around 7:15 to head over to the start area. The streets were already filled with fellow participants heading that direction so it was easy to follow participants from our hotel (The Sofitel Gendarmenmarkt) to the start. The weather was crisp and fresh, perfect for a marathon. Within a few minutes I could hear the crowds and excitement coming from the starting area as people started to organize themselves near the bathrooms, bag drop and grassy space. The announcements were primarily in German though due to the friendly people, many quickly would translate when anything was announced.

IMG_2384[1]Before leaving, I tried going to the bathroom three times as I remember reading that the bathroom situation is a bit crazy and lines could get quite long. As soon as I arrived I grabbed a spot in the nearest bathroom line, already twenty people deep even though it was still more than an hour until the start. IMG_2392[1]Once I finished I navigated my way towards the starting area, hoping I could find Charlie before the start. The signs and paths seem to go on forever, until after two separate bib checkpoints, I found myself in my starting corral. The race used metal barricades so people couldn’t easily duck in and out of corrals, instead having to literally hop over them due to the crowds and chaos at the few entry points.

IMG_2394[1]I made friends with ladies around me in hopes to calm my nerves which suddenly were appearing out of no where. Out of months of training, race day was finally here. I did my best to stretch though due to the tight starting area I could barely lift my leg without kicking someone. Instead, I made sure my phone was in airplane mode and my Garmin was ready to go. Right on time we heard the start and the elites were leading the way. Just 10 minutes later it was time for our corral to cross the starting line.

Start of the Berlin marathon

My goal for the race was pretty simple. I wanted to run the first half strong, but not push my pace to the point of being unable to sustain it.  I didn’t want to see any paces in the 8 minute or 10 minute range for as long as possible as one was too fast and the other was slower than I’d run my half marathon or training runs. In addition, I knew that I was running all 26.2 mile by myself which is a change versus previous years. I figured that the first half I would enjoy the sights and crowds then put in my headphones around the halfway point to break up the race and provide some motivation. Bo, who wins the award for cheerleader of the year, was going to catch me at three different spots – 10k, 20k and 40k. This helped me break up the race.


The first few miles were quite crowded but I barely noticed. I stayed to the far right side, and focused my attention on the absolutely incredible crowds. While they weren’t lining the streets for all 26.2 miles they were certainly present and unlike in some races, both here and in the states, they were actively screaming and cheering. There were people waving their country flags and holding signs. I felt strong and happy, barely noticing as we passed kilometer markers.

Are there mile markers and kilometer markers or only kilometers? There are only kilometer markers but I used my Garmin in miles since that is what I’m most accustomed to at this point.

The race featured 8 fluid stations (water and/or energy drink) and 6 fuel stations featuring either fruit or energy packs. The crazy plastic cups that people complain about is a real problem as you not only have to be careful not to run into people stopping to take fluid or avoid sticky messes but you have hard, plastic cups to complicate things which are breaking and cracking all over the streets. I avoided the water stations for the 5k mark as I had plenty of water in my handheld water bottle at this point.

Each mile, when I heard my Garmin beep, I glanced down to ensure I was on target, hovering somewhere in the 9:40-9:55 range. At the 5k point my average pace was 9:51, perfectly on target for my secret reach goal of 4:25. When I hit 5 miles I took my first salted caramel Gu. My plan for the day was to take a Gu at 5, 10 and 15 miles. When I reached 20 I would switch to either the half of granola bar or margarita Cliff Shot Blocks. A few minutes later, as we passed the 10k point, I started watching for Bo’s red hair. When my Garmin beeped it showed 1:01:05 or 9:51. I was all smiles when I heard Bo yell my name. IMG_8304 At this point I was starting to feel the warm weather as the temperature had increased significantly since the start. Bo noticed that I was already looking salty so I took note and decided to start taking water and energy mix at the upcoming stations.

The miles weren’t necessarily coming easily but I felt strong. Focusing on the sights, even when it was a statue or a foreign building, helped take my mind of the running. I refused to start counting down as many readers had reinforced that once you start counting down the miles you stop enjoying the race. I kept moving forward, making sure to grab something to drink at each water station.

We crossed the half marathon mark sooner than I expected, at 2:11:15 or a 10:01 pace. Considering that I’d walked through the last water station, I was fine with this pace. It was still within reach goal range. My body was starting to feel the miles, but in a different way than I’d felt during my training runs. I felt as if I couldn’t take in enough water, always chugging the full cup at the water stop and had emptied my handheld bottle by the 10k point. Unwilling to focus on this more than necessary, I finished my 2nd Gu and grabbed my iPhone, switching on Spotify, ready for the boost that the music would provide.

I saw Bo around mile 14, telling him that I was starting to feel thirsty and a bit tired. I asked him if he had the extra pack of Gu I’d given him the night before as I may need it. He looked at me confused, clearly having forgotten the GU. I gave him a hug and moved forward.

Around the 24k point, or 15 miles, I started searching for a bathroom. I could tell that I wouldn’t be able to hold it for the rest of the race regardless how hard I tried to sweat out the liquid I was taking in through each water station. Just as quickly as I’d felt the urge, I felt an immediate need and luckily found a bathroom, just as promised, before the fuel station. I will save you the details but I lost a lot of fuel during that stop and without any toilet paper, dealt with some unfortunate chafing


Based on my pace I lost a few minutes in the bathroom but pushed forward, refusing to let it get me frustrated. I hoped that I’d gotten whatever I needed to out of my system and could just focus on the home stretch. My overall pace had dropped to 10:15 between that bathroom stop but I hoped that I could pick up the pace once I cleared the fuel and water area. I tried to do math in my head, to figure out what a 10:15 pace would equal for a marathon finish. This is a great way to entertain yourself on a race course as I swear it took at least a mile to figure out that it had to be within the 4:30 range.

Since I’ve never been a negative split runner, regardless how much I try, I decided that the better goal may be to just slow the pace and sustain the 10:15 range versus pushing it too early. I didn’t feel great after the bathroom stop. The next time I saw Bo I looked less than fabulous.


Yeah, I think I was yelling, can’t stop to talk, must move forward.  Since I’d left the bathroom, back at mile 15, the marathon had stopped being fun or even enjoyable. My mind started questioning why I sign up to run one each Fall. I tried to change my watch to just clock setting, hoping to zone out and get my mind back on track. By the time my watch beeped 19 miles my pace had dropped, now at an average of 10:45, off my reach goal pace. As I tried to take another Gu, hoping it would help, I lost everything and started vomiting. There wasn’t much so it was more just liquid coming out but regardless wasn’t fun. I knew I had 7 miles left. Only 7 miles until I could be done with marathons forever, if I wanted. I dropped the Gu and just started walking. I wanted so badly to not walk at all the marathon but I remembered what others had said. I needed to keep moving primarily and walking is not for the weak. Some people run 8 and 9 minute pace miles with a run walk combination.

By the time I reached mile 22, which felt like an eternity, my entire right quad and groin were in pain. It felt like a charlie horse in my upper leg, versus the calf area. During these tough moments I am proud of myself for not stopping all together but I definitely walked more than the planned 1 minute of each mile.

I know that these were the moments that separated me from being a sub 4:50 marathoner this year.  I knew all those mantras such as pain is temporary but at the same time, I thought of all the wonderful things I could enjoy after the marathon. Ski season, relaxed fun runs with friends, hiking in Chamonix, running the trails with Renaud, going to yoga more often, swimming with the P&G swim team. If I injured myself, none of that would be possible for a few months. At the end of the day, I wanted to finish the race uninjured versus push through the pain. This is a decision that is very personal and that every person has to make and be comfortable with in the moment and afterwards.

When I finally saw the famed Brandenburg Gate I couldn’t even smile. My body ached, my heart ached and I just wanted to be done. I wanted a hug from Bo and I wanted a cold beer. As I finally crossed the finish line at 1:53pm, 4:55:51 minutes after I started, I was filled with emotions. I thought I’d just barely pulled out a PR but knew I’d lost my sub 4:30 marathon which for so many miles had been within reach.

Now, looking back, I realize that this is why I felt a different type of pain this year. For over half the race that goal was in my hands. In fact, up until mile 20 a significant PR was in my reach. But, over the course of those miles my pace dropped from the original 9:55 to the 10:30 and finally ending at an 11:17 pace overall.

IMG_2399[1] Was it the marathon i wanted and hoped for over the weeks of training. No, not at all. But, as I study the splits via the Berlin Marathon site I see something shiny within all that gloom. For 30km I held a pace that never before had been feasible for that type of distance. I am stronger than I was a year ago and even just a few months ago. I finished the marathon and today, as I ran a speedy 5k during lunch, I was thankful for the decision not to risk months of injury for one race. image So there you have it, 26.2 blurry miles jaded a bit by sweat, salt and disappointment.


Thanks to Charlie for the starting line picture since mine is all sorts of blurry!

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I Think We Need A Break

Five years ago, I signed up and trained for my first marathon. The entire process was like a dream, pushing my body to do something I never fathomed I would be able to do. As we’ve talked about previously on the blog, I did not grow up an athlete nor a runner.  In fact, while I spent a great deal of time outdoors growing up, I was only on a formal sports team four times in my life and each year I dreaded the physical fitness test mile run more than a doctor’s appointment or getting shots.

The 2010 New York City Marathon was a day that will forever remain in my brain, each mile still is imprinted and I could recap the entire race course experience to anyone today, even five years later. Each mile was a miracle as I pushed through the boroughs, taking in every single mile with a huge smile on my face.


Since then, I continued to sign up for one marathon each year. I had a different goal for each marathon, but primarily my hope for each was to improve my time. Five years and five marathons later, I have improved my time from my original 5:29 marathon but I’ve spent the past four years, finishing short of the goal I had in my mind. Completing a marathon, regardless the pace, will always be an accomplishment in my book. As someone said yesterday, moving 26.2 miles on one’s own two feet is something that most people never dream of doing, much less in 5 or so hours.

Therefore, when year after year, my body falls short of the goal I’m chasing, I finish the 26.2 miles with my head hanging lower than it was when I started the journey. At 30 years old, I do not have anything left to prove to myself when it comes to the marathon. I have successfully completed 5 at this point, I know that my mind and body are capable of accomplishing the distance. But, what I have also learned along the way, and unfortunately my friends and family as well, is that my body really does not enjoy the distance.

I am thankful and blessed to have suffered no physical injuries during five marathons but I have suffered one too many emotional injuries. Each year, somewhere between mile 15 and 22 the wheels come off. In most cases, it seems to be attributed to heat, which also explains why my best experience to date was the Philadelphia Marathon where it was below freezing at the start. As someone who sweats a great deal, I can’t seem to hydrate or take in enough fuel to overcome nausea, muscle cramps, or in yesterday’s case severe quad cramping and vomiting.

What started out as being something that I loved has grown to be something that makes me think less of myself. I beat myself up internally for not achieving a goal which based on my training runs, half marathon time and speed workouts seems achievable. I question the twelve to sixteen weeks of my life, dedicated to marathon training, trying to figure out where the process went wrong. I question the forty-eight hours leading up to the marathon, wondering what I should have or shouldn’t have eaten. I drive my husband, who is the most supportive and incredible marathon cheer leader and spectator, crazy with agony as he watches my self esteem diminish along the course.

I know that there are people who run marathons for fun and would tell me that I am too hard on myself and that every marathon won’t be a personal best. I know that the goal is to enjoy the miles and focus on the fact that each one is a gift. Trust me, yesterday during the toughest miles, these were my mantras. Every ounce in my body, especially in my legs, wanted to stop at mile 18.

But, after five years, I think that marathons and I are ready for a break. While I enjoy the training process, I’ve stopped enjoying the race day, which is unfortunate but true. There are too many other things in my life which bring me great joy to continue doing something which doesn’t make me happy. As I reflect upon this training cycle the things that I enjoyed most were my speed workouts and tempo runs. There is no question that I’ve become a faster runner in the past 12 weeks. I set a new half marathon PR and have set multiple unofficial 10k and 5k PRs during training runs and speed workouts.

Yesterday, though the Berlin Marathon was everything everyone promised – beautiful, flat, filled with amazing spectators, and a bit chaotic, I never enjoyed the race itself. For almost five hours I waited to find my groove and enjoy the experience only to finish without ever reaching that point. My happiest moment was chatting with fellow runners in the starting area, motivating one runner who was about to embark on her first marathon.

While sitting at dinner, a few hours later, a reader proved that they knew my running records better than myself, quickly making me realize that yesterday was 2 minutes short of a PR. As I sat there in tears, Bo asked me why I continue to put myself through this each year. Before last night, I had never truly thought about it. Maybe it’s because as a health and wellness blogger I am surrounded by so many incredible people who take on athletic feats each day. But, what I realized is that what was once a huge accomplishment had started to turn into just a habit that came around each year, choosing what the next fall marathon would be.

So for now, while I know the marathon and I may meet again one day, I’m ready to focus on other things such as triathlons and shorter distance races. The half marathon will always be my favorite distance and I would love nothing more than to enjoy a few, especially while combined with European travel to new cities with Bo or girlfriends.

Thank you for your support these past few years during the roller coaster of marathon emotions.

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