Monday, July 20, 2015

NYC Marathon Long Training Runs

My 2014 #LongTrainingRun #1 used bib
Update: I ran 15 miles in 3:05:37 on 7/25/15.

By Mark 
@marathoner | I have been a member of New York Road Runners since December 2006, and one of my go-to events on their calendar is a race that is not technically scored. It is the New York City Marathon #LongTrainingRun #1 coming this Saturday at Central Park, followed a month later by New York City Marathon Long Training Run #2. Even in years when I have not run the NYCM, I have entered one or both of these events because they are such awesome preparation for any races on your schedule. Such is the case this time, as I am entered in the NYCM but will not be able to run due to work obligations. We are starting the World Series later than usual this year, so Game 4 is Marathon Eve and I'll be immersed in the national pastime.

My 2012 #LongTrainingRun #1 bib.
I thought other runners might appreciate seeing with graphics how the LTRs are conducted, and you can see why these always sell out. Below are four versions of the Central Park map. The park's running path is 6 miles around. As you can see on the NYRR event page, LTR1 is listed as "6 to 20 miles." It is entirely up to the individual runner, based on his or her training progress. Pace teams are provided from 7 minutes to 11 minutes. I have no expectations for this one, since I am in reboot mode following All-Star work and a personal life project in recent months.

There is no timing tag, although there will be clocks on the course, pace groups, volunteers and fluid stations, plus gels. Here's how it works:

FIRST LOOP: 6 miles

On each map, a blue "S" denotes the starting point and we always go in counter-clockwise direction, which is the normal direction at Central Park, anyway. At 7 a.m., we begin the day confronting the toughest hill at the park, the big north hill at the very top. That mile exists only in the first loop, so we will run the entire path for the first six miles. After that, the top section will be shaved off. We finish in the middle of the 102nd Street Transverse, and you can take a gel break, refresh yourself, and then the NYRR crew will gradually announce pace teams as they depart again for the second loop.

SECOND LOOP: 5 miles (11 total)

So we do not run up the biggest hill from here on out, but we do have the "roller coaster" of 3 or 4 gentle hills on the West Drive, and every lap we have to go up Cat Hill, the second largest incline on the course. You can find it on the map from the Boat House past Metropolitan Museum of Art, on East Drive in the 70s and 80s. By this point, the park is starting to fill with visitors on a beautiful summer Saturday. Again, we stop in the middle of the 102nd Street Transverse, collect ourselves, and then join the same or a new pace group.

THIRD LOOP: 5 miles (16 total)

This is identical to the previous map, but guess what? By the time you pass Strawberry Fields on the West Drive next to The Lake, you have just run a half-marathon. Pat yourself on the back. Then keep running. Follow around the south end of the park, then enjoy running beside all the tourists on board the horse-drawn carriages. (A tradition that bears discussion for another day.) Once again, run up Cat Hill, reach the 102nd Street Transverse, and then you're at 16 miles.

FOURTH LOOP: 4 miles (20 total)

For the warriors who are at this stage, it is just the "interior loop" of the park. The bottom section is shaved off, so it's a four-mile lap, and it reminds me that I once ran this lap NINE TIMES in finishing the 2008 Knickerbocker 60K ultra. Packs of runners in their pace groups will take this one on, and finish against on the top transverse. Day over.

What I love most about these races is the shared spirit as runners chill and sit on the bank next to the ballfields at the top transverse, between and after the loops. It is informal but it is also structured, just enough that you know you are all together, and you aren't there just for fun. For me, it is a training run that really forces me to push myself, to see where I am at.

Like here, at the start of the 2011 #LongTrainingRun #1, where we grouped by pacers:

In 2007, it was at this race that I realized I had plantar fasciitis, hitting me hard at mile 14, and surfacing a problem I would fix the next spring. In 2012, I toughed through a really humid day on my way to a NYC Marathon that never happened (I ran Harrisburg instead).

Long Training Run #2 is on August 16 and also is listed as "6 to 20 miles" and really the third in the prep series is the NYC Marathon Tuneup 18M on September 20. That one is near-capacity as of this writing, so hurry and get in if you have a chance. That one is three full 6-mile loops around, and once you have dealt with that north hill three times in a row, you're pretty much ready.

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