For the last 10 weeks, I’ve been coaching the New York Running Company and Empire Tri Club Half Marathon Training Program, working toward this weekend’s NYC Half. Few half marathons in the country are so iconic – this one, with an excellent pro field and a course that puts runners through Central Park, the heart of Times Square, and along the West Side Highway, is quintessential NYC.
Here are tips I have for my runners:
Get to the expo early. The expo looks amazing this year, on par with marathon expos and featuring great interactive course maps. Take advantage of all the expo has to offer. If you can get there before peak time (after work Thursday and Friday or mid-day Saturday), you’ll be better off. Download and print your registration form from your NYRR profile (instructions here) and bring your photo ID to pick up your bib.
Get your bib on your gear. Make sure you aren’t searching for your race bib or timing tag on race morning. Set everything up when you get home from the expo.
Bring “throw away” layers. Race morning will be a bit chilly. Bring items to donate to Goodwill (donation bins will be located in your corral) when you want to shed your layers. Don’t bring that fancy new jacket – you won’t get any of your items back.
Plan your travel. Figure out how to get to the race – all runners must enter at the bottom of the park along 59th Street, and will be subject to search before entering the park. The race is a point-to-point race, meaning you’ll be heading home from the bottom of Manhattan, not from Central Park. Bring your MetroCard.
Plan your nutrition. You should have been practicing with your nutrition to know what works for you (you did that, right?). Make sure you have your gels or food on hand before Saturday so you aren’t rushing to find it. Also plan your race day breakfast and make sure you have that as well. Not much will be open on race morning at the time you head to the park.
Position your people. Having friends out there to cheer you on is awesome. Make sure they tell you specifically where they will be, like in front of ____ store, on the east/west/north/south side of the street. Have your pals download the United NYC Half Mobile App to track you so they’ll have an idea of when to expect you.
Make a clear post-race plan with any spectators you’re expecting. The finish line area can be difficult to navigate for both finished runners and family/friends. Choose a designated location to meet, and make it specific, like the Northwest corner of ____ and ____ streets.
Know your start. There are three waves and multiple corrals. Know where you need to go and when you need to drop off your bag.
Know where the aid stations are. Water and Gatorade are located at almost every mile. Gels are located about halfway through, once you leave Central Park. Bring your own nutrition that you trained with, but know that you can grab a gel here if you drop or forget yours.
Know the route. Check out the route map. The expo has an interactive map and course instructions. You can also see step by step below:
Mile 1: Start on East Drive in Central Park, just north of East 72nd Street, and head north.
Central Park, up Cat’s Hill. Hold up! Save it – you’re just getting started.
Miles 2-3: Continue north, and bear right at the Lenox Avenue exit from Central Park. Turn left at 110th Street/Central Park North. Run counter-clockwise around Central Park West Circle and return on 110th Street/Central Park North, then turn right at the Lenox Avenue entrance to Central Park. Bear right at East Drive and continue south on West Drive.
Back into the park and up Harlem Hill. You still have the West Side hills as well. Be conservative here. It’s going to be crowded; resist the urge to dart through and around packs. Run patiently and run smart, because there’s a lot of race left.
Miles 4-6: Continue South on West Drive. Turn right at the Seventh Avenue exit from Central Park. Continue south on Seventh Avenue through Times Square.
Resist the urge to light it up through Times Square, which is awesome to run through. Focus on a steady pace while dropping your pace per mile slightly once leaving the park.
Miles 7-8: Turn right at West 42nd Street, then right at the West Side Highway. Run north in the northbound lanes, make a U-turn at West 43rd Street, and run south in the southbound lanes.
Get into a good rhythm here. Flat and straight, basically, after this. Be confident – if you were smart in the park, you will be able to negative split this race easily.
Miles 8−12: Continue south in the southbound lanes of the West Side Highway.
Smooth sailing here along the West Side Highway. This is a good place to stay in that rhythm and focus on a strong finish.
Miles 12-13.1: Bear left at the Battery Park Underpass entrance. Run through the underpass and continue on FDR Drive North. Bear right at the South Street exit and then turn right at South Street. Turn left at Maiden Lane, and left at Water Street to finish at Wall Street.
Make it uncomfortable. This course is a great one to push on the second half – focus on a really strong finish.
Post race. Medal, photos, bagels, bags, find your friends, have a mimosa, chill. Be sure to stretch, rest, and recover.
Have fun. You’re worked hard for this. Have a great time! Race hard, race smart, and believe in yourself. And let me know how it goes!
High five or hug a volunteer. I’ll be out there at the start line at 4:30 am setting up, and then volunteering with Wave 2 until 10 am. I won’t get to see my friends and athletes after they take off, but I’ll be tracking them, and look forward to hearing all the recaps after!
Go get it!