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Sports Tours Ambassador Raj is no stranger to the TCS New York City Marathon. This year he will be attempting to complete the 26 iconic miles through NYC’s five boroughs for a legendary third time! We asked him for his advice on how to conquer the Big Apple!
It’s that big American appeal. It’s just like you see in the movies and there’s a huge wow factor! And then the marathon crowds, they are so loud and raucous and supportive – it’s one big party with live bands along the course. Running into Brooklyn and then Queens is off the charts. For me, it’s on another level to any other event – there is something so special about New York.
I wake up really early, around 3:30am because of the logistics of getting to the start line at Staten Island. I’ll have a bagel with peanut butter as early as possible and get ready to leave at around 5:30am. When I’m waiting near the start, I’ll grab a banana and a hot coffee from one of the stands and sit somewhere quiet – it’s nice just to get into the zone. I find getting into a calm headspace really helps, as the build-up to the race can be frantic!
I’d say be really careful, because it’s exciting and you’ve been pent-up waiting to get going for a while. Once you start you just want to go fast and overtake people. Slow down, especially over the bridge, and enjoy the views of Manhattan. Make sure you stay calm, don’t get swept up by the crowds, and remember that you can make time up later on. Save your legs for the finish!
Study the course map and elevation so you know what to expect. When there’s a hill coming up prepare to slow down. Accept that it’s not Berlin or Chicago, and train appropriately for an undulating course. Include some hill training and strength training in your marathon prep, but ultimately the crowds will carry you!
It has to be the Queensboro Bridge at around mile 15/16. It’s at that window for hitting the wall anyway, and it’s one of the biggest slopes. It’s the only part of the course where there are no spectators, and the bridge is like an echo chamber. Once you come off it, you’re facing that big, long slog up First Avenue, so I think that’s the hardest part, both physically and mentally.
I love Brooklyn. I’ve never experienced a party atmosphere like it. The section on First Avenue is also very special. The minute you cross into Manhattan and hear that wall of sound from the crowd is a huge wow moment. There’s also the spectacular skyline view of Manhattan in mile one from the Verrazano Bridge which you don’t see anywhere else. Make sure to stop and take a photo!
I get flashbacks of the journey during the race and I think back to the hardest moments. All the emotions come back to me as I’m in that final mile. And then comes the euphoria – that’s why I do it. It’s the absolute joy and sense of achievement when you cross that line. Those seconds and minutes in Central Park are better than any drug. It’s an overwhelming sense of achievement and I hope all our runners get to experience it! Good luck!
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