How Local Running Groups Prepare for the NYC Marathon

Photo: Eric Blevens

Among New York City’s fertile selection of track clubs, running clubs and run crews, the marathon is one of the biggest days of the year. We learned what they do leading up to it, and on the big day. 

Step One: Have a unique pre-race ritual

“We’ve always done a run upstate in New Paltz in August called the ‘Death Run,’ named because our coach was into the Grateful Dead. It’s a 22-mile run that kicks off our training in earnest.” —Tony Ruiz, coach, Central Park Track Club

“We have a policy in Black Roses NYC that you’re not allowed to mention the marathon until Sept. 1, because in New York, it’s such a hyped-up environment that people start training for the marathon in the beginning of June! And the summer is just too hot and humid, there’s just too many great parties, and there’s too much to do here in the summertime to lock down and really dedicate yourself to proper marathon training.” —Knox Robinson, co-founder, Black Roses NYC run crew

Step Two: Go over the final strategy, host shakeout runs

“We have a pre-marathon get-together about 10 days before. I generally will discuss strategy and approach—I have a 10-10-10 series on running the marathon: 10 miles, 10 miles, 10K, as opposed to, say, two half marathons. —Tony Ruiz

“We’ve got a big circle of friends in a number of different running groups we’ve been connected to from London, Paris, Amsterdam and Copenhagen—people who will be with us all week. Shakeout runs and things that groups normally hold have lots of people from out of town. The community aspect of races is a fun opportunity to not only support our runners but also to see runners that we see only once in awhile, or on the Internet.” —Jessica Zapotechne, founder, Girls Run NYC run crew; co-founder, Black Roses NYC

“They say the day after the marathon in New York is New Year’s Day for a runner, and so the whole buildup to the New York City Marathon is indeed our holiday season. So we generally have a shakeout run together the Saturday before the marathon downtown. That’s when you’re gonna have Black Roses NYC come together with Bridge Runners and Resident Runners; it might be hosted by Orchard Street Runners. It’s a chance for everyone to put aside all their particular training practices and their crew culture and kind of come together and celebrate everybody who’s near the end of their marathon journey.” —Knox Robinson

Step Three: Support Your Club or Crew

“The expectation is that if you’re not racing, you’re gonna cheer.” —Jessica Zapotechne

“We have two spots where we see our runners. The first is the 8-mile mark in front of BAM—Brooklyn Academy of Music. Then we all get on the train and we race over to 24 miles, just over the entrance on east 90th Street and 5th Avenue, and we have what we call ‘the wall of orange,’ because our colors are orange and blue. It’s a nice spot because you’re running on fumes and emotion, so it’s a nice little lift for them, plus you’ve got that big hill that you’re climbing on 5th Avenue as you enter the park. They always look forward to seeing us there.” —Tony Ruiz

“We have a cheer section, confetti canon and noisemaking at mile 10 in Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg—in convenient and not-entirely-arbitrary proximity to a coffee shop.” —Knox Robinson

“We join forces for the cheer squad with Black Roses. We get there super early and hold down a spot. We have music and everyone there is dancing. Part of our crew will leave and go to a second spot at mile 21. Unless people are running for a time, people will stop and get lots of hugs and cheers from everyone.” —Eric Blevens, co-founder, Resident Runners run crew

“We set up a table and cheering station at 114th St on 1st Ave. Members bring oranges, bananas, pretzels, Gatorade, and other snacks that we offer to anyone who runs by the table! We can also be found with posters and cowbells cheering everyone on.” —Jess Spar, The Reservoir Dogs running club

Step Four: Throw an after-party

“We host it at West NYC (our home base on Thursday night runs), on 72nd street, close to the finish. Next door there’s a spot called Communal. Everybody comes by, you pay $25 and get all-you-can-drink beer and pizza slices. We turned it into a long-running after-party that usually goes till 9 or 10 o’clock. We also have a masseuse come by for free 10-minute massages. All the crews come by and we party it up. It’s one of those high-energy days where it’s cool to have everybody in the same room.” —Eric Blevens

“After the race we meet up usually at a bar. After it’s all done they really get their drinks on! That party can go on till the next day. They’re definitely in celebratory mode after the races. It’s very emotional, all that hard work, it’s like the final expression of a long training cycle, so I come ready for a lot of emotional stuff like tears, and emotional parents that come to support them. It’s one I look forward to every year.” —Tony Ruiz

Step Five: Stay out all night

“After the party, there tends to be people who will go out clubbing all night long. That’s something unique to this scene—they like to train hard, and they like to party. So they go to the after-party, eat, shower, do whatever they need to do, come back out and go out in the Little Italy/Chinatown area.” —Jessica Zapotechne

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