Race Strategy for the NYC Half Marathon

The NYC half is now just 11 days away.  Over the weekend, I ran 6 miles of the half marathon course through Central Park and was reminded that this is not the easiest course.  So I’m doubting myself a little bit but hoping to run strong regardless.

For Tuesdays on the run, the topic is how we put together a race strategy, so let’s talk about that today.

1. Study the course map

I always begin by knowing the course well.  If I can run it (like I did this weekend) that’s ideal, but if not, races almost always have a map and description of the race course.  Many half and full marathons also include an elevation profile so you can get a sense of where the hills are and plan accordingly.

For the NYC half, the first half has the majority of the hills as it looks the outer part of Central park.  The second half is much flatter.  With this in mind, I know I need to start conservatively and not worry when I see some slower mile splits up those tough hills.

Ideally, the plan is to keep something in the tank and negative split the second half.

2. Assess your training

One of the best ways to assess your fitness is with a shorter tune up race before race day.  For the half, a 10k is an ideal distance to get a sense of your abilities.  However, there are many other ways to track your progress as I discussed in this article.

I like to compare current training cycles to previous training cycles and look at similar workouts like tempo runs, 2 x 2 mile workouts, or overall weekly mileage.  I also tally up how many miles I ran at near goal race pace or faster than goal race pace for a confidence booster.

My current training cycle has been just slightly stronger than my fall cycle, which gives me a good indicator that a half marathon pr is possible.

3. Consider the weather

Unfortunately, even with a perfect training cycle and pr-friendly course, anything can happen on race day.  The weather can slow us down if it’s too hot or too cold, so that’s also something to consider.  Runner’s Connect has a temperature calculator to give you a sense of how much a given temperature might impact your effort.

4.  Stick to the plan!

Once you have a good idea of what your body should be capable of, you want to start there or just slightly slower and ease into the pace.  Starting too fast will burn through too much fuel and lactate acid and force you to slow down at the end.  Starting too slowly could mean you miss minutes that you can’t make up later.  But starting conservatively yet with focus ensures your splits will be as even as possible and gives you a good shot at a negative split.

Based on my training, I know that a 7:02-7:10 pace is doable.  With the hills, I’m hoping to average closer to 7:10 for the first half and then finish with an average closer to 7:00 for the second half.  But of course, anything can happen!

I have one more tough workout tomorrow, and then it’s time to taper for the next week!

How do you plan out your racing strategy?

Have you had a race experience that was altered by the weather?

I am linking up with SuzRachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.


34 thoughts on “Race Strategy for the NYC Half Marathon

  1. That elevation map looks tough! I have had experiences where I studied the map and then the course elevation seemed much different. Sometimes I think the maps online try to make the course look easier or something! Your strategy sounds great, and I think it will help so much that you already ran part of the course.

  2. You are going to kill it!!! I absolutely LOVED this race when I did it a few years ago. The crowds, of course, are amazing and the it’s really a great course. Don’t forget to have fun while you’re out there and I will cross my fingers for perfect weather!!
    GOOD LUCK – although you don’t need it since you have SKILLS!
    Allie recently posted..The Rundown – Havana Triathlon: A Beautiful DisasterMy Profile

  3. I can’t wait to see how you do. You’ve been training hard and I know this will be a great race for you. Ive only ever run the NYCM, in New York.

  4. Ah, nothing like a post with information you can use! Luckily I ran the Central Park loop a few times, so I know how brutal it is. It is sort of cruel to have the start right where that incline starts! At least when we’re out of the park we know the hardest part is over, right? I’m not so great at pacing, but have been working on it for this race! I hope the weather cooperates so you can crush your goal!
    Coco recently posted..A Frigid Reston 10 Miler (Race Recap)My Profile

  5. I ran the NYC Half last year and I think your race strategy is perfect! Definitely go more conservative in the first half of the race. When I ran the race it was absolutely freezing but I think that you should have better weather for sure!

  6. I am running this race too and although I knew central park was hilly, I am now scared..lol. Especially when a strong runner like you thinks it’s tough too! I am not s strong runner but I have been running some inclines on my runs. I need to remember that it’s about Finish Lines not finish Times, right? Good luck to you and I hope you crush your goal!

    • If you’ve been running some inclines, you’ll be fine! There’s only really one hill that’s a bit tough… but they are all short. You’ll be great! And yes- it’s definitely about doing your best and getting to the finish line. Good luck to you too!

  7. It’s funny that one of my best races ever was when I didn’t study the race course and found out that it was a freakin’ hilly course. Sometimes being blind to what you are running into works to your advantage. Lol!

    You are going to kill this! Your training has been strong and you are more than prepared. Fingers crossed for glorious, perfect weather!
    angela @ happy fit mama recently posted..Easy Homemade Waffles + Stonyfield B Corp™ AnnouncementMy Profile

  8. Great strategy! Leave a little in the park and hope for a bit of a tail wind on the west side hwy.

    • Yikes! It’s crazy how cold it looks for this weekend- good luck! I’m supposed to meet a friend at 6am Sat and another friend early Sun and am kind of hoping we can find a way to push it back a little later. That’s good it’s more of a fun race!
      Laura recently posted..Race Strategy for the NYC Half MarathonMy Profile

    • SO THIS IS ACTUALLY SUZ (I don’t know why, but my computer will fill out other people’s info!)

      YES YES YES stick to the plan! I have a guest post coming up about something like that–nothing new (and that includes decisions!) on race day!

      • Ha! I’m having the same issue- ever since wordpress updated! Is it just on my blog? Or is it happening to you everywhere?

  9. You’re gonna have a great race! Good thing you’re able to run part of the course — not a lot of people are able to do so! Good luck!!

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