Why the NYRR Staten Island Half Is the Perfect Tune-up for Your Fall Marathon

Why the NYRR Staten Island Half Is the Perfect Tune-up for Your Fall Marathon

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On Sunday, November 5, more than 50,000 runners will assemble at Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island for the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon. Four weeks before that day, on October 8, some 10,000 runners will run half that distance—13.1 miles—at the NYRR Staten Island Half.

Running the NYRR Staten Island Half is ideal preparation for the TCS New York City Marathon on another late-fall marathon. Here's why:

1) It’s a great tune-up race. Four weeks out from a marathon, you should be at your physical peak, based on several months of long runs and steady high mileage. Now’s the time to put that fitness to the test, and still have time to recover before your 26.2. “A half-marathon four weeks out can serve as a benchmark for where you are in your training before you begin your taper,” says Roberto Mandje, New York Road Runners’ manager of runner training, education, & products. The marathon taper—a time of pre-race reduced mileage and intensity—usually lasts two to three weeks.

2) It will give you useful information. The numbers generated by your NYRR Staten Island Half—your finishing time and pace-per-mile—can help you gauge your goal marathon time and pace. For most runners, you can double your half-marathon time and add 10–15 minutes to predict goal marathon time. For example, if you finish the NYRR Staten Island Half in 2:00 (9:09 per mile), your goal marathon time is 4:10–4:15 (9:32–9:44 per mile). The formula isn’t perfect—first-time marathoners should add about 20 minutes to the doubled half-marathon time, due to the novelty of the distance—but it can help keep you on pace for 26.2.

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3) It gives you choices. “Depending on your marathon training history, you can take one of two approaches at the Staten Island Half,” says Mandje.

  • A training run, or part of a training run (marathon pace or slower). If you know your goal marathon pace, run the 13.1 miles at that pace or slower, and ideally feel comfortable. “You’ll come away full of confidence that a month down the road, you’ll be able to hold the same pace while doubling the distance,” says Mandje. “This will allow you to recover quicker from the effort than if you were to race all-out.” If you wish, you can add more miles before and/or after the 13.1, depending on your overall training.
  • A race at faster than marathon pace. Racing 13.1 miles will help you prepare for the challenges of racing twice that distance. “You’ll be callusing your body and mind,” says Mandje. “This will also make your marathon pace feel that much easier four weeks later when you’re tapered and a little bit fitter.” The relatively flat course will allow you to run a strong, even effort.

4) It’s a chance for a dress rehearsal. “The NYRR Staten Island Half will give you one last chance to practice your pre-marathon routine, including what you eat and drink the day before and morning of the race and how you handle pre-race jitters,” says Mandje. You can also work on things like dressing for unpredictable weather and drinking from a cup while running.

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5) It gives you time to tinker. “Four weeks out, you still have ample time to recover as well as make any necessary adjustments in your training,” says Mandje. For example, if you faded in the final miles of the NYRR Staten Island Half, you can do one more long run the following weekend. If your pre-race breakfast disagreed with you, you have time to find something that works. Your taper should start at least 14 days out from November 5.

After the NYRR Staten Island Half, focus on recovery—refuel, rehydrate, and take a few days to rest up. You may aim to do one more long run two weeks out. “It shouldn’t be the longest run of your build-up, and it should be very purposeful,” says Mandje—just a final confidence builder. If you race again before November 5, make it a short distance like the Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff (5M) on October 29. The Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K on November 4 can be a very easy final shakeout run.

“Trust your training—November 5 is almost here,” says Mandje. Focus on staying healthy and getting mentally ready for your big day!

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