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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Journey 26.2: Gaining Entry into the NYC Marathon

Race #1: Joe Kleinerman 10K
This past November as Mike and I watched the NYC marathon on TV, we had the realization that 2020 will mark the 50thanniversary of the NYC marathon.  This fact combined with the sappy, inspirational stories, tracking friends participating, and a dose of breakfast mimosas finally led me to put a marathon on my bucket list.  God willing, this won’t be the first time I run 26.2 miles since Ironman Maryland this year will actually be my first marathon and my first full Ironman.  Yes, call me crazy but I’m abiding by the advice that training for and racing a full Ironman is somehow more enjoyable than focusing a marathon.

There are multiple ways to get accepted into the NYC marathon – run ungodly fast as a pro, run super fast for your age group, bug your friends to fund your expensive charity slot, or get lucky in the lottery. It keeps getting harder to either achieve a qualifying time or a non-guaranteed slot – in 2018 the applicant pool for the non-guaranteed lottery increased 7 percent to 105,184 for 15,640 slots!  With an acceptance rate of less than 15 percent, you actually have a better chance of getting into a top 50 college as the average acceptance rate is 22.5%, according to!

In 2018, there was another interesting option to gain guaranteed 2019 entry for a limited number of people on a first come, first serve basis who registered for a virtual marathon.  According the NYRR site, using the Strava app to track their participation, participants must complete the total Virtual Marathon distance of 26.2 miles, by either running and/or walking only, within a continuous period of 6 hours and 30 minutes any time between November 1, 2018 and November 4, 2018.  Not a bad option assuming you are in shape to complete it, but it’s unclear if this option will be offered again.

If you are living abroad, you can get guaranteed entry by going through one of the NYC marathon traveler partners and, as an example, get 4 nights hotel plus your entry fee and a few extras for a minimum $1,800 per person.  Not a bad way to combine a vacation and a race but I’m guessing my Connecticut residency status won’t work.

If you live in Metro NY, there is one other way – through their 9+1 program in which you run 9 races plus volunteer for 1 race in the year prior.  So with some careful planning and diligent execution in 2019, you can find yourself with guaranteed entry into NYC 2020.
This all sounded like a good idea until I woke up the morning of January 5 in a NYC hotel room to rain for my first race.  This year between Atlantic City 70.3 and the Oktoberfest 10K, I should have been used to rain but the January chill in the air added a new dimension of miserableness.  I usually abide by the fair weather plan for shorter races and register when good weather is in the air, but NYRR races sell out and so we had heeded the “near capacity” warnings a month before.

Surely, no sane person would get up on a Saturday morning and run this race but we arrived in Central Park to find 4,568 other crazy people wanting to run a 10K in the cold rain.  My plan was not to “race” this race but simply use it as my TriDot Fartlek 50 min(ish) run on my training plan which called for 4 x 4’ intervals at threshold pace followed by my easy pace.  I knew the challenge would be holding myself back from wanting to run faster in a race. I didn’t know the real challenge would be finding the open space amongst the throngs of people to do my intervals. I changed my plan mid-race and decided to just do the intervals when the timing was right, including saving one for the end to have a good finish.  And low and behold I achieved the “unicorn” – a 100 Train X score on my TriDot workout – while also finishing with a respectable time of 1:02:35.

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