Oct | 23
Behind the Laces, Brooks Athletes, Inspiration, Running Tips

Ryan Vail: Running the NYC Marathon

The New York Marathon is the biggest marathon in the world, and New York is one of the greatest cities in the world. The participants, the crowd, and the New York Road Runners come together to make this event unimaginably massive, incredibly inspirational, and absolutely intense. It is arguably the world’s most competitive race on the most challenging World Marathon Majors course. To place well at the TCS New York City Marathon you must be tough, you must execute a well-thought out race plan, and you must be competitive. It is the cross country of the marathon world, and that is definitely my style.

The New York City Marathon is the pinnacle of road racing. It is home to some of the greatest marathon performances in the history of the sport. Combine this with the atmosphere, the terrain, and the competition and you have the recipe for a truly great marathon. No matter your credentials or personal best times, New York is the true test of a marathoner’s mettle.

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The Narrative of the Course

Every marathon gets tough around the 18-20 mile mark. If you have prepared accordingly and executed your race plan well, this should be where the real race starts. This is typically the gut check point for marathoners and a point when I begin to question myself. While I’ve improved in each of my marathons at having confidence at this point in the race, NYC will be a whole new mental and physical test as I plan to be more aggressive and mix it up with the lead pack. New York throws in its own twist on this barrier as you enter Central Park at around the 23 mile mark. Central Park is hilly and full of turns at exactly the toughest part of the race. So much can be lost or gained during this short segment: minutes, places, glory, money can all go from bad to great or great to bad in the telling last few miles of the New York course.


It seems like the taper stage of a marathon training segment should be something to look forward to, but it brings its own challenges. As the volume decreases in terms of weekly mileage and workout length, the training tends to get faster, bringing on a different type of fatigue than the earlier stages. This is planned, but that doesn’t make it any easier. The real rest will come the final 10 days when volume and intensity drop significantly. While the rest is certainly welcomed, it also means the start of a little anxiety and restlessness as the race approaches.

Post-Marathon Planning

I’d love to say that as soon as the marathon is over you can finally relax, but the truth is that I spend the next day or two analyzing every detail of the race in my head trying to figure out where mistakes are made. That is why I have made it a habit to travel ASAP following the marathon. It’s important for me to completely remove myself from the environment for a few weeks. This year I’ll be heading to South Africa three days after the NYC Marathon. Our first week will be spent backpacking in the Drakensberg Mountains, and we will then take a more relaxing approach by hitting Cape Town and Kruger National Park. After the backpacking trip, I’ll slowly easy myself back into running and take advantage of the summer weather and beautiful terrain. In all, I plan on about a full two weeks away from running. After only taking a week off after London, and a few days off after the track season, I think the break will be overdue.
Ryan Vail NYC Marathon

In 2013, I thought my training reflected better fitness than my result, but that is all a part of racing the marathon. You never know what will happen on the day. I definitely gave it all I had and have no regrets.

Last week’s training

I’m already getting ahead of myself here. Another great week of training is in the books, and I’m confident that I’m ready for the best marathon of my career come Nov. 2. After a successful four weeks in Flagstaff at the beginning of the block, my tempos, intervals, and long runs have all been faster, and I’ve put more time in on hilly roads than before any of my previous marathons. I feel that I am significantly more prepared for the tough New York course than I was last year. I’ll discuss more specific goals and race strategy in my blog next week. I recovered well from the tough 16-mile tempo in Victoria and had a solid workout on the track on Thursday hitting a fairly even pace for all 8 miles of work. The next Thursday will be my last challenging workout (4 x 2 miles) before I enter full rest-mode.
Feel free to check out last week’s training below:
Week 10 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Sunday 3 mi warmup, 16 mi tempo (4:56 avg) on Victoria Marathon course, 1 mi cooldown off 20
Monday 10 Off – drive from Victoria 10
Tuesday 13.5 + drills and strides 4.5 18
Wednesday 5 10 30 minutes 15
Thursday 4 miles @ 18:53, 2 x 2 miles @ 9:23, rest = 4 min, 2 min, on the track off 15
Friday 12 5 40 minutes 17
Saturday 5 10 + drills and strides 15

Thanks again for reading. Follow me here on Twitter for more updates.

About Ryan Vail
Ryan joined Brooks after graduating from the national-championship winning Oklahoma State cross country team in 2009. He set his marathon PR of 2:10:57 at the 2014 London Marathon. Ryan embodies the Run Happy spirit and is an example for runners of all levels and ages.

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