Almost a year ago today, I got to experience the New York City Marathon as the fans see it—I was in the lead car for the men’s wheelchair race, from the starting line to the finish line, 26.2 miles later. I saw the athletes push themselves at every turn, on hills and straightaways.
On the day before this year’s marathon, I experienced everything from the athlete’s perspective. In a ballroom at a hotel in Midtown Manhattan, I sat down with Nancy Kiprop, a first-time runner in the TCS NYC Marathon (above left); Abdi Abdirahman, a third-place finisher in 2016; and Tatyana McFadden (above right), a Paralympic legend and five-time winner in NYC. I got the inside scoop on the athletes’ mindset in the buildup towards this prestigious race. I also sat in on the meeting in which over 60 of the world’s elite athletes reviewed the logistics of the race, such as the course, timing, and weather.
Obviously, for the athletes, weather is the most important factor in how they will perform. The weather for starting time in Staten Island on Sunday will be around 10 degrees warmer than last year, a brisk 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Not surprisingly, the athletes said that they were pleased with the forecast and that those were prime race conditions.
I asked the three athletes what their ideal weather conditions were, and they all replied with somewhere between the mid-40s to the low-50s. Abdirahman and Kiprop said anything above 75 degrees is too hot, and humidity was also a bad thing. McFadden said she doesn’t love it when it rains, and that is understandable, because I would be nervous too if I was flying down a hill at 40 miles an hour and I had to make a sharp turn on the slick concrete!
I also asked McFadden and Abdirahman about their favorite parts of the marathon. “I like the 15th mile through the 20th mile,” said Abdirahman. “That’s my favorite part of the course. It’s also the hardest part of the course, but I’m good on the hills.”
As for Tatyana, she also felt that the hills were her favorite part, and always has. “The climbing—I love the hills,” she said. “It is a very technical burst, and it can be pretty difficult. But my favorite parts are the climbs!”
Finally, I asked all three athletes why they run these marathons: Why do they put their bodies through all the stress of training? They all shared the same motivation for continuing to sacrifice their bodies each day during training in preparation for their races: They love to compete. “My passion is running,” Abdirahman said.
McFadden also had a little extra motivation, as she is an ambassador for the New York Road Runners' Team for Kids, which offers free running and fitness programs to students around the country. Before this year’s marathon, 1,000 kids will run the last mile to the finish line.
At the same time, the athletes also want to make sure that all kids have a chance to compete, with McFadden saying that she wants to make sure that wheelchair racing continues to grow as a sport for the next generation. “I love being an ambassador for Team for Kids, and getting the program going, and getting the wheelchair racing program started, and it’s really nice seeing the growth of that,” she said.
Abdirahman also said that the fans help him continue to run the marathon. “It’s always good to know that there are people that know your name and cheer for you,” he said. “Even if they don’t know your name, they just give you morale and motivation to keep going.”