The way to Verrazano - NYC Marathon 2013

If you want to win something, run 100 meters.    
If you want to experience something, run a marathon.
Emil Zátopek

~ Prologue ~

Verrazano-Narrows bridge

You are about to go live with your story, sitting alone in a radio station's studio. In a few moments you'll be 'On Air', time boxed for one hour.  Yet, by now you know that you are already familiar with your clock...

"...The wind in your face during last week’s blizzard. The awful sting of the cold, and you out there in the empty streets wondering what possessed you to leave the house in such a pounding storm, and yet, even as you struggled to keep your balance, there was the exhilaration of that wind, the joy of seeing the familiar streets turned into a blur of white, whirling snow." (Paul Auster, Winter Journal)

Marathon, it is a wonderful way to explore New York I think to myself underestimating the race. I'm on my way to the city of Auster, soon I will be crossing Brooklyn just next to Tom and Nathan Glass bookstore ending the race in Central Park, the home of Marco Fogg the hero "Moon Palace ". In this city - the economic capital of the world - right here on Fifth Avenue, Benjamin Graham learnt few lessons on how to survive in the Big Apple and after few decades became an investment guru for generations of investors on Wall Street and around the world including Warren Buffett the 'Oracle Of Omaha'.  Very soon at the same avenue tens of thousands of runners who yearn to reach the end point will start their battle.

Wow! four weeks remain till the beginning at the foot of Verrazano-Narrows bridge. The excitement level spikes up and I am quite satisfied with the preparation I had. Is it possible to summarize these five months of training? The more I think of it the more I understand that there are moments that remain only with you, they are born at a specific point during your run and remain just deep consciousness with you. Still, the story is familiar: marathon training is not easy, demanding and it is a big commitment you'd take on yourself. There are some concessions you should decide on, crises, injuries leaving you with one focus on one goal.

In Nitro (my team) I have met good people, motivated, with one common dream, real partners and friends We ran together hundreds of miles and it certainly strengthens and keep us united.
So many good changes in such short time led me to write down everything I can. In the following lines I gathered most joyful and meaningful moments on my way to run my first marathon specifically in New York.

~ Lucky Man ~

So how it all began?
Another day has passed, I am taking a close look at a picture from Tel-Aviv 2013 half marathon, something tells me that this race left unfinished, incomplete, certainly not a race I would remember as a good one. This was my first half marathon and even though I thoroughly prepared for it, I had my decline at 18th kilometer crossing the finish line at 1:52. Flash of a moment and I decide to sign up for the ING NYC Marathon in. I guess that now comes the Why NYC question? Well, once I have heard about NYC finisher's chat and it was quite thrilling to hear about that big party in NYC, so I said what the hack! NYC it shall be.
Yet, one issue remained open, dealing with the chances to get my ticket in. Here's what 'Runner's World' had to say about that:
"... The exact number of spots available for new 2013 applicants depends on how many of the above runners use their guaranteed entry. Still, it's safe to say the number of spots available in the 2013 drawing will be down dramatically from previous years. In 2012 , more than 140,000 people entered the lottery for approximately 40,000 spots. "
May 29th 16:00 EST official marathon drawing started. In Israel the time is quite late and in New York NYRR is about to send results to nearly 180,000 runners praying for confirmation. A weird dialogue is being handled between NYRR website and myself. I keep on refreshing result page but at the end I just fall asleep with my hand on the keyboard - a real believer.
Morning shows up, and I get the following message!

That morning and throughout the day I couldn't hide my smile.

Rerunning JAY Z and Alicia Keys on my iPod and filled with a sense of a new beginning with an expectation for the big thing to come.
Photo credit: NYRR.COM

~ Absolute Beginner  ~

“If you are training properly, you should progress steadily. This does not necessarily mean a personal best every time you race … Each training session should be like putting money in the bank. If your training works, you continue to deposit into your ‘strength’ account … Too much training has the opposite effect. Rather than build, it tears down. Your body will tell when you have begun to tip the balance. Just be sure to listen to it.” – Grete Waitz, World Class

Preparation for a marathon means one thing: commitment.
Commitment means early morning wake ups, commitment is all about your obligation to long distance runs, do your training right and take care for load and recovery balancing, commitment for rest and have a really good sleep at 21:30, commitment for proper nutrition and above all do not you forget your family - the very very important part behind your preparation.
So how to put it things in one jar? I understand that in order to maintain this tight tasks framework I will have to change my life a bit. If you want a marathon you should prepare for a slight change in your life even if the clock alarms at 3 : 30 am reminding your early morning  run. In the background there are always worries for injuries and other concerns, but for now I put everything aside hoping for the best by minimizing risks and working according to my training guidelines.

My first decision is to join Nitro team following a conversation I had with with Nir Bdolach. (Big thanks comes Yoram Ben-Porat which helped me at the beginning)
"I am here to learn" I said to Nir during our first meeting.
We had a nice chat about New York, with focus on the track itself and also to my limited experience so far.
"So how about starting with hills training tomorrow morning?" asked me Nir with  his authoritative voice. I was a bit surprised but immediately agree to join. "So tomorrow you can start training with the Tzafrir and Nitro's running team at 05:30AM". This hills training route is suited in one of Israel's pastoral valleys near Mt. Horshan a place which I am very familiar with following my weekends mountain biking.
I must admit that the next sounds great in hebrew but still: "Endurance = Suffering + Patience", Nir used to encourage his triathlon team. I will try to memorized that on my way back home, doing my best to be patient and hope to suffer in silence ...

~ The Training Program  ~

Tzafrir (shortened: 'Tzaf' ) is my coach. Retrospectively, I think that your coach is somehow always with you, although physically he is not necessarily there. Metaphorically for me he was just like a lighthouse, taking care for you along training, putting comments when needed. If your coach brings emotional intelligence you're lucky, Tzaf has it. 

My first training was set for early June hills training. Tzaf was leading a group of Thirty-five people 05:30AM early in the morning - have I mentioned we're dealing here with hills run? It was not an easy one, we have started with a warm-up of 2KM and then climbing up 120m hill for 40 minutes combined with number of reps. Tsaf checks all the time and keep asking how it feels. My last climb made me exhausted my heart rate climbs to 180.
At the end of training Tzaf said to me: "The team is preparing for the Tiberias Marathon and we are at the beginning of the training season with more than 30 runners", then he added with a smile: "If you don't have CRASH on New York join us..." humor has never left this great team and as time passes by it is only getting better.
Doing my cool down with some stretching and I'm on my way back home.

My training model is fully iterative and last four to five month.
Each month comprises of four weekly units which turn difficult up till the third week moving on to the last week which in turn become much easier and generally used for recovery and a preparation for the next month.
My week starts with moderate run to gently  to refresh your body from Friday's long run and put you in a freshly position for Monday's tough intervals training. Wednesday are kept for hills run or tempo (depends how are you close to your race)
Twice a week, on days when there is no activity, I'm in the pool for long and easy swimming nearly 1,200 m which I find as good cross training activity.
The whole process reminds me a bit of the SCRUM model implemented at my work. I decide then to use some SCRUM tools to make my training even better. I keep asking myself three questions to complete the retrospective process:
1. What went well during the last week of training that I should continue with? ('Start doing')
2. Which activity has no contribution? ('Stop doing')
3. What goes well according to my plans? ('Continue with')

I have my weekly chats with Tzaf once a week, sharing my doubts, fears and synched with specific information regarding to the upcoming training (Pace/HRM) in order to make this week more effective for me and it really works for me. After four months I am getting better, starting my tapering much stronger with a weight drop of 22 pounds. Now and I run faster than before with lower heart rate.

Weekends' long runs:

"Diet water and heroes' coffee at the end of your long run..." (Tzaf)

  The above photo was taken before one of my tapering runs. I sworn to get back here, to this very special point ( picturistic  PardesHana - Benyamina )  exactly at the same time I started my 34 KM run. During your training there are very few moments where you can feel really high and feel that your goal is achievable. At this point, when the clock hit 04:30 AM I could under the impression of this beautiful road I had big confidence about the marathon and not only for this specific run.

The distance component which being built during my long runs is an important key element in the construction of my "muscle memory". I pass my weekly training summaries to my coach Tzaf and as he has promised, I see improvements for my ZONE3 pacing from 5:30 to 4:20 min\km.

Tel-Aviv Hayarkon half marathon, August 2013, I improve my previous record by 8 min to 1hr 44min.
A week later I do another test (27 km) feeling really good,  crossing the 21.1 km point at 1hr 39min.


The next says it all about tapering period:

"If you are one percent over-trained you are screwed, but if you are one percent under-trained you are golden!"

  I am taperist (Arnon made this up!) which means lowering training load for the upcoming weeks by 30% Nevertheless, you should keep your metabolism the same through continuation of midrange runs at zone 3-4. It used to be a tricky time where you may face loss of focus and weakness here and there. All intervals training are replaced with FARTLEKs - still looking for the Swedes games promised me...

My tempo training is focus on maintaining  4:25 to 4:45 min/km pace and it goes quite well.
During fartleks my pace is remain stable 4:00 to 4:10 min / km
Average pace for all long runs (>32 km) is around 4:50 min / km .

I am very puzzled during that tapering month, on one hand you have to reduce your mileage but on the other hand your body strive for more. Nitro runners continue with their tough trainings while I need to step back. A funny metaphor I keep thinking of  is me getting off a bus, being told to wait on the highway (I am alone!)  for an unforgettable roller coaster ride all I have to do is stay on that lonely road and wait. Meanwhile my head keeps working, my race is just around the corner.

Waiting for my roller-coaster ...

~ Living right  ~

Practices, practices and more practices. 
Whether it is set for hills training, intervals or your weekly long run our body is set into continuous pressure especially during the last month before tapering starts. 

Efforts' curve is increases from one month to another and there is great importance on maintaining good recovery by fueling up with good energy sources. 

Marathons season begins in September (Berlin, Amsterdam, Chicago, New-York) presumably training for these races will be held during summer, which means early wake ups in the morning escaping the heat and humid . I have learnt to get up 4 AM ( and at the end of practice and love it - a little crazy is not it? )
You must be wake at least 45 minutes in order to provide sufficient body waking and loading of carbohydrates and fluids "Camel up".

Although keep on good and healthy nutrition, I understand the need to make a small change even at work. Here's a quick recipe I improvised :

Small chilly , black pepper, salt, thyme, 250 grams of chicken breast , very little olive oil.
Wrap it in aluminium foil and leave for 8 minutes in the toaster.
Carbs : rice \ pasta \ potato home made.
Fresh vegetable or fruit.

Coffee/ Green tea

~ Taking with me...  ~

Above all my love and gratitude go to my family that without their support and patient it would turn to impossible. Tali , Shiri, Noah and Yonathan were with me all the way. It is not obvious to deal with husband who have just returned from his long run, exhausted for a long Friday's nap...

My children lived and breathed each and every stage. They followed my training, nutrition (amazing to see how it moves them toward healthy food!) and learned about New York.
To all my friends in Nitro - I have no doubt that even-though it was just one handshake, smile or word of encouragement it meant a lot to me.
Tzaf, your guidance throughout the training program was fantastic, funny, critical and educated alike, I learned a lot. 
Arnon, thanks for publishing this story in your site sipoorun 
Thanks to Yariv from CS  Israel, Shiri and Liat for their help with designing my singlet.


  1. Run and hear the noise of eucalyptus bulletins smashing on each and every step of mine.
  2. Thanks to the Japanese runner (tourist?) which proved me you can know someone without saying a word, runners have their own meetings...
  3. Hills training at Shooni park Binyamina - stunning sea views and fields in the morning.
  4. 27 km long run in northern Galilee in August through watermelons fields - the sweet smell... I had never keened for watermelon as during this run!!
  5. The auctioneer's voice at Sdot-Yam marable factory during early morning runs:  I never understood what he was saying but it felt as Tzaf voice to me ;-)
  6. Hava Alberstein Tishrei song during Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Years) runs 
  7. An unforgettable week in New York during November 2013 which I will never forget!

~ Lucky man Take II ~

 About a week before the competition I get the following invitation from NYRR:

Arrows tagging - translated:
  • Upper arrow means: "Friends"
  • Pointing on Boston Strong: "For Martin 8 years old and Boston"
  • Pointing on my registration form: "Chest number / BIB number"
  • Pointing on GU box: "Fuel"
  • Pointing on Paul Auster's Winter Journal book: "For Central Park"
  • Pointing on my Garmin 910XT: "Control"
  • and just on top NYC Marathon map is says: "In case Waze will stop working..."

~ Race Day! ~

“…The ultimate reason to run a race is to test yourself: both your preparation and your ability … In addition to a test of my ability and improvement, I enjoy the sense of support I feel running with thousands of others. There is something about the rituals of the race—pinning on the number, lining up, being timed—that bring out the best in us. In a way, we’re all alike. We all share the same experience: the same clock, the same distance, the same determination. The race is run by you, for you, and it’s all your own. Just as no one else can do it for you, no one but you can feel the same challenge and personal satisfaction from your effort.” Grete Waitz, World Class

November 3rd and it is hell freezing at Verrazano-Narrow bridge,  temperatures dropped below 40°F and the cold wind cut through every piece of my body, General Winter put his ace of spades with a gray smile in front all runners. I am here together with thousands of other runners for the second wave, in  few moments the race will start with cannon firing signaling the start of the 41st annual ING NYC Marathon.

Clever runners should know that this race would is going to tough one. Northern winds 20 mph will accompany us throughout the route from Brooklyn till the end of 1st Avenue. It used to say that every marathon has its own rules and this one has definitely owns some...

 On my way to Pulaski Bridge  

Now it's about time - that's the moment I dreamed on during the last 7 months - my first Marathon.

That's absolutely money time for me. I feel strong and confident in my way I got here. Now it's the time to get your payback for every single meter from my Garmin that covered devoutly without a miss. It's time for payback for every interval run where you left exhausted at the end while you pushed yourself to the limit and preserved target pace. It's time for payback for all hills training I manage to complete only to find at the top that you should  climb it up again.

I stand here at the start line with confidence. There is no one gram of concerns and actually that's what worries me ... I keep on memorizing the important things for this windy run :

1. Do drafting where it is possible (look for the tall runners )
2. Gel every 45 minutes
3. Drink at each stop
4. Keep a conservative 4:50 min/km pace and wait for the 10 miles point for pace reassessment.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

Photo credit: AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

I am located in the second wave based on my estimation set in early June for completing the race in 3:55 hr. 
Now I am certain that I would do better, according to my latest long runs (>30 km) , I am expected to cross the finish line below 3:30 with average pace of 04 : 45 min / km .

The opening cannon firing is out and I am starting with a hilly section of Verrazano bridge lasting about half mile. Freezing winds surrounding me all over. To the left of me I can hear NYPD helicopters' rotors cutting into the air while to the right thundering Harley accompanying the race, what a marvelous opening symphony sees out the race. 

"Hey! do not forget to enjoy the way!" my friends in Israel told me just before I left, my eyes are now turned ahead to Manhattan skyline and this warm and knockout view is in full contrast with the cold surrounding me. I am crossing the highest point on the bridge down to Brooklyn and remember to record in my mind the scenery, the first moment when everything has started, the sounds I hear  - just everything I can - the race has officially started!

On my way down from Verrazano bridge I know it gets a bit tricky, it seems that everyone around me are speeding up and this is the first item on my DO NOT list - burning calories so early and stretching up your legs muscles is too early and risky step at this point.
Brooklyn's spectators welcome me with oranges and napkins (damn cold!) on the 2nd mile and right after Verrazano. My first miles on this NYC borough includes few turns and lots of people cheering up. At th fifth mile all three waves (orange , green and blue ) join to one big swarm, from this point on all 52,000 runners are heading the finish line in Central Park.

  I am taking my first gel at the 6th mile according to my race plan. My average pace is 4:50 min/km 
or 7:47 min/ml just as agrred with Tzaf. At this point I felt very good but the combination of cold and northern winds was like shooting my albatross things are about to be changed up next. From here the route becomes tortuous and following the many turns till 1st Av. a bit technical, you'd be very careful and avoid any dangerous route changes any unnecessary movement could result in tension or injury . The rain started to fall from the 9th mile till Queens up till Pulaski Bridge.  There are many rock bands on every corner and it seems as a big fun for the spectators as well!  You can have every style of music from rap, rock , gospel , to jazz all are here just for you. But hey! you are here for the Marathon, your first one.

I keep thinking of my kids Shiri , Noa and Yonathan and my wife Tali back home, I think of all the little children wrapped with coats standing here in the cold for hours - they are definitely deserve my HIGH FIVE and every time I get closer to one of them, I see how they get excited and happy. They are my audience along the way!
Photo credit:

I am reaching Pulasky Bridge , that's amazing, some runners just stopped so early and we are just before the 13.1 mile point!  
My half marathon record improved by 1 minute to 1:43:26.
"learn to treated every bridge with much care" I kept on saying this before the race began, now I am working wise with my legs both while climbing but also on my way down, otherwise you are at a risky situation.
I keep thinking on all the hills practicing I had in Israel and how I conquer each one of them. 

At the 14th mile I notice a change in the urban view, entering into industrial area which is less crowded and all of sudden inside this silence I can just hear other runners' struggling, breathing and fighting whether cold or demons. Just before Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge Bridge and  I see Israeli flag wrapping women just in-front of me, I approach whisper to her: "Well done!" suddenly I see how her face really woke up from the struggle to one big smile "Toda" means "Thank you!" in Hebrew.

Funny!        Photo credit:

Looking at my  Garmin, distance points on 15 mile. Spectators' roar from 1st Av is turning louder and surrounding me. Hundreds of thousands of people some say nearly a crowd of millions aligned throughout the course. This avenue has no end, these 7 km line stretched straight in-front of  the wind  and I can feel my legs hurting. More and more runners stop aside cursing and try to start again. Is this the wall they all kept talking about? here? is it possible on the 19th mile?

I am trying to preserve my steady pace, now I know that on normal condition I would be around
4:30 min/km , yet these extreme conditions set a different race today. i just want to end it with as big smile. I thinking on Rod Dixon and his amazing race in 1983 winning the marathon at the last 500 meters with great suffering .

   " You have to reach your lows and feel the struggle" said Tzaf during our prep meeting. So here I am with the struggle, pains in my legs is not easy, yet I'm quite careful not take it to the extreme. Crowd's voices are mixed with my inner voices - who will prevail here?

Hey! here is Kristen we just met few hours ago on our way to ESPN's fun zone.  She left this morning with over-training injury, I am encouraged to see her, she ran very good considering that. She was very polite and we had a wonderful conversation on the 19th mile, I wave for Hi! and she returned to me smile with Hi! (well later on she denied that.... ;-))

   I am very close to Wills Av. Bridge entering Bronx. This is the fourth borough out of five (Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Manhattan) and it signals me that I am very close to do the turn back to Manhattan. Difficulty rises and grows, but deep inside I feel strong, my thoughts are clear and put me with full focus on the race.  There was this rapper on 138th st on Bronx, he was standing on a stage just in front of me doing  Ice Cube's  "Check Yo Self ",  and this is so typical and fits this moment - What a sound!  I immediately recognize the song! I feel the bass and it feels so good and certainly invites you to dance.
It's a good sign I woke up from my struggle with this great music surrounding me.

                                                               Photo credit:

Now I am on Fifth Avenue , the wind at my back which is good . Crowds of people , mass cheering all over, I've never seen so many people in one square mile as I see it here. It seems to me that they do not cease calling my name 'Lior', well I must admit that the R at the end in my name is not so easy to pronounce and it adds another effort to the spectators, the same goes for me and  I am not giving up.

 Reaching the 38th km crossing all water stations, another look at my Garmin and my pace remains around 4:50 \ 4:55 min/km. whenever it declines to 5:20 I fight back to keep below 5 min/km. I am very close to 86th st where the entrance appears, at this point the 40th km there are no walls and the gorilla left behind ... 
Yet there is still one battle, if I recall right Haruki Murakami  has mentioned it in his book "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" and there it stand, 600m hilly route jusst before the finish line.

Now I can easily see the ING's orange tribunes , it all mixed together,  here it is Israeli flag on the right just yesterday I held him. There are dozens of flags but this is the only flag I can see clear and focus.
right after that I can see the finish line , TIMEX's clock is just over me , I am closing my eyes , thinking of my children and Tali, imagine their smile of them, one by one as if they were there with me, raising my hand up high with a big smile.

The clock is set to 3:35 and one second, New York is mine!

Now all that remains is to cross my way back to my apartment on 57th st through NYPD endless barricades. In this freezing cold it ain't going to be an easy task at all...


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