Last-Minute Tips for Marathoners From Three Olympians


On Friday evening, legendary Olympians Bernard Lagat, Abdi Abdirahman, and Juan Luis Barrios sat down at the NYRR RUNCENTER to share their thoughts about the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon, as well as provide some last-minute tips to runners participating in Sunday’s race.

What Advice Do You Have for First-Time Marathon Runners?

Lagat: It’s going to be my first time, too! Abdi [Abdirahman] told me everything I need to know. He’s honest. He’s told me: ‘You have to throw away the concept of time when you are running in New York. Just concentrate on being in the race.’ I asked, how am I going to hit my goal if I’m not thinking about time in the run?

He replied: ‘There’s some hills that are gonna challenge you, and then you are gonna feel like you are gonna drop out. Just keep going That is the reality.’

I’m taking their advice really seriously this Sunday.

Barrios: Don’t push it too hard the first six miles because if you do, it’s very hard to finish the marathon. Think about the hours it takes to finish the marathon. You need to start slowly with the first 5K and then go better and better every 5K.

Abdirahman: Be patient! That’s the key word. The first few miles are going to feel so slow and you will think ‘Oh, I’m in good shape. I want to go faster.’

You run past so many people, the excitement gets going, but the race doesn’t start until mile 18 or 20. When you pass mile 20, that is when you start to feel sore. Take all the drinks you can. Take advantage of the [energy] gels on offer so you can finish strong. Run your own race. Don’t run someone else’s race.

Do you have any special traditions before a race?

Lagat: I’ve got one. No one else is supposed to touch my bib. Not my kids, my wife, or my agent. I’m the one who has to put it nice and square. If I pin it a little crooked, I have to do it again, and it’s the same with the one on my back. I get bad feelings if someone else touches it.

Barrios: I like to be in my room, thinking about the race. No TV, just me thinking about all the training and the timing in the race.

Abdirahman: I like to shave my head. If I don’t shave my head the night before the race, I go crazy, especially if I forget my clippers.

After All These Years, What Keeps You Coming Back to New York?

Abdirahman: I first ran here in 2004, but I’ve also run 8Ks and half-marathons in NYC. Some of the best races in my career were in New York. I finished third in the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon, and they keep inviting me back! I will keep coming back as long as they ask me.

Lagat: A lot of people asked me why didn’t you start somewhere flat? That’s not my criteria. I want to have fun, I want to go a place where they really loved me from when I was running track there. New York Road Runners is like a second home to me.

I feel welcome every time I arrive. You get such support and love from NYRR so, for me, it was a no brainer. There was no other discussion to go anywhere else.  


What is your favorite place to eat before a race in New York?

Abdirahman: Every time I’m here (New York City), I want to eat at this one Italian restaurant on 57th street. They have great pizzas that I love. The night before the race I just have to go there, no matter how long the line is.

Barrios: Any place with real Mexican food! We have a lot of options close to the hotel, but like Abdi, I go for Italian food [the night before a race] for the carb load. Afterward, we find some Mexican food.

Lagat: There is one Italian spot I usually go to whenever I come to NYC for the Millrose Games. It’s called Pazza Notte. Their pasta will fuel you for your race. That is where I am going on Saturday night.

You can watch the full panel with Lagat, Abdirahman, and Barrios below:

Tune in Sunday, November 4 at 9:00 a.m. on ABC7 and ESPN2 to watch Bernard, Juan, and Abdi run the TCS New York City Marathon.