Here is my review of the Empire State Marathon course.
This is not an easy course by any means, but nor is it horribly challenging. Training on hills are a must to have a successful race though. Those who are used to or have trained on flat will be in for a not so pleasant surprise. The ESM is all about the rollers.
We start at the beginning of the East trail -- this would be 3 miles from the start. After we got out of the park that is when the fun really begun.
There is a small uphill up to the bridge and then we turned on Hayes Rd. Hayes is a very quiet road and when running alone you may hear the theme song from Deliverance playing in the background. The scenery for the most part is okay. There are some houses that you think cannot possibly be inhabitable. However, it might be different when the leaves start to change because there is a lot of foliage and parts are pretty. Key word. Parts.
What I am concerned about on this stretch is the crowd support. Meaning, there will be none. There is no where for spectators to park and/or stand to cheer -- especially if the road isn't closed. My gut feeling is this is going to be a lonely couple miles unless the people who live along this stretch come out to cheer.
The other part that runners need to be aware of is the Hayes Rd. grinder. It is a slow gradual incline at the end. It is hard to get a sense from this picture, but it is a steady incline back up to Rte. 370.
What this picture also represents is 90% of what the run will look like -- open farmland. It is a lot of country road running. If it is windy the day of the race -- it is going to be brutal. 'Nuff said.
As we hit the top, we turned back on Rte. 370 to head to Baldwinsville. What I like about 370 is you can see the hills ahead of you. There are two in particular I remember on this stretch.
This one - a slow gradual climb -- again hard to get an idea from the pic. Jen and Shannon are also not happy that I took a picture of their backside. However, on the other side of this hill is a nice loooong downhill. Then there is another quick, steeper uphill afterwards. That one was harder than this one, at least in my opinion.
This is the end of the pictures because at this point I was getting really tired and have already sweat ed out about 5 lbs. After the 2nd hill we are heading into the village of Baldwinsville.
Once we get into the village we take a little jaunt to the left on a little side street -- this takes us around the back of the village and on a cider type path. I do not like this section. Other people might, I don't. At one point I was waiting to see a homeless camp and it stinks because of the river. On race day when the weather is cooler, maybe it will be different. But this little part. Not pretty. Thank goodness we were only on it for less than a mile.
Around the back of the village and up to a main street -- turn right and another right (you are on Rte. 31) to be on the main drag. We are running down the middle of village of B'ville. The smell of the B'ville diner in the air. BEST burger ever, btw.
Here is the thing about this part -- we are 13 miles into this run (16 on race day) when a hill comes out of no where. Seriously. You. Do. Not. See. It. Coming. I am not even sure WHERE the incline starts, but suddenly, you feel it. Then you look up and realize you are on a fairly steep hill. We've named it "the fucker." I think this is the hardest hill on the course. It is just...awful. It starts when you are heading out of the village and goes up to the Budweiser plant. It is a total kick in the balls. Watch for it.
There is another decent roller, but after the one by the plant, it seems cake. When you turn on River Rd., the worst is behind you. There is one nice size roller near the end of River Rd., but nothing horrible. After that roller it is home free...meaning it is FLAT all the way home. This would be around mile 20 into the race. The last 6 will be flat. It is just mile 6.5-20 you have the hills.
I've come to the realization that this is not going to be my super goal race of 4:15. I don't think I can pull it off with all the rolling hills. Instead I am going to shoot for a 4:22-4:25, which will still be a PR for me.
We shall see what race day brings.