NYRR Gridiron Challenge 2014

9+1 Marathon Training Begins: Pre-Super Bowl Cold Weather Running at the NYRR Gridiron Challenge

After cheering on a friend as well as dozens of other runners in last year’s NYC Marathon, I was overcome with emotion and inspiration. Seeing firsthand the drive and motivation in each runner’s eyes, the miles and months of training in each stride, the energy and support in each and every cheer: it’s moments like these that have the potential to change how you decide to live your life, and it was at that moment that I decided not only that I was going to complete a marathon at least once in my life, but damnit, I’m going do it as soon as I could.

Luckily, I had a group of friends who also had the same goal, and so we all decided to take on the 9+1 program from the New York Road Runners (NYRR). The 9+1 program guarantees entry into the marathon so long as you run 9 different marathon-qualifying NYRR races and volunteer at 1 race within the prior calendar year (i.e. Complete the program in 2014 to qualify for the 2015 marathon). Since the NYC Marathon is such a marquee running event, it’s popularity exceeds the event’s capacity. As a result, you typically have to either enter the race lottery or raise around $2600 for charity in order to run the race, so the 9+1 program is a good alternative for getting guaranteed entry with your legs rather than relying on luck or the generosity of friends and family.

Celebrating finishing the NYRR Gridiron Challenge with pizzaPost-race pizza is the best reward for finishing a race
New Era Pom Pom Cuffed Knit Hat (similar) | North Face Zip Up Fleece | Under Armour ColdGear Fitted Tight | American Apparel fanny pack | Nike Free 5.0+ Shield Running Shoes (review)

With races ranging from a 1 mile sprint down 5th Avenue to running the Central Park loop to a 5K finishing in the end zone of Metlife Stadium, the 9+1 program provides a great opportunity to train at different distances and in varying locations. Our first marathon qualifying race was the NYRR Gridiron Challenge on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. The football-themed race had runners in team hats and jerseys, as well as a contest for the longest football throw in keeping with the theme. I used it as an opportunity to break out my Giants pom pom hat and to practice some cold weather running while knocking out my first run of the season (though the race was a bit of a struggle after going out the night before. Big. Mistake.)

Under Armour’s ColdGear line was definitely a lifesaver for running in the frigid weather though. The mock neck long sleeve provided the perfect first layer under the NYRR Gridiron race shirt, keeping me warm but not overheated through the 4 mile run, as did the running tights.

Nike+ Sportwatch with GPS

I also invested in getting the Nike+ Sportwatch with GPS to help me easily keep track of my pace as I run. While there are a ton of other running watches in the market, the reasonable $140 price point of the Nike watch (others can range above $300), small, non-bulky size of the foot sensor, easy built-in USB to connect to Nike+, and general aesthetic had me sold. I also liked the nice summary it provides post-run, which you can also view when you look at your run history on the watch.

All in all, the NYRR Gridiron Challenge was a nice start to a long journey ahead. I plan to document my next 2 years of training and races with my friends in preparation for the 2015 TCS NYC Marathon. Next up is the Brooklyn Half – see you at the finish line!