Ben’s Blog: NYC Marathon Recap

By Ben Payne

It’s been nearly two weeks since I crossed the finish line in the New York City Marathon and I’m still reliving the whole experience: from the challenging 12 week training block, to the unforgettable race experience through the five boroughs of NYC, to the unbelievable support and excitement post-race from my family, friends, and co-workers.  This is my 12th marathon over the last ten years, posting a nearly three-minute personal best time and a top-ten finish in a World Marathon Major (in what ended up being the largest marathon in history with 51,000+ finishers!).  I say this to make one point:  Hard work pays off!  A lot of days I didn’t feel like running but did it anyway.  Results like these are never guaranteed, especially in the demanding and unpredictable world of marathons, so I’m always grateful for any successful attempt at 26.2 miles.  It’s been fun to really appreciate this accomplishment and another PR—as these races can be few and far between.

I want to give huge credit to my amazing wife Erin, who is my biggest fan and best teammate as she supports me in so many ways to help me be the best athlete I can be—sacrificing much of her weekends for my time-consuming long runs, feeding my constant appetite with her tasty cooking, and granting my never-ending requests for foot massages!  She sees me go through the daily ups and downs of the grind of marathon training and plays a huge part in making it work.


I don’t believe there is any magic formula in training for a marathon – other than injury-free, consistent, dedicated training with a wise coach (shout out to my superstar Coach Juli Benson).  This buildup did not come at the most ideal time in my life as I was transitioning to a new job as a C-21 pilot in the Colorado Air National Guard and dealing with the challenges of again fitting my training around a full-time job, all without the training group I’ve enjoyed working with over the last 2 years.  But just as “Flexibility is the key to airpower”, flexibility is also a key to running 90+ miles per week, multiple workout sessions a day, and consistent long runs on the weekend while working full-time.  The timing of my C-21 flight training in Dallas & St. Louis wasn’t at all ideal for the final month of my marathon training, but we were again resilient and creative.  I endured a lot of solo training away from my normal running crew, in hot & humid & flat running conditions in Dallas, away from my normal routine.  Being at sea level for so long, I decided to acquire an altitude tent to sleep in during my time at sea level to maintain some of the benefits of my altitude acclimation (which no doubt confused the hotel maid service!).


unnamed-1 All in all, I was blessed with an injury-free solid three-month training block, consistent weekly long runs and workouts, and kept my focus on the goal of finishing as a top American at the NYC Marathon.  I was extra motivated for this race as it had been on my bucket list since missing out in 2012 due to the last-minute cancellation in the days following Superstorm Sandy.unnamed-2

No less than five minutes after Erin & I arrived to our hotel room for our weekend in NYC, we received an unexpected phone call—a call from the USADA for a random drug test.  “Clean Sport” was a huge emphasis at this year’s NYC Marathon and I was happy to provide a blood sample to help keep our sport clean!  The New York Road Runners (NYRR) also scheduled mandatory educational briefings by USADA regarding Clean Sport for all the invited professional athletes, and I hope to see this continue at future races.

Race day in NYC is like nothing I’ve ever experienced—so unique from even Chicago & Boston Marathons.  The NYRR does an incredible job taking care of every detail for the elite athletes so we can focus on having our best race, from airport logistics to race day transportation, to on-course fluid stations and the post-race celebration  (thank you David Monti & Sam G).

Lots of people asked what my goal was before the race.  I wasn’t completely sure what to expect but knew I had put some good work in.  Really my main strategy going to the start line was to run a smart race to set up a strong finish during the final miles in Central Park—I hoped that maybe this would put me in the top 5 Americans.  Juli emphasized the important points of respecting this course and being ready to work the last 10km down 5th Avenue and into Central Park.  I always like to approach a marathon as a 20-mile long run finished with a 10k race—and this is especially true in NYC.

Looking back at my race, three things especially stood out to me:

-A crucial aspect of the first 20 miles of the race was having three guys to work with in fighting the headwind, attacking the hills, and sharing the burden of setting the pace.  I appreciated the teamwork of Craig Leon, Christo Landry, and Tyler McCandless to make the first 20 miles successful and enjoyable.  I was thankful we all made the patient decision to hold back from the main pack and wait for them to come back to us late in the race (which many did).

-Crowd support on the course is unbelievable.  At one point I asked Craig if the crowds ever stop, and he said just wait for 1st Ave—and he was right, that was some intense noise!  Other than the bridges (especially Queensboro Bridge) and a few small sections, the New Yorkers packed the streets on marathon day to help cheer us on!

-Juli set me up for success in our race strategy—I ran strong and almost even splits between the first and second half marathons (First in 1:07:36, Second in 1:08:10) which helped me pick off quite a few guys in the last 10km when they were slowing on the hills of Central Park.   I never “hit the wall” and had a smile on my face as I finished the race…strong and all the way through the finish line. 🙂unnamed-3


Next up: winter USA XC champs & Road racing…then excited for a fast Spring or Fall 2017 Marathon.

I’m excited to be back in Colorado after 6 weeks on the road for C-21 training. Click HERE for a race recap article from Scott AFB.



Isaiah 40:31

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary