This past weekend in Chicago, Tatyana McFadden finished second in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, in a time of 1:45:22. Manuela Schär broke the tape in 1:41:08. At the 2017 and 2018 TCS New York City Marathon, results read the same way as Schär pipped McFadden to the title on both occasions.
But in a few short weeks, the two will be back in New York, and McFadden is eager to reclaim her championship title and secure a sixth New York City Marathon win. A sixth win in New York City would also put McFadden in the record books. Currently, she is tied with Edith Hunkeler and Kurt Fearnley on five wins. A sixth would put her in a league of her own. The last two years have been an uphill climb for McFadden as she has battled against health issues and equipment problems that prevented her from competing at her best. Now focused and healthy, she has put in the work to make it happen.
Training for Two Marathons
Competing in two marathons a few weeks apart is a difficult challenge when it comes to training, especially when the two courses are totally different from each other. Chicago is flat, while New York is full of hills.
“I have done all my base training already for these two marathons in the early fall and over the summer,” McFadden said, “I did a lot of long tempos, especially on the weekends doing 25 miles. We were doing like 110 to 120 miles a week and lifting weights twice a week. It was pretty intense.”
McFadden thrives off of a challenge, and New York is a particularly difficult course for her because of its defining feature: hills.
Earlier this year, McFadden placed first in the United Airlines NYC Half.
“There are really tough hills in New York. They are really fast and grueling, and some are short and steep, and some are quite long,” McFadden said. She excels at climbing, but downhills have been a weaker area for her in the past. After two consecutive second-place finishes in NYC over 26.2 miles, McFadden has dedicated a great deal of time to change that, routinely heading to the mountains to improve at downhills. According to her, that training has paid off.
“I am feeling more confident in my downhills,” she said. “My competitors are so good at going downhill, but I have had some really good improvement. We will have to see on race day!”
Preparing to Return
The weather in McFadden’s home base, Illinois, has been different than in New York.
“We have had great weather,” she said. “It has been really hot, so we haven’t had fall yet. It will make it challenging with the quick, drastic weather changes leading up to New York.”
Although last year’s race was picture-perfect with dazzling sunshine, McFadden knows better than to think it is a guarantee it will happen again.
“I always expect it to be cold in New York!” she said.
McFadden (second from the right) at the start of the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon.
McFadden will stay in Chicago until race week in New York. After completing one marathon and with another just around the corner, now is the time to recuperate.
“There will be some pretty serious recovery after [Chicago],” McFadden said, “then I will do a small buildup for New York. It is pretty tricky.” Tricky situations, however, have never stopped McFadden before, and she is excited to return to the city where she has had so much success and knows the course so well.
“New York is in its own category,” she said, “It is quite challenging, but my favorite part is toward the end when you are coming into Central Park with the crowds. By the time you get there you are exhausted and spent and it’s really nice to have people cheering you on when you are mentally and physically fatigued.”
The final week before the race is all about rest for McFadden, who is looking forward to the break after months of hard work. Tapering during the final days will cut her workouts way back, allowing her more time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
“[Race week] is actually my favorite week because it gives you the excuse to watch a movie on TV or Netflix and relax in your room,” she said. Apart from taking it easy, the key is also getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and eating well. In New York, according to McFadden, that is all extremely easy to do.
McFadden, (second from the left in the front row), at the 2017 TCS Run with Champions.
She is also looking forward to the special race-week events that are unique to New York, particularly the TCS Run with Champions. This event brings professional athletes together with kids from NYRR’s Rising New York Road Runners program to run 400 meters across the TCS New York City Marathon finish line. For McFadden, who is an NYRR Team for Kids Ambassador, it is an extremely special day.
“It’s important for me to go out there and support the kids with the other pro athletes,” she said. “I really enjoy that. It’s fun to give back and be with the youth.”
Keeping It Simple
In the final hours before she arrives at the start line, McFadden knows exactly how certain aspects will happen. For example, there is her pre-race meal. McFadden keeps it simple.
“It’s pretty boring!” she said with a laugh. “I like rice and some butter and adding a good protein in, but it’s pretty bland. I don’t try anything new or exciting before the race.”
She has only one pre-race ritual apart from the standard checking of her equipment and making sure her racing chair is ready: Doing her hair.
And with that, it's time to make her way to the start line. This year, McFadden will be facing some stiff competition, including reigning champion Schär. With the struggles of the past two years behind McFadden, however, she is ready to face all challenges and challengers on the streets of New York on November 3.