This coming Sunday, more than 50,000 runners will partake in the five borough block party that is the TCS New York City Marathon. For those who have never witnessed this spectacle—what I personally and firmly believe to be the greatest day of the year—droves of spectators line the streets from Bay Ridge to Long Island City to the Bronx and to Central Park, cheering and clamoring on cowbells for friends, family members and complete and total strangers. As the tagline states, “It will move you.”
Throughout the course (puns!) of its nearly five-decade history, a number of A-listers have run the New York City Marathon, including chefs the likes of Fredrik Berselius, George Mendes, Marcus Samuelsson, Daniel Humm and Richard Blais.
This year, Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone—you know them as the guys behind Major Food Group’s Carbone, The Pool and ZZ’s Clam Bar, among others—will embark upon the 26.2-mile journey.
“I don’t like running,” Torrisi states firmly, proving this editor, who was always a firm believer that you must like the sport to do it, very wrong. (To be clear though, Torrisi did run track in both middle and high school.) “People are surprised when I say that, but I actually don’t like running at all. I do it because, to me, there are only two body exercises you can do to help your overall health, and that’s running or swimming—and I’m not a good swimmer.” Torrisi runs specifically to stay in shape and to keep his health and energy in check. “I accept that this is something I need to do.”
“I really don’t like running,” adds Carbone, who got into the sport in the last five to seven years as a consistent method of exercise. “But I do enjoy the sort of solitude it provides and the mental break from it all. You kind of just zone out and do your thing.”
Nevertheless, this will be Torrisi and Carbone’s fifth and fourth time tackling the five boroughs, respectively, running for the Robin Hood foundation, the city’s largest poverty-fighting nonprofit. This past year, Major Food Group partnered with Robin Hood to launch Major Good, a pop-up series of curated dinner experiences out of the revived Torrisi Italian Specialties space—the birthplace of Major Food Group. All profits from the series go directly to the Robin Hood foundation.
The New York City Marathon course is a marvel in and of itself. Covering all five boroughs, runners start by cruising over the Verrazzano Bridge with cascading views of Lower Manhattan. Upon entering Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, runners will then meet their first (of many) roaring cheer squads, enduring 13-plus miles of uproar before hitting the Pulaski Bridge, heading into Long Island City, Queens, and finally ascending up one of the pinnacle moments of the marathon, the Queensboro Bridge. A welcome site for some, the bridge is a moment of silence before hitting arguably the loudest part of the course—First Avenue in Manhattan. Next up is the soul and funk, as well as Grandmaster Flash, in the Bronx, before returning back to Manhattan and the finish line in Central Park, aka, New Yorkers’ backyard.
So how has the pair been preparing for this most epic of race days?
Torrisi has been training for the last 16 weeks, performing his long runs on Sundays on the West Side Highway bike path—solo, mind you. “This year I hired a professional Olympic running coach, but ended up ramping my regimen too fast, which then resulted in me injuring myself,” he says. “So whoever is reading this, don’t use my training advice—it’s probably for the best!”
Carbone runs consistently throughout the year and starts to perform his long runs during the six weeks leading up to the big dance. (He, too, prefers to run solo and on the West Side Highway bike path.)
On Fuel & Pre-Race Strategy
“The day before I carbo-load, but I also pack myself full of electrolytes and vitamins,” Torrisi says of the day before. He also fuels up on lean protein. “All I do the week before the race is a lot of stretching—opening the hips, yoga and a lot of mental prep.”
As for Carbone? He fuels on fear.
On Taper Madness
“I didn’t know that was a thing until now, so thank you for the anxiety of that,” Carbone says when I asked how the two handle the dreaded “taper madness”—a critical part of training where you’re forced to drop your mileage to recover, which is also frustrating, as one can be left feeling both doubt and sluggishness.
“Most of my anxiety is the day or two before the race, but it really isn’t that bad,” Torrisi adds.
On the Best Part of the Course
No matter what race is run, everyone has a quintessential favorite part—common New York City Marathon highlights include First Avenue, Central Park and everything Brooklyn, a major push for Torrisi. "Definitely in Brooklyn where the local bands are playing and people are dancing," he says. "I really like it when the local community comes out, and that usual happens in the Brooklyn area."
For Carbone, it's the last mile. "It’s the most beautiful part of the run," he says. "It’s that stretch starting at 5th Avenue and 59th Street, and then you pass through Columbus Circle. The crowd is the loudest, and I think it’s the most beautiful stretch of road that you wouldn’t normally be able to access unless streets were closed."
On Post-Marathon Cravings
Though they both go to Carbone for a celebratory meal, the two have (very) different celebratory regimens—the first thing Torrisi craves is a solid Coca-Cola or a similar sugary stimulant. “Gatorade or Coke,” he says. “I drink like eight of them. After that race I’m so depleted and like, ugh, I need the sugar. That night I usually eat more than any night of the year because I’m am just completely starving.”
Meanwhile, Carbone sets the bar high with steak, alcohol and cigars. “All of the things I have not been allowing myself to have.”
On Marathon Advice for Beginners
“I would say it’s an incredible New York City once-in-a-lifetime experience, but if you’re not willing to discipline yourself a ton, you should seriously consider not doing it,” says Torrisi.
“Have realistic goals,” adds Carbone. “Try not to get discouraged during the process of training. You’re only racing against yourself. It will be the single greatest accomplishment you will ever feel.”
Fleet feet and much luck, runners—the day awaits you.