By Julie Shapiro
MANHATTAN — Runners in this Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon have an important decision to make before they reach the starting line: to tweet or not to tweet?
Many of the 43,000 marathoners from around the world have already been using Twitter in the weeks leading up to the race to chronicle everything from their training schedule to their excitement and anxiety.
So to some, like 38-year-old Jennifer Gerlock, it only makes sense to continue tweeting from the course.
"It doesn’t take too much to tweet out a picture," said Gerlock, a runner from Maryland who has her own marketing company and is racing for charity, not to set a record. "You have to stop for water breaks anyway, so why not?"
Gerlock is also debating putting her Twitter handle, @mammamania, on her shirt, so spectators can cheer her on.
Sean Haubert, social media manager for New York Road Runners, said this is the first New York City Marathon where the organizers have made a concerted effort to build a community on Twitter in advance. Using hashtags like #ingnation, #nyrr and #runTT, dozens of runners post questions and words of encouragement every hour.
"When you’re out there training, you might feel like a lone wolf," Haubert said. "It’s nice to know other people [have the] same problems, and then people will say, ‘Here’s how to solve it.’"
Haubert said he has seen several marathoners mention live-tweeting the race, but he "highly discourages it" for safety reasons.
Kristin Shiller, 25, a Financial District resident and first-time marathoner, plans to carry her cell phone with her in an armband and tweet right up until the race starts, tapping into the online community that she said has been an indispensable source of support as she trained.
"No one in my real life is running," said Shiller, an urban planning student who goes by @kmshill. "Most of my friends haven’t run marathons. It’s fun to share it with people who are going through the exact same thing."
When Shiller tweeted a couple months ago that she was nervous for her first 16-mile run, a marathoner from Switzerland wished her luck and said he would do a long-distance run in Geneva the same day in solidarity.
She has also brushed Twitter-elbows with former "Bachelor" hunk Andy Baldwin (@andybaldwin), who is running the marathon and urged Shiller last week to "get psyched!!"
But once the race starts on Sunday, Shiller plans to put her phone away — partly because it would be a distraction, and partly because sweaty hands would make it difficult to type, she said.
With just three days to go before they all gather at the starting line, the marathon Twitter feeds are brimming with anticipation.
"Today is the last day I'm going in to work as someone who has never run a marathon. *gulp*," @josielynne tweeted this morning.
And dozens of marathoners from London to Rotterdam are posting about packing their running shoes and heading for the Big Apple.
"On the plane @Heathrow. No going back now," marathoner @jonathanaball tweeted early this morning. "NYC here we come!! :-)"