Now that spring is here, I'm thinking more about running. How do I apply for the New York City Marathon?

Robin, Astoria

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With rain in the forecast this week, it might seem a little early to be thinking about November. Still, anyone who wants to be one of the 35,000 runners to traverse the five boroughs this fall will have to act fast.

Interest in one of running's premiere events runs high, so the New York Road Runners Club runs a special lottery to select a large number of runners. The deadline for applying is June 1, a date which will come up faster than the time it takes you to count how many variants of the word "run" appear in the previous sentence.

If you don't make it through the lottery or you can't imagine running 26.2 miles this year, consider becoming a member of the NYRRC. Members who run a minimum of 9 qualifying races during 2004 receive automatic entry into the 2005 marathon. In the past, qualifying races races have ranged from a sprint down 5th Avenue to longer hauls like the Bronx Half Marathon.

And if you're really serious about training for the big race, veteran running coach Hal Higdon outlines programs that can help you cross the finish line. Just don't forget about nutrition. Perhaps running a marathon will give you an excuse to get off of Atkins and start eating pasta again.