Ok, so I know it’s taken a long time to get this one out. However, you can’t run the New York FRIGGIN’ marathon and not share, so better late than never, right? I’m just going to keep this one to just about race day because this was a marathon to “enjoy” the experience and not really worry about time. I even had a big old glass of wine the night before, which I’ve NEVER done.
It didn’t really occur to me how massive this race is until I walked into the expo and saw how high the bib numbers go.
It just didn’t look “right ” to see bib numbers going up to 72,999. What would they do if everyone who signed up actually ran the race?? I think the count I saw was right around 51K people.
Race morning – I had a gluten free bagel and tailwind, but one big challenge with this race is that is starts so damn late. My corral left at 10:40 AM, but I had to go meet my bus at 7:15 AM. I brought some dried fruit and Stingers with me because I knew I was going to probably need a snack before the race started. I’d purposely eaten dinner later the night before, but I wasn’t exactly sure how substantial that snack should be and when exactly I should eat it.
The course starts at Staten Island and TCS provides two transportation options – the ferry or a bus from the NY City library. I opted for the bus because getting down to the ferry on time seemed a little too stressful for race day, although in retrospect, I wish I’d gone with the ferry because it was probably a lot more scenic than the bus. Although I’m guessing it was also a lot colder.
Arriving at Staten Island was pretty exciting and getting through security and into the runners village was fairly painless. Although I realized after I got there that I had almost two hours until I was actually going to get started. It was cold and windy out there by the water, so I just found a spot in sun and tried to rest and stay warm. The good news, you have plenty of time to take care of business, although I was a little unsure as to what or how much I should eat. I think I finally settled on half a banana.
Finally – it came time to line up in the corrals. But it was still another 45 minutes after that until I was walking up the hill towards the start line. For each wave, someone sang the national anthem or America the Beautiful, followed by the start cannon, which was nice that we all got the same starting experience. But then they crank up some Frank Sinatra so you hear “New York, New York” as you head out over the Verrazano Bridge.
Best start of a race ever. Hands down.
Miles 1 and 2 – running over the bridge was amazing. The NYFD Fireboat was out with water cannons going full blast and the view of the NYC skyline was a new one for me to see in real life. Sure, I’ve seen it in the movies or other peoples’ pictures – but to really see it myself like this was something else.
As we’re moving across the bridge, I look over and see the 10:25 pace group and I seem to have fallen into step with them. Hmm…do I dare? I had told myself this wasn’t going to be a race about time – that I wanted to stop and take pictures and enjoy the crowd. I intentionally stopped to take a picture to let them get away from me – at that moment the adrenaline is pumping and I just might do something stupid like try to PR.
Then its off the bridge and into Brooklyn.
Depending on if you started the race on the upper or lower bridge determines how you loop around, but eventually we all ended up on Fourth Ave. It was here that I started to see the NYC marathon crowd I heard so much about. There were people EVERYWHERE. Holding tissues, holding signs, screaming and cheering, playing music on every few street corners. Even on the roofs.
And it just continued. For miles.
Mile 8 is where the race turns on to Lafayette Ave. I forget exactly what mile it was at, but I was starting to feel a little tired and there was a church that the entire choir was out front singing something gospel-ish….apparently I need to download some new stuff from iTunes because that was some seriously uplifting music that got me going again. Heading into South Williamsburg around mile 9 to 10-ish, the race support dwindled drastically, which I had actually read about. Apparently Orthodox Jews and hipsters….not big marathon supporters.
The Pulaski bridge was right at the halfway point and I was oh SO not excited to run up that hill. I wasn’t hurting but I was getting tired. Looking at my splits, I’d run the first half about 4 minutes slower than Chicago – but factoring in the fact I’d stopped/slowed several times to take pictures and and walking at the water stops, my pace was bouncing between high 9 – low 10s. I blame the crowd. They were just so damn energizing.
However, I did start to slow down a little at that point. I still had three more bridges to go.
It’s a fairly short run through Queens, just over two miles. Good crowds there, although nothing like Brooklyn, which was a little bit of a bummer because I was starting to definitely feel this race.
I saw the 59th Street bridge, and I kind of wanted to cry a little at that point. Damn all these bridges!! I put on some music, focused on the road ahead and ran my ass up that hill. I looked over to catch the view of the city from the bridge and stopped to take a picture because the view was just that spectacular. Just like that, I got a rush of energy and was ready to get off this bridge and finish this damn thing!
Coming off the bridge back into Manhattan at First Avenue is like getting to experience what being a rockstar would be like. There were throngs of people and the cheering was deafening. From time to time during the race, I would swerve over to get some hand slaps (they help) and when I did that for the first time here, there would literally be anywhere from 15 – 30 people in a row putting up their hands for a slap to cheer you on.
I’ve never seen anything like that. I kept doing it, and it kept happening. And it was awesome.
Unfortunately, my parents were at mile 16 and I missed them. But I had friends at 17 and 18. And some of them had made me signs!
The rush of the bridge followed by knowing I had people in the next two miles really got me through what can often be very tough miles. However, I knew I wasn’t going to see any familiar faces until mile 24 so I knew I had some tough miles to deal with coming up.
Right before mile 20, I felt the “bonk” coming on. I was heading up over the Willis Avenue bridge and I actually decided it was time to walk for a minute or two.
This seemed to help and I was able to get going again pretty quick, although definitely not the pace I’d been running before. These bridges were kicking my ass!
The run through the Bronx was also fairly brief, only about a mile but right after I headed over the last of the five bridge and I was back in Manhattan and on 5th Ave!!
I ended up bonking pretty hard right around mile 22. I knew it was going to happen – marathons hurt. If you want the medal, you just have to bonk and then work through it. Using the crowds and some walk breaks, I was able to get moving pretty well by mile 24, helped by the fact I spotted my Dad right around 24 and had a second friend sighting right after that.
The 30 person hand slaps were keeping me going at this point. As I ran around the corner at 59th it seems a little quiet to me, so I turned to the throngs of people standing there and waved my hands up, asking them to cheer louder (I may have yelled at them a little bit too.) That corner did NOT disappoint – they ERUPTED in cheers and for the second time that day, I felt a little like a rockstar.
I finally saw my Mom right past 25 (I was super stressed about not seeing everyone who’d come out specifically to cheer me on) and then I was heading back into Central park for hte final stretch.
I ended up finishing in 4:46:32 – which was right around the time I’d been shooting for.
NYC is a great race and I’m so glad I got the chance to experience it. If there is any race that belongs a bucket list, it would be this one.