It’s hard to figure out where to start to describe this race and this experience! I can safely say that EVERY ONE of my runner friends should put this race on their “must do” list. It was fun, hard, eye-opening, humbling and exciting. There’s nothing quite like running by 2.5 million people to make you feel like some kind of hero!Jay flew to the East Coast a few days ahead of me and met me in New York. I landed in the evening so after checking in, we had to walk around and see some sights. We had yummy Chinese (not readily available in Pemberton…) and went to Times Square to check it out. Even at 11:30pm it was crawling with people.
Saturday was reserved for marathon stuff. We went to pick up our packages at the Javitz Center (our plans to get there first thing were slightly foiled by more shopping…) The closer we got the more the sidewalks got clogged with runners. I couldn’t believe how huge the center was and there were big line-ups to get to registration. Amazingly, we blew through there in about 15 minutes: you can tell the organizers had done this before! After a quick tour through the expo it was a bit more sightseeing then back to the room for some rest and race prep.
The international flavour of this marathon is undeniable. Our hotel was filled with Italians, Germans, Andalusians (!) and others, all there to run the marathon. Every official kiosk had translators available. It certainly makes it feel like a big race.
Race day! We had a 4:30am wake up call for a race that started at 9:40am. Slightly bleary-eyed we made our way to the lobby (as Jay rolled over and went back to sleep – smart man) which was teeming with people. Grabbed a coffee and headed to the subway which took us to the ferry to Staten Island. It was dark and raining and the best part was that there were as many people coming home from Hallowe’en parties as there were marathoners headed to the start.
Again, lots more line-ups but everything went amazingly smoothly. Erin and I settled in for a long wait when we got to Fort Wadsworth. Drank some water, read the paper, people watched. We had over 2 hours to kill till start time. The funniest part was when 2 Italian ladies sat next to us, opened up their coffees and lit their cigarettes. Runners!
Erin and I parted ways about 40 minutes before the start – she was classified as “sub-elite” and I was a lowly “local competitor” (a source of endless comedy for us), so we were in different corrals. I dumped my bag at the UPS truck that would deliver it to the finish line and amazingly, met up with Mel Day – another Whistler runner. I couldn’t quite believe that amongst 47, 000 runners we found each other! More standing around until finally the national anthem played and the canon sounded and we were off!
The first thing we do is run up and over the Verrazano Narrows bridge. The first mile is uphill, the 2nd downhill. During the downhill people went sprinting by me. Needless to say, I caught them about 3 miles later as they started cramping! As soon as we turned into Brooklyn we ran down the main boulevard and the crowds started, it was truly amazing. Loud, boisterous, encouraging… People in their jammies, kids, babies, people “cheersing” us with Champagne, music.
The race itself is a bit of a blur. I felt really great until about mile 20, when the wheels promptly and rather painfully came off the bus. I was very conservative with my pace (I am afflicted with a condition commonly referred to as “pregnancy” and as such had to keep my heart rate, body temp and such things in check). It also probably didn’t really help that I think I had done a grand total of 4 long runs leading up to this race. I grabbed a 4:10 pace bad and was well on track until Mile 20 when I started having to walk a bit more than I would have chosen. It didn’t matter though – I knew I wasn’t in this race to set any records, I was there to enjoy it.
Amazingly, I was able to see Jay and Bobby on the course twice. I had arranged to see them around mile 17 so that Jay could give me some real food and again 2 miles before the finish. When you come off the last bridge down into Manhattan and run onto 1st ave the crowds seemed to swell, to the point that spectators were anywhere from 2 to 6 deep behind the barricades. I was able to spot Bobby and Jay right away and grabbed my food. Smiled, kept going. When I saw them again at mile 22 I was walking but still smiling! Everything hurt at that point and I was looking for a piggy back to the finish! I saw the best sign at that point: “stopping is not a fucking option” – ain’t that the truth!
In the last mile, there are signs that countdown the yards… 800, 400, 300, 200, 100… literally the longest mile of my LIFE. The crowds were truly deafening and it was amazing to run by them. In true “me” fashion, I had to jump across the finish line, haha!
This was the first time I finished a race like this that I felt truly great once it was over – no stomach issues, legs and feet were tired and sore but I was able to walk around, head to the subway, eat, etc… a novelty for me, really. Back at the hotel I had my ice batch, some chips and watched Oceans 11 in bed!! Same thing as my last marathon! I think this is a fantastic tradition to try to maintain.
I can’t say enough about how well run this race is run. Even though there were always crowds around, I never felt crowded, everything went so smoothly. Kuddos to New York Road Runners.
Monday was spent forcing Jay and Erin to get up early so we could go buy some finisher souvenirs , then I met up with Karl for lunch and spent the rest of the day walking and, as promised, shoe shopping!
And how did Erin do in her first marathon? Oh you know, a 3:30. Amazing!