I realize I’m waaaay behind in getting this posted. It’s been in my draft file for almost two whole weeks, so I apologize for the delay.
This post is going to begin where I left off from part one. Be sure to catch up here, if you haven’t already, to get the whole scoop.
Race morning, I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I must admit that I had been concerned about the quality of sleep that I would receive staying in the middle of Times Square on halloween night, but I slept soundly and was feeling refreshed and ready for the day. I guess being 39 floors up above the action made a difference. I laid in our big, fluffy, white, bed and began to cross off a mental checklist before getting up and getting ready. I pumped (Yes, I’m still breastfeeding), brushed my teeth, dressed, put on some tinted moisturizer, waterproof mascara and body glide and threw on my Nuun visor. Then I did what any respectful running blogger does on most race mornings. I took a shameless bathroom selfie.
Hubby was kind enough to make the ride downtown and over to Staten Island with me, despite knowing he’d be turned away after the boat ride. I was really thankful to have him. His company helped to ease my nerves.
When we got to the ferry terminal, the crowd began to bottleneck inside the main entryways. We inched closer and closer with each passing minute until we finally made it onboard the boat. The ride over took about 25 minutes and then I parted ways with my hubby on the other side. Unfortunately, my time waiting in crowds was just beginning. I continued to follow the line of runners for the next 30 minutes towards the busses.
After what seemed like a lifetime, we finally boarded our coach busses. I chatted with another group of ladies during our ride over to Fort Wadsworth and learned I wasn’t alone in my journey towards making the NYC marathon my first. It made me feel really good to know that I wasn’t the only marathon virgin out there.
The ride from the ferry terminal to Fort Wadsworth took a lot longer than I had expected. Total time spent in the bus was around forty-five minutes, so I didn’t have too much time before my start wave. Truth be told, I had a comfy seat on the bus and after I exited into the start village, I would be copping a squat on the ground, so I didn’t mind. Once we passed through security (it was heavy, but well organized) we were able to enter the base and locate our start village.
I found a line of port-a-pottys and took care of business, then grabbed a dry bagel (since the stock of cream cheese had been depleted) and a couple bottles of water before heading to a spot near the Dunkin Donuts truck to relax.
It was nearly 10:00am so I knew I didn’t have too much time to kill before they’d be calling for our wave to line up.. I chatted briefly with a group of ladies sitting near me about past races and weather conditions. Then before I knew it, our start wave was called to line up. On the way over to my corral, I began chatting with another drifter, Janet. She and I had similar running stories and were expecting very similar performances, so we decided to hang together. Janet was a past resident of New York, but was currently residing in California. She reminded me of my best friend and I liked her from the start, so I told her we should stick together for as long as we could.
We tossed our outer layers into the donation bins and snapped a couple pictures of the crowds in the corral.
Sinatra started “spreading the news….” then the National Anthem was sung and some facts about the marathon were shared over a PA system. Shortly after, we heard the bang of the cannons signaling the beginning of our turn.
Miles 1 -2 (Staten Island to Brooklyn)
The race began very slowly from where I was located. I knew the bridge was going to be very congested, so I held back the urge to begin weaving to find a break in the crowd. I just tried to take it all in as we climbed the steepest incline of the whole course.
The Verrazano bridge is one of those parts of the course where you just soak it all up. It’s quite breathtaking to see the city and all of the boroughs before you from that elevation. Being on the top portion of the bridge definitely added to the experience too. And I can assure you that nobody was relieving themselves off the side of the bridge. I specifically kept my position towards the left side of the bridge just close enough so that I could see over, but without getting caught up behind the dozens of inconsiderate runners who literally STOPPED to take a selfie. yeah, yeah, I know. I’m a blogger and I’m notorious for taking pictures during races. But something I refuse to do is stop in front of thousands of runners in the beginning of a heavily congested race to capture the moment. That’s just rude.
I tried to relax, focus on my breathing and hold back my aggression through the crowds. By the time I found a groove, we were making our way down into Brooklyn.
Miles 3 – 15 (Brooklyn through Queens)
This was probably my favorite, as well as, the easiest portion of the course. Once we had crossed over the Verrazano bridge into Brooklyn, the crowds greeted us with spirited cheering, and enthusiastic music ranging from hip-hop to polka. It was the flattest portion of the course and the crowd was electrifying. I found a groove and tried to steady myself. I knew I was going to need to conserve my tank for later, so I tried to keep an easy pace through these miles. It felt like the miles were flying by. I had never experienced that in a race setting before. I attributed it to being so heavily supported by the crowd and the amazing energy around me. Having my own personal cheer squad waiting for me around mile 8 definitely helped too. We had previously discussed points along the course where they would be waiting for me, so I kept checking my phone to make certain of their location. Before I knew it, I spotted them and the colorful signed they crafted for me. I know I popped a big cheesy grin when I saw them because my heart skipped a beat with enthusiasm at their presence.
Miles 16 (The Queensboro Bridge)
This was definitely not my favorite portion of the race, but I was really proud of myself for keeping a level head and approaching it smart. Since I didn’t train my legs with a lot of hill work, I knew there was no way I could run up and down five bridges and make it over that finish line still standing up. Staying healthy was more important to me, so I took several walk intervals going up this monster bridge. I felt good with the short breaks that I took and I was proud of myself for pushing through as much as I did. I relied heavily on my music going through this bridge. It was really quiet, as I assume every one around me was attempting to muster the stamina to just make it up that hill.
Just as we were hitting the bottom, Empire State of Mind came on my iPod. Between that song and seeing the “welcome to manhattan” sign, I got chills. It was awesome.
Miles 17 – 19 (1st Avenue Manhattan)
In that moment, as we came off the Queensboro bridge onto 1st Avenue, it was unlike any other moment I have ever experienced during a racing event. The crowd was unbelievable. I can only equate the energy and electric sensation to the excitement I felt when I played softball. I hit a few home runs back in my day. Running into home plate with the crowd screaming “Way to go!” and “Awesome Job!” feels pretty extraordinary. A throng of New Yorkers four and five deep for as far as you can see, doing the same feels pretty darn sensational. I took that energy and added it to my fuel of determination. For the next mile or so I was on a high.
Unfortunately, the inspiration of the crowd wasn’t enough to keep me going very far. What I needed was food and I was really hoping my hubby had something for me up ahead, because I was loosing steam quick. My tummy was growling, and loudly too. The GUs definitely weren’t doing enough for my system at this point. I wanted something solid. Since my start wave didn’t begin until 11am, I never ate lunch. So I was running this marathon on two bagels and a cup of coffee. Probably not my smartest race strategy, especially since I’m still breastfeeding.
When I spotted my husband and girlfriends past the 18 mile marker I was ready to collapse. I was fading and it was clearly visible. Thankfully, one of my friends, Suzan, had a banana, so I was saved!!!! I scarfed down that entire banana and didn’t look back. For the remainder of the straightaway, I pushed through my hunger pains and maintained a decent pace. I took a few short walk breaks when I felt the need, but kept pushing ahead.
Miles 20 – 21 (The Bronx)
The Bronx was not the most lively section of the 26 miles on this course. I’ve seen the Bronx during a Yankees game so I know first hand it has all the potential to surpass the other four boroughs, but today it just wasn’t doing it for me. I switched on my iPod instead and cranked up the volume to drown out the monotony. I kept looking back for Janet who was somewhere behind me, but I couldn’t find her. I gave it a couple minutes of scanning the area before deciding to go on ahead on my own. I was sad to leave my new friend, especially without a farewell, but I felt like the constant surveillance was pulling my focus. As I drew closer to the Madison Avenue bridge, a particular sign lifted my mood.
Miles 22 – 26 (Fifth Avenue and Central Park Manhattan)
My smile faded somewhere in Harlem when my legs began to rebel against me. My quads felt like anvils, but even through the pain, the thought to quit never crossed my mind. I knew I had it in me to finish. I had come so far already.
Just for the heck of it, I checked my Garmin to see if a sub 5 finish was possible. I never mentioned this in my previous plans, but I secretly aimed to finish before the clock hit 5 hours. I knew the New York Times posted the finisher names of anyone who crossed the finish before 5:00:00. That was my only motivation for doing so. I did some quick calculating in my head and figured I’d need to run a sub 10 average for the last few miles if I wanted to make the paper. I wasn’t really feeling too confident with that strategy and since my ultimate goal was just to finish, that’s all I cared about. At least that’s the only thing I cared about at that moment of fatigue.
I had one more spectator sighting left with my hubby and two girlfriends so I tried to keep focused on looking for them along the side. Also, I knew my girl Kat was supposed to be spectating around mile 24, so I kept my head up looking for her as well. Unfortunately, I never spotted Kat, but I did finally find my cheer squad at the tail end of mile 24. I stopped briefly to say hello and thank Suzan again for the banana. I stopped and gave them a hi five and told them how I couldn’t stay too long because I couldn’t wait to get this over with. I had a little less than two miles to go.
Through all my research on the New York marathon, I was well aware of the hills and gradual incline along Fifth Ave and into Central Park. This portion of the course was by far the toughest aspect of the race for me. I knew it was almost over, but mustering up the strength to keep running seemed impossible at the time. I took several short walk breaks through this portion and regretfully ignored the cameramen as I walked by. Typically I never walk through a photography zone, but I just couldn’t fake it for the cameras. I turned up my iPod as I tried to jumpstart my legs again. When I finally spotted Columbus Circle and our final stretch turning into Central Park I wanted to cry. I was so close I could taste it.
That final push through Central Park was over in an instant. I barely remember anything except some unfamiliar sensation in my left knee. It felt as if my legs were going to come apart at their hinges. I prayed it was just muscular tightness and kept running for that finish line. I even managed to smile and rejoice in my accomplishment for the cameramen.
After crossing and grabbing my medal I thought about collapsing and heading to the medical tent to fake an injury to sit down, but the hunger pains in my stomach convinced me to keep walking ahead to savor the post race refreshments. I managed to stumble over and take a finisher picture and even took a couple pictures for others that requested.
With my new shiny medal around my neck, I proceeded to follow the masses towards the poncho retrieval line. We all shuffled our feet through the park like zombies, collected our ponchos along with a bag of refreshments – non of which I had an appetite for and eventually found our way through to Central Park West.
I made my way past the masses and back around towards Columbus Circle where I was reunited with my husband. I hugged him and took a few minutes to bitch about how long it took to “get out of the mess” while he led me to one of our favorite restaurants where my girlfriends were waiting with a bottle of wine and all the food I could devour.
We spent a couple hours celebrating and enjoying the amazing food and drinks at one of our favorite eateries. We dined on Sirloin, Steak Tartar, Gnocchi and Cheese, Brussels Sprouts and Corn Creme Brûlée. It was heavenly and all I could ask for. It was the perfect end to a once in a lifetime experience.
Oh, I’m sure you’re wondering about that finish time.
Turns out, I didn’t finish under 5 hours but only a couple minutes shy. I was really happy with that time being that it was not only my first, but a really tough course. New York is no joke!
Oh, and as it turned out, my name was in the paper after all. Evidently they took the finishers up to 5:15:00. I never bought a paper but found out otherwise, which was a nice little surprise.
One thing is for sure. I’ll be back another year tackle the streets of New York. This race is an experience like no other and I felt privileged to have been able to run it.
In a city typically so preoccupied with the hustle and bustle of every day life, it’s unbelievable to have experienced the support and camaraderie of the spectators through every borough.
‘Til next time New York