It’s been a couple of weeks since I have been back from the NYC Marathon, a couple of weeks since my last post and worse yet, almost a year since my last race recap, so I guess it’s about time I write one.
REGISTERING FOR THE NYC MARATHON
The NYC Marathon is probably one of the hardest races to compete in. There are three choices:
- Enter the lottery to be chosen
- Be granted a guaranteed entry by competing in another race and completing it in a specified time (which is even harder than getting into the Boston Marathon)
- Running in 9 races, organized by the New York Road Runners, and volunteering in one.
Entering the lottery used to include a clause that stated if you applied for the lottery three years in a row and did not receive an entry you automatically were granted a slot to run on the fourth year. That is how I was able to run it. As of last year that option no longer exists, so entering the lottery gives the same odds every year.
For me, in the 40-44 age group I would need to run a 3:10 marathon in order to receive guaranteed entry in the following NYC Marathon. That is a 7:15 min/mile average pace. It makes me tired just thinking about it. By the way, to get into Boston I have to run a 3:15, which is a 7:26 min/mile pace.
Flying up to NYC 10 times in a year would be awesome if my financial status were higher, so that is not a reality either.
Barring any increases in speed, luck or wealth, this might have been my only chance to run this race, so I gratefully took it. No matter how cold it ended up being.
Ok enough whining. Obviously, I enjoyed myself, otherwise I wouldn’t be so upset about getting in again. LOL!
With 75,000 entries in the NYC Marathon, the organization of this race had to be run like a well-oiled machine and it was. I ended up visiting the expo twice. Once on Friday when I arrived, and once on Saturday when old friend, Dom Forth, flew in from San Francisco.
Both of my experiences were the same. A crowd of runners picking up their bib packets and t-shirts and then milling around the vendor area.
Interesting enough, I never spent more than a few minutes in any line anywhere. There were plenty of booths setup for packet pickup and plenty of help to retrieve t-shirts. Shocking right? I was pretty surprised myself.
The rest of the NYC Marathon expo was what one would expect. All the major brands, charities and races with the exception there were a lot more international marathons presented. I had no idea there was a Jerusalem Marathon, but I do now and I am putting it on my bucket list. Just as soon as I finish the Super Six (Chicago, NYC, Boston, London, Berlin & Tokyo). Two down, four to go.
Logistics are interesting when it comes to races aren’t they? Most races, whether they be road races or triathlons, seem to start right around the 7am mark. Disney starts their races at 5:30am on Marathon Weekend which is really early and also means that people are getting to the race around 4am. Not the NYC Marathon. I was assigned to the first wave which started at 9:40am, but did that mean I could sleep in? No such luck, I had to be on the Staten Island Ferry by 5:45am.
Within three minutes of departing the Hilton Garden Hotel I was was riding in a taxicab to the ferry launch, which was lucky because at the time the mercury was dipping below 40 degrees. I am usually optimistic about walking in New York City, but at 5:00 am on a briskly cold morning like this one, I was glad to be riding in a heated cab with Morrie. He was extremely jubilant for a New Yorker at this time in the morning, which proctored him to give me a history lesson about the marathon on our 20 minute excursion. Most people might have been a little annoyed by Morrie’s rants about the last 30 races, but I actually savored the distraction and I learned a few things in that time as well.
Walking into the building that provided shelter from the launch, the aroma of coffee and baked goods overwhelmed me. At this time, all I wanted was a hot cup of coffee and with vendors lining the sides of the train station like benches, I had my choice. I chose the shortest line and within a few minutes had a large cup of liquid paradise warming my hands.
TRAVELING TO THE START
Dom and his friend Ryan, walked in about 5:45 just as the first ferry was leaving, but as the schedule for the morning had transportation running every 15 minutes, we were able to immediately board the next one departing at 6 am.
The ferry was warm, very clean and incredibly smooth as it cut through the Hudson River. It provided a chance to relax and swap stories with Ryan in order to get to know him a little. This was Ryan’s first marathon. He received a guaranteed entry from his 9+1 option. It made it a little easier for him since he lives in Brooklyn.
Once we reached the exit launch, we were ushered, very orderly, off the ferry and onto a line of coach buses for a quick trip to the race villages.
In order to accommodate over 70,000 runners, the NYC Marathon organizers divided up the participants into waves, colors and corrals. For instance, I was Wave 1, green, corral E, which meant I was a 9:40 am start, in the green village in the very last corral. To tell you the truth I was just happy to be in the first wave. The last wave was going to be starting close to 11:00 am which meant the average runner wouldn’t be even thinking about the finish line until around 3:15 – 3:30.
THE RACE VILLAGES
The villages were spread out, so once departing the bus and getting through a security pat down it was still a half mile walk to the green village. Dom, Ryan and I said our good-byes, and they headed off to the blue village as I set out to find green.
The Green village was in a unique location as the Verazzano bridge was literally above us. “Village” in this instance is actually defined as a gated off area for runners to loiter while waiting on the race start. The amenities included, UPS trucks to drop our baggage for after the race, Dunkin Doughnut tents that provided hot coffee and hot water for tea or hot chocolate, food tents that provided granola bars, bananas, bagels and other goodies, and of course portlets.
It’s 7 am, I am checked into my NYC Marathon village, I have had one cup of coffee, I am holding another, I am freezing and I still have two-hours and forty minutes until the start of the race. Here is where my frustration kicked in. In order to stay warm, I would usually want to move around, but I have 26.2 miles to run, so I want to stay off my feet. This means sitting down and being stagnant, which also means remaining cold.
I chose to find a place in the sun, with my back against the wind in order to stay off my feet. My marathon schedule has me participating in at least 6 marathons separated by only 2-3 weeks since Chicago, three weeks prior, so this journey is not about time but about finishing injury free. Therefore, I choose to shiver instead of stay on my feet. Experience dictates, that I will probably be standing for a period of time while waiting for the official start.
It was an hour and thirty minutes of chatting with a lot of other runners before the announcement came over that wave 1 needed to in the corrals by 8:55, so it was one last trip to the portlet, and the UPS truck before I headed to my official NYC Marathon corral.
Due to the amount of people in the corrals it was definitely a little warmer, even after I dropped a layer of clothes. I had a chance to meet another set of runners and we chatted about the cold, the route and other marathon experiences when off in the distance we heard the National Anthem being sung. This is the point where I start to get amped up a little. An association had been made in my head ever since my first race, that started my heart racing, my blood pumping and my anticubital areas start to sweat. I actually really enjoy the feeling.
As we started to move forward, I could see the first part of the wave running up the ramp of the Verzanno bridge, and my excitement just kept building and before I knew it, I crossed the starting mat and I was off and running.
I grew up in Chicago, with blisteringly cold winters and dealing with drastic changes in climate. However, after being in Florida for nine years, my blood has definitely thinned. While most of the other runners had shed their homeless charity layer of clothes, I decided to keep my hoodie and pants on a little longer. For me it was the right decision because the 35 mile-an-hour winds provided enough of a cool breeze to keep me from warming up. It also pushed me into the for wall. I was literally running in a diagonal from the speed and power of the wind. The thoughts popping into my head of the whole race feeling this cold was not boding well for my optimism.
Running off the bridge into Brooklyn, helped a lot. Buildings and underpasses blocked the wind to a point where by mile three I shed my pants and sweatshirt, so I was left with a long sleeve t-shirt, shorts, hat and gloves. At this point I was warm enough to be comfortable.
At mile four I noticed a Team RWB shirt ahead of me. Being the social creature I am, I started a conversation. Jaime, is a member of the Air Force Reserve and a civilian contractor to the Department of Defense and a good runner. We ended up keeping each other company until the last 5 miles and it made a huge difference.
Wind gusts continued to haunt us throughout the race. I knew as long as I kept running I would stay warm and keep the blood flowing through my legs.
Around mile 15 I noticed the Queensboro bridge coming. I was warned about this portion of the race as the bridge. It is over a mile long and seems to go forever. Personally, I didn’t feel that way. Maybe because we ran on the lower portion of the bridge and it sheltered us a little from the cold and the huge welcome we received in Queens as we ran out of it. The area was packed with spectators cheering their lungs out. I couldn’t help but let a smile creep on my face. My pace quickened and the adrenaline started to kick in.
Running on First Avenue toward the Bronx held areas with different densities of spectators. It was reasonably flat until we reached the Willis Ave Bridge crossing over into the Bronx. It was not even close to being like the Queensboro or the Verzanno bridge, but it did change the elevation. Since it was at mile 20, my legs were shouting at me to stop. Honestly, I did end up walking a bit over the Madison Ave bridge. My quadriceps and hamstrings were getting extremely tight, so I ended up falling into a walk/run pattern. Nothing specific, but things were starting to hurt.
At mile 22, along 5th Ave I was just trying to run more than walk. By mile 24, as we entered Central Park, my adrenaline kicked in for the last time. No matter how much it hurt I was running until I crossed the finish line.
I started to counting down the tenths of miles and just kept running. It was not a surprise when my watch said 26.2 miles that the finish line wasn’t even in site. After 4 hours and 6 minutes of running I finally crossed the NYC Marathon finish line and received my medal. It was not my finest or fastest marathon, but I will never forget the experience.
AFTER THE FINISH
Unfortunately, my NYC Marathon journey was not over. Volunteers were quickly ushering me out of the finish area. I grabbed water,chocolate milk, a banana, swag and headed to retrieve my gear bag. It was ONLY another, what felt like, 2 miles until I found the UPS truck where my gear was stowed. This was north of the finish line and I had to go south to get back to my hotel. I was freezing. My legs were completely wrecked and though other runners were putting on warm clothes, volunteers kept ushering me out. I changed into a dry shirt and jacket before leaving the park around 86th street, only to find transportation was not readily available.
Every taxi was full, and the only way to get back downtown from the park was by rickshaw. At a cost $40 + $3 a mile? No way. I kept walking but the pain was getting really bad and I could barely bend my legs. Finally, I reached Broadway and 59th and jumped on a subway. Before I knew it I was back at the hotel and ready to take a shower.
Yet, the adventure continues. I paid $50 for an extra couple of hours in the hotel to get a shower and pack up. Unfortunately, I had already exceeded. Now my key didn’t work and I had to fight to get them to let me into the room.
Obviously, I was slow, because, well, I just ran a marathon. It wasn’t even 5 minutes, that I was back in my room, that the phone rang. It was housekeeping asking when I was going to be leaving. Even after I mentioned I paid for the extra time and received permission by the manager, I kept getting harassed. Not the finest moment for Hilton.
After 45 years of of the NYC Marathon, shouldn’t the hotels have packages for people leaving on race day? They must know the race doesn’t even start until 9:30am with the average participant taking 4 hours and 17 minutes. Lesson learned – stay until Monday. It is worth the extra money.
It was definitely, a worthwhile experience. I was happy with my performance. I met some really awesome people. Most of all, I was finally was able to run the NYC Marathon after 4 years of waiting.