New York City! WOW! What a trip this was! My husband Dan and I were fortunate enough that our local running store, Runners Soul, was putting on another travel event. The first one they organized was last fall when we went to the Berlin Marathon. Since that was a success, they got on the planning train again, but this time for the New York City Marathon. The plan is for the store to do travel groups to all the Abbott Marathon Major races, and this is helping me check off my list. Upon completion of the NYC Marathon, I would have four of the six majors under my belt—Chicago, Boston, Berlin & New York.
We flew out to NYC on a Thursday night red eye flight. This allowed us to maximize our time in NYC. We would be staying four nights, and the marathon was on Sunday. Arriving at around 9:45 AM to Newark, we were able to get right into the action of the city that day. While we couldn’t get into our rooms yet at the hotel, we wandered with some friends around the city, got to the expo for packet pickup (the expo was CRAZY busy) and Dan and I eventually were able to sneak in a nap later in the day.
Highlights of sightseeing and tourist stuff we did while in NYC were: Comedy show at Upright Citizens Brigade, finding a sweet jazz club with ping pong tables and shuffleboard, general touring of the city, World Trade Center memorial, Grand Central Terminal, Book of Mormon (HILARIOUS!), dinner and pub hopping in Harlem with friends, seeing a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, wandering Brooklyn, and Katz’s Delicatessan.
So now onto the marathon. I knew this would be a crazy one, being that it is the largest one in the world. Somewhere over 54,000 runners! When registering, Dan and I had transit options for getting to the start line in Staten Island. You could take the 6 am ferry, which required getting to the ferry first. Or we could choose the 5:30 am or 5:45 am bus directly to the start. We opted for the 5:30 am bus because honestly I didn’t know how long it would take. In retrospect, we should have done 5:45 am or just hung back for a later time because we got there so quickly and then after getting through security we had to wait in the cold for a solid 3 hours before getting into the corrals.
This was the worst part of the day, but once we started moving to get in to our corrals it was a lot better. I was placed in a faster wave than Dan, even though we put the same expected finishing time. I moved back to his wave so we could run together. This did cause major congestion as we were in the second wave versus the first (there were four waves altogether) but since we weren’t going for breaking any speed records this was fine.
Funnelling through the corral up to the start was an experience in itself. It was crazy to see how well organized all these different corrals were. There were three corrals (orange, green and blue) in each of the four waves. So we started separated from two other groups when our wave began! And since the first mile was over the Staten Island Bridge, two waves ran on the top of the bridge on either side of it (we were one of them) and the third wave ran below the bridge. It was so well orchestrated. All three corrals didn’t blend together until around the 5km mark!
The next borough you hit was Brooklyn.. People were proud of their neighborhood! This was the area you were in the longest. During the race, Dan and I ran with our friend Adam-it was his first full marathon. Our general plan was to run at a pace with a goal of sub 4 hours. We were generally on this pace most of the time, and would only slow down during any of the various bridge climbs. I was naïve to think this would be an ‘easy’ course. Those bridges are challenging because of the slight incline to begin, plus there are no spectators on the bridges.
The toughest bridge would be the Queensboro Bridge, which would be located in Queens at around mile 15. This was a long bridge that hits you at that point where you may start questioning why you are running this race! When we crossed the bridge we kept our eyes open for our friends Nick and Nicki, who were standing somewhere in the mile 16 area. I thought we had definitely missed them (the crowds were 3-4 people deep) but sure enough they saw us, so Dan and I ran back quickly to give them a hug!
At mile 20 in the Bronx, we got a little crazy and stopped for a shot of tequila-Patron to be exact! Figured, WHY NOT! People had a sign for FREE SHOTS so we took them up on it. Our spirits were still high and we were still on pace to break 4 hours. We were still on that pace once we made our way into Manhattan and nearing Central Park. With about 5km left, I remember telling Dan that if we ran approximately 9:20/min miles for the last bit we could get in under 4 hours!
Then, it all fell apart.
Dan’s body just sorta seized up on him. His legs were cramping. He was crabby. He felt so miserable. We had to walk a lot in Central Park and he was not enjoying himself at all. With two miles left, we took the peace offering of a cup of beer from a spectator. Also, my watch died so I had no idea exactly how slow we were going. We would walk/jog for the last 5km and it felt like it took forever. Our final ‘push’ to the finish line was a slow meander. We came in at 4:07.25 seconds. While it wasn’t under 4 hours, it was pretty close and we have no regrets! There was no way I was going to ditch Dan the last 5km; what would have been the point!? I wanted us to finish together, and so we did.
The course for this race was AWESOME. Definitely a major highlight just all rolled together. What wasn’t awesome was the ridiculously long walk from the finish line to get your medal, food and then post-race poncho. It was an extremely long trek. Once you got to the ponchos, everyone had them on and were walking so slow and in pain that it looked like a mass scene from The Walking Dead. It was also a challenge to get to the closest subway station post race, as the area we were let out of for the family meet up spot was conveniently across from the one subway line we needed. However, we could just cross the street since they had a spot barricaded. We had to walk to two more blocks, cross the street, and then walk back.
I would definitely recommend the NYC Marathon, especially if you are working on getting those Marathon Majors completed! I would not recommend it as someone’s first marathon necessarily, as it is very overwhelming. We were fortunate to enjoy our time in New York with a bunch of our friends and with beautiful weather. What more could have we asked for?!?