NYC Marathon Weekend, Part 2

Welcome to part two of my NYC Marathon dream race weekend journey (say that 10 times fast)! We pick up the fun on Saturday morning. Early Saturday morning to be more precise. Of course, I’m no stranger to the dark hours of weekend mornings with all of my marathon training, so getting up early to catch a 6:04am train from Patchogue in Long Island to Penn Station in NYC wasn’t a stretch for me. My cousin Laurie and I headed out of her place around 5:30am and en-route to the train station stopped for a bagel (a must-have in NY).  The weather was a but chilly, but definitely nicer than it was back home in Florida. I even got to wear my new marathon jacket!

On the LIRR into the city

On the LIRR into the city

Once aboard the train, I embraced my inner New Yorker and enjoyed my bagel with almond butter. Before I knew it, it was time to change trains at Jamaica station, then back on board another LIRR train for the city. While it had been six years since I was in NY, it’s amazing how easy traveling on the LIRR feels to me when I’m back up there since that’s how I always get into NYC.

The train arrived at Penn Station at just before 8am. I had the NYC Marathon route motor-coach tour scheduled for 9am, so this gave me time to get over to the Javits Convention Center where it would begin. First thing I did was pick up a Starbucks soy cinnamon dolce latte. It would be needed to get through the day! I then waited for fellow Orlando Galloway running friend, Cindy and we headed off to the convention center for the tour.

Marathon route motor-coach tour

Marathon route motor-coach tour

Cindy and I ended up getting on the last bus, so we had lots of room on the tour to move around and get a good look as our tour guide talked. This came in handy when something of interest was on the opposite side we were sitting on. Our guide was so great. She was born and raise in NYC, specifically Brooklyn and she knew so much about a lot of the boroughs. She had also done the NYC Marathon in 2006, so a fellow marathoner! Since we started off at the convention center, we had to drive over to Staten Island to officially get the tour started since that’s where the race begins. Even as we drove to Staten Island, our guide immediately went into some history of the surrounding area we were driving through.

Once we arrived in Staten Island, the race course tour really began. We got to see Fort Wadsworth, the actual location of the runners villages where we would be spending time in the next morning before our wave starts. Then, there was the infamous bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. This is where all NYC Marathoners begin their 26.2 journey. No other pedestrians are ever on the bridge less for the runners each year. Definitely a neat fact to learn, as the bridge isn’t meant for anything other than vehicular traffic.

Heading into Staten Island

Heading into Staten Island

Once you cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, you are in Brooklyn. Marathon runners are in this borough for about 11 miles, staying mostly on Fourth Avenue and Bedford Avenue. The first neighborhood runners go through is Bay Ridge. It’s a largely populated by the middle-class. The area used to be highly Norwegian, it’s Nordic heritage is still apparent in the neighborhood. Bay Ridge is sizeably Irish, Greek, and Italian these days. The neighborhood is sometimes referred to as “Little Palestine” due to it’s large Palestinian population.

The next Brooklyn neighborhood is Sunset Park, an area that is predominantly Puerto Rician, Mexican and Chinese. The core of the Hispanic population is west of 5th Avenue, while the center of the Chinese population, known as Brooklyn’s Chinatown is from 7th Avenue east to Borough Park. Eighth Avenue is full of Chinese grocery stores, restaurants, video stores, bakeries and Buddhist temples. The next neighborhood runners go through in Brooklyn is Park Slope. It features historic buildings, top-rated restaurants, bars, shops and is located close to Prospect Park. Park Slope is considered one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods, having been rated highly by multiple magazines. A trend began in the 1960s and 1970s where young professionals began to buy and renovate brownstones. They were then converted from rooming houses into single and two-family homes. The neighborhood has since become one of the wealthiest in Brooklyn.

During the route tour in Brooklyn

During the route tour in Brooklyn

Still in Brooklyn, marathoners then run through Bedford-Stuyvesant, which houses a diverse mix of students, hipsters, artists creative professionals as well as attorneys. It’s a primarily African-American area, though there are growing populations of Hispanic and White as well. The neighborhood is also the setting for Spike Lee’s 1994 film, Crooklyn. Williamsburg is the next neighborhood, which is an influential hub of contemporary music such as indie rock, and it also contains a large local hipster culture. The area has earned the nickname “Little Berlin,”  due to it’s vibrant nightlife and art community. The neighborhood contains many ethnic groups including Germans, Hispanics, African Americans, Italians, Jews, Poles and Dominicans. The last Brooklyn neighborhood is Greenpoint. It used to consist of farmland, and many of the families names are still current street names. The neighborhood is now known for its large Polish immigrant and Polish-American community. It’s sometimes referred to as Little Poland due to it’s large population of Polish immigrants.

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Leaving Brooklyn, runners hit the halfway point in the race as they cross the Pulaski Bridge into Long Island City, Queens. The toughest portion of the race is about 2.5 miles later, when the marathon hits the Queensboro Bridge. This is also the point where there are no spectators, as they are not permitted on the bridge. That “wall of sound” that NYC Marathon runners hear about occurs coming off of the Queensboro Bridge (also known as the 59th Street Bridge) onto First Avenue. Lots of spectators line the streets, which can be a push after crossing the tough bridge. The tour guide informed that this is also where runners need to be cautious, as it’s easy to push too hard due to this excitement all around. This is also now a new borough, Manhattan.

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That is the 16 mile mark, as marathoner runners hit Manhattan. After a brief time spent in Manhattan, the route enters The Bronx via the Willis Avenue Bridge. Just like the borough of Queens, not much time is spent in The Bronx. After crossing that bridge, which is a mile, we head back into Manhattan. This is done via the Madison Avenue Bridge. The course proceeds south through the neighborhood of Harlem. The neighborhood is a large one and has a major African-American population. Residents often refer to Harlem as Uptown since it’s located in Upper Manhattan. Central Harlem is surrounded by Fifth Avenue on the east, Central Park on the south, Morningside Park and St. Nicholas Avenue on the west, and the Harlem River on the north. Harlem contains many NYC landmarks such as Apollo Theater, City College of New York, and Langston Hughes House.

The infamous Queensboro Bridge

The infamous Queensboro Bridge

Once down Fifth Avenue, runners will enter Central Park. At the south end of the park, the course heads across Central Park South, where thousands of spectators line the street cheering on runners as they enter the last mile. Reaching Columbus Circle, the race re-enters Central Park and the finish line is outside of Tavern on the Green. The tour concluded at the re-entry point in which we would be running back into the park the next day. All in all, I enjoyed the NYC Marathon Route Motor-coach tour. I found that it gave me a lot more knowledge of the history of the area (especially Brooklyn), and how the next day’s big race would go course-wise.

Entrance to the final mile of the marathon in Central Park.

Entrance to the final mile of the marathon in Central Park.

Upon returning to the Javits Convention Center, Cindy and I decided to head back inside to the expo floor. I was looking forward to getting some more photos since time ended up being cut short the day prior. We had a great time getting pics all over the place including getting our own Runner’s World cover image. We also were able to take advantage of the last minute sale over in the official merchandise section. We both snagged marathon backpacks, something I wanted to get but was reluctant at the full price. Half-off score! The lines were still a bit long and crazy, but they moved people along pretty quickly. We then checked out a couple of other booths including Nuun for their NYC Marathon bottle which is quite awesome. Then, it was time to say good-bye to the expo and head out.

Expo fun with fellow runner, Cindy.

Expo fun with fellow runner, Cindy.

We both walked back to Penn Station, as that was where Cindy’s husband and kids were arriving from the airport. It was also where I would be meeting my mom shortly as she came back into NYC from Patchogue. We were a tired couple of marathoners, but excited about the next day’s race. Once back inside Penn Station, we got a couple of smoothies before saying our good-byes until the next morning. We planned on meeting up and riding the ferry over together to the runner’s village.

My mom ended up arriving at Penn about an hour later than planned due to misreading the train times, but once she did, we immediately headed out of Penn and off to our hotel. Since I was so tired and dealing with my oh-so-fun reoccurring headache, and her neck pain, we opted to hail a taxi. This was easier said than done. They all seemed to be taken or off-duty. It felt like we walked forever (though I know it was likely a block or so) before we were finally able to snag a taxi cab. Once inside, we told the driver our destination and we were off to the hotel.

We stayed at the Hotel Deauville on 29th Street. It’s a small brownstone, with just 54 rooms and an old hand-operated elevator. After a lot of searching for a place, I thought it would be neat to stay in an old hotel. The room was small, but nice. It was all we needed for the one night we would be spending in the city.

Pre-race pasta carb loading goodness.

Pre-race pasta carb loading goodness.

Since we were both not really up for heading back out, we opted to order dinner in. Thankfully, the hotel had a great recommendation (Bella Napoli) for my carbo-loading meal. When in New York, Italian food is a must! I called and they were able to accommodate my vegan needs, so we put in an order for delivery. It took over an hour to get there (and issues with the girl who took the address over the phone), but once it arrived, it was great! I had basic spaghetti with marinara sauce and mom had a calzone. It was a lot of food and despite the time it took to get there, worth waiting for in the room.

With a happy, full belly, I took my pre-race evening shower and laid out my race outfit for the next morning. Putting my bib on my Fitletic belt, I began to feel emotions beginning to come over me. It was here, the big day was really just hours away. Had it really been eight months since I found out I had gotten into the marathon lottery? I then crawled into bed and tried to get some sleep….tomorrow morning I would be running the streets of New York City. My city of dreams.

Flat marathoner for the big race.

Flat marathoner for the big race.

Next up…the big dream race report! Stay tuned, should be up soon. 🙂


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