This is it, the big one. The race I’ve been waiting for all my life. Okay, so maybe “all my life” is exaggerating just a bit. But, I had been dreaming about running NYC for about five years. Ever since I got healthy and fit and began running, I dreamed of running in the city that never sleeps. Having been born in New York, I think that made the feeling of wanting to run there important to me.
On Sunday, November 1st, I woke up in my NYC hotel room to the sound of my cell phone’s alarm. It was just after 5:30am and time to get dressed for the race. As I checked the weather (for the ten billionth time that weekend), I began to feel the nervous race morning jitters coming on. This was the day my dream was coming true. I had to wipe my eyes and reconfirm that I was indeed truly there in New York, bib on my Fitletic belt for the NYC Marathon. NYC would be my 5th marathon, and less for my 1st marathon at the 26.2 with Donna in 2013, was the most excited I had ever been on race morning.
After I got dressed and put on an extra layer for warmth (turned out I didn’t really need much extra layering after all, but wouldn’t figure that out until a bit later), I kissed my mom goodbye and headed out of the hotel room. I then headed downstairs and out of the hotel toward the subway station. In all honesty, I had to confirm with both the hotel desk guy and a nice New York lady on the street that I was heading into the right subway (race morning nerves!). Once I got into the subway, I bought a metrocard and got on the next train uptown. I soon spotted other fellow runners, making me feel better. There’s comfort in numbers, especially when it comes to runners on their way to the start of a race.
I followed my fellow marathoners out of the train at the designated stop and we all began making our way out of the subway toward the Staten Island Ferry. There were more runners everywhere, trying to get into the terminal to board a ferry. A race worker announced to us that the ferries were running behind schedule, but we would all get on one soon and not to worry. Somehow, I found fellow Orlando Galloway friend, Cindy in the crowd and we hung out as we waited. As it turned out, we didn’t get on a ferry for about an hour from that point. I wasn’t overly concerned since our wave didn’t start until 11am, and also having a fellow runner friend there helped keep the calm.
On board the ferry, we enjoyed the views of New York City. It was an overcast morning, but still quite stunning to see. There’s nothing like the views of New York City! The ride on the ferry takes about 25 minutes, so just before 9:30am, we arrived on Staten Island. From there, you have to board a bus which takes you to Fort Wadsworth. I overheard from more experienced runners in the group that it’s just 2-3 miles away, but it took some time for us to get on a bus and get there. By the time we exited at Fort Wadsworth, it was after 10am. Since we had to go through security (including being wanded by the police), I may have been a little nervous about the time. My running buddy definitely was, she had been texting me since her charity bus had her to the starting village by 6am. I would have liked to have gotten there earlier, because I don’t like to feel rushed with having to use the port-o-lets and such.
Thankfully, I was able to find my running buddy and we headed to the corral after I quickly used the port-o-let. It was pretty close on time, but we had made it. T-minus fifteen minutes until our 11am start time. I was ready to do this…or, at least I looked the part. 🙂 The announcer kept us informed about how long it was until the gun for wave 4, and then the National Anthem was sung. Minutes later, the crooning of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York boomed and I almost burst into tears.
Our corral was on the lower level of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge, so we made our way up and onto it. Let me tell you, first of all, there was no peeing incidents…not sure if this is a rumor that circulates each year or what, but I never saw it happening. As we did our run/walk/run intervals on the bridge, there were piles upon piles of throw-a-way layers all over the place. From sweatshirts to scarfs, beanies to gloves, just about everything imaginationable to keep oneself warm was there. I did do a bit of “shopping,” seeking out the official race gear, specifically those neat gloves. They have the five boroughs on each finger. I didn’t want to carry a lot so, I ended up with just one pair in the end.
Running the bridge was rough for me. I think this was the point that I realized this race may not be my best time-wise. I think it had to do with the stress leading up to the trip as well as my sinus infection. Also, I did spend a bit too much time on my feet on both Friday and Saturday while at the expo and all. After having run four other marathons and fifteen half marathons, I have learned to be able to tell when it’s likely not my day for a great race performance. Thankfully, my running partner, Sunshine was great. She kept encouraging me and it helped once we got off the bridge into Brooklyn. Embracing the fun of the race and all of the spectators lining the streets put a smile on my face.
The screaming energy of the crowds is just AMAZING. I went by as many of them as I could and gave them high-fives. Seeing their excitement is just motivating as heck. There are so many kids out there as well, and they invigorate you. Hearing these strangers yell out your name is so so neat. You truly do feel like a celebrity as you are out there running. The borough of Brooklyn became a party like I had never experienced before. I felt so so loved by all of these people.
After 11 miles in Brooklyn, the race enters Queens. This is just after the half-way point in the marathon. The tough part of Queens is that 59th Street bridge. We crossed the Queensboro Bridge at about mile 15. Looking at my Garmin data, it’s pretty easy to see the slow down that happened in Queens for me. It was also in Queens that I mentally struggled. Before we hit the bridge, the NYPD and the sweeper brigade got on our tails. The lead vehicle blared on it’s loudspeaker, “This is the NYPD, the NYC Marathon has concluded. Please move off of the roadways and onto the sidewalks for your safety. The roads will be re-opening soon.” This message repeated over and over again. Talk about a buzzkill. If I hadn’t already struggled a bit, I sure was now. Not exactly motivating in the slightest. There was quite a number of us back-of-the-packers affected by this. The looks on our faces said it all, yicks.
I took a few deep breaths as we walked across the Queensboro Bridge with the sweepers beside us. The bottom line was, they wanted to…needed to re-open roads, I got that, but this sort of thing, especially the wording of the message (saying the marathon had concluded) was what got me. Eventually, I was able to shrug it off and tell myself this was my race and I was going to finish it. My running partner and I may not have had a good pace going anymore, but this thing was far from over. I knew the finish line was open until 7:30pm, so it was a matter of chugging along, one foot ahead of the other.
By the time we made it over the bridge unfortunately, we did miss the infamous “wall of sound” on First Avenue. A good amount of spectators there had left it seemed. However, it was great hearing my name being called out by a friend who ended up getting a bit of video of me running. That put some spring in my step, as did the Bonk Breaker I began to consume at that point. Nothing like a good snack during the marathon (gels are good, but food is better).
Miles 17 through about 19 kind of all combine in my head. I recall a lot of walking and trying to keep each other going. There were spectators out, just not as many as there were for the earlier runners. Some parts of the course were a bit veered off for us as well, as we did end up on some sidewalks at times. I couldn’t wait to be done with the race. I yearned to see, to get to Central Park. I knew that it was the last miles of the race and I wanted to be there. Like, right then. Of course, I still had around 10k or so of the race to go before that glorious finish line.
Somewhere between mile 19 and 20, my running partner and I ended up going solo. Unfortunately, she was having bad back issues, and urged me to keep going. I was reluctant at first, but eventually did do it, even though I was still walking. It was at mile 20ish that I met a first time marathoner. Katie was at the NYC Marathon running her very first 26.2. As I approached her, she was sobbing. I asked her if she was okay, she shook her head, telling me she wasn’t sure that she was going to finish the race. It was then that I knew I had to be there for her, help keep her motivated as much as I could.
I walked with her, talking about this and that and she calmed gradually. She told me how she usually runs half marathons, and I told her that that was wise, only nutty folks run full marathons. That got a chuckle, as cheesy as it was. I told her how while this was my fifth marathon, it was not easy in the slightest. Informing her how it doesn’t matter what time she finished, that crossing that finish line was all she had to do. Also, she had an automatic PR already since that’s how it works with your first of any race distance.
Each mile marker we hit, I was thrilled and shared that with Katie. She was still hurting, but I could tell her mood wasn’t as low has it had been when I first spotted her. I did end up chatting with a few other runners who were also walking. We joked about this and that, learning a bit about where everyone was from and just decided we were getting our money’s worth with our time on the course. 🙂
Finally entering Central Park, I got excited. I did lose Katie about this time, but she was still chugging along. I knew she was going to finish the race. As much as it hurt, I put my Gymboss timer back on and resumed run/walk intervals. I wanted to finish the last couple of miles as strong as I could. There were some great folks still spectating around the Park and it was much appreciated.
Coming back out of Central Park, since the road the course would have been on was re-opened to traffic, we had to hit the sidewalk. This was not the best surface to run on, so I walked again until re-entering the Park. Right before I did go back in, my mom appeared out of the darkness (it was night time by this point), and it put a smile on my face despite the discomfort I was in. She had been texting me the last few miles with encouragement, but I had no idea she was near the route. She walked with me until I headed back into Central Park and then I took off back into my run/walk intervals. Seeing her and knowing that finish line was so close gave me the last push I needed.
Crossing that finish line, I immediately broke down crying. I had done it, I had finished the NYC Marathon. The volunteer put a medal around my neck as I sobbed away. He even gave me a hug as he congratulated me. Somehow, I regained my composure enough to get a picture with the sweet guy who “medaled me.” I was then wrapped in a mylar blanket and I began the seemingly never-ending walk to exit Central Park and get my poncho. As I shuffled along, I found myself in a stunned state. I had stopped crying, but I was almost in disbelief. It all felt so surreal. All of the time, hard training and prayers came flooding back to me. To say I felt thankful and blessed is an understatement. That moment, with all of the mixed feelings surging through me was something I will never forget.
While this race was the most difficult thing I have ever done, I don’t regret it for a second. It was such an amazing experience that I will remember for a very long time. I can’t recommend doing the NYC Marathon more it you get the chance. The city may beat you up a bit, but you will come out in the end with awesome memories and having had the best “tour” of New York City that one can ever have.