Continued from my previous post… How NOT to Prepare for your First Marathon…
As one of the official Abbott Marathon Majors, the New York City Marathon is one of the six most renowned marathons in the world – making it an unforgettable experience for both, runners, and supporters alike. In this post, I’ve tried to encompass my personal experience of running in it…!! 🙂
New York City Marathon!!
Waking and Preparations
The day I’ve been preparing for, for the past 4, gruelling months of training has arrived… 400+ training miles have been logged, and now I’m ready and raring to run the furthest distance I’ve ever run in my life… 26.2miles of New York City – here I come!!
Having set my alarm, last night, for 4:45am – I woke up and climbed out of bed and into my running gear… I gathered my food/gels/protein shakes/phone/extra layers/race info, all into my specified race bag, complete with race number, and grabbed my breakfast and went down the hotel lift into the lobby – when I arrived, the lobby was full of runners, all waiting for our marathon rep to take us to the buses. I stood, very nervously, with my tub of raisin bran and milk – slowly munching away, despite the fact that I really didn’t feel particularly hungry (but knew I had to get something nutritious down me a good amount of time before the race!!) I, eventually, tried to distract myself from my nerves, and lack of hunger, by chatting to the other runners surrounding me (whilst still shovelling my cereal down my throat!) – many of the people I’d spoken to, that were also aiming for a sub 4-hour time, had spent all day yesterday resting, carb loading and getting an early night… I felt like a complete novice when I told them I, too, was hoping for under 4 hours, but that it was my first marathon and I’d spent yesterday doing anything but relaxing… I even found my confidence dwindling so much that I started telling others “I’d like to get under 4 hours – but it is my first marathon, so I’d be happy with anything under 5..!!”
As we started to navigate the streets of New York, following our marathon rep, towards the Central Library where the buses, taking us to Staten Island and the Starter Village, were located, I managed to finish off my cereal and force down a banana before reaching the queues that stretched right up and down 42nd street between 5th and 6th Ave!! After waiting in the bus queues for around a half hour, in the extremely mild November weather, we finally boarded a bus where I was able to sit down, relax, and have another short kip, before reaching Staten Island about an hour later. Looking out the window, into the starter village, I could just see a sea of people wearing bright/luminous running gear… the majority of which wearing orange and pink hats!
Staten Island Starter Village
I arrived on Staten Island around 7:30am and, as I gathered my bags and got off the bus, we were ushered towards the Starter Village security check… as I got closer and closer, the song “New York State of Mind” by Alicia Keys was blaring out of the speakers (reminding me to look out for one of my biggest idols, who was also running this years marathon!! 😀 )… I emptied my pockets into the bag provided so the officials could check what I was taking in and went through the security check – thankfully without any holdups!! 😛
I then began to wonder what I was supposed to do with myself for the next 3hours until my wave started running… my initial answer – portaloo‘s… after waiting in line for around another hour, I head off, into my respective, orange, starter village and sat down to relax, briefly, to put on my race number and have a bit of my protein shake… I then wandered around the village, grabbing a free bagel (which I only ate a couple of bites of due to nerves!!), protein bar and water bottle, before wave 3 (my wave) were called to our respective corrals… I promptly stripped down to my shorts and running top, packed everything into my bag and (apprehensively!!) left all my personal belongings with the luggage trucks for transportation to the finish line… another quick toilet break, and stretch out and I’m heading for my corral.
As we were waiting for entry into the corral, we heard a gun shot and the whole crowd cheered as wave 2 set off!! The atmosphere was a mixture of excitement and nerves as we ushered our way into our corral… All the way through, I was trying to stretch and do some dynamic warm-ups amongst the mass of runners, I guzzled down a single energy gel with the water bottle I’d brought (so I could easily mix my electrolyte tabs with water at each mile/water post) and stuffed the rest of my gels in my flipbelt along with my phone – then, we were called forward to the start line… I tried to push my way through the crowds to get as close to the front as I could in order to not be held up as we crossed the first bridge of the race.
As we approached the start line, I settled where I was and returned to my stretches whilst chatting to one or two other runners around me… No turning back now!! The National Anthem was sung by an opera singer and the gunshot went off… we were actually doing this…!
As I crossed the start line, I noticed the clock on, what I thought was, 41minutes (since all the clocks were programmed to the first wave of runners) and made a mental note of it… the first 1.5mile stretch was running across Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, from Staten Island into Brooklyn. As I crossed the bridge, I tried to stick to the left hand pavement/sidewalk in order to get through as many runners as possible and keep up my projected time… I took a few glances over the water to see if I could find the Statue of Liberty, but I think I just didn’t really look hard enough! Jumping over the layers of hats/clothes/accessories, previous runners had stripped off along the way, that, now, formed a multi-coloured second surface to the bridge, I was almost tempted to pick up a few of the articles that I thought may be useful to me in future runs!!
The moment we stepped off the bridge into Brooklyn was a strangely emotional experience for me… this was where the crowds began, and where I actually realised I was doing what I’d been visualising myself doing on each, and every, training run up until this point… running 26.2miles through the 5 boroughs that make up New York City. As that notion hit me, along with the screaming crowds of Brooklyn, I felt, strangely, slightly teary!! ……………… As the feeling passed, I started to embrace the support – high fiving just about every small child I ran past, just to see their faces light up with delight that a runner had taken some notice of them – I began to feel a little like a celebrity!! The crowd carried me for a good few miles after this, to the point where I really wasn’t even sure how far I’d gone – I was just completely lost in the moments unfolding before me. At around mile 8, I saw a supporters stage with some Brooklyn bboys doing flares and all kinds of power moves – as I ran past, with appreciation of their crazy skills, part of me really wanted to join them, briefly, to show off what I could do too!! Soon after, we hit an orthodox Jew part of town, where everything just went silent… It felt slightly eerie after the past 10 or so miles to go from constant cheering, to people just going about their daily routines, staring at us in silence as we ran through their neighbourhood!! This was about the time the distance I’d already run, hit me – and I was still feeling great!! 🙂 Soon after, the supporters returned and we were met with plenty of roadside parties and offers of food/drink/tissues again!! At about the half marathon point, I had to make my first, and only, toilet stop – queuing at the portaloo’s by the side of the road, I became conscious of how much time I may be losing and was so eager to get back on the road that I almost dropped my phone, out of my shorts pocket, into the toilet pit below!! Thankfully, I managed to stop it falling just in time!! Phew!
Next thing I knew, I was looking across at the high rise buildings of Manhattan from the Pulaski Bridge, going into Queens. This short, but sweet, section of the marathon had a real community feel to it – I remember seeing a band performing at one point and feeling my feet find the rhythm of the drums as I continued running! Next, the 15 mile standpoint… having pre-arranged for my parents to support me from around 16miles (just after I crossed the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan at around 1pm – all being well), as I approached the bridge, I realised this would be the one with my parents on the other side. As I ran along the underpath of the Queensboro, I started to notice that this (aside from the first bridge) was the most congested part of the run thus far – I found myself attempting to dodge through numerous people who’d stopped to walk in the wake of supporters and street parties to cheer them on!! I asked someone the time (my phone battery had just about died by this point! 🙁 ) and, upon hearing that it was a few minutes to 1pm, I slightly rejoiced in the accuracy of my pre-race guestimates of my timings!!
As I got to the end of the bridge and started the first Manhattan section of the run, I began to position myself on the left hand-side of the runners, as I’d pre-arranged with the momma and poppa, so we could see each other as I ran past… what I hadn’t bargained on, however, was the sheer amount of spectators that had the same idea to support from the same vantage point. Although I slowed down significantly, in order to search for them, and looked out for them for another mile or two after our agreed “meeting place” – I, unfortunately, never managed to find my parents in the spectator crowds, and they never managed to find me in the runner crowds!! As we made our way up First Ave towards the Bronx, the streets were packed with supporters, although it had slightly less of a party atmosphere than Brooklyn and Queens… I found myself counting down the mile markers until the finish. I’d heard mile 17/18 is where runners normally hit “The Wall”… so I spent most of this stretch wondering when it was going to hit me!!
Soon after we crossed over the bridge into the Bronx, we hit the 20 mile point… every step I took after this point became my longest ever run! The DJ’s and the street parties were back in full swing and I was still feeling fairly strong!! I considered taking another of my energy gels at this point – but the sun started trying to peek through the clouds, and that, along with the party atmosphere, seemed to energize me – I decided to skip the gel and stick with the electrolyte tabs I’d been adding to my water all day to stop me from dehydrating!
Next, we crossed over the final bridge – from the Bronx, back into Manhattan. This was the point where I was really ‘”chafing” the dream’!! After running for so long, my shorts had become slightly uncomfortable, but I wasn’t about to back out having got this far – running down 5th Ave, I took a half a banana and a small cup of coke from a couple of generous spectators passing fuel to any runners who needed it – and made my way towards Central Park… this was where I began to look for the parents again, but was still unable to see them. After a while, I gave up looking for my parents and really pushed myself to give up just a little more energy to ensure I bagged that sub 4 hour time frame… as I passed through the 25 and 26 mile markers, my smile grew bigger and bigger… the final 200m were marked, and I pushed for as much of a sprint finish as I could muster – hoping over the finish line with a massive smile and my arms waving in the air!!
What an achievement!!! 😀 I jumped in front of the camera’s to get a breakdance freeze at the finish line (for those at home who were asking for it!!) then moved forward towards the medals, goodie bags (complete with much needed protein shake, water and an apple from the Big Apple!!) and heat sheets. Next came the walk – about a mile further up, through Central Park, to pick up the luggage I left with the luggage people in Staten Island – only to walk back down the same way once I got out the park to make my way back to my hotel!! The contrast between how all the athletes ran up to the finish line, compared to how they walked after the finish line rather amused me – I’m pretty sure we all looked like we were a part of a zombie apocalypse… one where the finish line looked like our safety net from a distance but, actually, turned us all into the zombies we were initially running from!!! 😛
When I got back to the hotel, after many “congratulations” along the road back – I promptly got a shower, changed, and met up with the parents ready to go to the ‘Top of the Rock’ for sunset (…nothing like making the most of the holiday!!!). Walking rather slowly and painfully, we eventually made it – and the panoramic views across Central Park, the Hudson River and over the Empire State Building were nothing short of spectacular!
On the walk back, we found a nice little Irish style pub for our dinner – before heading back to the hotel and retiring for the night, ready for a full day of exploring in the morning…
On my return, I had a bunch of messages from my friends back home who’d managed to find out my time before I even knew it… or others who had been tracking me online as I ran through Central Park!!
Have you ever run the New York Marathon… Or any marathon for that matter? What were your experiences like? Please feel free to join our discussion below! 🙂
Love, Magic and Fairy Dust!! 😉