Monday, November 3, 2014

The New York City Marathon

I arrived in NYC on Friday morning with Jennifer in tow. NYC is her favorite city and wasn't about to let me come alone. I figured why not since it helped defray some of the hotel costs. It looks like we were wise in our decision to fly out early given the conditions in Chicago later on Friday. We took a cab to our hotel in Murray Hill and dropped off our bags and set out for food and the expo. We found a pizza place and grabbed a couple of slices where Chris met up with us.

We walked over to the Javits Center and were in immediate shock. The line just to get into the expo was 2 blocks long. It was moving steadily and we made it inside in about 20 minutes or so. This was so much more disorganized than Chicago. I made my way over to booth for my bib number and picked that up then headed over to get my bib for Dash to the Finish 5K. After more chaos to get my goodie bag we were dumped into the shopping area for the Asics official marathon merchandise. I picked up a Run NYC shirt and some NYC Marathon arm warmers and stood in yet another huge line to pay for my stuff. The expo felt smaller and a lot more crowded than Chicago. Between going to the expo and after, Jennifer had me speed walking all over Manhattan. Saturday featured the Dash to the Finish 5K which I'll write about later followed by breakfast at a diner and later a nice Italian dinner in the theater district.

Sunday morning I was up bright and early and headed down to the Whitehall Ferry terminal to catch my 6:45 AM boat to Staten Island for the start of the race. The terminal was a little crazy and crowded, but not too bad. I caught my ferry without issue and enjoyed a nice view of the Statue of Liberty on my trip. Arriving in Staten Island I decided to stay in the warmth of the terminal for as long as I could given that I was in Wave 3 and didn't start until 10:30AM.  I found an uncomfortable piece of wall to rest against a midst the other runners and spent the next hour snacking, hydrating and taking micro-naps. Soon the police were going around telling us to clear out since the last shuttle buses left at 8:30. Luckily the bus ride and the wait was fairly long giving me more time to rest in warmer conditions and catch another micro nap or 2. We got to Fort Wadsworth and got wanded with metal detectors before being allowed to the starting village. I jumped in a long line for the restroom that shortened as Wave 1 and 2 runners started freaking about getting to the start line. I did my business and then headed to blue start area. I chilled until it was time to go to my corral only to find a wall of people who were not moving. The Wave 4 people were already trying to start getting into the start corrals and blocked out a number of the Wave 3 folks. It was chaos to say the least. I finally managed to squeeze through and get into my corral just as it started moving towards the start line. The corrals were a crazy tunnel filled port-a-potties on one side and piles upon piles of clothes all over. We heard the cannon boom followed by cheering as we moved forward.

As we got closer to the start line the familiar Sinatra tune of New York, New York as blaring over the loud speakers. It took nearly 8 minutes to get to the actual start line. The whole way there they were greeting people from countries all over the world. It was cool to hear all the different languages being spoken. We hit the start line and off I went. So the weather for the race was a little less than ideal. Temperatures were great being in the low 40s, but the 15-25 mph winds made the windchill 35 degrees. To top things off it was gusting in excess of 40mph. The NYC marathon starts by running over the Verrazano bridge which exposed us to the worst of it right away. It was tough enough with the long 1 mile trek up the bridge but with those gusts blowing the runners every which way didn't help. I saw one women unprepared for a gust and fall while trying to keep her footing. I kept getting knocked sideways myself. If the wind was any stronger I would of had to hit the deck to avoid being blown over the side. I may have picked up the pace a little more than planned to just get off the bridge. Luckily what goes up must come down and we had a nice mile long downhill into Brooklyn.

Brooklyn was amazing. There were so many people lining the streets and bands and partying everywhere. I was loving every minute of it. I let myself soak it in and enjoy things. At times I had no choice with the way the crowds were on the course. With 50K runners, it can be hard to find room to run and the course bottlenecks at each aid station. I often found myself almost dancing on my feet and waving my hands and singing along to the music. There were only a couple small sections without crowds. Soon we were at the halfway point and crossing into Queens for even more partying. It was just a short jaunt through Queens and soon were were on the Queensboro bridge for another long uphill and eventual downhill allowing me to fly into Manhattan. Once we turn onto 1st Avenue it is just a madhouse full of people. The race gets tough here as it is another stretch with a bunch of hills, but the crowd is there to push you along. About 20 miles in you're on a short bridge into the Bronx for a couple miles and then back into Manhattan for the final stretch.

I was hoping to finish the race strong and still had plenty of energy at mile 20, but the hills had taken their toll and sapped the strength from my legs. I hit the 20 mile mark in just under 3 hours and knew I couple run a 10 minute pace from there on out to break 4 hours. I let up the effort a little bit, but not a lot. The stretch on 5th Avenue heading towards the final stretch in Central Park was just brutal. It was another long uphill that just never seemed to end. I was contemplating walking since the rest of my strength was nearly gone, but I kept at it. I chugged along feeling like I was running in place and eventually made it to the top and then down into Central Park for the home stretch. It was tough running through the park since the course narrowed and a lot of runners were now walking at this point. I regained a bit of my legs and kept trucking and weaving through the walkers. We let out onto 57th St for one last decent uphill before turning back into Central Park at Columbus Circle for the last half mile to the finish with one last hill for good measure. I crossed in 3:55:54.

After crossing the finish line the runners are treated like cattle. We collect our medals, space blankets, and recovery bags and are told to keep moving. I chose the no baggage option so I had an early exit. I only had to be herded a full mile before getting my poncho and then another 10 block walk to meet up with Jennifer and Chris. It felt like it was never ended and moving slow as molasses. The family reunite area was chaos as the families showed no respect to anyone other than their runner and kept darting across the street impeded other runners from getting through or blocking the path to get their photos. It appears I finished only 15 minutes after Chris so they didn't wait long for me. The next order of business was lunch. My stomach doesn't like food immediately after a race like that so I nibbled on some chicken fingers and fries and had plenty of pop and water to re-hydrate.

I'm actually very proud of how I ran. This was not a goal race and definitely not for time, but I was able to show myself what kind of fitness I actually had. The course alone is difficult enough to be a few minutes slower than what the same runner would achieve in Chicago. Even more so for someone who is not used to hills. The windy conditions also caused considerable slow down. Runner's World said the winds would cost the typical runner around 12 seconds per mile. Given that I was only 6 minutes slower than my Chicago time and I ran with an easier effort in spite of everything means I had a helluva day. I wish I felt that good during Chicago 3 weeks ago and who knows how much faster I could or ran it.

Next up I'll try to make it a sub-4 trifecta with a switch to the full marathon at Rock and Roll Las Vegas in just 2 weeks. It's amazing what a year difference can make in a runner.


  1. Congrats on yet another sub-4 finish. Love the medals this year. That wind sounds brutal and glad you weren't swept over the bridge! :) You captured the craziness of the race very well. Back in the day before security measures at the Chicago Marathon I used to get dropped off at LSD near the start line, check my bag and walk over and start the race. NYCM is quite a different experience getting to and from the start/finish lines! I logged about 5 extra walking miles and about 2 extra hours of transportation that day. Anyway, congrats again!

  2. Congrats on another great finish! Seriously amazing. Can't wait to hear about Las Vegas.