November 6, 2015
Before I go any further I want to shout out with A LOT of thank you’s! Thank you to my Mom who traveled to New York with me and put up with all my training. Thank you to everyone else who supported me and wished me luck! I could not have done it without you! And thank you to the volunteers and spectators of New York! The people really make the city, and thus the event feel alive!!
There will be a lot of photos in this post. I took some photos of my own before and after the race. I also bought all 27 of my digital download photos I was tagged in from MarathonFoto so this is probably a very appropriate place to share them. (Click on any image for a much larger version)
It’s often said that New York City is one of the greatest cities in the world, and after such a great experience, I will not contest such a grandiose claim. While in New York I stayed at a lovely midtown hotel, ate at some very fine restaurants, saw a Broadway musical, visited the Rockereller Center, rode the MTA extensively, and even stumbled into a street market on Madison Avenue! I may go into further detail about these in another post. But, the true highlight and purpose of this trip was to be a part of the TCS New York City Marathon.
The race expo was held at the Javits Center on the southwest side of Manhattan. Conveniently, the MTA just opened its new “Hudson Yards 34th Street” subway station on the Flushing line very close to the Javits Centre.
I was rather surprised there was SO much TCS NYC Marathon Official Merchandise. It felt like about 1/3 of the entire expo was official merchandise. I bought a yellow and grey t-shirt. There was a really long line-up to pay for merchandise. Ironically, the Foot Locker booth had most of the same merchandise without a lineup.
I kind of regret that I wasn’t wearing a race shirt or other identifiable runner gear. There were SO many people wearing shirts from previous races or jackets displaying their run club affiliation. I did wear a hat from the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon which I ran in May. The gentleman at the booth for the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon got a kick out of that!
I was actually very, very relieved when I retrieved my race bib. I had downloaded what I thought was the official app onto my mom’s iPod so she could track me during the race. However, when I entered my name it couldn’t find me, and when I entered my bib number it showed someone else’s name. I was worried I wasn’t properly registered and that I’d traveled to New York for nothing. It turns out I had downloaded an older edition of the app so I was browsing a list from a previous year. Phew!
The expo is what I’ve come to expect from a huge marathon: Big hall, lots of vendors, lots of merchandise. There were a few neat, unique things like a DJ in the Asics booth. When he played Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind” it seemed particularly appropriate. (AND Alicia Keys ran the marathon this year!!) And there were some fun photo opportunities.
Getting to the Start
Actually getting to the starting line of this race is an event in itself! It’s one of the latest starts for a race, but still requires you to get going really, really early.
I woke up around 4:30am Eastern Standard Time; daylight savings time ended that evening. After getting dressed and having some food I headed out on my long journey to the starting line.
There were a lot of other runners in my hotel, but most were part of international tour groups. There was a group from Italy, one from Germany, and one from Brasil. They all had private buses in front of the hotel to drive them to the start. I headed went to the subway to get to the shuttle buses at the New York Public Library. Although I was pleasantly surprised the subway runs at 5:30am on a Sunday, there were some unsavory characters lurking in the stations. The frequency of trains was also pretty low, so I had to wait a lot for a train.
I made it to the shuttle bus line around 6am as expected and got onto a bus rather promptly. All week I wanted to make sure I got to the bus. Once I was on a bus I was in the hands of the race organizers and so being on a bus felt like a relief. It was rather long 1.5 hour or so drive to Staten Island. I tried to nap but was too excited. I struck up a conversation with the person beside me. Her name was Anna. She’s Polish but lives in Amsterdam. This was going to be her 3rd marathon.
The start village was MASSIVE! The race essentially took over Ft. Wadsworth which now houses mostly US Coast Guard and Reserve Army Reserve buildings. After passing through security Anna and I were assigned to different villages so we headed our respective areas.
The funny part is that I was in Ft. Wadsworth around 7:30am, but my wave wouldn’t start until 10:40am! That’s a long time to wait! I took a lot of preparation advice from the internet to heart and came equipped with a lot of throw-away layers and other supplies, including toilet paper, newspaper, extra bottles of water, and snacks. There were booths serving coffee, bagels, water and such too. After wandering a bit I decided to conserve some calories and rested under an oak tree. I think I even took a nap.
When I finally got called to the start, I tried warming up with the Yang-Style Tai Chi form but regrettably I forgot the form about half-way through. The start area was well controlled and stocked. A lot of people were taking off their extra layers and putting them in the conveniently placed clothing donation bins. I saw one particularly clever gentleman take something OUT of the bin because he was cold.
My wave was shuffled to the starting area. The lady who sang “God Bless America” was running in the wave after me. And the person that sang for the wave before was running in this wave, which I thought was pretty neat. The starting chute was essentially lined with buses, which I also thought was pretty clever.
So, at 10:40am, my race finally began.
In New York!
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York!
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New Yooork!
-“Empire State Of Mind (Part II) Broken Down,” Alicia Keys
The race takes off immediately UP the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. I had been studying the maps and elevation profile for weeks, but you don’t really appreciate what a 200 foot incline over the course of a mile feels like until you run it. It was a challenging way to start a race but I’m glad it was the start and not the end!
There were 3 separate starting lines and they kept the sections separated so it did not feel very crowded. I felt warm very quickly removed my last throw away layers before leaving the bridge.
Once I crossed the bridge and got into Brooklyn I started to see the best part of the New York City Marathon experience: The spectators. From the moment I crossed the bridge there were people cheering at the top of their lungs, on both sides of the road, as far as the eye could see! That felt incredible. And it continued like that for miles, and miles, and miles!
There were also lots of bands and random music. I’m glad I listened to advice I read and didn’t bring an iPod. This way I was free to hear supporting cheers from the crowds and the on-course music. I especially liked small bands rocking out on the sidewalk.
I quickly started to feel very warm. I removed my arm-warmers after only 10km. In retrospect I should have removed them earlier. It turned out to be a rather warm day.
The course noticeably slowed when the different starting groups merged. At some points there was only two lanes. All it took was a couple of walkers to completely clog up the motion of the race. Between the heat, the slowdowns, and the “hilly” bridges, it looked like I wasn’t going to set any sort of personal best, but I was just really enjoying the experience.
I was really glad that I wrote my name on the front of my shirt because I probably heard “GO PAUL” hundreds of times throughout the race from strangers.
I spent a lot of the first half of the race following a couple that had “FROME” written on the back of their shirts. Their pace was prettymuch what I wanted to do for the first half.
Perhaps the only disappointing part was that there was one neighbourhood of Brooklyn that had no crowd support. It was eerily quiet. I saw a few people in Orthodox Jewish clothing and some signs were in Hebrew, but I don’t really know what the area was called.
The end of Brooklyn was marked by crossing the Pulaski bridge. I was actually already behind my time for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon two weeks before, but at least I still felt strong.
The part of the course that goes through Queens was relatively short. I remember someone saying “Welcome to Queens, home of the Mets.” The New York Mets after all were playing at home for the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. The Royals had recently defeated my hometown Toronto Blue Jays, so I wondered if I should be cheering for the enemy of my enemy. There were a few runners wearing Kansas City gear. Some people joked that they better watch themselves in Queens. At least, I hope they were joking!
Around this time I noticed that the “Alert Warning” signs at the medical stations had been upgraded from “Good” to “Moderate” probably to reflect the increased risk from the “high” heat 18ºC isn’t uncomfortable, but it’s hard on the body after 5 hours of running.
After a short jaunt through Queens the course goes over the Queensboro Bridge. This felt like a long climb. I jokingly asked a neighbouring runner if the bridge goes down eventually. He jokingly replied that it’s uphill the rest of the race. He wasn’t entirely wrong….
A lot of people were walking on the Queensboro but I tried to keep a steady pace.
Turning onto First Avenue in Manhattan was amazing. After the relative quiet of the Queensboro bridge, there were suddenly thousands of people cheering. That put a nice pep in my step.
Around the 27k mark I started getting some stomach cramps and did not feel very good. I stopped at a porta-potty and felt much better after, but lost about 6 minutes.
The crowds thinned out a bit as we headed north through Harlem, but there were still quite a few people cheering.
At the gym I train at, it’s something of a running joke for trainers and other people to shout”Hey Pauly” to me in a faux Brooklyn accent. In a funny twist of irony, I stopped briefly for a walk break in front of a fire station, and with a genuine Brooklyn accent, a NY firefighter shouted at me “Hey Pauly, quit posing!” I love NY.
By the time I reached Harlem the wheels kind of fell off my race. I was stopping to walk at each water station and my hamstrings and glutes were burning. But, I knew as long as I kept moving forward I would be getting closer and closer to the finish line.
At this point I was also following the “blue line” on the course very closely. There was something similar in London. It marks what is the shortest distance of the course.
I crossed yet ANOTHER bridge and headed into the Bronx. There was a fair assembly of people gathered to cheer and some music.
My highlight of this borough was a lady a sign was holding as we left the Bronx. The sign read “Last Damn Bridge.” A lot of people loved that sign, including me!
Final Stretch through Manhattan
I’d read a warning that the New York City Marathon course is rather hilly. I don’t know if Fifth Avenue was really hilly or perhaps I was just worn out, but it was a challenging run down towards Central Park. The crowds did not disappoint and were very, very supportive!
I was very uncomfortable for these last few miles. The crowd support was magical but I was still hurting a lot. I saw the 5 hour goal come and go. I tried to remember everyone cheering me on back home to just keep going and try not to stop.
I gave it everything I had for the last mile. The stretch between Mile 26 and the finish felt like the longest .2 miles I’ve ever run.
|2015/11/01||TCS New York City Marathon||5:07:12|
One hand in the air for the big city
Street lights, big dreams, all looking pretty
No place in the world that can compare
Put your lighters in the air, everybody say
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
-“Empire State Of Mind (Part II) Broken Down,” Alicia Keys
I was hurting when I crossed the finish line. Tears of joy though. I felt like I gave it my all, and earned this race.
The finish chute was very well organized. You get your medal, then a foil, then a pre-packed bag with food and liquids. There were A LOT of people going down in the finish chute. Fortunately there were lots of medics and even spotters to alert the medics when runners went down. I was pretty close to getting admitted myself because I was having trouble walking with my super-tight hamstrings. But I managed to waddle out of the finish chute.
I thought it was really smart to have people walk 2 miles because it gave runners the chance to cool down, stretch, and eat from the food bag, and if they did pass out medical help would be nearby. I saw a runner collapse in the subway station and fortunately there were police standing by otherwise there may have been no one there to help him/her.
I gave it all in the race. But, I didn’t think about needing enough strength to get back to my hotel. I was a little disoriented, and I got lost on the subway heading back to the hotel. But I did make it safely back, eventually. I must have looked like a sight on the train in my poncho, smelling awful, and kind of half-conscious.
I usually wear ReSkin nipple guards when I run to prevent chafing. Regrettably, they must have washed off during the race because I had awful chafing after the race. There’s some blood on my race bib to prove it! I’ll need to come up with a better solution for future races.
Overall, I didn’t make my goal time, but I don’t think this was the course to do it on. It was challenging and crowded, but an incredible experience. And, at least I beat my time from the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon which I ran in May. This felt like a hard earned victory rather than a defeat.
I <3 NY