The short version:
Dave Daze and I ran the New York City Marathon. Dave ran 3.40.46 I ran 3.17.04
The long version:
Held on the first Sunday of November the New York City Marathon is one of the world’s largest. This year they received over 100,000 applications for the 40,000 available spaces in the race. Dave Daze, myself and 954 other Canadians were lucky enough to be included. The race starts on Staten Island and travels through the five boroughs of New York ending in Central Park. An estimated 1,000,000 spectators line the course.
On the Saturday before the race they hold an International Friendship Run through the streets of Manhattan. Its free for international runners and you can register friends and family for an additional fee. Its a great event: Lots of happy groups from all over the world and you get to cross the race finish line. NOTE: This event is no longer held. It has been replaced by the NYCM 5K Dash to the Finish.
As you can imagine the logistics involved in getting 40,000 runners to the start line on time are remarkable. The race actually has three start lines which merge together at mile 8 and this year there were three waves each 20 minutes apart, starting at 9:40 am. Each runner was assigned a method and time for transportation to the start line. I was supposed to be at the New York Public Library at 5:00am in order to catch a bus to the start. We were staying in New Jersey so making it to the bus on time would have required me to leave my hotel and be on a PATH train by 4:00am. Apart from the whole lack of sleep thing, I was not too thrilled by the idea of being alone on a subway in New York at 4:00 am. Lucky for me my ever-supportive husband Harold offered to drive me to the start (It seemed like a good idea at the time).
We left our hotel at a positively leisurely 6:00 am and, by chance, picked up two German runners who were wondering around the hotel lobby. We had directions and they worked well until we got close to the actual drop off point. Just before we got there the police directed us back up onto the freeway and across the Vincent Narrows Bridge directly into Manhattan. We were approaching the toll booth surrounded by police cars with flashing lights and signs saying no runner drop off, when myself and our two German passengers leapt from the car, leaving Harold to go through the toll booth and pay $10.00 to go across the two mile bridge into Manhattan which the police were about to close so he couldn’t come back.
The Germans and I made our way through the police cars to a large gate manned by a couple of New York’s finest. It was suggested that as the cops were guys and I was the only girl I should talk our way out of this. It turned out to be unnecessary as the police were more than happy to let us through and get us off the freeway. We walked the 1 km to the runner’s village. If you have never been in one a runner’s village it’s a bit like a refugee camp for yuppies. Thousands of runners sit huddled against the cold in cardboard boxes and plastic garbage bags wearing $150.00 sneakers and lining up for hours upon hours to use the long lines of port-a-potties.
I was in the Green Start area; I know that because they announced it every five minutes in several different languages. Dave was there too, although I looked I was unable to find him among the 13,000 cold looking runners. Even though I arrived two and a half hours before my start time I almost missed getting into the correct start coral before the race start. Maybe I missed the announcement or maybe I was just tuning it out after being told 100+ times that I was in the green runners village but the first thing I heard was an announcement saying that the corals for the first wave were now closed and any runner not in them would have to wait for the second wave. I threw my clothes at a friendly UPS driver and ran off to try and talk my way out of trouble for the second time that day. Oddly enough, I saw Rick Hellard rush by at that point; apparently he did not hear the announcement either.
I talked my way into the closed corals and ended up starting a little further back than planned. Once you get into the corals you stand around and shuffle forward towards the start line. I was three corals back from the start and although I was able to hear the cannon sound for the start (they really do use a cannon in New York), it took a full minute to cross the start line.
The race starts with a two mile crossing of the Vincent Narrows Bridge (the same one Harold had ended up on earlier but as I did not see him trapped on it I assume he got off safely). It then continues through Brooklyn for almost 10 miles, crosses another bridge into Queens, crosses yet another bridge into the Manhattan, crosses bridge number four into the Bronx and finally crosses back into Manhattan above Central Park.
There are spectators along most of the course except the bridges where they are not allowed (the exception is a lone bagpiper who plays on one of the bridges). In some areas the crowds are very thick and very loud. There are over 100 bands along the course everything from cheerleaders and high school bands to rap groups and rock bands. The course is basically flat with the biggest hills going up and over the many bridges. It was a cool day without rain, basically ideal running weather. The course is also well serviced with water stations, port-a-potties and first aid stations at every mile on both sides of the road.
I went to New York with no real expectations. I knew I was in good shape but my focus for this year was the Iron Distance Triathlon on the September long weekend. I wasn’t sure what I had left. It’s also tough to avoid doing too much walking around when you are tempted my all the sights and sounds of a city like New York. I knew the course would be marked in miles not kilometres and although I can do quite well tracking my progress in km, switching to miles involved too much math so I got two pace bands at the expo one for 3:30 and one for 3:20. In the start village I decided to use the 3:30 one.
Although I was still cold when I started running I felt pretty good. By mile 3 I had tossed gloves, a disposable raincoat, a hat and a set of arm warmers into the crowd. I was not the only one the first three miles of the race were littered with clothes (a couple of nice pairs of gloves too –almost worth going back for). I overheard a little girl ask her father why the runners were throwing clothes at people.
The first half of the race was basically uneventful and I found myself on track for a sub 3:20 at 13.1. The running gods must have been on my side because I held the pace and ran 3:17.04 a PB and a great way to finish the year.
The last unique thing about the New York City Marathon is the long walk from the finish to the area where you can actually meet your friends and family. After finishing the race we had to walk 1.5 km to get out of the finish area. Harold and I had arranged to meet at a subway station a little further away so by the time I got to him I had walked 3 km from the finish!