26.2 mi. Race Day!The corrals were organized and not overcrowded, I saw plenty of bathrooms and places to eat and drink. This is NOT what I had pictured for the world’s largest marathon start. I’ve driven over the
The corrals were organized and not overcrowded, I saw plenty of bathrooms and places to eat and drink. This is NOT what I had pictured for the world’s largest marathon start. I’ve driven over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge many times, I imagined the area in front of the toll plaza to be filled with people sitting around wrapped in blankets. Most of the setup and corrals were below the roadway level at Ft Wadsworth, off the Staten Island Expressway. I saw Dunkin Donuts hats everywhere on runner’s heads as we pulled into the bus parking zone. I had to get one of those! Knowing we had a special tent in the JDRF Charity Village, we could stay warm, use clean bathrooms and not be in a terrific rush like most people. I kept my phone off as much as possible, knowing how hard it would search for a signal in the crowded area. I wanted the power to work once I was finished!
Charlotte and I went into her corral #12, easily done and we had ample space to ourselves. A short wait of 20-30 minutes before we were up walking to the start area. I’d say we were standing and waiting 70 yards from the start line. Buses neatly lined in a row kept the waves apart, the bib colors denoting who starts on the top level and who starts on the bottom of the bridge. A few speeches from Mary Wittenberg, Mayor Bloomberg, then some guy not named “berg” and the wheelchair folks were off. Next were the elite women, then elite men. It was breezy, but we were shielded from most of the wind from the people around us. I thought that might be the case for most of the run north. (Nope!) The start cannons are very loud, and since we were so close, the sound hits like a punch to the throat. Think front row seats at a concert. We don’t take long to get up to a pace that’s around 9 min miles, with others from the corral passing us on both sides. The view from the upper level of the bridge is really impressive.
The city, Freedom Tower, the skyline, you get to see all of it at a slow pace. I’m used to driving over the bridge and sneaking a look. This is way better! I look at the road where it meets the divider and median, and I think, “How do people on the lower level get peed on? There are no holes for drainage here?” We kept pace in a windy crossing of the bridge, watching the other corrals and bib colors fan out onto many different roads at the base of the bridge. It was very odd to see the NYPD helicopter hovering next to the bridge at eye level – security was well taken care of for the event.
We come down the gradual hill off the bridge and there are people streaming into Brooklyn from many different roads. Soon we’re on the BQE, some bib colors go directly on the surface streets, other packs of runners are below us on exit ramps, it’s a labyrinth of roads and runners! Our first turn is a left, off onto Brooklyn’s streets. We hide behind some buildings as we head west, but not for long. We find the beginning of 4th Ave and start running north. The wind is head-on and chilly. Charlotte’s hat is starting to be a problem, it is one of those small “fair weather” models that is guaranteed to be an issue on windy days. She fixes some of that and we make sure we have gloves on because the road ahead is surprisingly open. There are many runners, but the Wave #1 start allows for you to keep your pace as in any smaller race – I’m not weaving in and out of others. We notice many police and race officials early in the course. Every street crossing has police. Counter Terrorism units are on the median that still separates us from another different group of runners. There are many good musical distractions – bands and DJs with enthusiastic crowds. Lining the streets I see hundreds of people on each block, waving flags, high-fiving runners and yelling for their friends and family.
This is like the finish stretch of Boston or Chicago, but I’m only at mile 3! We hit the first very long hydration stop, tables lining the road with Gatorade endurance formula and water. Charlotte and I start implementing our eat and drink plans. The sky is overcast, an occasional peek of the sun, but mostly clouds. We are running into the wind. This keeps cold in our minds, fingers and arms. I was supposed to toss the green “Roswell Girls Lacrosse” hoodie at the start. We talk about when we will strip down into our real running gear – that doesn’t seem as if it’s happening soon. Charlotte is already ahead of me clothes-wise, her legs are exposed vs. me with my North Face tights. No way am I parting with this hoodie as long as it’s this windy, directly in our faces! My UnderArmour
We hit the first very long hydration stop, tables lining the road with Gatorade endurance formula and water. Charlotte and I start implementing our eat and drink plans. The sky is overcast, an occasional peek of the sun, but mostly clouds. We are running into the wind. This keeps cold in our minds, fingers and arms. I was supposed to toss the green “Roswell Girls Lacrosse” hoodie at the start. We talk about when we will strip down into our real running gear – that doesn’t seem as if it’s happening soon. Charlotte is already ahead of me clothes-wise, her legs are exposed vs. me with my North Face tights. No way am I parting with this hoodie as long as it’s this windy, directly in our faces! My UnderArmour long sleeved top is generating sweat now. Think I want to feed that sweaty top to the breezy headwind? Uh, no. Charlotte keeps her sweatshirt, too. I thought I’ll keep mine slightly longer than I needed to, maybe mile 6, 10k, that would be good enough. Charlotte adjusts her gloves and takes the hand warmer things as inserts. If we had just the 46 deg temperatures, ok, that would be good for running. This northerly wind is chilling us. We make good on-pace progress up very long 4th Ave. A few mild turns but we are heading north for awhile into the wind. If we need a restroom, there are porta-potties at every water stop, now only 1 mile apart. We talk about shedding the top layer of clothes, but still we vote no. I roll the hoodie sleeves up to feel the chill of
We make good on-pace progress up very long 4th Ave. A few mild turns but we are heading north for awhile into the wind. If we need a restroom, there are porta-potties at every water stop, now only 1 mile apart. We talk about shedding the top layer of clothes, but still we vote “no.” I roll the hoodie sleeves up to feel the chill of wind against my damp UnderArmour long sleeve shirt. No way I can take that off yet, I will freeze! We stay at or slightly above the 4hr pace leading to mile 8. This is where we think we will see Charlotte’s family, on the left side of the road. It’s neat to have something to look forward to like that on a long run. There are so many people, we discuss how we may find them. Charlotte says her mom has a Publix sign that opens and closes, and that her dad and sisters should be able to pick us out. We arrange ourselves to be on the left side of the road. Crowds are getting even thicker now, we are running right at the Williamsburg Bank Building. A big right turn now has us in a shaded area, it looks very much like parts of Chicago Marathon’s course near Wrigleyville! We are very aware of the crowd and searching for the family. No sightings. Did we miss them? Wrong side of the road? Because we are running still in our warmup clothes, did they miss us? We’ll find out in less than 3 hours… We ran through Williamsburg, the Hasidic section. I overheard a guy behind me say, “Look at the Amish people!” One strange site was a building with two large
We ran through Williamsburg, the Hasidic section. I overheard a guy behind me say, “Look at the Amish people!” One strange site was a building with two large violins on the fascia and a big sign with Hebrew letters. I call it the Hebrew Rock Cafe, and truly that’s what it looked like! Many other runners saw it and spoke of it, but we didn’t know what it was. Great music still at every mile, I am very drawn to all the crowds, smiling kids, people cheering. A guy ahead of me with his name (Dave) on his shirt gets cheers, he is wearing earbuds so he doesn’t acknowledge them. I hear the screams and cheers for “Dave” and happily wave to the people. I have no name on my clothes, I don’t think too long as to how they know it’s me. I suck it all in and keep waving back!
Half way to Central Park’s finish line is a bridge that separates Brooklyn from Queens. I thought we were running on the BQE Kosciuszko Bridge. Wrong. There’s a much more manageable local bridge that crosses the Newton Creek that we run. This is a spot where prizes are given out for the first man and woman reaching halfway. Or they used to do that! We stopped at mile 12.5 for a restroom break – it was quick, less than 60 seconds. Then up this hill which was completely exposed to the wind. We were slower here due to the winds and the cold it brought. Now into Queens, it’s not a long run on some surface streets, under the Long Island Expressway and towards Queens Blvd. I keep thinking if I look right on Rte 25 I’ll see the White Castle I used to go to outside the city. Now there are a few of them in Manhattan! We make the big left turn onto Queens Blvd/59th St and climb up to the lower level of the Queensboro Bridge. It’s very quiet under the main roadway, we run a bit slower and we don’t get the sideways blast of
Now into Queens, it’s not a long run on some surface streets, under the Long Island Expressway and towards Queens Blvd. I keep thinking if I look right on Rte 25 I’ll see the White Castle I used to go to outside the city. Now there are a few of them in Manhattan! We make the big left turn onto Queens Blvd/59th St and climb up to the lower level of the Queensboro Bridge. It’s very quiet under the main roadway, we run a bit slower and we don’t get the sideways blast of wind I think we’d get. It’s not too cold up there, and the view of the UN building and Manhattan’s East side is cool! Runners stop to work out cramps, they stretch or just walk a bit – rather than hit the hill with a purpose. I am waiting for the big crowds on 1st Ave. I’ve heard so much about it, this should be good. The descent from the bridge is rapid, including a swirl around left turn – like a spiral staircase. We come out onto the Manhattan streets and… it’s not crazy noisy? Where is the “roar” I was told I’d hear? There are many people, just lining the streets and not really cheering as one. Maybe they get it going for the leaders and then an hour later they just watch us go by? Debunked – I was ready for stadium-like noise but didn’t get near that. We keep on the water, gel and salt pill plan and know that somewhere in the 90s we have a chance at seeing the family again, if they were able to make the switch from Brooklyn to Manhattan. This time, we get it right!
This time, we get it right! Left side, eyes open, we are easily seen by Charlotte’s sisters and we spot them from 50 yards out on the side.
We say “Hi” and greet everyone, it is amazing to see people you know in such a terrific crowd.
It’s also thought provoking that they’ve gotten up early, bopped around the city, dealt with the crowds and the cold, just to see us for a few minutes. Thanks, guys!
We are back on pace and heading, yes, north – still into the wind. The sun is out but at this point, I don’t need to drop my sweatshirt, I could finish with it, we are an hour away from the end. I will take it off before we finish so I can look like a runner with a bib for whatever pictures are taken near the end.
1st Avenue has mild rising and dipping hills. They take a mile to go up, a mile to run down. Sometimes the only way you know you’re on a hill is to look at the base of the buildings as they meet the sidewalk. We have good crowd support through upper Manhattan, Harlem and towards Bronx. I can see the Manhattan Island getting skinnier, I can look right across the East River into the Bronx over the bridges on my right. Our path across the river is straight ahead. It’s a hill, we see videographers perched up high and driving next to us in slow cars and motorcycles. I imagine they are doing footage for the folks that have paid to get a DVD of themselves through the entire race. We come down the hill of the bridge into the Bronx and what a surprise – people are energized and enthusiastic. It’s like we are the first runners they’ve seen! LOUD music blares from a big sound system as we turn a corner, classic rock ends and the theme from Rocky plays. Cheerleaders, fans and people on fire escapes yell enthusiastically for the stream of runners in their neighborhood. I wasn’t expecting this so late on the course! Good bands and more cheers made this a really good surprise for both of us. Charlotte’s hands are still cold, now she’s wearing one of her gloves, one of mine and the insert warmers. At a water stop, one of her gloves fell into a puddle. This explains her “fashionable fingerwear” in any pictures taken after mile 18. It’s only two miles or less in the Bronx, then we are on another bridge back to Manhattan. we are running another long straightaway, but this time heading south. There’s another
It’s only two miles or less in the Bronx, then we are on another bridge back to Manhattan. we are running another long straightaway, but this time heading south. There’s another Aasics runner message board – these were fun to see. If you thought it out, runners and fans could leave text messages and videos cheering on their friends. Leave a message associated by bib number and that message appears when your runner crosses a chip mat placed before the message board. We see a message that read, “Go Fatso, meet us for a beer, what is this your 8 millionth marathon?” A few meters past the electronic sign, we run past a guy with “Fatso” on his shirt!
We check each other’s pace and talk about when we’d take the plunge and jettison the extra clothes we kept so very long into the race. I finally toss my beautiful green girl’s hoodie onto a police barrier and for the first time today, I look like a runner! A bib for photos near the finish line, color coordinated clothes, a singlet, this is what I thought I’d look like the whole race. Charlotte does the same and takes her sweatshirt off at mile 22. We are running right in the middle of the road and passing more and more people who went out too fast and are now in trouble. Our eating and drinking follows a good plan, we talk to each other at each stop – reaffirming what each of us is doing. “I’m grabbing a water and eating a salt pill,” I say. Charlotte goes to a water stop on the other side of the street, and it takes us 400m to get together again. I am looking left and right, but I almost miss her once because her outfit has changed. It has been a good day of reconnecting with each other. We see and comment on a bunch of people and things along the course. Laughs? YES! It was great to be running down the street with her again!
We are aware that we have another chance to see her family in the 90s near Central Park once more before the finish. We are running in the middle of the road, passing people who stop to cramp or walk through their final miles. Charlotte was a small bit behind me as we came up on the MoMA and big right turn into Central Park. I didn’t see her sisters on the barriers, but she did. Maybe they didn’t think to equate me with black and yellow run gear after they’d just seen me in green? Charlotte is out of my view for a few seconds, then as I turn into the park, she waves and we regroup. She explains she got to see her family again, which is great! Now we are in the park for the rest of the race, there are probably less than 3 miles to go. I know I’ve heard about hills here, especially at mile 24 so I’m ready. We curve and follow roads and paved paths all leading south. I see trees and fall leaves, feel the breeze from behind us and catch the sun breaking through every so often. It is a neat sensation. Mile 24 comes, no big hill yet. I’m watching for it, now other runners that already have medals are around the barricades cheering for us, too. I roll up small grade changes, but I don’t think that there are the hills people speak of. We are among many runners, the park’s path being thinner than the avenues, it’s just more congested. Not a worry though, it’s clear run lines ahead, only those that can’t keep their pace or decide to walk in front of you need attention. I get to a curve and a water stand – ahead I see Mile 25. No hills that I’d call imposing have come. Did I do it already and not notice?
Charlotte is running stronger now, we are right next to each other striding together. A few avoidance moves to get around others or curbs in the roadway for horse carriages, but we are on a good pace. I see my watch displaying our pace and time, easy math says we will cross the finish just after 4 hours. It is cold out and I wonder to myself what I’ll feel like once I stop running and don’t have my sweatshirt. They better have those space blankets ready! We encounter a blind guided runner, two pacers tethered to him take up the horse lane, so we zip over the mini-median in the center of the road and pass them on the left. Now we see the end of the park, bigger crowds and the Plaza Hotel. We are coming to the right turn that puts us on 59th Street, where our day began in the bus line. It’s not long of a run on this section – Charlotte is in the middle of 59th, I’m on the left side slapping hands with kids and anyone who wanted some interaction with a runner. People cheer as we approach the 26 mile marker, the crowds are big again. I didn’t know we had to run all the way to Columbus Circle, we do and reach a big set of bleachers on the right side. They are filled with cheering fans and people dressed warmly waving flags. We turn for the last time, right back into the park. There are signs denoting every possible distance left – 400m, 300m 200m, 100m, 50m and now we see the finish line. It’s three chutes and we line up towards the most open on the right side. I make sure we are next to each other for the marathon photo pictures. You never know if they’re going to look good, but I can make sure we are at least in them together! Big cheers as we approach and we are through the finish line. We slow quickly because there are many people lined up for marathon finisher pictures, water and the space blankets. It’s breezy and the sun has left us.
We really don’t think we can find anyone from Charlotte’s family until we are out of the park. Wisely, we did NOT opt to bag anything, so our line to get out of the finisher area is faster. I’m getting cold, we receive a food bag and get the space blankets. Both of us make sure we have ours taped on, the wind is sending chills through many of those standing around post race. Now it’s a zombie walk down paths towards the streets on the west side. We are directed to a barricaded row along Central Park West that puts us in line for — bright orange fleece-lined ponchos. What a great score! Labeled as “gifts” for not using the bag check, this amazing poncho will save me from the chill and wind now that we’ve stopped running. I am glad I won’t have to rely on the silver sandwich bag liner I’ve been wearing for the last 20 minutes of walking through the park. A few slow plods down 8th Ave and we find Charlotte’s mom Gaylen, sent by the rest of the group to meet us and bring us to Opal for the afterparty. There are orange ponchos everywhere, and this sight continues late into the evening throughout the city streets. My legs feel ok, but I’m walking slower than Charlotte and her mom who are in search of a taxi. Sun in, sun out, we meet with Charlotte’s dad and finally zip eastbound in a warm car Gaylen hailed west of Lincoln Center. We wore the ponchos the whole time in the bar – I realized only a hot shower could get the chill out of me. Wisely, I feed it cold beer (??) at Opal among friends and the Central Park Track Club’s private party. A terrific ending to a memorable day! -dm