Friday & Saturday
I had arrived in NYC on Friday to have time to get my bib and adjust to the 6 hour time difference. Excited !
On Saturday we did a bus tour which followed the full marathon route. Although it lasted over 4 hours due to traffic, it was extremely insightful and helped me mentally prepare. With my husband we avoided walking around too much and had a nice, early dinner with my brother, SIL and her family. I loved the pre-race atmosphere, seeing all the runners, the expo, and the general energy in the city.
November 6th. The date I had looked forward to for 8 months, was finally here.
Sunday morning, I was easily up at 5:30, ate and got ready. I had been hemming & hawing for a week over what to wear. I wanted to choose clothes that I knew I felt good in and would give me a confidence boost. On all my long distances I have been wearing compression socks, which don’t work well with long pants. The weather was announced to be sunny but it is still the beginning of November in NY, and I get cold easily. So many decisions ! so I decided on shorts and a tank with 2 additional layers, ones I could throw away into the donation bin at the beginning of the race.
The race starts on Staten Island, and the marathon organization proposes several options to get there, primarily by the Staten Island Ferry or by a bus which leaves from the Public library mid town Manhattan. I had chosen this option and by complete luck our hotel was about a 10 minute walk. Leaving the hotel I was immediately pleased with my choice of clothes, I felt it was quite warm for 6:45 a.m.
I walked to the library and was a bit nervous by the huge line. However, it moved quickly and I was on the bus and on my way by 7:15.
The trip to Staten Island took less than an hour, considering the streets were empty. Upon arriving there were hordes of buses and people. I had to go through security with a metal detector & bag search, but it went quickly, despite the number of people.
It was about 8:30 and once in the pre race area, there were still hordes of people but everything was very well marked and not too crowded.
We had all be assigned a color and a coral letter. There was a specific waiting area for each color with available coffee, bagels, bananas, power bars, water and a ton of porta potties. So I had some coffee, walked around enjoying the atmosphere, people watched, eventually found a place to sit, and used the potties several times.
And so I waited. About 2 hours. I was in the direct sunlight so it was very comfortable. I was still nervous though about being cold, and couldn’t figure out whether to keep one of my long sleeve shirts. I kept it, thinking I would give it to my husband in Brooklyn. There were many foreigners so I spoke to a few French people. I didn’t mind the wait, but had the weather been poor it would not have been fun.
There were announcements continually about how much time you had left to bag drop, or to get to your coral, or what to do if you missed your coral. I used the potty again at 10:30 then I slowly made my way to my coral, which was set to go off at 11.
I waited 20 minutes before they opened it, then it took us about 10 minutes to wait / walk to the starting line. At the last minute I decided to keep one of my long sleeve tshirts and leave the other.
Again, I chatted with some French people who were impressed with the American organization. Everything was working like clockwork. The race started perfectly on time. There were a few announcements, canon fire, the “New York New York” starts playing and we are off.
Mile 1 – 2 : The warm up
The race starts on the Verrazano Narrows bridge which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn. You either run across the top or on the lower level. You don’t actually start ON the bridge, but right before. I had read up quite a bit on race strategy and the first mile is pretty much up hill so I started off slowly. Didn’t stick to any run/walk interval, just ran slowly, making sure to walk once in a while.
(Pace : 12:14, 10:53)
Mile 3-8 : Perfect pacing
Coming off the bridge, you are in Brooklyn and there are already lots of crowds. Depending on your coral color, there are 3 different routes at the beginning of the race and they eventually all come together around mile 3. The streets were quite wide from mile 4 to 8 so I didn’t have to weave. I was planning on meeting my husband in Brooklyn as he had some food for me, but I had no idea where to find him. It was sunny and mid day, so I also thought about giving him my long sleeve shirt. I checked my phone and he said he was after mile 8, on the right after the water station. I had about 4 more miles to go before I would see him. Crowd support was great and I started to worry that I wouldn’t see my family. I only had GU with me, and I knew I would need something else, they had my pretzels, a cliff bar and apricots. I continued and found my family who had a big French flag.
I had some food and was off.
(Pace: 10:39, 10:38, 10:28, 10:31, 10:38, 10:31)
My times until mile 9 were perfectly in line with my plan. I was doing a 3 minute / 55 second run /walk and all of my miles were within 11 seconds of each other. I had to keep it under 10:52 if I wanted to finish in 4:45.
Mile 9 to 13 : Mentally challenging
Once I left my family, the route continues north through Brooklyn. While there were fewer spectators, crowd support was still amazing. I loved reading all of the signs… many referencing the election.
“If Trump gets elected, just keep on running to Canada”
“If Trump can run, so can you”
“This race is nothing if you survived the Presidential race….”
This kept me entertained.
Around mile 10 I started to struggle mentally. Even if the course was quite flat (small incline ?), I was having a hard time hitting my paces. I KNOW these miles are always the most challenging for me. I start finding the time long, wondering why I did this, hoping I can hang on for another 10+ miles. I knew if I could just get to 14 or 15 miles, then I would be OK. So I kept on trucking.
(Pace: 12:09, 11:15, 11:13, 11:20, 11:26)
Mile 13 to 15 : Two bridges !
The race goes over the Polaski bridge linking Brooklyn to Queens, before going over the Queensboro 1.5 miles after. As I usually get a second wind around mile 15, I focused on getting to the Queensboro and knowing I had completed more than half the race. I knew my paces were suffering a bit, but I had been chasing the 4:45 minute pacer for a while, so I knew I wasn’t too far off.
On the Queensboro (mile 15) there are no spectators so it is just you & the other runners. The quiet is a nice reprieve. The first half of it is uphill and most people were walking it. Some runners had stopped to take pictures but I didn’t dare, as I knew it would affect my time. So I just kept on running. As soon as you start the incline down you can hear the crowds in Manhattan. To keep me focused, I was thinking ahead to where my husband was meeting me next…somewhere on 1st avenue but I had no idea where. I found arriving on First avenue almost overwhelming because there are so many people and the avenue is so wide. Very impressive.
I was still aiming at 4:45 and even though I knew I was behind a bit, I wanted to keep my time under 5 hours. I hadn’t stopped once and arriving on First Avenue is the only time I stopped to take a picture. Luckily !
(Pace: 11:16, 11:54, 11:51)
Mile 16 to 18 : First avenue
Luckily I decided to take a photo and looked at my phone because my husband told me where he was waiting, which was about 1 minute away. If I hadn’t taken the picture, I wouldn’t have seen him. Phew. Refueling. Encouragement from my family & I am off. There were many runners, lots going slow, and I found myself weaving. My right groin was a bit tight, but besides that, no other pain. I was loving my podiatrist and the orthodics he had recently made.
Although I had been faithfully doing my run / walk intervals I could not get any speed into my step. It was also a bit chilly because the sun was getting lower. The Queensboro had been windy, and I was grateful that I had kept one of my long sleeve ts.
(Pace: 11:35, 11:06, 11:48)
Mile 19 to 21 : into then out of the Bronx.
Mile 19 took me over the Willis Ave bridge into the Bronx. I loved this part, the atmosphere was very different than the other boroughs. Runners were stopped, lined up on the right, getting their legs massaged. What a great idea. There was a lot of music too. I was trying to decide when I would just start running and stop doing my run/walk.
(Pace: 11:48, 11:39, 11:30)
Miles 21 to 24 : Harlem & 5th Avenue.
I kept looking for my family on 5th, as this was the 3rd RDV spot we had set. I didn’t see them, so I just focused on forging ahead. By this time I had 5 miles left. I started to ignore my run /walk intervals and did my best to only run. I kept my mind focused on finishing in under 5 hours. So while my times do not reflect running (faster), I ran for 90% of this portion. I was amazed that I had no major pains nor cramping. Besides my groin which was bothering me a little, my right knee did not hurt one bit.
(Pace: 11:30, 12:01, 11:50, 11:33)
Mile 24 to 26.2 : Through Central park
This was my favorite part of the race. It was also the toughest mentally. I hadn’t seen my family again on 5th avenue so I was hoping they would be somewhere along this home stretch. I also wanted to finish in under 5 hours but my legs just wouldn’t go any faster.
I finally saw my husband waving the French flag. They were yelling at me to run faster, that I could finish in under 5 hours. So I did. I sprinted (if that is at possible after running 25 miles) as fast as I could. I kept saying to myself “I can do hard things”. I had read somewhere that having a mantra when you get into Central Park will get you through this tough end. So I just kept repeating it and ran as fast as I could. Then I realized a marathon is not 26 miles, but 26.2 miles. Ugh. Keep on running. .2miles is a long way.
But I did it. Ran as fast as I could. 4 hours, 55 minutes and 41 seconds. I finished the NY Marathon.
Immediately got my medal. Got a blanket. Then walked for at least 15 minutes (more like hobbled) to get my fleece lined poncho. I was so happy that they give it to you AND put it on you and button it for you. By this time is was getting quite dark and cold as the sun had gone down. It took me about 45 minutes to exit the area & find my husband.
I was very pleased with my time and am 100% convinced that all the moral support sent my way through facebook, email, Instagram, calls & texts made such a huge difference. With so many people routing for me, I pushed myself as hard as I could.
What I liked :
- The atmosphere in NYC before and after the race. This was almost as much fun as the race itself. Runners runners everywhere.
- Water at every mile makes a huge difference. I didn’t have to carry a handheld water bottle and I could fit the water stations into my walk portion of my intervals. This made a huge difference.
- The volunteers. Not only the sheer number but they were so kind and helpful.
- The organization (information, timing) was amazing. Everything worked like clockwork.
- Crowd support
- The medal is of amazing quality.
- The tracking app worked great and my family could track me with my projected finish time. At some point it was projecting that I finish in 5 hours and 14 minutes. Not sure why, but that explains why my brother yelled AT me when I ran by in Central Park.
- The weather was perfect
My favorite parts of the race :
- The first mile on the Verrazano Narrows bridge
- Running through Brooklyn
- Coming off the Queensboro onto First Ave in Manhattan
- Going through the Bronx
- Finishing the last 2 miles in Central park
Hardest parts :
- The bridges. They all go up then down, so there are quite a few inclines.
- Food / fueling. You need to carry what you need to get you through the race, and with an early breakfast, then having something to eat while waiting before the race, made things a bit tricky because you are running through lunch hour.
- Leaving 4 hours before the race starts
- The time it took after the finish to get out & find family
In a nutshell ?
I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to run this race. I am also thankful that the weather was absolutely perfect. It would have been miserable if it had been cold, windy & rainy. I am very very pleased with my performance. 4:55:41 means a 15 minute PR compared to Paris, and this course was definitely harder. I proved to myself that I can do hard things !
Thanks again for all your support !