My Instagram post (which is the only paragraph caption I think I’ll ever write) basically sums up this race to the best of my ability — “Today I ran with no plan. After the summer off and only 2 months of training my goal was to make the #tcsnycmarathon as enjoyable as possible…and to have fun! I ran by feel, determination and some personal competition. I stopped every time I felt like I needed to pee (3x) and filled my water bottle up at several stations. The weather was perfect and the experience was unbeatable! I finished strong with an official time of 3:50:26 and I feel very lucky and inspired to have been able to run with #teamCAF! *end paragraph*”
But if that’s not enough, here’s the full scoop:
The New York City Marathon is hard to describe. It’s something that should be on your bucket list one way or another (lottery, qualification or fundraising). The opportunity we had was unquantifiable. Jen and I fundraised and went as part of team CAF (Challenged Athletes Foundation).
I was nervous about the late start (10am) because I am the type of person that wakes up, shoves a bar in my mouth, and heads out to line up for a race. I didn’t know how eating and pooping (to be completely honest) would work with such a lull in time. However, the delayed start also made the race seem like a long run without all of the anxiety and anticipation that comes when you have to wake up and immediately run.
CAF partners with FDNY and subsequently NYPD, and as part of our team perks, we received SUPER VIP treatment. Race morning we were instructed to meet in front of Park Central Hotel at 6am for the special shuttles that would take us over to Staten Island. Because Jen and I registered so late, normally we would have had to take the ferry over. Luckily we didn’t have to deal with any potential seasickness and were able to travel by land. The bus left around 7am and we arrived to Staten Island around 8am. At this time we thought we would be placed in the Charity Village, however, we were dropped off at a completely separate area reserved exclusively for Team FDNY/NYPD with heated tents, food, coffee and porta-potties.
Here’s how my wake up/eating schedule went down:
5:30 eat buttermilk biscuit with strawberry peach jam and drink cup of coffee
5:50 walk over to Park Central
6:45 get on shuttle
7:00 depart for Staten Island
7:45 wake up from brief shuttle nap and eat larabar
8:00 arrive to Staten Island
8:15 drink cup of coffee
8:30 eat first half of almond butter & strawberry peach jam sandwich on a mini brioche loaf
9:10 eat second half of sandwich
The morning was warm for being New York in November. There was no wind (even compared to the day before) and I felt fine in my sexy Target throwaway sweats. I ended up wearing my race day outfit (tank, shorts and compression socks) layered with an old stained lululemon tech longsleeved top (to also be tossed), and sweatsuit, plus gloves if necessary.
Around 9:10am we left this staging area and walked towards where we would line up for our corrals. Even though my wave didn’t start until 10:15am, the wave 2 corrals opened at 9:15am and closed at 9:40am. I split up from the rest of the group as I headed towards blue start. I shed my sweatpants. Then slowly my other garments. I kept my gloves on just incase the bridge was exceptionally cold, and in that case at least my extremities would be warm and help make everything else feel ok.
The race is divided into 3 different colors — green, orange and blue. These 3 groups start in different areas, and merge together after mile 2. The difference is how the 3 groups run across the Verazzano Bridge. I was in blue and we crossed over the top. Jen was in green and ran underneath.
The first half mile I was seriously worried. My legs felt heavy and I was worried this was going to be the longest, slowest and most miserable race of my life. I was worried that, even though I tapered the week before, maybe I didn’t take it easy enough the week before (post half-marathon when I only took 1 day off from running).
After the Verazzano Bridge you enter Brooklyn from mile 2 to 12. I knew this going in and kind of just wanted to get out of Brooklyn ASAP because I knew it would take up a good portion of the race. However, the crowds were robust and I found myself scanning the sidelines in the off chance I might recognize someone (haha).
It’s hard for me to write about the rest of the race because as much as I tried to pay attention, it now all seems like a blur. The second bridge, Pulaski Bridge brought us over to Queens where you spend miles 13 to 15 (I believe).
Mile 15 to 16 is supposed to be the hardest over Queensboro Bridge because it’s an incline and no crowds are allowed on the bridge. However, I am weird and almost preferred running on the bridges, because it would knock out 1 to 2 mile sections at a time. For instance, I preferred the silence of Queensboro Bridge over First Avenue, even though First Ave was probably the most populated area next to Central Park. But I felt like it just went on and on and on into infinity.
After spending about 3.5 miles on First Ave, you cross Willis Ave Bridge into the Bronx, where you’re in and out within a mile and a half. I knew mile 21 we would enter back into Manhattan via 138th Street Bridge. We passed by one side of Central Park on Fifth Ave and my goal was to just keep moving. This drag lasted from 21 to 25 before you round the corner onto Central Park South, around Columbus Circle and back into the park.
I stopped for the bathroom at 4, 10 and 20. I also stopped for water, and at first I would just grab the cups and drink them, but it worked out better for me to stop off to the side for a couple seconds and refill my bottle. Because honestly I didn’t care about my time. I was also worried stopping in the later miles would make it hard to get going again, but I ended up feeling so much better and refreshed after every stop. My goal was to get to mile 10, to get to mile 18, and to get to mile 20. At 23 I knew just a 5k more, and at 24 I was ready to be done but knew I could make it 2 more miles. I started picking up the pace, bobbing and weaving and just flying by everyone. It felt pretty empowering and exhilarating!
I have read a good number of recaps that consider the bridges hills, but honestly, I can’t really remember any of them being “hills.” They were more like ascents followed by descents (on which I told myself to stretch my legs out). It’s not necessarily a hard course, just hard in terms of humanity and obstacles (water cups, banana peels, sticky gus, etc.) Because there were ALWAYS people. I would look ahead and think that it would come to a complete gridlock. But it also gave me chills and motivation to know that there were that many people running the race and “I CAN DO THIS TOO!”
I ran based on feel, but after running M2B significantly faster, I knew my threshold. The last two miles I really pumped it, dropping my pace down to 7:44, 7:38 and 7:23 for my last half mile. I’m glad we walked/ran the finish line area before because the finish line was kind of inconspicuous and I knew to expect that the downhill in Central Park would be followed by a subtle incline to the finish line (which I literally picked up my feet and felt like I was climbing with large strides).
After the finish line, rather than having to walk to 77th Street (where people who opted for ponchos got to exit) or 81st Street where the rest of humanity got to exit, we got to exit with team FDNY/NYPD at 69th Street. Afraid I was going to miss my exit, I asked the first policeman I encountered, and he told me I had 2 more blocks to go up, and that I still needed to get my medal. Oh yeah! That thing!
I grabbed my recovery bag and headed out. My question for everyone was “how do I get out of here?” I also walked past Marcus Samuelsson (from the Food Network) who I didn’t recognize or realize at the time besides the fact that his bib said “MARCUS” and I remembered seeing a sign during the race that said “Go Chef Marcus S” (I just assumed it was a local chef). Later, cross-checking on Instagram I confirmed it was him.
I headed towards the family reunion section “A” where I thought I was going to meet Jen’s daughter, Tyler. I was walking along with the walking dead until I got really tired of walking so slow. And being an annoying and crazy maniac I started to power walk and weave around everyone. I think this helped to keep the blood flowing in my legs… I mean I just ran 26.2 miles…I have no patience!! 😛 When I got to “A” it was around 2:11 and I projected that I would get there around 2:15. But I didn’t see Tyler and couldn’t remember if I was just supposed to meet her back at the hotel. So I kept moving and followed the crowd out of the family reunion section until I realized that it was heading back into Central Park and towards the race. Not seeing an exit that way, I found the next policeman (again, full of so many questions!!) and said “I just need to get to 54W St, how do I get out of here?” She looked at my bib and said, right this way, and let me walk through the center of Columbus Circle that was blocked off to all traffic and everyone else!!!! It was insane.
This race was FILLED with inspiration. I don’t think at any time I wasn’t surrounded by someone from a different country. There were people from Achilles running with guides which provided additional inspiration. It was a great way to experience the entire city of New York, and to see all of the boroughs, especially for my first time. It ended up making the run feel just like a long exploration of the city!
My official time was 3:50:26, but I stopped my watch every time I stopped for a bathroom, so my watch recorded 3:47:49.
All in all it was a great experience and I feel so fortunate to have been able to run the NYC Marathon!
Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (3:47:49):
1 – 8:46
2 – 8:06
3 – 8:27
4 – 8:28
5 – 8:27
6 – 8:35
7 – 8:32
8 – 8:41
9 – 8:53
10 – 8:37
11 – 8:42
12 – 8:40
13 – 8:58
14 – 8:45
15 – 8:46
16 – 9:57
17 – 8:40
18 – 8:36
19 – 8:47
20 – 8:44
21 – 8:54
22 – 8:30
23 – 8:39
24 – 8:39
25 – 7:44
26 – 7:38
Last .46 –3:23