Warning: Picture heavy on this one.
Potty-gate was over, and we could finally run the race we’d been planning on for months and months. It was hard to believe we were running this huge, beautiful bridge from Staten Island over to Brooklyn. The bridge was pretty quiet, just hearing the sound of running shoes hitting the pavement. So many were stopped to take selfies on the bridge. We weren’t ready to do that yet, as we had a LONG way to go. Mile 1 ticked by and as always, I said, “Hey, only 25 more to go!”. I’m so funny.
The bridge wasn’t that difficult, although it’s nearly a mile on incline and a mile on decline. I’d done incline work on the treadmill thankfully, and I really wish I would have added it to Andy’s training plan. Oops. When we were near the end of the two-mile bridge, we heard the cannon from wave 4 go off, and I knew some of my friends were running the bridge with us.
When we entered Brooklyn, the crowds started. That’s the one thing I was told over and over, there were millions of spectators spread throughout the entire course. It’s crazy to imagine these people were stand for hours cheering on people they didn’t know, but that’s what happens.
The best way I can describe the race is this. There’s miles and miles of runners. Thousands of runners spread out, with miles and miles and miles of spectators, holding signs, ringing bells, banging on pans, blowing obnoxious horns, and cheering. For miles. And miles. The sign I was waiting for was at mile 3.5. “You’re almost there!”. Haha. This is a classic. I really wish I would’ve taken pictures of these signs, but I had my phone in a flip belt sort of thing and since I’d had it out for most of the bridge, I didn’t want to keep getting it out. I should have though.
I’ve run a lot of marathons, including Boston, and I’ve never seen anyone bang on a pan with a spoon while blowing a whistle. It was just funny. I found myself smiling a lot, knowing this was most likely a once in a lifetime experience. I wanted to soak it in. The pan banging made me giggle, not knowing I’d see at least three of them. One was using a whisk on her pan. Whatever works, right?
I looked at the homes, the businesses, the tree lined streets. It was crazy to think it was a regular street in a regular city in the middle of New York City. What was it like to live there? What would it be like to grow up in such a large city? If I didn’t say it before, New York City is one of the most diverse places I’ve ever been. I think we heard more non-English than English, which was cool. Where were these people from, did they live there, what did they do for a living, were they visiting? It’s just interesting. Unique. I loved it.
Because Andy and I were relatively dehydrated going into the race, we stopped at all but one aid station, which were approximately every mile, except for the first few miles on the bridge. We walked through them, and the further we got into the race, the more cup pileage I noticed. Like I’ve said before, I’ve run in big races, but this one was about 20,000 runners BIGGER than the biggest one I’ve done before. The water/Gatorade cups pile up. And pile up and pile up. The streets get sticky, and after the bananas are handed out, they get slick. It made me think of some cartoon with an elephant slipping all over the banana peels. So we were extra careful with the banana peels.
You run through Brooklyn for many, many miles. Bands are spread out, lots of garage band type groups playing good music, and a few notable percussion groups were throughout the marathon. I saw a banana playing some sort of recorder/flute thing (I don’t think I’ll ever see that again), a lady running the marathon barefoot and with a grass skirt, trying to raise awareness for the environment. I saw tons of people running for charity, and I was specifically looking for my coach, who was guiding another sight-impaired friend. They were wearing neon yellow shirts, so I figured I would find them eventually. I saw many “Touch Here For Power” signs, and I touched many of them for power. I saw a few more banana people, I saw people running find their people in the crowds, running to them with huge smiles, I saw gorgeous brownstone townhouses on tree lined streets. Is that where the Cosby Show was set? We couldn’t remember.
The volunteers. The police presence. UNBELIEVABLE. AMAZING. Pretty indescribable to me. City dump trucks and salt trucks to protect main intersections. Police EVERYWHERE. Aid stations with plenty of people handing us our water or Gatorade, getting totally soaked in the process. They handed out Gu, bananas, Vaseline, and spectators handed out oranges and potato chips, among other things. If I remember right, some had beer (hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere) or mimosas (it’s basically a smoothie).
There were so many runners, we were separated onto different courses from the beginning until mile 8, where we all merged onto one course. I figured the course would eventually thin out some. Wrong. Andy and I didn’t always run side by side, but I never lost him. I had no idea how many Clemson fans are in New York City. Until Andy took his top shirt off to expose his orange shirt with white Clemson paw. I swear, I heard no less than ten million “Go Tigers!”, “Clemson!” and a few “Hey Clemson, Roll Tide” and one “Clemson, Go Dawgs”. I always knew he was near because I constantly heard someone yelling at him.
Little kids were lined up to high-five us. Several signs said “GO RANDOM STRANGER!”. The people you see along the way and the people running alongside you. Everyone is so different, yet we were all united on that day to celebrate the human spirit. If you’ve never spectated a marathon, you really should. Even better, run one.
Brooklyn seemed to go on forever. And ever. Around mile 13-14, we crossed a bridge into Queens. For some reason, I thought Long Island was a borough, so I was so confused as to where that long island was. It was QUEENS. And I thought about “The King of Queens”, knowing we wouldn’t see Kevin James on the course but secretly hoping we would. It was basically the same as Brooklyn, and just as cool.
Somewhere along there a guy was by himself on the sidelines blowing this horrendous whistle horn thing. It was one of the most annoying sounds I’ve ever heard, which explains why he was by himself on the sidelines. That was one of the very few times the race course didn’t have many spectators.
Then came the bridge that no one talks about. The Queensboro Bridge. This sucker is a beautiful, old, STEEP bridge spanning about 1.4 miles, starting at around mile 15. It’s a double decker bridge, and the runners were on the bottom deck. We had a gorgeous view of Manhattan. Lots of people were walking, but I felt like I needed to run, for training. I was slow, but I kept going. The course was still really crowded, so you could see people going up and up and up and up and up. The bridges in the NYC Marathon ain’t no joke. I pulled over to the right so I could get a picture of Manhattan.
Then we started going down. I was REALLY glad we didn’t go up this part of the bridge because it was a steep decline. I found Andy, we got to the bottom and ran about 3.5 miles north through Manhattan, parallel to Central Park. I didn’t realize we ran that long in Manhattan at this point, so I looked for the next bridge far too long. At this point, I did not want the race to end but I couldn’t wait for it to be over, if that makes any sense. My legs were starting to feel the burn from the miles of walking the prior two days, and my knees were sore.
I’m not sure when we saw the dead rat along the course, but several other people saw it too. All I could think about for a while was how the thing was dead in the road. Did one of the Kenyans run over it with their fast feet? Did a car run over it over night? Why wasn’t it flatter like the bananas? It made no sense to me, but it entertained me for a while. Thanks, Rat.
Andy saw an inflatable unicorn holding a sign that said “Motherf***ing Marathoners!”. I REALLY wish I would’ve seen that. Next up, the bridge to The Bronx. Lo and behold, there was Coach Maleia and Diane. I knew I would find them among the thousands of people! We chatted a bit and then went on our way.
Bronx wasn’t anything spectacular, but we wound around the streets to get our miles in. The last bridge was around mile 21. Several people were holding signs and yelling at us, “THE LAST DAMN BRIDGE”. Perfect. It made me laugh and it was nice to know THIS was it for the incline. Sort of. The best part was the bridge was small and mostly a slight decline.
We were finally at our last destination…Manhattan! We ran down 5th Avenue about 3 miles. It was NUTS. It was gorgeous. It was full of runners. It was full of spectators. It seemed the streets got more and more crowded, louder and louder, and it was great to have that energy to use since the “low fuel” light came on for our gas tanks, haha.
About half way down Central Park, we entered the park. Did you know that Central Park is hilly? Did you know The Met, as in The Metropolitan Museum, spanning several blocks, is on 5th Avenue and backs up into the park? Found out both of them that day. I knew from watching Shalane win this exact race a few years ago that the park has hills, but, fun fact, you can’t really detect hills adequately on a tv screen. It was hilly. And crazy full. Many times, we had to stop due to the congested streets. But the energy. You cannot beat the energy of this part of the race! Then I heard my name. WHAT???? My rock star friend Pam saw me from the sidelines!
Now THAT was crazy, but not as crazy as the last mile. I know at some point, Andy and I were walking, and I said, “Come on, let’s go”, which made him mad because his feet were about to fall off, but all I could think about is finishing the damn thing. As great as the experience was, I wanted to stop. I was ready for it to be over. After a few more ups and downs, we crossed the finish line. We did it.
FINISH TIME: 4:53
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the finish time. As much as I truly don’t care, for as torn up as I felt, I felt like we went faster, not that it really matters. It’s a weird combination of not caring and being competitive. Speaking of being competitive, Andy’s time was one second faster, so he beat me at a marathon, something he said he’d never do. Well done, Andy, well done.
Not many feet into the finisher chute, we were in a traffic jam. One of the volunteers chastised us for being slow and taking selfies that held up the line (that wasn’t the problem and no one around us was taking selfies), which we didn’t appreciate and I decided to keep my trap shut so I wouldn’t end up saying something equally rude back to him. Nothing like being ridiculed as soon as you finish a race, huh?
We stood there a while and came upon our photo op, post-race garb, and heat sheets. We opted for ponchos, which would be handed out about a hundred half mile (or more) later. We were thankful for the heat sheets, as the sun was going down and it was cold. One girl behind us said “Where’s the f%$King exit???” True that. We felt like we had to walk all way up to the other side of the park to get back to the finish, which was towards our hotel. Goodness.
Many, many steps later, we found the exit and walked slowly back to our hotel. Total steps for that day totaled 32 miles. THIRTY-TWO MILES. And we still had to find dinner.
We did it. Endurance Trifecta Event #2: Mission Completion
We met up with the kids in our room, cleaned up, compared stories, and found dinner. Wow. What an amazing event. The ONLY complaint I have is the lack of bathrooms at the start. That’s it.
I heard some people say this marathon is better than any marathon, including Boston. I’m not so sure. To me, it’s like picking between your children. They’re different and you love them equally. There’s something very special about the Boston Marathon, and there’s definitely something special about NYC Marathon. Running a major with my husband was pretty special as well. Anyway, I’m not picking because I don’t have to, haha.
I must have gotten a sunburn, because in our room, my face was on fire. My son was thoughtful enough and got me the “freezer” tray from our mini fridge to help cool my face. Such a thoughtful boy.
The next day, we walked up and through Central Park. Wow. Seeing it again was a good thing, as I hadn’t realized it’s beauty the prior day. We walked the park, saw the finish line, the green lawn (or whatever it’s called), Strawberry Hill, a couple sucking face, a strange workout (I have a video of it and it makes me laugh so hard my abs hurt), and then walked back on 5th Avenue and by The Met. The people we saw and the stores we walked by. Hmmm, let’s say they have some disposable income. And The Met. Wow. One thing I’d like to do when I go back is to take advantage of the museums in the city.
By the time we found New York Pizza and walked back to our room, we’d added ten miles to our total. Our feet were tired, our hearts were full, and we were ready to go home.
Thanks New York City, we love you.
Up next in my Endurance Trifecta: JFK 50
Congratulations!! Sometimes sacrificing time for the experience is TOTALLY worth it (although I too have the competitive nature that wants a faster finish time even in those instances). Soak it up! I can’t wait to hear how the JFK50 goes for you! 🙂