Normally I don’t write a race report for a non-Ironman distance race, but this was a special event: apparently the largest marathon ever, with 50,564 finishers, including the one-millionth finisher. Plus some of you have asked...
I qualified in 2007 through the New York Road Runners program (a minimum of 9 NYRR races within a year) for guaranteed entry to the 2008 NYC Marathon, but then deferred in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 due to triathlon races late in the season. In 2012, the NYC Marathon didn’t take place due to Hurricane Sandy, so I deferred my entry to 2014. Now it was finally time to race!
I was looking forward to a fun race, not a fast race. I didn’t prepare specifically for a marathon (training for an Ironman distance race is not the same as training for a marathon!). It had only been 8 weeks since Challenge Weymouth, and with 2 weeks of recovery and 1 week of tapering, this meant that I only had 5 weeks to get ready for the marathon: needless to say... this is too little!
The weather forecast didn’t look particularly good: winds of 20 mph and temperatures of 5C (feels like 1C) before the start and up to 9C (feels like 5C) during the race. It had been more than 20C just a few days before, so I was somewhat disappointed.
Sunday morning, it was an early start. I got up at 3:45am to catch the NJ bus at 5:00am for Staten Island where the race would start. It would be a 4 hour and 45 min wait until my start (wave 3) at 10:30am. Four layers of clothing, food and (warm) beverages, a tent packed with shivering athletes, observing thousands of athletes dressed in weirdest clothing (the most popular was the garbage bag followed by pijamas) would somewhat help bridging the time and the cold until the start. I couldn’t wait to start running to get warm. However, when it got about time to get ready and drop the baggage bag with our clothing, I didn’t really want to. It was another 1 hour 10 min until the start and it was still windy and cold. Luckily, athletes from wave 1 and 2 had left their warm stuff for goodwill, so I took one of the blankets. Thanks to whoever left that pink warm blanket in the goodwill container: it was certainly a goodwill gesture towards me.
At 10:10am we finally entered our corals, and at 10:25am we started walking towards the start. Finally the sun came out. At 10:30am, the start shot, while “New York New York” by Frank Sinatra was playing. Shortly before the start I recognised my friend Larry just in front of me from his bib “30 finishes and counting”. It was good to see you and congratulations on 31!
Here we go! The start on the Verrazano bridge was amazing, despite the strong winds and the avoiding of dropped clothing on the ground and plastic bags flying from one side of the bridge to the other. I was a little apprehensive as I once tripped on a plastic bag at the Rotterdam Marathon which led to a fall and a subsequent DNF because of the injuries and pain. I didn’t want to end the same way here. Running through Brooklyn was really pleasant. I was running a little faster than planned, but without any effort. I tried to put the brakes, but I couldn’t. I guess that the cheering of the spectators, rather than my legs, was doing the work. All went well until the half marathon point in Queens, when I started feeling my legs tightening up a little. And then the Queensboro bridge at mile 15 killed my legs and my spirit. It was long, it was uphill, it was windy, and there were no spectators to cheer you. I was so glad when I reached the highest point of the bridge and we started descending to 1st Avenue. Despite my legs not being snappy, running from 60th Street to 120th Street on 1st Avenue was definitely the best part of the race. 1st Avenue was packed with thousands of spectators showing their support with signs, shouts and music. I was looking forward to see some familiar faces from Gold Coast Triathlon Club at 78th Street. Nicci and Rich (and everyone else), thanks for being there and for supporting the runners! The rest of the race would be a survival, especially the section in the Bronx. But once we got back into Manhattan and on 5th Avenue, I was running again in familiar territory. 5th Avenue was packed and loud, and I couldn’t even hear the shouting of my personal support crew. The last stretch through Central Park was mostly downhill, which made the last few miles less tough, and allowed me to enjoy the last bit of the race despite the fatigue and the pain. Finishing the race with so many exhausted but happy people was incredible. For the record, my finish time was 4:50:57, not a personal best, but not a personal worse either. But time was irrelevant. It was a tough race with basically no flat sections (no, New York City is not flat!) and difficult weather conditions. But a great race, very well organized and with an amazing atmosphere. Worth doing at least once! Now it is time to enjoy my off-season, for real...
Thanks for reading my report. I will be back in 2015!