Running in the NY Marathon appeared on my bucket list from the moment I successfully finished my first marathon in Melbourne in 2012. Qualifying for the NY Marathon would have been out of the question in my age group (I was still on a personal quest for a sub 4 hour finish time at time of writing) so I looked into how I could find myself on the Start Line of one of the world’s most sought after Marathons.
The previous year’s race was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy and my initial thoughts were that 2013 would not even be available to new runners so that those who missed out on running in 2012 would automatically run in 2013. So I registered myself and hubby Ian with a couple of agencies to give us the best chance of getting a spot.
Early in 2013, we were offered a couple of spots and so we signed on, booked our flights and planned a 1 week adventure in New York (see previous travel diary entry for all the details!).
Our package included 3 nights accommodation “near” the finish line located in Central Park. We were able to either walk back to our hotel (if feeling physically able) or catch the Subway back to our hotel after the race. As we elected to stay a week (Monday to Monday), we acclimatised and did the touristy thing first and finished our stay with the Marathon on the Sunday, flying home the following day after the race.
The reality of what we had entered began when we collected our race pack (containing our race bib and Souvenir Running T-shirt) 2 days before the race. Considering 50,000 people had entered, the collection worked like clockwork. Getting our free stuff and walking through the Expo to see all the different stalls with running gear, nervous entrants and their families from all over the world was just the beginning!
The one thing that stood out about this Marathon was the passion that the city has for this race. The huge number of friendly, smiling volunteers directing people, wishing people luck and generally making the atmosphere at the pre and post-race events amazing was astounding.
The night before the race, we lined up for the Pre-Race Pasta Dinner while a barber shop quartet sang for us. Considering this event was going to feed thousands of would-be runners, it ran so smoothly because there were volunteers everywhere to make sure you knew what to pick up where and where to go and sit. We soon found ourselves with plates piled with pastas, bread and salad and sitting with nervous runners from all around the world. The music was pumping, the giant TV screens showed vision of past races and TV reporters were mingling with tables, I even scored an interview with a TV reporter unexpectedly. The atmosphere was electric and I was almost in tears when I realised where I was, I felt so overwhelmed, I couldn’t believe we were here and about to run the race the next day. Suddenly the months of training before the race all made sense and this was what we came to New York for!
It was hard to “come down” after all this excitement to try and sleep back at our hotel. We had an early wakeup call (4am) because we had to be at the shuttle meeting spot (the NY Public Library) by 6am so we had to catch the Subway, eat some breakfast and somehow settle the nerves!!
There were hundreds of shuttle buses destined for the Start Line on Staten Island. The buses were packed with sleepy runners as they crawled their way across the city and the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge before dropping us off at the Start Zone. The security measures were tight as we entered the Start Zone and this area was crawling with runners all rugged up with layers to keep warm. We had been warned to pack warm clothes (even old sleeping bags) for this time because we had hours to kill before we would here the first start gun. Our bib told us that we were to hang out in the blue zone where our starting Carrel was located, and our group would be called up 20 minutes before the gun was to go off. The Race had 4 starting waves that commenced with the Elite runners first, then the following waves were around 20-30 minutes apart and were assigned based on proposed finish times. In these areas we found free tea, coffee, water, snacks, gels (if you forget to pack them!) and of course lots and lots of toilets!!!
Once we were in our Carrell’s we stripped off any excess clothing/layers and entered the “party” zone where we heard Frank Sinatra’s “New York New York” booming and the start gun when it went off, was a giant cannon! Our heart rates were both well over 130 beats per minute before we even set off in a standing position! I let a tear or two out. And then in a blur we were running.
The first part of the race is crossing the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge and according to your Carrell you could be running on the top, middle or lower level. We found ourselves on the top level, with police helicopters each side of the bridge and ships firing water cannons in the sea below – the police helicopters were deafening and added even more adrenalin to the experience. The bridge was a bit of a climb (actually ALL of the bridges were a bit of a climb!) but once on the downward side, we found ourselves running through the remaining 4 boroughs of New York. First Brooklyn, Queens and finally Manhattan via the Bronx towards the Finish Line.
The entertainment was plentiful and the cheering of the locals was constant – it really is hard to process the silence once on the bridges between boroughs because at times, the music and cheering was deafening!
It is a great way to take in all 5 Boroughs of New York but you must remember to stop, look around and take it in (which can be hard when you are trying to run 42kms!).
After giving everything to this race, myself and husband Ian finished in 4.04 and 4.32 respectively. We soaked up every km and powered home those last few km’s through Central Park to finish on a high. Luckily for both of us, we completed the race injury-free and were able to walk back slowly to our hotel but as we didn’t pack any post-race clothing we were FREEZING.
The staff and volunteers at the Finish Line were encouraging the crowd of runners who had just finished to keep moving through the area, to take drinks and food and some had to be assisted due to injury, exhaustion or both. For some runners around us, being told to move on quickly was too much. A few frustrations were aired. And apologies made.
We eventually arrived back at our hotel as it took nearly an hour to collect our gear and get out of the race Finish Zone and walk the 12 or so blocks back to our hotel. We feasted on pizza and a beer to celebrate our finish and to celebrate being a part of the race, it was a massive bucket list tick.
Top tips for running the New York Marathon: The best advice I can offer with planning for this pre-race time is pack warm clothes that you are prepared to part with once you are lined up in the Start Zone AND when you are registering yourself for the race say YES to baggage so that you can load up your bag with warm clothes for the end of the race and load this into the baggage truck before you head to your Start Zone.
It is not a bad idea to pack a deck of cards to help kill some time too as you don’t want to wear yourself out walking around too much nor standing around and stretching too much either – relaxing is the key! There is no shelter or facilities to charge phones etc so you need to save your batteries for the race and AVOID taking photos/selfies once the gun has gone off, do all this stuff before the race as it is hazardous to others around you to do this once you are running.
If you only run ONE marathon in your life, you must run the NY Marathon!!!
For more information on how you can tick this one off your list feel free to contact me.