Week 52/52 recap
5 with strides – 4 easy – 26.2, NYC Marathon (5:18:40)
“Race you to the finish line,” I challenged my son. I wasn’t encouraging his banditing of the NYC Marathon, rather I had set a playful goal for myself to try to cross the finish line before he completed his matinée performance in nearby Lincoln Center. Arron was going to try his best to hurry the few blocks to Columbus Circle to meet with Jim and cheer me on the final yards of the race. The race was on.
Halcyon and On
The whole week was jam-packed with NYC Marathon prep. Some things went well (the expo and tour on the motor coach) and some things less well (bumping into a street fight on Halloween). The city always has surprises and the biggest one was the winds that were served up the morning of the race. The forecast was for sustained 20+ mph winds during with gusts up to 45 mph during the time I was going to be running.
Jim and I got our first taste of those winds as we walked 10 blocks to the subway. The red line had limited services on the weekend so we had to hoof it down to 96th St before going underground. There were no crowds but we were able to spy at least a couple of other runners as we got off the platform and on to an empty car. By the time the subway reached South Ferry, our car was packed tighter than a SPIbelt filled with marathon fuel and we all tumbled out into the wind to be blown to the South Ferry Terminal.We were all met by Homeland Security and told to put our (clear, provided, start village specific) bags down for the dozens of sniffer dogs as we entered the terminal. As I looked out the windows, I could see the Staten Island Ferry gliding smoothly over the small white caps on the Upper Bay. It was here I said goodbye to Jim and boarded the ferry.
Each step to the start line was memorable. I sat on the side of the ferry where I could watch the Statue of Liberty grow ever closer than pass by with the skyline of the southern tip of Manhattan behind her. Such visual icons are plastered all over this marathon’s race shirts and with good reason, they are historic and moving images. Seeing the statue so close, watching the many runners from dozens of countries make sure to get a good photo of her on this trip made me choke up for what wouldn’t be the first time during the day. I was determined to savor this day, it was bigger than I could ever realize at the moment.
I took my time departing the ferry and as I got into the terminal walked slowly, looking for where the bathrooms were. Volunteers were directing everyone outside to catch the buses for the start line but I was in no rush to spend extra time out in the cold. When I asked where the rest rooms were inside, I was told the line was very, very long and that there were many more “Port-o-seps” if I would just go up the stairs. No, thank you, I wanted to wait in the warm.
The line was long and it took until 8:15 to get through and by then I thought I should make my way to the buses. Shuffling along in crowded long lines became a bit of a theme before (and then after) the race. Hurry up, then wait. Hurry up, then wait. The winds were really strong as we made our way to the buses and I think it was the last time I allowed myself to worry about them. I would have over a half of an hour on a warm bus then once I stepped off the bus at the start village, I needed to be accepting of whatever I met. It may have been a roaring typhoon out there but in my mind it was going to be a halcyon day.
New York, New York
Before the start, I still took my time, and focused on not leaving anything behind in the port-o-pots and being methodic about my preparations. Sitting on a bag in the start village, I changed into dry socks, re-lubed and stayed on my pre-race fuel schedule. It was no time at all until I had to get into my start corral and I tossed my heaviest layers into the Goodwill donations bin. I kept a thin space blanket around my legs until just before the start and opted to wear my wind breaker for at least the first miles.
As I had been waiting, the start(s) had gone off for wave one, then later wave two. The sound of the first start scared a volunteer near the Goodwill bins. With wide eyes he said, “What the heck!” I realized it must be quite unnerving with the memory of the Boston bombing so, since I knew the start was set off traditionally with a cannon blast, I calmly told him that is was the first start.
After wave two scampered up the bridge we were let into the final approach to the start line. It was this area that felt more like traditional race corrals as prior to this it was just being lined up at a signed entrance. I found it confusing and upon first arriving had to wonder which side of the signage I was to be on. Wave three was let into taped off areas with some final port-o-pots and, yes again, I took advantage one last time.
When the six green lettered corrals were collapsed into one, I woke up my Bia Sport Go Stick to make sure I was set for GPS reception. My family was live tracking me through my watch and I wanted to have it ready at the start. Almost instantly, God Bless America was being sung just before our send off and BOOM, we were off.
I had read about it, thought it was cool but never realized it would choke me up; hearing Frank Sinatra’s singing New York, New York as I took my first steps had me breathing fast and holding back some tears to compose myself. It was a momentous undertaking and I couldn’t let it overwhelm me as I crossed the start sensor. One step at a time and soon I was on the left side, lower level, of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Those winds I had tried to forget about and accept immediately hit me from the left with the force a charging beast. It shredded garbage bags that runners were wearing for warmth while still on their bodies and ripped their numbered running bibs from their clothes. It pushed me ever to my right and into other runners. I tried to move in and behind some bigger runners but always seemed to find myself on the outer edge no matter how I tried to veer in. Discarded bags and coats were swept into our path, snaring legs and tripping up some therefore making even more of a hazardous pile to have to avoid.
We all laughed nervously with our unsure footing, exclaimed in surprise with every violent gust and apologized when colliding into each other as we made our way through the first couple of miles. This race had thrown some real challenges our way already but not one of us had turned back or quit. We were marathoners and ready to face what was next.
Continued in Brooklyn…
Random notes – added as I remember them.
The sections of my race recap have been published in 5 installments, one for each of the 5 boroughs: (Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx & Manhattan. The sections within the boroughs are given titles from songs that were playing on my playlist when I ran through those boroughs. Most of the marathon I couldn’t even hear my music because of the bands and crowds.
Marathonfoto had oodles of photographers all along the course. In the terminal and before the start, they would yell at us, “Show us your bib numbers!” This was so they could sell photos after the race was over by organizing all the photos taken with our bib numbers showing.
Before and after boarding the buses to the start village, NYRR officials would yell at us, “Show us your bib numbers!” This was to eliminate any non-runners from getting to the start villages and get us into our proper starting corrals. One last official security measure just after getting off the buses included putting all of our metal and extra object in our clear start village bags and having police wand us with a detector.
The amount of garbage and discarded clothing left by runners on Staten Island and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is staggering. I asked a marathon volunteer where I was to leave my unwanted bag of trash (like extra toilet paper, empty fuel bottle and banana peel). He said in a garbage can and I told him that I couldn’t find any. He then said, “Leave it anywhere, we will pick it up.” As I got to the corral I realized that the heaps of start village bags like mine were covering up the garbage cans.
At least for the Green route, there were no mile markers for miles one and two. A lot of signage as eliminated because of the wind. They didn’t have tents for runners to go into in the start villages because of the wind. I guess you understand by now, it was pretty windy.
As the recording of Sinatra’s New York, New York was being played for us, we ran across the start line and almost everyone started singing with the recording. All of the voices, off key, warbling because of running and foriegn accents made for a really moving Karaoke kind of moment. One like no other I shall ever experience anywhere else.