Toward the end of a marathon, things can all start running together, no pun intended. By the end of the NYC Marathon I found myself running toward and looking through a sea of faces to my left. The crowd was at least 6 deep along Central Park South. Searching, searching for the flash of Jim’s sparkly blue hat anywhere in the multitudes, my eyes kept blurring because I was starting so hard into the wind. Even behind my sunglasses my eyeballs were drying out and losing focus just when I needed them to be most accurate. Jim and Arron were planning to be along that stretch, somewhere. I had to keep moving but keep watching as the deafening cheers from the crowd chanted my name as well as other’s. Thus was the beginning of the last mile of the NYC Marathon.
Castles in the Sky
The views of recognizable buildings in Manhattan finally allowed me to orient myself and I could not believe just how far I had come. I saw I was as far uptown as the Empire State Building and that meant 34th St. I was amazed that I had been dropped off on Staten Island and, under the power of my own 2 feet, had made it that far north.
The notes I had made for the end of Brooklyn and entirety of Queens were, “Water towers. Stay to the left.” That meant the landmarks of note were the iconic water towers in Long Island City and to not start trying to run the tangents, just keep running on the left side. The one place I abandoned this completely was on the corner where the American Indian Community House along with the Silver Cloud Singers had their cheer section. I cut from my side over to their tent on the right and cheered that they were there. I thanked them and ran on with their rhythms in my heart.
I sought out one woman who was looking right at me and cheering. I asked her if we were indeed in Queens and if she could check off Brooklyn on the back of my shirt (see it here). She was surprised by my request, a little shy about doing it wrongly and asked if she should also check off Queens. I told her, “No, I have to finish Queens first. Thank you!” Off I went to take another 90° course turn to get up and onto the Queensborough Bridge.
Can’t Keep Me Silent
What’s in a name? Ed Koch Bridge, 59th St. Bridge, Queensborough Bridge are all one and the same. Runners are very rarely feelin’ groovy after hitting mile 15 and enduring the specatorless mile climb and descent. I would say about 50% of the middle of the pack runners decide to walk at least part of this bridge. Everybody has to take it as they see fit and I kept up my determined trit-trot pace. I remembered that the bridge crests deceivingly late, much beyond Roosevelt Island and almost into Manhattan.
The whole length of the bridge, the winds had me grabbing to steady the brim of my cap quite a few times. My neck gaiter, a Buff, was pulled up and over the back part of my hat to hold it on just in case. As we descended and took a hard left turn to cross under the bridge there were hundreds and hundreds of spectators — who were freezing in the wind and tired of cheering. The “wall of sound” as it has been called had their breath taken away as they stood on the blustery shadows of the tall buildings. It was a flat moment for a lot of us.
A few runners tried to pump up the crowd by waving their arms and punching their fists into air. It got a few luke-warm responses but they seemed tired. Tired is what a lot of us were feeling and I darted into an vacant port-o-pot. When I realized I didn’t really have to “go” but was looking for an excuse to take a break, I though, “Enough, here we go.” Out I went and turned up 1st Ave. to start counting the blocks until I would meet Jim and Amy at 110th St.
My right foot had started to hurt in the middle of Brooklyn, it felt like nasty ol’ plantar fasciitis rearing its ugly head again in the colder weather. There was not too much I could do for it but maybe stretch my calves out when I stopped to get fuel from Jim. My left foot felt like it was getting a blister too. Another one of those things that you can’t do much about with 10 miles to go.
Thankfully the crowds started to get more lively as I ran farther uptown. Their volume and enthusiasm increased if they had been waiting in the sun. When I came across a peppy bunch of college-aged young women, I recruited them to check off Queens on the back of my shirt.
More bands, many on big flashy expensive stages blasted out their original tunes or old standbys like Eye of the Tiger. I am really not a big fan of cliches like that but during an epic marathon, it was acceptable and even welcome. I felt like I was ready to run 10 more miles.
I ticked off the blocks and found that at the major intersections (42nd, 66th, 72nd, 79th) the wind would have me clipping my heals. It was adding to my fatigue but I was getting into some known territory and that was nice. I looked for my favorite vegan haunts: Candle 79, Candle Cafe, Gobo (no longer there), Elm Health, Bareburger (I had just eaten there Friday). Then Amy’s apartment where Jim had hung out most of the morning and the rest of the blocks I had just walked a few days prior.
Look at Us
I grabbed a Power Bar gel at the mile 18 aid station (hey, it was free), cheered when I saw it was orange (the only flavor I remotely like) and stuffed it in the SPIbelt I was going to hand off to Jim. I gave a mental salute to where I had stood last year to cheer Rosalie. I can’t say I felt too much better than I did in 2013 but I had just come 18 miles so had a much better excuse for starting to hurt a bit.
I started trying to do the math; 20 short blocks to a mile so 5 short blocks was only a quarter-mile – yeah! I could tell it was going to be hard for them to see me because they were looking into the sun and it was going on 2PM on the very day we had turned the clocks back. The sun wasn’t low but it was going to be in their eyes a bit. Having prearranged exactly where they were to be, knowing exactly what Jim was wearing (a crazy blue get up), they were following me on at least 2 tracking apps so knew when to be there, Jim is familiar with what my pace should be if the apps seemed way off and my wearing the outfit they were expecting to see me in made the hand off go seamlessly.
I waved my empty SPIbelt at them as soon as I saw Jim’s blue sparkly hat. It was and important hand off because I would have run out of fuel and, having only trained to 20, I had no idea if I would be needing a bit more in those final 6.2 miles. Jim handed me a replacement SPIbelt with a new flask of fuel and a baggy full of treats I planned to eat on Willis Ave Bridge going into The Bronx. Amy cheered and then videoed a section of me running as well as some stills of me and Jim. This was a big help because I had promised some photos along with a post race statement to an NYU journalism student who had pitched her story to our local paper (they ran it and you can read it here).
I did take a moment to briefly chat, give hugs and stretch out my calves. I assured them that I was doing pretty well, that it wasn’t easy but I was doing all right and I was really having a lot of fun. I was having fun and as I left I knew the fun had just begun. Miles 19 and beyond were ahead of me and I had Bronx in hand.
Continued in the Bronx…
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.