With so much excitement surrounding the ING NYC marathon, this may be one of the toughest recaps I have had to write due to the fact that there is SO MUCH to write about. I will try to cover as much as possible, while still keeping it a decent, readable length. Of course, things will be missed and left out, but none-the-less, if you ever get a chance to run the event and participate, DO IT!
The race starts off with a very early start time to catch either a ferry or a bus to the start line on Staten Island. My ferry time was 7:00, but due to some well advised information from past participants, I was informed that you can catch the ferry at almost any time. I decided to take the advice, but not risk being too late and caught the 7:30 ferry. That still left me almost 3 hours until my start time of 10:40. (Yes, the race starts late in comparison to most races).
Luckily, I was running with a friend, Larry, so the wait wasn’t that bad and it also gave me chance to relax and get ready before the race. I took “throw away” clothes to keep me warm and it definitely came in handy. As I was sitting down chatting with Larry, I mentioned that we should have written our names on our shirts (another tip we were given for the race — people will cheer you by name all along the course). I said sarcastically “Anyone have duct tape and a pen?” And sure enough, the lady next to me did. So I wrote my name and taped it to my chest. It was fate I guess.
At the start line (which was very well organized and managed) we were sent off with the blast of a cannon and the playing of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York… rather fitting. So the first 2 miles are the steepest uphill across the Verrazno-Narrows Bridge (see photo). There were tons of people around us and it would stay consistently packed the entire race. It wasn’t crowded to the point of being un-runnable, but if you wanted to maneuver forward, it would take some in-and-out motions.
We then headed into Brooklyn which was full of fan support and vibrant cheer. There is definite momentum going in and through Brooklyn and there is cheering the whole time, except for a very quiet section as you run through a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood. But as you continue out of Brooklyn and into Queens, the energy is constant. Through the first 8 miles as we exited Brooklyn, we were at a comfortable pace, but flying through the course. I was checking my watch, but not keeping as close of an eye as I should have been.
As we hit the 13.1 mile mark, we were well on pace for our estimated finish time, coming through the half-way point at 2:10:38. I was hoping for somewhere around a 4:25-4:30 finish, so we were doing fine with a 5-min. cushion. I could tell that my legs were feeling fatigued (and it was earlier than I would have hoped), but the only thing to do was keep pushing forward. I suppose I should have taken a more serious note of the time and slowed down a bit, but with the crowd energy and the thought of finishing before 4:25 creeping in… I was the stubborn runner and just kept pushing on.
As we started to go across the Queens bridge (mile 15-16) and head into Manhattan, I could tell that I was slowing way down. As excited as I was for running across the QB (even if it was the bottom portion), this by far was the toughest part for me. What’s funny, is that this leads into what should have been the most exciting part of the course — a straight 3 mile shot down First Ave. where the streets were as packed and as energetic as I have ever seen. It was like being in the center of a parade and a crowd 3-4 rows deep cheering you on the entire way. If this was the section to pick up some time and fly through to the finish, it was the perfect setting.
Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Fatigue continued to creep in and with a slight eye on my watch, the time slowly ticked away. I kept clipping off miles and fed off the energy of the crowd… from people screaming our names, to a lady handing out cookies, we were going to finish this race. With one more borough to complete the five, we headed in and out of the Bronx. Entering Manhattan again we came into another high energy section, Harlem. After that we were running parallel to Central Park on the Upper East Side making a right into Central Park just before the Guggenheim Museum.
Once we were in the park, we were covered by lush trees and cheered on by people the entire way… I got the feeling that this incredible journey was almost over. Larry and I continued to keep our legs moving, but Larry could tell I was tired and he stuck with me the whole way. As I saw 4:30 come and go, I saw an opportunity to finish strong. I looked at Larry and said, let’s run this last mile in under 10 min. So we put on our fast pants and started passing people. As we got around the 25.5 range, I noticed a camera crew in a golf cart focusing on a single runner. As we passed him, I turned my head to see who it was and sure enough, it was Edison Pena, the Chilean miner. As people chanted “Chile, Chile” Larry and I continued our strong run to finish just over 4:41.
It was quite an event from start to finish. I definitely think that it is a race that must be experienced. If it isn’t on your radar, I highly suggest considering it or putting it on your “must race” list. I’m a really glad I decided to run it and got the chance to run with a good friend (MFC). Not to mention that I was able to come back from a heart-breaking ITB injury in July and recover enough to not only finish it, but to put up a finish time I’m happy. It’s more than I could ask for.