New York New York, what a wonderful town…is not what I was thinking as my leg packed in at mile 18 of the NY marathon.
As many of you know, most of my training this year has been geared towards long-distance running, specifically the Edinburgh and New York Marathons. While I won’t give you a mile by mile account of the race, I thought some of you might want to know a little bit more about the race, especially those of you who generously donated money to MacMillan.
I had gone into the marathon with four plans:
Plan A: Finish under 03:20:00
Plan B: Get a personal best (anything under 3:24:16)
Plan C: Finish under 03:30:00
Plan D: Just finish the damn race!
As soon as we touched down in JFK we caught a train out to the Jacob K Javitz Convention Centre to visit the marathon expo. Along with picking up our race numbers and goody bag, we had a chance to browse THE BIGGEST RUNNING SHOP I’VE EVER BEEN IN! It was only the thought of our two week holiday after New York that stopped me buying half the shop. There was already a buzz about the place, and I admit to sizing up the competition as I waited for my race number.
After checking into our apartment we went out for food, and a beer free drink (my girlfriend Morag made a point of ordering the tastiest beer available for herself, cheers pal).
NG and I got up sharp on Saturday to head for an ‘easy’ 5k. We decided to head over the Williamsburg Bridge, which turned out to be a great choice of route. As the sun came up, the view over the Hudson looking back to Manhattan was unbelievable. Unfortunately, neither of us had the foresight to take our phones out, so nae photos. In all the excitement of running in New York, we slightly overcooked the pace, no matter. We managed to save our legs the rest of the day by jumping on an open top bus and doing our tourist thing.
By this time a few nerves were setting in, especially after a quick walk in Central Park showed us part of the route (the blue line denotes the officially measured marathon distance course.)
Race morning: we had a 5am wake up to catch the subway to catch a ferry to then catch a bus to (there was an old lady who swallowed a fly) the start line we arrived at the Staten Island starting point. After getting searched at the entrance (Nikki quickly learned that NYPD officer’s had zero tolerance to line skipping) we made it into our starting pen with minutes to spare. Given we had left the apartment at 5am we thought we’d be hanging around for ages, but we only had around 40 minutes to soak in the masses of nervous sweaty runners heady aroma of portaloos.
After the Star Spangled Banner was played over loud speakers, the gun went.
Our first mile was made up of a trip over the Verrezano Narrows Bridge to Brooklyn. Running through the towering suspension turrets? With a view of the Manhattan skyline to the left and the Hudson River to the right we felt pumped for the race. As soon as we came off the bridge we were hit with our first experience of what sets the New York marathon apart from any other:
They were Immense. To say people were enthusiastic would be understating it. Families were out with banners, kids offered you water and sweets, fire houses had their engines out with firefighters sitting at the end of their ladders overlooking the course. As well as all the encouragement from the crowd, there were some amazing bands playing every few miles. While we were pounding the streets of NY, our support team was using the subway to race us.
I hate bridges. Certainly the ones in New York anyway. All of them have an apex to the walk ways, meaning and incline and decline each time you hit one. We hit five. The bridge from to was to be my undoing. An injury that had been bothering me before the marathon came back with a vengeance. By mile 18 my pace had dropped, and my left quad was beginning to cramp. NG was struggling to keep her pace down, and so left me to eat dust.
I kept running at a slower pace until mile 23/24 halfway up the hill that is Fifth Avenue I had to stop and stretch. My left knee didn’t want to bend, my hip was seizing up and my calf felt like it would pop if I tried anything it suspected would lead to a faster pace. Every time I started running I’d get about 400m before having to stretch again, each time the pain was getting worse. At this point, I heard someone shouting my name. My client Kate, who had kindly scheduled her trip to NY to coincide with me running the marathon was shouting her head off! This picked me up and made the next mile into Central Park a little more bearable.
Turning into the last 200m was a mix of relief and disgust. Relief at the fact it was almost over, disgust at the fact this last bit was again uphill. Dick move NY, I was hoping for a downward slope I could rolypoly through the line. But I got there. I got my medal. I got my steak. I got my beer!
So I stuffed it for goals A,B and C, but I achieved my last goal of finishing. While I was disappointed not to have got my time, having this more modest goal forced me to reflect and be grateful even for the fact I was there. Not many people will ever get the chance to run the NY Marathon. Being able to run through the streets of NY with crowds like that was a privilege, and a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Would I do another marathon? If you asked me straight after the race I would’ve drop kicked you in the face, but on reflection I think I would. Not for a long time mind you(don’t worry Morag,) would I recommend people run a marathon? Absolutely. It’s a huge undertaking, but the sense of achievement is amazing. If you’re unsure where to start with running, or any other endurance event, get in touch.