“This was my first road marathon and I have nothing therefore to compare it to in terms of organisation, course, or spectator support. To a virgin marathoner in New York though, it seemed pretty spectacular to me.
Setting off at 5:40 am from my hotel in Times Square, I walked with thousands of others along the very cold streets to catch a bus at the Library building that would take most of the 50,000 runners across to Staten Island.
My running time was 11 am, so I thought it was a little early to set off. This was without the understanding that thousands of buses had to cross the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to drop off runners before it closes to traffic, so that the runners have the privilege of crossing the Bridge on foot at the start.
The journey took a little under 3 hours and despite the desperate moans from those with ‘runners belly’, at least we were warm. We arrived at the starting village and joined the areas corresponding with the information on our bibs. Despite the warnings, everyone jumped and screamed every time the cannon boomed to set off the next group of runners. It’s fair to say the village was buzzing with adrenaline.
The port-a-loos creaked under the strain of 53,000 multiple toilet goers and there was definitely more availability of free Dunkin Donut bagels than toilet paper. Some were using them creatively to resolve the problem.
After joint our Corrals and then being walked to the start line on the bridge itself, we listened to the American Anthem and we were off! The lucky ones, me included, got to run on the top deck of the bridge in the sun. Half the runners weren’t so lucky and suffered a 1 km start up hill in the cold and shade. We all got an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline as we made our way across though and it was a challenge to weave around the thousands who took advantage of the opportunity for a selfie that really was worth taking.
Once we reached Brooklyn, the atmosphere took on a life of its own. This day wasn’t just for the runners. We ran through thousands of spectators, some estimates put the number as more than one million, holding signs of encouragement and shouting the names of those they loved, or those who had names emblazoned on their shirts inviting support. At every block, live bands played music, school children sang, church choirs and gospel singers entertained us and kept our spirits at the very highest.
“You’ve got this”, “punch here to power up”, “don’t be dramatic, it’s only 26.2 miles”, “you’re a runner – remember it’s dangerous to trump” and other signs aimed at generating a smile from faces that were starting to look a little pained, greeted us at every turn. Free fruit, free sweets, tissues and other runners aids were generously donated and gratefully received as the miles ticked by.
The course terrain was a challenge. The roads were largely concrete which was tough on the knees and hips and the bridges and hills were relentless and frequent.
Queensboro Bridge at the 16 mile point was especially tough. We weren’t on the top deck, it was pretty dark, cold, and many runners were sitting on the side against the railings deciding this bridge was a bridge too far. This was a spectator free zone and the dramatic drop in noise hit motivation hard. It was a tough and long uphill, the first time the mind really had to go to work.
As we hit 20 miles on First Avenue, the crowds were enormous and raucous once again. It was like being connected to a power charger. Their selflessness in standing in the cold waiting for every runner, however capable was humbling. First Avenue rounded into Fifth Avenue which was a tough uphill section lasting a couple of miles before we turned off into Central Park.
We knew we were quite close at this point, maybe another 5k to go. I heard the man behind me telling someone that we were about to hit a lovely downhill section but I didn’t believe him. I thought it was a ruse to keep someone motivated. However, around the next corner was just what we all needed, a lovely winding downhill taking us all the way to the bottom end of Central Park. We turned right by Trump Tower and then right again after a kilometre or so back into the park and the final 800 metres to the finish line.
My spirits were high but my legs were very stiff. It was a long walk and wait to get our bags that we had dropped at the start, before the even longer walk back to the hotel in Times Square. Straight to the bar, a beer, and then bed.
I woke up to the official photos in my inbox and the race results. It’s difficult to comprehend celebrating coming 32,113th in a race, which is where my 4:40 time put me. None-the-less, I am pleased as punch but vowing to do much better next time. I might even aim for a top 30,000 place!”