My brother and I in Staten Island, Verrazano bridge in the back.
… and November 2nd came and we got to run the New York City marathon.
In a previous post I explained what makes this specific marathon so special, an overview of the course and how I came to it regarding my training. In this post I will focus on my experience (1), a hell of a experience!
This marathon is a huge event. We were over 50,000 runners. This means a very serious logistics operation. So everything that you experience can be put into perspective in relation to that. The marathon expo at the convention center, the queues, the volunteers, the supplies, the transportation, the distances to cover, the goodies provided pre and post race, the medical staff, the mobile toilets, the music bands… everything.
The day of the race started with waking up in Manhattan at 4am. I had booked a place into a bus departing from the public Library to bring me to Staten Island, but in the end Jaime got me into one of the buses of the International Travel Partner he got his trip organized with, so that we did not have to look for each other at the island. The bus dropped us at the island at around 6am, and from then on we had some 4 hours until the departing time of our wave.
To me this was the worst part of the event. There are things that could be improved: from providing more covered space to not explicitly forbidding runners to bring blankets, to providing blankets, simply allowing to drop off clothes later or even just honestly communicating the real times at which the starting corrals would be opened.
One could argue that the size of the event makes that part difficult to organize. Fair enough. On the other hand, Berlin marathon also hosts about 40,000 runners and has none of the nonsense of New York marathon. Its start area, finish area and timetables are neatly organized.
The good thing of that waiting time is that I spent it with my brother, talking, joking, getting into the mood of the race. Until we had to leave each one to his corral.
- Tip one: forget about your assigned corral, if you have friends, arrange to depart from the same corral (apparently there is some grading, orange being more demanding and blue more accessible).
- Tip two: bring 2 sets of warm clothes. One to be put into the bag that will be transported to the finish line. The other to wear it until you are in Verrazano bridge, then throw it away.
Verrazano bridge is huge; over 2 miles long. At the mid-point you are at the highest point of the race, with great views of Manhattan. Even greater winds if you have the luck to run in a day like the day we ran in. Temperatures were about 6C and winds of over 40km/h. In that conditions, one could only run trying not to fall and forget about best times or anything like that (2).
I had read a post about how to plan the race. It warned about not starting too fast in the bridge (honestly, it almost cautioned not to run too fast until kilometre 42). I found myself running 30″ faster per km on the second half of the bridge. At that point I lost the 3h45′ pacer, and with her the chance of meeting my brother Jaime later on, as we had agreed to follow that pacer to ensure we would meet each other (3).
Once we left the bridge, we entered in Brooklyn and with it came the crowded streets, the music bands, the contrasts, the cheering crowds (“Vamos España”, “Allez la France” (4), “You’re looking good”… looking good at km. 35, really? :-)). This makes this race apart.
There are parts of the race that are not especially beautiful. You don’t get to run through lower Manhattan, or Broadway. You do not cross Brooklyn bridge. But the streets you run in, with very few exceptions, are packed with cheering crowds, volunteers, music bands, runners… you feel surrounded by a great atmosphere along the complete 42km. Some moments which I especially cherished:
- Running with a head band with a Spanish flag, receiving lots of dedicated support at different points (especially in one of the last turns in Columbus Circle, mile 26). Thanking that support with some gestures (thumbs up, smiles, waving hands…).
- Giving some support words each time I overtook an identifiable fellow Spanish.
- Running along Lafayette avenue surrounded by French runners and a crowd cheering with “Allez la France”.
- Climbing Queensboro bridge. No spectators, just runners. 2 km long. A good climb at mile 15. Enjoying good views of Manhattan skyline just about to enter it. Time to focus on your pace, notice that there are only 17km to go, overtaking plenty of runners, owning your race.
- Landing on First avenue. Not seeing the end of a 2.5-mile stretch. Seeing thousands of different flags though. Planning to keep a fast pace thinking these are going to be my 10km like in Rotterdam. Failing to do so.
- A white woman thanking runners for visiting the Bronx (mile 21).
- Sustaining a decent pace on a surprising 1.5km-long climb in the 5th Avenue, just before entering Central Park, starting from km 36.5. Tough, very tough. (“that’s a beautiful pace!”, really?)
- Being overtaken at km 38 by the 3h45′ pacer, the same girl I lost in Verrazano bridge. Thinking for a moment: “they’re going too fast for me now” (5’20″/km pace vs. the over 6′ I did in the previous climb). Thinking in the next moment: “what the hell! I am following them!”. Doing so, and clocking the best 4 kilometres of the second half of the race, allowing me to finish in 3h44’32”, my second best time in the distance!
Pace per km.
This marathon is not easy, though not that tough (Athens was harder). The trip is expensive. The chances of getting a place into it are few… but if you have the chance to do it, at least once, I would recommend it (5).
- Tip three: train well, series and long runs, and do start softly, you will need some reserves to go to the Bronx and return and climb up to Central Park.
After the race, I felt so much pain in my back due to the cold suffered in the early morning that I needed a massage to relax my back, remove the cramps and dry my clothes. Afterwards, I met my brother and together we went back to the hotel, savouring the achievement. Our 6th marathon together. 12th marathon (including Millau ultramarathon, for which a 42km time was given), 2nd in the USA (after San Diego).
There will come a day in which I won’t be able to run marathons, then, I’ll be able to look back and relish the day I ran New York City marathon back in November 2nd, 2014. Thanks, Jaime, for suggesting and pushing for it!
(1) Find in my brother’s blog a post about his experience in the same event.
(2) Take the case of the winner, Wilson Kipsang, who in previous days had announced the intention to break the course record (around 2h5′) and he finally finished in almost 2h11′.
(3) I later learned, that he indeed followed the pacer up until km. 25… had I not run faster at the beginning and we would have experienced it together. I owe him one. There will be more marathons, possibly Madrid is the place to enjoy running 42km together.
(4) You can see in the stats of the race that up to over 3,000 French (the 2nd most represented country) were running, over 800 Spanish.
(5) Sins of omission are the ones which hurt the most at the end of the game, don’t they?