The 2017 New York Marathon took place on the 6th of November, a couple of weeks ago. It still feels like a bit of a dream but I was there. Running! Participating in one of my dream races and my first non-European race! The problem with hype though, is that the reality rarely manages to live up to it. When it does however, magic happens, you sense that something special is going on and all you need to do is make sure you’re living in the moment and soaking everything in.
I’ll be writing a separate post on the wider New York trip so this post will be focused solely on the marathon, aka the best race of my life. I want to relive every second of it, so bear with me while I take it from the top, starting with the marathon expo.
I arrived in New York on Friday afternoon, dropped my bags in the rented apartment and headed to the Javits Centre. This was where all runners had to pick up their race packs and official t-shirts, and also where the exhibitor stalls would be selling their wares. The New York Marathon was sponsored by New Balance this year, which was very apparent throughout.
Another thing that was super apparent was how seriously security was being taken, both around the expo and at the race itself. This was not surprising at all, considering what happened at the Boston Marathon and the terrorist attack in New York itself in just the previous week.
After getting our fill of free samples and perusing running gear, we left for dinner. We might have left the running expo but it didn’t mean we had gotten away from the marathon spirit.
All this actually happened on Friday, so let’s fast-forward a day to Saturday evening, just before race day. Whilst my pre-race dinner of choice would normally have been pasta of some sort, I went for something different this time, choosing vegan sushi and a bowl of miso mushroom noodles. Carbs carbs carbs!
The transportation option I chose was the official bus that would take runners from midtown Manhattan to Staten Island, the location of the start line. Anyone taking this option had to be at the New York public library at 6am, which was why I chose to rent an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, a shortish 20 minute walk away. I still had to wake up at around 4.45am though, so we called it a night fairly early on Saturday, to give ourselves time to get our kit ready and get as much sleep as possible. Thankfully for us, New York was going through a time change on Sunday morning, so it meant an extra hour of sleep for us.
The bus ride took about 1.5 hours with my excitement mounting all the way there. The sun was up by the time we reached Fort Wadsworth, but there was still quite a lot of waiting time before runners were told to go to their corrals. My start time was pretty late in the morning, so I spent most of the morning watching runners go by whilst I grabbed complementary bagels and hot cocoa in the runners’ villages.
Rather luckily for us considering the amount of waiting outdoors required, the weather for this time of year was exceedingly mild, and it was only about 16-17C on race day when it should’ve been maybe 5C. I was getting a little antsy with all the pent-up excitement as I heard the various starting guns go off for the groups of runners starting before mine. By the time the announcement called for my corral, I was raring to go, as were others.
Runners were queued in the road leading up to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge where the start line was. American flags lined the road and they soon started playing Frank Sinatra’s New York New York. The starting gun went off for our corral and the slow shuffle of runners around us turned into a jog and we were on our way, past the start line. I was filled with emotion as we started running across the bridge and I had to stop to capture this special moment, with the other hundreds of runners.
We crossed the bridge into Brooklyn to be confronted with our first glimpse of the crowds that would be lining the streets of the route all the way to the finish line.
The weather wasn’t cold, but there was a light drizzle falling and fog in the air. That didn’t stop the crowds from turning up to show their support for the runners though, for which I will always be thankful. This is the 7th marathon I’ve run, and the absolute best in terms of crowd support, cheers and signs. New Yorkers definitely know how to make a runner feel special!
I have already mentioned the serious security measures the city took to protect the event, and there was a cop perhaps every 100 metres of so. They were pretty cool and fun though, joining in the cheering crowds.
I have to say that the organisation for this race was superb, and there were drinks stations every 1 mile serving up Gatorade energy drinks and water.
The New York Marathon route was pretty epic, comprising loooong straights as we ran north along an avenue. We’d then come up to one of the many bridges around the 5 boroughs of New York, some fairly short, others longer, but all devoid of cheering crowds. It was rather nice in a way, with the only sound around being the slapping sound of runners’ footsteps on the road. I almost entered into a meditative state at times, as for the first time in a race, I had chosen not to put on headphones and was running in the moment and loving every moment of it.
The rain was starting to come down a little heavier by the time we reached the half marathon mark and it was starting to get pretty foggy. It was therefore a welcome break to reach the Queensborough Bridge and take shelter from the rain for a good few kilometres. It was a shame about the fog though, as I would’ve loved to check out the views of the Manhattan skyline in the distance.
Towards the end of the bridge (around the 16 mile mark) I stopped to look over the edge to get a sneak peek of what was awaiting us on the other side – masses of screaming crowds. Like I said – Best. Race. Ever!
After a short run in Manhattan, we entered the last of the 5 boroughs we’d be running through – The Bronx. I kept thinking of J.Lo and Jenny from the block, but it wasn’t for long (just miles 20 and 21) as we were soon back in Manhattan running along 5th Avenue.
We knew we were nearing the end of the race when we made a sharp turn right at the corner of Central Park at around mile 25. It was starting to get a little dark and I’ll be honest, I couldn’t wait for the race to be over at this point. Central Park is surprisingly hilly after running 40 kilometres. Again, the crowds really pulled me through though, and despite the cold, rain, dark and aching muscles, I made a good dash for the finish line and finished strong.
And then it was over! I was so so SO happy at being able to finish the race, but not only that, to also have been able to run the whole race without having to walk. I had actually come to New York not knowing whether I’d even be able to finish the race as I had incurred some hip and knee injuries during the course of my training. So, despite this being my worst marathon performance ever, it was still amazing. I have never been so tired and weary, and yet elated in all my life.
It was rather painful heading back to our apartment, as the roads were jammed up with marathon road closures. This meant having to take the subway, with all the stairs that entails. Walking down the stairs was slow and painful. 🙂 After a long, hot shower, it was time for our recovery meal. We opted for Bareburger which happened to be nearby (just 2 blocks down) where I got a vegan burger and a large salad. So good!
We were absolutely dead by the time dinner was over, and all I wanted to do was crawl into bed…which is exactly what I did. A superb end to a superb day! Best. Race. Ever. 😀