Thursday, November 14, 2013

NYC Marathon Part IV ~ Race Day

The ING New York City Marathon is billed as the World's Largest Marathon. This year, over 50,000 runners started. This number is a bit higher than usual because additional spots were opened to accommodate those runners that opted to return after last year's cancellation. I was one of those runners.

I prepared myself for this race like I've never prepared myself for any other marathon. This would be my fifth. The training plan was very specific and very methodical. I followed the plan to a tee.

The most often advised received from friends that had been here before was to have fun, enjoy the day. Take pictures and make memories. I did all of these, except I did not take many pictures. I came to race, because chances are big, I will never do this one again. Not that I did not enjoy and love every minute of it, that's not it. I don't enjoy big cities. I'm a smaller town kinda guy.

A few weeks before the marathon was to take place, I received my number assignment.  I would be #542. That seemed somewhat strange to me for I remember last year my number was quiet a bit higher, actually much. much higher.  Last year, I was assigned #65201. Per my calculations, I would have been the last one out, into the race.

The mystery of my number assignment became more confusing when I realized that my corral would be the very first one out. How did this happen?  I thought the faster runners would go first. How did I get placed there? The more I thought about, the happier I became about this because this meant that I would not have to weave through the crowded field in order to achieve my goals.

We arrived into NYC on Friday. Our flight had been changed, so instead of getting there mid morning, we landed very late. I had planned to go pick up my registration packet and visit the expo on Friday afternoon, and on Saturday I just wanted to rest and relax. This did not take place as planned.


Mid morning Saturday, we went to the Javits Convention Center to get registered and pick up the race packet. Upon arrival, the enormity of the event began to sink in. This place was huge, and full of people. The lines were large, lines for everything; to get in, to pick up bib, to pick up tee shirts, to get into the expo. They were all big. But amazingly enough, they moved fast and everyone was very efficient.

I had been given instructions that I was to visit the booths in the back of registration. There they would have a special something for me for returning to the race after last year's cancellation. I was given an orange bracelet that had both 2012 and 2013 ING NYC Marathon inscribed, plus I was also given a commemorative 2012 ING NYC Marathon medal. I cannot tell if this medal is a special medal made just for this occasion, or if its the actual medal from last year. Regardless, this medal will not be hung alongside the rest of my race medals.

And then came the Expo. Oh my goodness, the size of this thing! I have been to many an expo in my life, but nothing compares to this. The Asics marathon collection pavilion was something the likes I've never seen. If only time and budget would allow, I could have left there with plenty. Instead, I opted for just a jacket. One jacket was all I bought.

There's just one piece of advice I'd like to pass along to the organizers. Having just ONE bathroom available to a crowd this large, mostly runners who have been hydrating for days, well...not a good idea!

At about 1 pm, we left. Maybe a little later. We asked for directions to get to Little Italy. We wanted to find a restaurant to get some good carb loading appropriate food. We would have to venture into the subway. I don't like the subway, nothing about it appeals to me. But my wife was excited about this and the prospect of going to Little Italy was enough to get me to venture into this. So off we went.

We ended up in a very nice restaurant, eating the very best lasagna I have ever eaten. It was fabulous. And the timing was just right. I would have plenty of it to allow my meal to digest properly before calling it a night. But before this could happen, there was that small detail of making it back to the hotel. A small matter that required two different subways, one bus transfer and a shuttle. Yes, I was really looking forward this. Not!

I had not fully realized until later that day that the time would change. I guess I knew it would but it finally dawned on me that that meant one more hour of rest that night. This was nice. The shuttle to the start would load up at 5:00 am. It was time to go to bed.


At 4:00 am the alarm went off. I had been awake for about 30 minutes so jumping into the shower immediately was not a problem. I took a quick one, fixed a peanut butter sandwich and had it with a cup of hotel room coffee. Got dressed and it was time to go get in the bus.

The ride to Staten Island, where the start village was located at Fort Wadsworth took about 45-60 minutes, or maybe it was an hour and a half, I couldn't tell you. This time was well spent reflecting on the journey that got me there and the journey in front of me that day.

By the time we passed through security and were guided to our staging area, mine being the green one, it was about 6:30-6:45 am. There we had available coffee and beagles. A hot cup of coffee was very much needed at that time. The temperature was low; it was very cold and it was windy. Boy was it windy! But would it be at my back?

I walked around a bit and found me a spot to park myself. Drank my first cup of coffee, a couple of bites of a bagle, and made friends with a gentleman from Dublin. This was his first NYC Marathon as well. We exchanges stories for a bit. I began to get nervous because time was getting closer, so I got up and walked some. Also went to the porta potty. Big Bonus surprise... there were enough of these so that there was never a waiting line, I had to use a few times and never had to wait. Okay, I had to use it A LOT!

Then, just like that, the announcement came over the p.a., staging for the first corral and the first wave would begin immediately. So off we went. It was like herding cattle. We would walk from one stage to the next, then from one area to the next until we arrived at the starting line, at the bottom of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge. There we waited for about 30 minutes. It was still cold, it was still windy.

Now for that awkward moment when you realize for sure that a mistake had been made with your race number. Everyone around me was asking everyone what their planned or goal time was. I just kept silent when I began to overhear these conversations. My suspicions were confirmed when the pace sign went up and it read "3:10". Yes, a mistake had been made.  I made my way as far back to the corral as I could so that I would not be trampled as the race started, besides, back there I would not be tempted to try to run at the speed these folks would be running... not that I could anyway.

This was the only moment I ever wished I had my iShuffle with me. You know, I could pretend to be deep in concentration and lost in thought with my music and no one would venture to ask me my projected time.

At one point I thought... man, if I could keep some sort of pace with some of these folks, I could quiet possibly BQ!  HaHaHa! Enough of that nonsense!  We all know why I was there!  Actually, not really, no one knew how I got to be there!


At exactly 9:40 am the gun went off, and so did we. We were off and running. The V-N bridge was long and tall, the wind was howling and it was cold. But it was a beautiful sight to see.

The other side of the bridge dumped us into Brooklyn and into the yelling and hollering of the crowds.  Yes, the promised crowds of support were there. Hundreds of people, no thousands of people, everywhere, both sides of the street, two deep, three deep, as far as the sight could see, you saw people, they were yelling, screaming, ringing their bells and horns, playing their music, encouraging the runners. If this didn't put a smile on your face, ice was running through your veins.

It was my plan, from the start, to run the first 13.1 miles all out. Give everything I had, but at a steady, controlled pace. Much like I had done two weeks before at The Middle Half. After this point, it was my plan to run a 5-1 plan. 5 minute run at best possible speed and walk for a minute. I would stop at all water stops at take both water and Gatorade so as to stay hydrated. This worked really good for me.

This was my plan, not because I was not sure if I had the endurance to keep that pace up for an entire marathon, for I believe I did. It had more to do with the fact that I did not want my ankle(s) to blow up. If that happened, that would be the end of the dream.

I would also enjoy the second half of the race to the fullest. I would high-five the crowd, mostly the children. I would also wave to and thank the police and firefighters. There were plenty of both.

Brooklyn was the longest of the Boroughs. Not sure how long but it seemed like it took forever to get through it, I'm guessing somewhere around mile 15 we entered Queens and then crossed the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. It was at this bridge that I lost my Garmin satellite signal for a while. No big deal except for the fact that now my average pace and distance were messed up.

Passed Manhattan and into the Bronx and returned to Manhattan where we entered 5th Ave and Central Park. All five Boroughs just like that.

 As I approached mile marker 24, I heard  my name called. It was Monica! She had been tracking me with the help of our daughters and my brother and she knew to be there when I came through. Right about that moment, it was the best sight I saw all day. I back tracked a couple of steps, went to her, gave her a big hug and a kiss and went on to the finish line.

From here to the finish line, the last 2 miles took forever. Every step got heavier and heavier. It seemed like I had weights on my feet. Everyone was slowing down somewhat and this made the course crowded. The final stretch, or .2 miles were fun. They had the distance marked on the road, 800 yds. "That's two laps around the football field", I thought. 400 yds., "just one more lap around the stadium, a victory lap, if you would." 200, 100... and there it was. The Finish Line!

4:51:27 was my official time. This would be well below my goal of 4:59:59 and some 50 minutes below my previous best time... So my day and mission... DONE!

It took about 1 hour and 30 minutes to meet up with Monica after the race was over. Just getting out of the park took about an hour. It was a slow, methodical process but it went smoothly.


I thoroughly believe that you should always take something with you from every journey traveled. So it is always my intention to ponder back and draw something from each experience. This was no different.

The journey to the NYC Marathon taught me that I really never trusted myself and my abilities to the fullest. I always held something back. Not sure why, but I did. During this journey, I pushed myself way past my comfort zone. I learned to be comfortable outside my comfort zone.

Now I am tired and I need some rest, if it weren't for that little matter of The Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon coming up in two weeks, I would just sleep for a month. Oh, heck...I can always sleep on the other side! Right?

One more post to conclude this series will come tomorrow!

NYC Marathon Part I ~ The Training Process can be found here.
NYC Marathon Part II ~ The Middle Half can be found here.
NYC Marathon Part III ~ Why I love my HOKAs can be found here