I’ve never been excited about a trip than I was about going to New York City. We had only been back from China two weeks, when I found out one of my bestie’s, Megan in Australia, had a surprise birthday present from her husband to run the New York City Marathon. This race had been on my bucket list for about 5 years, so I knew I had to go and run it with her.
Ben, her husband, was completely on board and we decided to keep it a secret for 6 months and surprise Megan in NYC. In the meantime, I was supposed to be training for a race that happened on the same day in Delta, BC. Megan completely fell for it. We had a great time emailing, texting, and Skyping about our training whoas. This was Megan’s first marathon (my fourth) and she had lots of questions. It was great to help provide tips (ALWAYS use your BodyGlide!) and talk about our body aches.
It was so hard to keep it a secret and tough to try to figure out how the run would go. Megan is faster than I am, yet I had dreams about crossing the finish line together, but I had to let that go, knowing I couldn’t hold her pace with the risk of forfeiting finishing because of burnout. It would be what it would be.
The morning we were to meeting up with them, we had planned to meet at the Magnolia Bakery in Rockefeller Centre. The bakery is one of Megan’s favourite places, so Ben knew it wouldn’t be hard to get her there. Dave and I waited across the street and ran over when we saw them. Megan completely froze, it was like stumbling across your parents in the middle of the Amazon jungle, it just didn’t make sense. By the time it sunk in, she was in tears and we had a big ‘ol hug. It seemed to take her days to get over the fact that we were there with them.
The expo was a madhouse of spandex and people, but very well organized. There are 50,000 runners and they all needed to get their bib, T-shirt, race kit, etc. It felt like the first real moment of, “we’re really doing this!”
Race morning on Nov 1 was an early one. I was up at 5am and out the door at 5:25 to head down to the buses that took us to the Staten Island starting line. Megan and I picked the worst meeting point because of the way the buses were loading and we missed each other. We didn’t meet up until 2 hours later in the start area.
Here we are sitting in the hay at our corral area. We had a couple hours wait, go to the bathroom, eat, go to the bathroom, stretch, and go to the bathroom. Nerves!
There was a giant screen showing the start of the race, which was happening right behind us on the bridge. This is the woman’s start.
There were about 5 helicopters flying around recording the start area. The bridge was our starting point and we could watch the first two waves of runners crossing from our area.
We got pace bands at the Expo and Megan put them on us…upside-down! Oops!
Finally our wave was called and we are about to start. There were three sections, ours went under the bridge, and no, we didn’t get peed on. :)
The crowds were immense, almost too much by the last quarter. You eventually get tired of the same signs and high-fiving kids. I did see some original signs though. There was one of John Snow upset that said “There will be no hitting the Wall!” Another was of Christopher Walken saying “There’s only one Walken, everyone else should be running.” But it was awesome when we passed this church and they had their choir singing out front. One of the best crowd sections. Harlem was also awesome with their hip-hop music.
I started running in the middle to take a break from them. It really messes with your running plan if you do 10:1s (10min run, 1min walk). It is so hard to walk beside people yelling at you to keep moving. My phone battery was quickly dying for some reason and I didn’t start my 10:1s until an hour in and then was trying to preserve my battery so I wasn’t using my timing app. Everything was thrown off.
Dave got this shot of Megan running (in the pink hat). It shows you how crowded the running was. After about 3 miles Megan was going too fast for me and I let her go. By the half way point my feet were hamburger and things were tough. How could we still be in Brooklyn! We had 5 bridges to cross, only one that was flat. It was a zombie race by the fourth bridge. You could tell that a lot of people (like me) hadn’t paced well enough and had not anticipated the hardships of the bridges. I knew I wasn’t going to quit, but I knew it would be a struggle for the last hour and a half.
I also got run over by a Kenyan (that’s what I’m saying) in Harlem at a water station. I got ran into from behind, slipped in all the Gatorade, water and banana peels (haha) and went down hard on my elbow and knee. Half covered in pavement and liquid, it was a bit of limp-fest for the next hour, but I pressed on.
By the time we got into Central Park I was aching for it to be over and was somehow convincing myself that I wasn’t going to walk over the finish line. I had to run. On the last turn at Columbus Circle, I pushed to run the rest, down the cheering section, with all the flags of different nations and over the finish line. My time was 4:11:41, my worst time, but also probably my proudest finish for the hardest marathon I’ve done. I finished in the top 35% of runners, so it’s hard to complain. Megan finished seconds under 4hrs, her new PR to beat.
After stopping in the medical tent (which was like a disaster zone of cots and wheelchairs) to get my elbow and knee checked and bandaged, I joined the zombie apocalypse through the park, for what seemed like forever, to pick up our poncho. The ponchos were amazing! I’m keeping mine to stay warm on the coach at home!
It took almost an hour to get to Ben, Dave and Charlotte after the race in the Family Reunion Zone. Megan who finished 11mins ahead of me still wasn’t there. Somehow I had passed her after the finish line. When we finally saw each other it was a teary reunion of “That was so hard!”
Upon leaving the park and heading back to the hotel, I received so many congratulations from people on the street. Even on the subway a young kid recorded me and him on his phone and posted it to a NYC Marathon stream somewhere on the Internets. He was so impressed that I had ran.
After going out for a nice dinner with the Auld’s at Ed’s Lobster Bar, Dave and I stopped for a cocktail at The Central Grill a couple blocks from our hotel. We sadly watched the Met’s go down over free fries and a couple drinks and a fun conversation with the bartender and guy beside us. Just as we were about to leave, the bartender came over with two glasses of champaign. He told us a woman who was at the bar and had just left bought them for us for finishing. It was probably the best moment I’ve had in New York thus far. New Yorkers really love their marathon and love that the world comes to run it. I haven’t felt hospitality like that before there.
Will I be back to New York, you betcha! Will I run another marathon? I’m currently saying I’m retired, but you never know, I kinda want to go back and attack this one again. Clearly, this is crazy talk!