Last week I traveled across the country to (finally) run the New York City Marathon. I had been trying my luck at the lottery for 4 years, and finally got in under the old “pity rule” that they stopped doing after this year.
I made a pretty quick trip out of this, since we already have a big family vacation to Hawaii planned in December. But I did still manage to cram in quite a bit of fun in just a few days, including a Broadway show (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder), and a Giants football game. My wife has family out on Long Island, so we stayed out there mostly – except for the night before and after the race, we stayed at a hotel in the city.
We made our way to the expo on Friday. We must have hit it at a bad time, because the line just to get into the convention center wrapped around the block. Later, when we were leaving, there wasn’t a line at all. The expo was huge as you could imagine for a race of this size. The lines to but anything were ridiculously long, so we got in and out pretty quickly. I did get the chance to meet Ryan Hall though – and only waited in line about 5 minutes!
I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that my story was featured in the official race program:
The few days leading up to the race, I kept watching the forecast for race morning. It kept showing clear and cold, which normally would be perfect, expect they were also forecasting 30mph winds! Well, the forecast held true, and we were greeted by some seriously strong winds. The biggest mistake I made was getting to the start area WAY too early. I was in the first wave, and so I thought I should be taking some of the earliest transportation possible. That meant I spent about 3 hours out the cold, shivering, waiting for the race to start.
At least the view was nice
I had brought a throwaway sweatshirt to wear to the start, but it just wasn’t enough. I really should have worn some sweatpants as well. I saw some very interesting outfits that morning, but I’m sure they were all warmer than me.
Using a blown over porta-potty as a wind break. Bonus points for the pink bath robe.
All the time spent shivering and trying to stay warm pretty much zapped all my energy. By the time we finally got started, I had an empty tank within the first 5 miles or so. I knew this wasn’t going to be my day, and so I quickly changed my race strategy to “how many high-fives can I get from cheering kids?” My unofficial tally: 1,327.
Even with how crappy and out of energy I felt, it was hard not to enjoy this race. There were over 50,000 runners, and I can’t even begin to guess how many spectators. There were people cheering, lined up along the entire course, sometimes several people deep. There were people handing out bananas, pretzels, Halloween candy, paper towels and Kleenex.
Finally, we entered Central Park and I knew the finish line was getting close. Even though I was moving slower than I had hoped, I managed to keep a pretty steady pace. I did very little actual walking, just a slower running pace than planned. I crossed the finish line in 4:12 and change, far slower than my PR, but considering how I felt, nothing to complain about.
Then began the long trek to get out of Central Park and back to my hotel. I had selected the no baggage option at the finish, so I got the “quick” exit, which still took probably 45 minutes just to get out of Central Park. When I finally got back to my hotel, I quickly showered and got dressed to head back out, because my day wasn’t over yet!
My mother-in-law was also doing the race, but she was walking and so was a good ways behind me still. I texted with her to figure out where she was, and hopped on the nearest subway to get as close as I could. I managed to catch up to her around mile 21, just after you cross a bridge back into Manhattan for the last time. She had been worried about it getting dark and there not being many people around anymore, so I promised I would come find her and walk the rest with her. Normally she walks a lot at home, but earlier this year she had torn her hamstring, so she hadn’t been walking as much as usual, and was worried about being able to finish the race.
There were actually still a good number of other people around her, though they definitely were starting to shut down the course. They had to walk on the sidewalks in some places, and not all the intersections were closed, so we even had to stop and wait a couple of times. As we got closer to Central Park, things got a little more lively. We could hear the distant sound of the finish line, so we knew they hadn’t packed all that up yet. She was complaining about feeling sore and tired, but I was surprised by how well she was still moving – we actually managed to pass a few people in the last couple of miles.
Finally, she crossed the finish line in 7:19 and was done! Though we still had to make the long trek back to our hotel again. Luckily, since there was a lot less activity going on at this point, some cops let us out a different exit and we managed to get out of Central Park much quicker than I had earlier.
While I didn’t have a great race, the overall experience was fantastic. Because of how difficult it is to get into through the lottery, it’s probably not very likely that I’ll ever run the New York City Marathon again, but it’s an experience I’ll never forget.