A special event combined with a birthday celebration and a visit with my daughter. Not the "A" goal time I'd hoped for, but (essentially) did reach my "B" goal.
Here’s my recap of the New York City Marathon. Sorry it’s so long. First, I must say that I am fortunate that my daughter lives there and was able to instruct me how to navigate the train from the Newark airport (EWR) to Penn Station, where she met me for the subway ride to the stop closest to her apartment. Staying with her also saved hotel expenses! And she made sure I knew where I was going for all the future subway adventures.
My start time on Sunday was 10:40 am – wave 3, green corral, C. NYCM usually allows around 55,000 entrants and has 4 waves. This year, they added a 5th wave to spread runners out more. Due to Covid, they limited the entries to 33,000, but then those from Europe were not allowed to travel to the US until Nov. 8 (the day after the marathon). That prevented about 6 – 7,000 from coming. I have no idea how many started, but around 25,000 finished.
It was recommended that runners get to the start about 3 hours before their wave. I chose to take the ferry at 6:30am (thankful for the extra hour of sleep). I know, that’s 4 hours early, but I also expected the subway to the ferry to become more crowded as the morning progressed and hoped to avoid that congestion. The ferry takes you to a bus that takes you to the start villages (one for each color), so I probably was not at my start village until at least 7:30am. I also decided that getting there early gave me time to eat something then and again about an hour before my start time and use the porta potties as many times as possible to hopefully avoid an emergency stop during the race. There were porta-potties EVERYWHERE in the start village! I never had to wait in a line! I did have to take a quick pit stop around mile 8 (no more than 1:00) ad there was no line there either.
Despite the extra wave, the start still seemed very crowded to me, but many were following the instructions to wear a mask until after starting. Unfortunately, a lot of masks ended up on the roads, as did more layers of clothing that got stripped off after the start instead of before (there were many Goodwill binds for discarded clothing). I should mention that it was a mostly sunny day, with the temperatures in the mid- to upper 40s at the start (thus the need for the extra layers) and in the upper 50s by late afternoon. The weather was perfect for a marathon! My training had gone very well, and I need to thank three friends for joining me for my long runs on Saturday! I set an “A” goal of 4:00 and a “B” goal of 4:15.
The first 2 miles are the Verrazzano Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn – 1 mile up and 1 mile down. This is also the greatest elevation gain on the course (over 300’). But because it is at the start and the runners are still fairly crowded together, the hill is not that terrible and it was easy to not take off too fast, but as things started to thin out and the descent began, I had to tell myself not to get carried away and take off. The blue and orange waves go over the top of the Verrazzano Bridge and the green waves go on the lower deck. Therefore, I did not get the fantastic view you often see in photos and on TV, but it still wasn’t too bad, looking to the left towards the city. It just wasn’t that great looking up.
The Verrazzano takes the course into Brooklyn, where most of the race takes place, and a lot is run on 4th Ave, so there were very few turns. There are cheering crowds all along the route. I’m sure New Yorkers had missed the marathon as much as the participants and the sunny weather helped bring them out in droves. I did not put my name on my shirt as many sources had recommended, but, as Chris experienced in Chicago, I also heard a lot of, “Go Eastwind!” cheers. The halfway point is on the Pulaski Bridge as you cross into Queens. I had finished the half marathon on pace (a few seconds shy of 2 hours) and was feeling okay, although I knew I had slowed down a bit. Queens is only a mile or so, then the 59thSt bridge to Manhattan – a climb of maybe 50 – 100’ over half a mile or a bit more. Normally, not a noticeable incline, but after 14 miles, I did notice it. I did my best going up and tried to use gravity on the decline to help me get back on pace again. I ran the first 20 miles in 3:05, so I was sure the “A” goal was history. Despite the fantastic crowds (including my daughter around mile 16), my pace continued to fade between 35 and 40K and even more after that.
There is long incline on 5th Ave between miles 23 and 24 (as much as a 3% grade for some of it). I’m sure if it had been any other long run, it would not have felt so difficult, but after 23 miles, it was a killer! Even seeing my daughter again and hearing her yell, “You’re killing it, Mom!” (More like the hill was killing me!) Then, in Central Park and with maybe 1.5 miles until the finish, my right hamstring cramped up. I had to grab a spectator and, thankfully, he grabbed me and held on as I tried to stretch it out and massage it with my free hand. My calf started to cramp as well, fortunately, not nearly as bad. A couple times, when I tried to stand up and get started, I would start to cramp again. Finally, after at least 2 minutes, I was able to start running again, but my form had really gone to hell. I felt like I was tipping to the left and was drifting to that side. I managed to wobble to the finish and must have looked worse than I felt because a volunteer immediately came up to me and put his arm around my waist to support me and get me headed to a wheelchair for a ride to the medical tent.
In the tent, there were lots of cots and already lots of other runners. But an amazing staff – just like ALL the NYCM volunteers! A doctor asked what was wrong and I said I was just exhausted and mentioned the cramping. They brought me a Gatorade although I had been taking some at all but one station (and water as well at probably half the stations). A PT came to stretch out my leg and another massaged it. Meanwhile, my daughter is texting knowing I’ve finished and trying to figure out where we’ll meet up. Once I felt strong enough, I got up and walked out to meet her. They gave me a blanket when I said I was starting to cool off. I then picked up my medal, “recovery” bag, and poncho and finally met up with her after walking a few more blocks.
I finished in 4:17:28 – about 2 minutes shy of my “B” goal, but that was the result of the cramping. The competitor in me is disappointed with the time, but I am happy that I at least reached the “B” goal. As I ran, I thought about all the long runs that my 3 friends did with me (either some or all of the distances), and I can’t thank them enough for doing so. Training with younger, faster friends was a big help! I also knew that many friends and family were tracking me as I ran, so I hated the idea that I was slowing or that I had to stop for the cramps. However, knowing they were “watching” kept me moving – almost as if they were also along the course with the New York crowds cheering me on!
For anyone planning to or hoping to run New York, I know you’ll love it. It is amazingly well organized and there are so many volunteers that help it run smoothly. I strongly recommend you join this Face Book group: New York City Marathon Help Group 2022 (the year has already been updated). And the man who started it (Runar Gundersen of Norway) has a great web page: New York City Marathon There is anything and everything you want to know about NYCM!
And I should add that I did beat the Boston qualifying time of 4:35 for my age group! If I do run Boston, it will not be 2022 since I have two half marathons in March and April that I deferred from 2020/2021.