RECAP: New York City Marathon

This race was a long time in the making; from the first thought of registering for it and completing it as a race in the World Marathon Majors, to executing the plan (which was delayed due to COVID), and then arranging the trip and travel, in all, it was a great experience that I am so thankful I had the chance to take part in.

First, I have to thank Molly and Phil from New Balance, who were instrumental in securing my bib for this event. Entrance into this storied marathon can be just as difficult as training and running the race itself, and through their help, I was offered a non-complimentary New Balance sponsor bib. For this, I paid the same entry fee as the general registration, but did not have to enter the notoriously stringent lottery (which became even more restrictive after 2020’s race cancellation), or enter through a charity. I was so grateful for this opportunity, and was surprised on race day that it also included entrance to a VIP tent, with plush amenities like tables, chairs, our own supply of breakfast items and, perhaps most helpful, an exclusive bank of port-a-potties just for us!

But, more on that later.

You see, the road leading to the New York City Marathon started with a series of decisions this summer, of which included: who would go with me? What would my goal be? What was the plan? And surprisingly, things clicked into place! Within a few weeks, I determined that I would attempt my most challenging training cycle for a fall marathon – then New York would be the “victory lap” or celebration of the racing season. Thankfully for me, that’s just how it worked out! In October, I nabbed my Boston Qualifying time, spent two weeks recovering, then sprinkled in a few easy runs before wheels up to JFK in November.

With COVID concerns still rampant, I was thankful to have my parents come to our house to watch the kids, as Eric and I traveled to New York from Thursday to Monday. I chose a Thursday night bib pick up, in attempt to limit expo crowds (worked like a charm, this was so easy!), which allowed for two full days of playing tourist, a great race day, and a laid-back half day before heading home.

Now, I will likely detail other points of this trip at another time, but seeing as this is a “race recap,” I should probably get back to that now!

PRE RACE

On Saturday Night, Eric found a great thin pizza place for us to grab some slices as a top-up on carbs. It was a nice early evening, as we were able to sit down and enjoy our meal before the dinner crowds showed up. We even had ala mode deserts, yum! After our meal, we swung by a bakery for a pastry for my race morning breakfast, then it was back to the hotel, where I set out my race outfit and items,  flipped on the TV for a bit before drifting off to sleep around 9:30 PM, as my alarm was set early!

RACE DAY

I woke up 10 minutes before my 4:15 AM alarm, and downed some water. I put on my race outfit and outer layers, placed a water bottle in my throwaway bag, as well as my pastry (I wasn’t hungry yet), and set out to the Subway. Of course, I entered the wrong entrance (d’oh) and had to walk back up and out, but that was a minor issue. At the subway platform, I chatted with a fellow marathoner from Detroit to pass some time, and then made the trip to the Whitehall Terminal.

At the Ferry Terminal, runners silently shuffled through to the main loading area. We didn’t wait long before the large doors opened, and we continued on to to boat. I smiled to myself as I recalled the articles I had recently read about the inspiration of the Walt Disney World ferries, and noted their slight similarities. True, our destination was different, but really, no less magical!

The ride didn’t feel long. To be honest, I didn’t even keep track of the duration, as I just marveled at the people around me, and the view out the window (PRO TIP: sit on the right of the ferry to get a great view of the Statue of Liberty). Once we docked at Staten Island, it was another march out to the line of busses waiting to whisk us off to Fort Wadsworth, where the start line was staged.

Now, this bus ride felt longer than I thought it should, but again, no complaints as it was warm and comfortable. I met a nice runner whom I chatted with during the bus ride, and he told me about a bike ride he had done through all the NYC Burroughs, as well as his Ironman training, and previous Boston marathons. I excitedly told him that I’d be registering for my first Boston, and we shared in the excitement of both of us taking on our first NYCM. After departing the bus, we bid farewell and good luck!

Walking into the start area was like entering a military operation, as it basically is! Event security staff, as well as NYPD Counter Terrorism Officers wanded us through security checkpoints, and then we entered the villages. I made a beeline to the Dunkin’ tents for coffee and a famous pink and orange beanie, which this year were embroidered with beautiful gold 50th anniversary patches.

As I looked around for a place to sit (many runners were staking out curbs and soft grassy areas with their BYO pieces of cardboard, I spied a New Balance tent, and runners entering by showing their bibs with “NB” credentials. I looked down at mine and realized that I must’ve also had that access, and so approached the tent and was granted access.

Inside the tent was a dream! Many tables and chairs, our own supply of bagels, coffee, extra DD beanies, handwarmer packets, and as mentioned earlier – a bank of our own port-a-potties! I walked to the back of the tent area where I could grab a seat, and enjoyed my pastry I had brought, along with some coffee.

Before long, a group of runners arrived and asked if the seats around me were taken, to which I replied that they were not, and I’d be happy to have company. Now, this is already funny now, but these runners who arrived were just so warm and welcoming, quickly introducing themselves and just felt…like I knew them already? I couldn’t put my finger on it.

We chatted about the race, and some were new marathoners, some experienced, and like I said – just all so genuinely warm. We remarked on marathon tips, delighted in seeing the race take off on the bridge directly above our tent area, and laughed about bathroom rituals and race mistakes. Talking to them passed the time as each of our groups were called to the corrals, and we bid each other good luck and great races!! One of the gals asked me my Instagram name and said she’d look me up (more on that later).

Once in the corrals, the air was still cold, but the sun felt warm and comfortable, so I was able to comfortably toss my throwaway layers into the large blue donation bins in the corral. As we were called up (I was in Orange, Corral B, Wave 2), we inched closer to the Verrazano Bridge and become swept into the excitement – this was really happening! I turned my phone to airplane mode, switched on my Spotify playlist, and turned on my Aftershokz – it was nearly GO time!

After the anthem played, and a cannon set off and we were RUNNING! I barely noticed the uphill as “Start Spreading the NEEEWSSSS…” permeated the crisp air. It was a bluebird sky, and maybe it was my imagination, but all the surfaces had a golden sheen as we ascended the bridge. At the crest of the bridge, I could just hear light footfalls of the runners around me, then…just as we peaked over for our downhill, the familiar intro of “Dreams” by the Cranberries played and the moment was just perfect.

Now, I really wish I could tell you, in detail, the highlights of each Burrough and neighborhood of the race, but to be honest, it was one big happy blur. I don’t know if the signs didn’t appear until later (I recall seeing “Queens” and “The Bronx”) but NEW YORK CAME OUT for this race, and every street felt like a party. Spectators of all ages, with signs, whistles, pots, pans, drums…the energy was just so high octane!  I knew I was going too fast, but I couldn’t slow down, even if I tried. I reminded myself that I’d just go with how I felt, and that made it easier to just run for the fun of it, and although that was the complete opposite of my last marathon, that was not only okay, but the goal I was after.

It would be a lie to say that I loved EVERY minute, because CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE QUEENSBORO BRIDGE FOR A HOT MINUTE?! Ugh, ugh, ugh, there’s no way around that, it was awful. I felt boxed in, and I was starting to feel tired, and it felt like a relentless climb…yeah, I definitely walked a bit in there! It drained me for a while, but the joy that rushed over me as we finally left that chapter fueled me again.

Further on, I knew that I wanted to see my friends Danielle and Amelia on a street with a “100-something” in it, so I started scanning the left side of the roadway after 101. Much to my surprise, I actually saw them! I ran up and yelled hi and waved like a maniac!

My garmin screen was set with a “race” watch face with a current and average pace, and by then, it had settled in a little over 8:10’s and I figured I could coast in way under than my tentative plan of a sub-4, but for a few minutes, I wondered if I wanted to push for a sub 3:40. Throughout the race, I had employed the strategy of running to the last volunteer handing out water at the aid stations and downing my salt tabs and/or GUs, and on the run, decided that I should just keep that up, and shoot for 3:45.

So, I kept on, and much to my surprise, despite starting to sweat a bit by that point (around mile 22ish?), my calves had not cramped, but my quads were beginning to really tighten, no doubt from the hills. I walked out some discomfort, alternating walking and running with landmarks on the course, and managed to at least jog through most of Central Park, as I was happy to be off what seemed to be an eternity on 5th Avenue. 

That last bit that took us out, then back in to Central Park was another doozy; I was overcome with emotion as I was looking forward to being done with the whole running thing, but also kind of in disbelief that it was soon going to be all over. We had walked the finish area a few days earlier, and so it was very familiar…with the 800 M left sign, then the band, and the 400 M left…then I could see the finisher chute, and hone it all in for a strong finish!

I looked down and when I saw 3:42, I was delighted! Just 18 minutes slower than my PR and BQ a month ago, my fastest World Marathon Major finish, and third all-time best marathon time.

The walk out of the park was low-key and easy…received medal, recovery bag, and the famous bright blue poncho – what a lovely garment! Fleece lined and hooded, it felt like a dream as the breeze started to cool my sweaty skin.

I was a NYCM finisher!

POST RACE

The first order of business after exiting the park? LEVAIN BAKERY.

I had plotted out this plan, but wasn’t sure if I’d execute it until I pulled out my phone and realized just how close it was. So, I marched on over, ordered two delightful, large cookies and upon seeing my medal and unmistakable poncho, the friendly male clerk smiled and handed me my cookies in a paper bag and said, “they’re on the house, congratulations to you!” it warmed my heart so much I thanked him and was on my way to the Subway and back to the hotel.

At that point, I was so grateful that I had run a good race, and hadn’t pushed past my limit so the steps (down and up) weren’t frightening prospects!

Back in the room, I downed my recovery beverages and cleaned up, changing into Pajamas and planting myself on the hotel bed, where I watched Bridesmaids before a 7 PM dinner at Serendipity where we met up with Alan, one of my best friends from high school (he and his wife live in the city). It was such a great feeling to enjoy a night out after a wonderful day.

Now, if you read this far, you might wonder…so, why did those New Balance buddies seem so familiar? Well, it seems that their awesome run crew is not only inviting and friendly, but incredibly good looking and y’know, THE MODELS IN THE NB NYCM collection! OH MY GOSH. I was among celebrities!! Can you believe it? Big shout out to Goldfinger Track Club!

Check it all out here.

It’s funny, before I was bit by the NYCM bug, I wondered – what could be so special about this race? Sure, it’s a cool city and all, but…just like running, it’s about the PEOPLE. And boy, did New York show up. I get it.

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