Everyone started shuffling forward prior to the beginning of the race. There were no ropes or anything between the corrals, so I guess we were just squeezing in closer together. I started in the 33000-33999 corral, and ended up past 17,000 when we came to a standstill. At that point we could hear the very end of the national anthem. I don’t remember hearing the announcements, but we did hear the cannon. Although the back of the medal is inscribed with “the most spectacular start in our sport”
, I didn’t see much of it until later when I saw the recap online.
We started slowly moving forward at this point. I saw an empty port-a-potty and decided to take advantage one last time. Considering that I was already in the last corral, it didn’t really matter much. I was already one of the last people in a green bib to pass the start line. It took me 12:04 to get there.
Once I passed the start line I had plenty of room to run, which surprised me. There were still people around, and tons of clothing lying on the floor, but there was room to move. I was on the lower deck, which I think is a little less cool
, but it was still pretty exciting. I kept thinking “I’m running in the New York Freaking Marathon!” You could see the tugboats in the water shooting out red, white, and blue streams of water. (You could also see runners standing on the side making their own yellow streams.)
I finished the first mile in 10:15, which is pretty good, considering it was uphill. It didn’t really feel uphill though. I was surprised that I wasn’t passing too many people. I knew that some people finished in 6 hours and I was wondering why I wasn’t having to weave through all these people. (Maybe they started in orange?) Anyway, the next mile was downhill and went by pretty quickly, in about 9 minutes. I thought that was too fast, and made a mental note to take it easy, and go slow.
The next mile was basically the off ramp of the Verazzano
, and running towards 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. On the off ramp we saw the UPS trucks drive by with our bags. A couple of the drivers honked us, but I was thinking about how my bags were being driven to the finish line, and it would be hours before I caught up to them.
There wasn’t much room for crowds on the side of the street at this point, but there was a lot of energy just from the runners. The sun was already out and shining down on us, and that did not bode well. I had hydrated like crazy beforehand, and was carrying a water bottle with me as well.
After the third mile, the green bibs joined up with the rest of the race. It seemed like their were a million runners that we merged with as we turned on to 4th Avenue. There were still barriers in the middle of the road, and each group stayed on their respective side, but it was crowded. This is also when the crowd support really started. There were tons of people lined up along the street, with a lot of kids noticeable. Because I had my name on my shirt, and run close to the sidewalk, I heard my name tons of times. I didn’t want to tire myself out giving everybody high fives (like I’ve read), but I gave a thumbs up and a smile whenever someone cheered for me. I had my headphones in my ears, but the iPod was off at this point. (I wasn’t sure what to expect later, and I didn’t want to be untangling my headphones later on if the crowd support faded.)
Just about mile 4 I saw my grandmother and great-uncle. They didn’t see me coming, but I knew where they were supposed to be, so I spotted them. I ran over and kissed them and I think they were shocked. (I’m pretty sure that in the 50 years they’ve both lived in NYC this was probably the first marathon they’ve ever seen!) I didn’t really stop, but it was energizing nonetheless.
4th Avenue continued to be amazing, and lasted until mile 8. There was tons of crowd support, and many different bands
along either side of the road. Just awesome. It was kind of crowded and difficult to run. I did a little weaving because it was frustrating to not be able to run at my pace. I might have annoyed a few people, but I really tried not to be too aggressive. There was still a long way to go. I was running about 9:40 splits at this point. (My 10K split was 59:25.)
Mile 8 is where all three groups really merge, and the crowds were even worse. I truly understood what the phrase “mid-pack runner” meant at this point. We turned down Lafayette Street and headed towards Williamsburg.
Mile 9.5 to mile 10.5 is through a Hassidic neighborhood
. There were still a lot of people outside, and definitely some people cheering, but it was quieter than the other neighborhoods. I actually have family who live there, and a great-aunt and cousin were out there at mile 10. Once again they were staring out at the runners and didn’t see me coming. But I spotted them and ran over. Seeing family and/or friends on the course is just a great feeling, especially when you’re running strongly.
We continued on through the top part of Brooklyn, and I don’t really remember too many details from here. I kept waiting to see the Pulaski Bridge which takes you into Queens, and you don’t really see it until just before mile 13. The bridge looks short on the map, but is actually quite long. The half-marathon marker is in the early part of the bridge, and I passed it at 2:07:24. I was pretty happy with that time. I’d really come to peace with not going for the 4 hour finish, and the 4:22 goal seemed like it was well in hand at this point. I actually felt like I was pretty strong at this point, and was holding back somewhat. (Keep in mind that I did the Manhattan Half in August in 1:55:44. I was almost 12 minutes behind that pace!) I thought I was going to run a negative split and possible finish this thing under 4:15. Little did I know…The view
from the Pulaski Bridge is spectacular. You can see downtown and midtown Manhattan, with the Empire State Building featuring prominently. It was really quite awesome, and a few runners stopped to take pictures. Other than the view, the bride was actually quite tough. It’s long and the uphill climb wasn’t easy. I could feel myself slowing down. Also, there’s no crowd support. I still had my iPod off so all you hear is feet pounding. Although I was slowing, there were other people really slowing, and I was passing some of them at this point.
Once into Queens you spend about a mile and a half there before reaching the Queensboro Bridge. There was a possibility of a friend of mine being here at this point. I was distracted scanning the crowds, and forgot about the photographers that were stationed here. Since the main reason I ran the marathon was to get the picture (only half kidding here!), I was annoyed at that. I saw them at the last second, and hoped I got into a good running pose while I was still in range.
The time in Queens went by fast. The only thing memorable was this long wall on the side of the road where a lot of guys stopped to pee. (Warning for non-runners: skip a few sentences.) I didn’t have to go too badly, but I didn’t want to wait at a port-a-potty later. I pulled off and assumed the position, but couldn’t relax enough. I had to lean my head on the wall to support my body, and then I was able to calm down a bit. My urine was pretty clear, so I was pretty happy with my hydration status. (Non-runners: resume reading here.) Since I was stopped I decided to stretch, but only briefly. My calves stretched ok. Then I tried my quads. I bent my knee and grabbed my foot and stretched. Whoa!! I felt the top of my hamstring go into extreme spasm. I had to hobble around for 30 seconds until it calmed down. I didn’t stretch my left side as aggressively, and I massaged my right thigh to get it to calm down. After a couple of minutes I joined the runners again, but I think I was a little slower.
Pretty soon after that we were at the Queensboro Bridge
. Everyone says how this is the hardest part of the race, and you can feel and hear the excitement of the runners now that we were reaching it. I knew I had some trouble on the Pulaski but I wasn’t so worried since I felt I was well prepared from my hill running in Central Park.
Well, it was pretty freaking tough! I think the uphill part lasts for a mile. It seemed to never end. I didn’t stop to walk like many other runners, but I definitely slowed down. I think my split for that mile (16) was about 12 minutes. My quads were now really starting to bother me.
Coming off the bridge and looping onto First Avenue is supposed to be the highlight of the race. To be honest, I was in quite a bit of pain at this point, and didn’t really notice the crowd being so awesome. (I certainly had enjoyed Brooklyn more!)
As I continued up First Avenue
I did notice how many people were out there. It was a beautiful day (for spectators!) and I’m sure that led to bigger crowds. Unfortunately I was in a lot of pain at this point. I was still running, but my splits were slowing down to close to 11 minutes. When I realized that my 4:22 goal was impossible, I adjusted it to 4:30, and kept on going.
By mile 18 I was really having a lot of problems. I wanted to stop and stretch again but it was tough. There were so many people crowding the sides of the streets, it was tough to pull over. Plus a lot of them were screaming “Go Danny”, which made it hard to stop running and stretch! I was expecting a friend at 1st and 100th so I pushed forward to see them with plans to stop and stretch when I see them.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see them, and a few blocks after that I pulled off the side of the road again, and stretched. My muscles were so tight at this point, I couldn’t really stretch properly. As I reached the end of the stretch I felt too much pain and couldn’t stretch past it. (Maybe I should have?) I got back in and started running again, still hoping to break 4:30.
My roommate was supposed to be at 1st and 112th with some extra sports beans, so that was my next source of motivation. Unfortunately again, I didn’t see him either. (I later found out he was within a few blocks, but if you don’t know exactly where to look it’s really impossible to find anybody.) Once I passed that spot I really slowed down. I did a little more calculating at that point and realized 4:30 wasn’t going to happen either. That’s when I really lost motivation, and started my first of many walk breaks.
I had said before the race that my main goal was to finish this race running, without having to walk. Taking that first walk break was such a big mental blow to me, I really felt defeated. I wasn’t going to cry or anything, but I was pretty down at that point.
I tried to break into jogging as often as I could, but it was really tough, especially since my time motivators were now gone. I set myself a new, much more obtainable goal of under 5 hours.
Just before the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx I pulled off again for some more stretching. I took a few minutes to do that, and gathered up enough strength to jog up onto the bridge. The running traffic really bottlenecked getting on the bridge so it wasn’t too fast. There were more photographers on the bridge and I didn’t want to be walking when they took my picture. (Good thing there weren’t photographers at every mile!) The photographers were just after the 20 mile marker, which I passed at 3:25:01. (Doing a little math now, I can figure out I ran the previous 6.9 miles in 1:17:37, or an 11:15 pace.)
You only spend about a mile in the Bronx. Other runners have said it isn’t great there, but maybe because I live in the Bronx I kind of felt cool running there. I tried to pick up the pace a little. At mile 21 you take the last bridge, the Madison Ave Bridge, back into Manhattan. I can barely remember it.
The next three miles are down 5th Avenue. I was taking frequent walking breaks at this time. The mile markers now seemed to be 2 miles apart to me! I was really struggling both mentally and physically. At this point, having my name on my shirt became a source of embarrassment. Because I was going slower, I became an easy target. I kept hearing “C’mon Danny, you can do it!”, or “C’mon Danny, only 6 more miles. Pick up the pace!” I really wished I could hide my name at that point. I tried to feebly acknowledge some of those comments, but some of them were tough to take. After a little bit I remembered my iPod and turned it on. It didn’t totally block out the comments, but it distracted me a little. (I probably should have turned it on a lot earlier. I could have used the distraction from the pain.)
As we turned into Central Park at 90th Street I was really energized. This was my home park and I had been waiting to hit this stretch for months. I pumped my fists in the air and started running again. Somehow I felt a little better, at least for a little bit. I started doing some more calculating, and set myself a new goal of 4:48 which would get me under the 11 minute pace.
I was able to keep up the pace for a little while, before having to take another walking break. Ouch! Even the walking hurt me now. The crowds in Central Park were awesome, and although I was in pain, a part of me was taking it in and enjoying the experience. With frequent walk breaks, I was able to run with a decent pace in between. I think my prime motivation at this point was to get to the end as quickly as possible!
For the last mile you exit Central Park and run along Central Park South. I started to realize I could make 4:45, but also realized I could slow down a bit and still make it. I tried to run in the last mile
but without a real time deadline it was pretty difficult. I walked and ran, and walked and ran. Just before getting back into the park, I took one last break, because I knew I wanted to finish the race running.
Coming back into the park you have about a quarter of a mile left. I was running at this point and it was really hurting. I knew I was going to beat 4:45 but I wasn’t going to stop running until I passed that finish line. I think fighting this little battle actually gave me a better sense of satisfaction as I finished the race. There were signs every hundred yards
, “400 yards to go”, “300 yards to go”, etc. I just pushed right through them until I could see the finish line. Wow!! I couldn’t believe I was going to finish the NYC Marathon. I just powered on through, and with my arms in the air like I had just won the gold medal, I crossed that finish line at 4:43:50.
(By the way, doing the math again, the last 6.2 miles took 1:18:49, for a 12:43 pace. For the entire race, I ended up with a 10:50 pace.)
Next: After The Race