(BTW, I don't have any pictures from the race. I hope to add some from Brightroom down the road. In the meantime, this guy took pictures of the race last year, and it really is a great photo-documentary.)
As a result of the wave start, there was only a few people ahead of me when I started. Within a few minutes I had some open space. That was the last time I'd have open space for the rest of the day!
My plan had been to run 9 minute miles until the Queensboro Bridge. I had in the back of my mind that Adeel had "okay"ed anything up to 8:30. (Sort of.)
The first mile went by in 8:32. Ok, a little fast. I had expected mile 1 to be crowded, and to take me 10 minutes. I didn't feel like I was pushing hard, but I at least tried not to speed up.
Mile 2 - 7:43. WTF? I think the downhill of the Verazzano Bridge did that, because it was way faster than I expected. Either way, I got nervous. I didn't want to crash on First Avenue like last time. Better. Slow. Down!
The next mile brought us into Brooklyn. I passed by a group of people running as Star Wars characters at this time. (I'd seen Princess Leah in Staten Island, but now she was with Darth Vader and Chewbacca. Chewbacca!!) 8:13 for this mile.
The next few miles continued through Brooklyn onto 4th Avenue. This is a really fun part of the course. The spectators are really enthusiastic, and you still feel good. I generally run towards the sides, although I was definitely doing a ton of dodging. Either way, people on the sides were constantly calling my name, and trying to high five me. I usually gave a thumbs up sign to these fans, but resisted giving high fives. (I had a long way to go.) These next miles went by in 8:16, 8:32, 8:25, 8:10, and 8:26.
I was still feeling pretty good, but I remembered my last marathon. I had felt great for the first 15 miles that time too.
Onwards through Brooklyn I went. First Downtown Brooklyn, the Williamsburg. As an orthodox Jew I really get a kick of seeing the Hassidim in Williamsburg. Some of the kids come out and cheer, and even give out candies. The older people are usually just staring in wonder as if they've never heard of the marathon. 8:38, 8:25, 8:30, 8:25.
One last mile in Brooklyn, through Green Point. ("Green Point loves you!" I remember someone shouting.) I saw the Pulaski Bridge ahead of me, signaling the halfway point of the race. Just before the bridge, I saw a por-ta-potty with a green door indicator. What luck!
Sadly, the indicator was broken, and the port-a-potty was locked. I tried to get into another one, but someone else beat me to it. I started waiting for a few seconds, but then got frustrated. At that point I kind of "made my own port-a-potty" -- just next to the last one. 9:13 for this mile.
My split at the half was 1:50:26. (It was 2:07:24 two years ago!) I was happy with that. I did some calculating in my head and thought that it would be pretty tough to end up with my proposed negative split. (I must admit though, it did cross my mind how clever I was taking my bathroom break just before the half.)
Onwards through Queens I went. There are only two miles in Queens, with a lot of turns, and through a lot of commercial type areas. There were still fans there, but it always seems short there. 8:25, 8:45.
And now the Queensboro Bridge. I remembered it as the "beginning of the end" from last time around. So I slowed down noticeably as I began the long climb up the bridge.
It is freaking long!! I've run this before, and driven over it, but it really seemed a lot longer than I could recall. I was going slower, but still having a tough time. A lot of people stopped to walk and stretch, and I definitely was passing people, but it was tough. 9:38 for this mile.
Mile 17 includes the end of the bridge and the turn into Manhattan. There were some cute signs on the bridge that said "If only ten miles left is easier, then welcome to easier!" Coming off the bridge and turning onto 59th street is so exciting, it's hard to explain. The bridge is so quiet, and all of a sudden you're in Manhattan surrounded by fans (again). Turning onto 1st Avenue you see a wall of fans on both sides of the street practically squeezing onto the road. (They're all held back by barricades, but it seems that way.)
I had some friends waiting by 89th street, so I was really pushing to get to them. I started to feel tired, but I was energized trying to get up to them. (Both Akiva and Sara were there.) 8:33, 8:16, 8:32.
At this point I was at the top of First Avenue, going onto the Willis Avenue Bridge and into the Bronx. Since I live in the Bronx it's exciting to get there, but I was really tiring at this point. I felt like I was pushing just as hard, but my times started to slow down. Mile 20 - 9:05.
At first I thought it was because of the bottleneck trying to get over the bridge, but then mile 21 went by in 8:51. A little better, but I felt as if I was running as hard as I had been for my earlier 8:20 and 8:30 splits.
As I headed back into Manhattan, I was really feeling tired. I knew I could finish, but I was trying to keep up the pace. This is really where the race gets to be mental. I refused to allow myself to stop or slow down. The next few miles went by in 8:54, 8:35, and 8:55. I was just hanging in there.
At this point I was starting to calculate things in my head. Maybe I could get under 3:45. Or better yet, maybe I could get under 3:43:50, and beat my PR by an hour! I started to push hard during mile 25, which was in Central Park. I was passing people left and right and ended up with just an 8:30 mile. I think that just goes to show how tough it is at the end of the race, and how tired everyone is.
Then came mile 26. The last mile. I was still trying to make mental calculations. I was pretty sure beating my PR by an hour was going to be tough, and 3:45 seemed reachable. I talked myself into running full steam - mostly to prove to myself that I could do it.
By then I was really flying past people. I was trying to dodge in and out of people, which I'd been doing all day. With 800m to go I tried to squeeze past this cop, who in their typical arrogant fashion, wouldn't get out of the way. Ow! I smacked into his bullet proof vest, and the loss of speed was enough to cramp up my calf. My first cramp of the day and I was almost finished!
Well guess what. I didn't stop and I don't even think I slowed down. I ran about 400m on what felt like a numb leg, and I remember going past the event photographer like that. I bet it looks like I have a drop foot or something in the picture. I didn't care, I wasn't going to stop. Amazingly, the cramp even disappeared before I got to the end. Ladies and gentleman, mile 26 went by in 7:57.
I sprinted the last 0.2 miles with whatever I had left. I knew my 1 hour goal was gone, but I was just pushing for the sake of racing at this point. I crossed the finish line with (what I later found out to be) a net time of 3:44:17. It the end of the day, it was close enough that I'm telling everyone I beat my old PR by an hour. (What's 27 seconds between friends?)
(For the record, the second half split was 1:53:51. Not quite a negative split, but not too positive either.)
Needless to say I was excited. More to come in the next post...