new york city a week ago
Finally got back into a running frame of mind after a week away from it and dug out the memories of last Sunday’s New York City Marathon…
An early start began by walking from my Airbnb lodging in Hell’s Kitchen through 42nd Street to the NY Public Library at 5 in the morning to catch one of the event buses heading for the starting line in Staten Island, a surreal scene of marathoners carrying their gear bags and water bottles past cross-dressers and other characters who could have come straight out of an Andy Warhol project from the 70’s. Passed through 3 security checkpoints outside the library to get on the bus, things to come.
Half slept on the hour bus ride, arrived on Staten Island, got off the bus, had to get through what looked like an airport screening area, a dozen wide, at least a half dozen more checkpoints before getting to my green wave runners village. Appreciated all of these security measures…
Dawn arrived, cold, in the 50’s, foggy, misty, could see ahead the Verrazano Narrows Bridge we’d be crossing it in a few hours, along with the orange and blue waves. Got some Dunkin Donuts Coffee, Bagels, Powerbars from the village volunteers, was now a matter of resting and staying warm while waiting.
3 hours later, got to the 2nd waiting area, before heading to the 1st corral of the 1st wave of the starting line on the foot of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
Another 30 minute wait, keeping the ‘throw away’ clothes on, runners relieving themselves – people automatically get to know each other intimately in these starting lines – re-tying their laces. ‘America the Beautiful’ is sung, the starting cannon’s fire, Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York,’ and we’re off.
Our wave starts off on the bottom level of the bridge, the first mile or so up the bridge then down to the streets of Brooklyn. Adrenaline’s carrying me at this point and through the first several miles. Try to hold back but passing people, maybe a runner every yard. Already heating up by mile 3, throw off my hat, then my hand warmers (old socks) around 10k.
Much of the 1st Half is a blur, mostly keeping my pace in check, passing many runners, at times felt like maybe passing too many, but based on the course clocks, the pace remains between 6:10 and 6:20, so not too concerned…but did have a highlight around 10 miles seeing my son cheering for me, heard a familiar voice from the sideline and it was him, was expecting him at some point in the race but to run into your own son in the middle of NYC was special.
Still keeping the pace fairly even, though not feeling completely comfortable in the new (broken in) racing flats, the half marathon split was 1:24, a little slow but safe.
A few more turns, ups and downs, then hit the 59th St. Bridge that I had mentally prepped for, a long uphill, still feeling good, then a long downhill that provided some momentum, at the bottom was a crazy loud crowd on 1st Ave that I also had prepared for, this at mile 16 where I was feeling better than ever. Running along the crowd, I was flying, I knew maybe too fast but sometimes you go when you feel good (turns out to be fastest pace of the race in the next couple miles, 6 minute miles), saw an elite masters runner I recognized, knew he’d be in contention, went with him along 1st Ave, we traded places several times, the crowd here was crazy.
Around mile 19, cross a bridge over to the Bronx, forgotten about, it starts to hurt, losing momentum through several turns in the Bronx, then another bridge back over to Manhattan and through Harlem, starting to tire but not dead.
Get through Harlem, the spectators are terrific, ‘welcome to Harlem!!’ Finally get on 5th Ave in upper Manhattan, towards Central Park, now I’m home free…or am I. I’ve miscalculated, not mentally prepped for this stretch, 5th Ave won’t end, much longer than expected, I keep looking for the turn off to Central Park. I’m still 2 miles away and the road is unexpectedly uphill. It seems never-ending, just never-ending, the road and the incline. The legs are tiring, the right foot clips a sidewalk, almost wipe out, catch myself, but the legs tire some more. Finally see the entrance to the Park, but being passed by several people now, the hamstrings begin to knot up when I try to pick up speed…the 90% humidity is getting to the legs now.
Enter Central Park, a couple miles to go, the rolling hills aren’t killing me, but can’t get any knee lift going, every time I speed up the hamstrings begin to cramp up. I resort to shuffling as fast as I can and pray that the the legs don’t cramp and force me to stop. Feels literally like a dream when your legs are moving in slow motion.
I am passed but I’m also passing runners. After so many turns and up and downs, finally see the finish line and pass through, ‘sprinting’ against a couple of runners. Don’t have a watch, learn the finishing time is 2:53, a little disappointed, but proud of grinding out an age division top 10 (9th place) in a major marathon. It was a grinder, for sure.
Will savor the experience, especially 1st Ave, then remember 5th Ave if I decide to run New York again, and I’m tempted to run again next year and get 5th Ave back.