TCS New York City Marathon (NYC, NY)
Marathon #5, State #5
Finish time – 3:13:12
On Sunday, November 6th, 2016, I completed my 5th marathon at the TCS New York City Marathon ("NYC Marathon"). I was born and raised in NYC; when I first entertained the idea of running a marathon, the NYC Marathon was going to be my one and only. Well obviously that has changed since I now plan to run at least 50 marathons - one in each state.
The logistics of getting to this race were a bit crazy. Since my wife and I would be going to this marathon without the boys, we decided to drive from our home in Atlanta to my parents' house in South Carolina on Friday night. First thing Saturday morning we drove from my parents' home to Charlotte, NC in order to catch the red eye to Newark, NJ. After landing in NJ on Saturday afternoon, we caught a train into Manhattan and went straight to the expo (luggage in tote and all) in order to pick up my race bib and package. By the time we made it to our hotel in Brooklyn, I felt like I had already run a marathon lol... but I wasn't too tired to take a 10 minute walk to a day party that was being hosted by some friends that flew in from Atlanta. After staying there for a short while we made the trek back to our hotel in time to order some pizza and grab some sleep before my marathon the next morning. This was probably not the most ideal lead-in to a marathon; but hey, we had fun, and that's what's most important.
Race morning started off as planned. I left my hotel a few hours before my designated wave 1 start time. After a 15 minute train ride and 30 minute ferry, I arrived in Staten Island with about 2 hours to spare. But here, is where all went to crap. What should have been a 20 minute bus ride, morphed into a 2 hour fiasco. For reasons still unknown, the buses were essentially at a standstill. I saw many people from other buses gettin off in order to walk several miles to the bridge in order to make their start time. Just as I decided that I may do the same, I heard a voice over my bus' loud speaker announce that no-one was allowed to exit the bus before we reach the drop off point. This was not the voice of my bus driver, rather this was the voice of an apparent supervisor that was making the announcement to all of the buses.
So I was stuck. And we waited. And naturally, I missed my start wave.
We finally make it to the Verrazano Bridge in time to barely make start wave 2. Now, not only was I not starting with my wave, I had to skip my breakfast, coffee, warm-up, and stretching. And I knew that I would have to make my way through a crowd of slower runners. Yes, I was now officially frustrated. Partially due to this frustration, I also forgot to sync my heartrate strap to my watch. Now I would also have to run the race without my heartrate strap... something that I have gotten used to using as an objective measure to maintain an appropriate intensity level during my races.
Staten Island (Miles 1-2)
But then the cannon went off. And we started running across the bridge and the only sounds I could hear were the rhythmic percussion of my fellow runners' feet, the poised anxiety of their breath, and the rustling of bibs barely holding on to singlets as they were being ravaged by a vicious crosswind. Then I look to my left and I see the beauty of the NYC skyline. And then I remember where I am and what I'm doing. And now I'm no longer frustrated. I don't care that I skipped my breakfast... and screw my heartrate monitor. I'm running the NYC marathon, and that's everything!
Brooklyn (Miles 3-13)
The miles through Brooklyn were great. The crowds were deep throughout and the energy was electric! Since this was the beginning of the race, I was feeling great. And since I started a wave back from where I was seeded, I was weaving through slower runners for the entirety of Brooklyn. The good thing is that the streets were wide enough for me to do this with little trouble; the bad part is that I wasn't running tangents, and according to my Strava data, I covered over 27 miles during the race. Not good.
Somewhere along the way in Brooklyn, I decided that I was going to run this race "conservatively." I figured that I just wanted to enjoy the sights and sounds of my hometown. I figured that a 7 minute pace would be relatively comfortable for me and would still lead to a BQ... so that was where I settled in. My hotel was a couple of blocks from the 8-mile mark, and I was able to see my wife here. I was feeling great. I smiled, handed her my useless heart-rate strap, and told her I loved her as I cruised by without a care in the world. This race was going to be fun!
Around the 9 mile mark, I was about an hour into the race and ready to take my first (of two) s-cap capsules. But somehow I fumbled the capsule and dropped it on the ground. Normally I'd take two during a marathon - one at the one hour mark and the other at the two hour mark. "No big deal" I thought; I'll just take my remaining capsule at the midway point and that'll be good enough.
I got through the halfway point in 1:31:22 (6:58/mile pace), right on target and feeling wonderful.
Queens (Miles 14-16)
Queens is a relatively short segment of the race, with its most notable landmark being the Queensboro Bridge that leads back into Manhattan. I was still feeling really good here but was feeling boxed in going up the bridge. So many people were stopping and walking, it felt like I ran into a protest at the base of the bridge. It was extremely difficult making my way through walkers and slow joggers 4 or more people abreast. I lost a lot of time here.
Once I made my way to the apex of the bridge I saw an even more disturbing image. 3 or 4 people wearing "Blue Lives Matter" shirts. For some reason, seeing them in those shirts made me so angry... I mean livid. I absolutely hate that slogan because I am 100% convinced that it was designed as a rebuttal to "Black Lives Matter" - a movement that doesn't warrant a rebuttal. Black Lives Matter was an assertion born out of the feeling that black lives were not valued the same as others... particularly by the police and judicial system. To see someone make a mockery out of this cry for help by appropriating the slogan, only further makes the case that some people don't see value in the black life. Police officers already have their own slogans, support groups, emblems, etc. No need to do that. No need for "Blue Lives Matter". IMO, it's vile.
The good thing is that the anger that arose during my time on the bridge was quickly extinguished by the madness that ensues when you descend from the bridge.
Manhattan Pt. 1 (Miles 17-20)
The crowds in Manhattan, after exiting the bridge, are insane! Insane, in the best possible way. I'm talking 10 deep for miles and indescribably loud! It's easy to get out of control here and speed up, but I stayed in pocket. This race, after all, was going to be enjoyable. Plus there was still a lot of racing to do. No need to push things here.
The Bronx (Mile 21)
The Bronx... oh the the Bronx. Growing up I didn't spend much time in the Bronx. Most of my days were spent split between Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. But today the Bronx was my favorite borough. The music and the people were amazing. I'm not sure if it's because they have such a small section of the race, but I felt like they really put their all into it. And this section of the race felt more NY than any other. If there's such a thing.
Manhattan Pt. 2 (Miles 22 - Finish)
After leaving the Bronx, runners head due south back into Manhattan and straight towards Central Park and the finish. I was still feeling amazing here. I remember passing a section where they were playing dancehall, and it took everything in me not to stop racing and dance with the crowds for a second. But I didn't.
That's a good thing because it was only a short while later that i had to deal with the long climb up 5th avenue. And it was here that I questioned everything. Out of nowhere, I lost all push in my legs, my lower calves were on the brink of cramping, and I felt like I had absolutely zero energy left in the tank. Things went from easy to difficult so quickly. By mile 24, I was thinking "why in the **** do I do this to myself... I hate marathons... this'll be my last one! etc. etc."
My wife was near the 26 mile mark around Columbus Circle and saw me as I approached the finish. She said I looked her way when she called my name, but I was so out of it, I really don't remember seeing her... or anything for that matter. I was completely exhausted! But I struggled and shuffled my way across that finish line in 3:13:12.
After the finish
After crossing the finish line, the walk to get out of the park is sooooooooooooooooooo long. And I was soooooooooooo tired (and cold). Everywhere around me people were just crashing to the ground or limping over to the fencing. But I knew I had to keep moving because I didn't have my phone, and I was supposed to meet my wife at the designated meeting spot. I knew she saw the struggle on my face and if I didn't get there in decent time, she'd worry.
So I walked at a snail's pace through the park trying to escape. I did not check a bag, which entitled me to a closer exit out of the park and a SUPER COOL insulated race poncho. But my closer exit was still so far away, and I wouldn't get my poncho until I reach that point. And I was freezing. And miserable. And soooooooo tired.
Along the walk they have these people called spotters that I guess are supposed to look for people who looked like me - the walking dead. This one woman looked through a huge crowd of people, locked eyes on me and asked, "do you need some help?" Just the fact that she picked me out of the crowd let me know that yes, yes I need some help. So she said she would walk with me out of the park. Along the way we walked past the medical tent and she kept offering me a chance to go there. "Nah, I'm good" I kept saying, but apparently my face was betraying me. On the third offer she mentioned that they had warm soup and blankets. SOLD!
I made my way to the tent and they wrapped me up in blankets and gave me soup. That soup felt and tasted like all that was right in the world combined into a small little portable cup. It was liquid heaven in the palms of my hand. After 5 minutes of blankets, small talk, and soup, I was ready to go again.
I left the tent and my shuffle had improved to a stroll. My face even showed hints of a smile. I made my way out of the park, retrieved my super fantastically awesome race poncho and made it to my wife.
Race #5 done. And despite my momentary lapse in judgement around the 25 mile mark, this will not be my last. I have at least 45 to go.
-Hic Svnt Leones