Marathon #24 / Overall #35 / State #10 (New York)
TCS New York City Marathon
New York City, NY
This has to be by far the largest race I’ve ever done. Unlike my other race reports – I’m gonna objetively describe each section and then throw in some of my personal experiences and two cents…
I was so excited to do the NYC marathon and had been planning on this for months. I was even more excited when one of my friends and her other friend was coming with me on the trip to watch me run the race!!
Getting into the NYC marathon
You can gain entry into the TCS New York City Marathon by one of the following ways, and my two cents on each option:
1. Time qualifying – good luck. It’s easier to qualify for Boston than a guaranteed entry to NYC.
2. Guaranteed Entry through charity – if you’re a specific type of people-person that can convince enough of your friends/co-workers to donate for a charity (usually $1,500-$3,000), or if you have that yourself to kill and pay your way into a guaranteed entry… go right ahead.
3. Lottery – this is the most difficult but perhaps the most sensible way of getting in. Odds of the NYC lottery are about 1 in 5 to 1 in 8. There are no longer three-time’s-a-charm or legacy runners option.
Registration costs a hefty $225… expensive like everything else in New York City lol
This was my 3rd year trying – I didn’t expect to get in the lottery… but hey it happened. It was going to be the reward to myself for passing the AP/CP boards last year… aka DELAYED gratification lol
Selecting Transportation and Post-Race Options
Interestingly, one of the things that each participant must do is to select transportation to the start (or else you will be assigned transportation or not assigned one). One may take the manhattan bus, the New Jersey bus, or the Staten Island Ferry/shuttle. Transportation start running at 5am until 8:15 am.
It was interesting how they gave each participant the option of post-race bag check OR rain poncho.
Knowing that MTA system well and knowing that it’s fairly straighforward to make my way down to South Ferry, I opted for the Staten Island Ferry option. Probably becaause I was one of the first to pick, I went ahead and picked the later time at 8:15 AM. Since I never use bag check, I opted for the rain poncho.
The expo was located at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center near Hudson Yards off 34th Street on the west side. Getting to the expo was rather convenient, as one can take any subway line that connects to the 7 on 42nd St and take it to the last stop. The expo itself was big, but honestly not by much bigger than Chicago and a little less complicated. After picking up the bib number and race shirt, runners could then proceed to the vendor area.
Let’s just say that I almost bought a new pair of On Cloud shoes and ran it the next day… Not sure how that would turn out LOL.
Race Day – journey to start
Organized chaos is the best descriptor for getting to the start line lol… Unlike most other marathons (even big ones like Chicago), the start line, at the Staten Island end of the Verrazano Bridge (the longest suspension bridge in the US) is organized differently in that there are three different colors (blue, orange, and green) with different starting points (all converging later at mile 3), organized by different wave starts (waves 1-4) as early as 9:40 to 11:00 AM, and THEN organized into different corrals.
I woke up at 6am, and was out the door (we stayed at 116th by the 1 train) by 6:45 AM. I hopped on the 1 train which took us down to South Ferry by 7:45 AM. Then we all waited in line to get out of the subway platform and out onto the Staten Island Ferry terminal. That wait wasn’t that bad… And the ferry ride was about 20-30 minutes long. It’s when we got OFF the ferry onto Staten Island when the REAL waiting began…
The entire terminal was PACKED with people of different nations and races. Everyone then went up the stairs and waited in line to get on the shuttle buses. I could already feel sore and tired from all the waiting around and standing and the few flights of stairs we had to climb… lol. Then came the bus ride, which seemed like nearly an hour long because everyone was stuck in traffic. But that’s fine because I took a little nap while waiting.
After getting off the bus (this was about 10:25-10:30 already), there was yet ANOTHER area that we had to walk through. This was manned by security. After entering, I made my way and followed my color (I was assigned Wave 4, Orange, Corral D), where people were lined up. Race officials allowed entrance into the corral starting at 10:45 AM. By this time it was still cool, but the sun was coming out and it was getting slightly toasty (thank goodness for a cold front!!). They made several announcements (in different languages) to please use the port-o-potties inside the corral, urinating off the bridge will result in automatic disqualification… LOL
The view of the bridge was spectacular… But honestly the start line wasn’t that impressive (probably because they had to make 3 starting lines lol)
Staten Island to Brooklyn
Running across suspension bridges was what made the NYC marathon unique.. The first 2 miles were on the Verrazano Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the US that links Staten Island to Brooklyn (I-278). The first mile (yes.. the entire thing) is uphill, and the second mild (yes.. the entire thing) is downhill).
It was such an awesome experience running up the bridge. While it wasn’t packed, it wasn’t packed to the point which I can’t run and weave through the crowds. I could see Manhattan on my far left and feel the chilly north wind blowing ahead… which felt awesome. I took the downhill semi-conservatively, but at this point, I decided that I would let my whole heart out and RUN…
Brooklyn to Queens
At least about 10 miles was in Brooklyn. The race is so big that they closed down the entire street on both sides and had aid stations at the median. And there was spectators lined up everywhere!! The course went overall northbound and went through some ethnic neighborhoods, going through a few turns, before hitting up a bridge to Queens.
Keep in mind my foot was still bothering me and bothered me during the entire race in Chicago… Once again I decided on the same pair of shoes that I ran Chicago… this time I used a plantar brace. But it had dawned to me that I was running THE New York City Marathon, and that this was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That I would run like there’s no tomorrow, giving it my 100% all before God, being the ultimate Spectator.
In order to get a PR, I needed something better than a 4:17. While that would be nice, I was determined not to look at my watch a single time and have any biases on my pace based on looking at how fast I was going. I.e. simply running the entire race by effort, rather than pace. After about mile 3-4, I decided to crank it up a notch and push myself further… On a side note… Brooklyn consists of many “false flats”. There were areas that looked flat but are actually uphill, and some areas are actually downhill.
And I finally found the groove around mile 5-6 and kept it up that way…
Queens to & through Manhattan (1st Ave)
The halfway mark resided right before coming into Queens. We were only in Queens for about 2-3 miles before going over the Queensboro bridge. The Queensboro bridge is almost a mile long before hitting Manhattan on a hairpin turn loop. At this point, the spectators would line up like crazy and cheering everyone on. It was a straight shot traversing along the skyscrapers on First Avenue, up through Harlem, prior to entering the next bridge into the Bronx.
Uh oh… At around mile 15, right on the Queensboro Bridge, my right hamstring started to cramp up, and it was painful!! It was so bad that I had to stop for a sec and stretch/massage it out… So I knew there was my PR out the window, but I was determined not to let this ruin the rest of the race… The spectators on First Avenue were amazing, but I was hurtin’ inside… I did what I could run for 4 minutes and walked for 1 minute as I hobbled up 1st Ave… lol.
Bianca and Cindy were watching the race at miel 22-23, right near 110th street on the other side (5th street). I told them I was hurtin’… lol
Into the Bronx and back into Manhattan
The next bridge took us into the Bronx, around mile 19. The sun wasn’t setting but I can tell it was getting into the late afternoon, which was rather unusal since races are held in the mornings. There wasn’t as much spectators in the Bronx, but enough to keep us going and it wasn’t “empty” per se.
A group of spectators saved the day because they had… MASSAGE STICKS!!! OMG I grabbed one and rolled out my hammies and calves.. And instantaenously they felt better!! That helped me carry through the next few miles…
Return to Manhattan (5th Ave)
Spectators were lining up again, and the support was massive. There were a couple of turns in the course but eventually we ended up on 5th Ave, the street east of Central Park. There were rollings hills as usual, and right before entering Central Park, there was one gigantic hill.
I managed to slowly trot my way down 5th Avenue. The sun was going down, and it was definitely late afternoon. I ran into Bianca and Cindy at mile 22.5 ish and took selfies.. but kept on going.
At the one gigantic hill before Central Park, I was beginning to pick up a second wind…
Central Park to Finish
The last few miles went through Central Park close to mile 24. There was a few turns and curves, as well as some hilly ups and downs. Columbus Circle was near mile 25. The final stretches of the course were lined up with flags from all over the world – perhaps representing each nation which participants flew in. Of course the spectators were jam packed, all the way until the finish.
It was indeed hilly!! The spectators are lined up fully, and it was amazing to see the trees change colors and finally get a sense of fall in the corner…
I had recovered from my hamstring cramp at mile 16 by tweaking my running form slightly… as a result I had second wind that began at mile 25. My pace went down to about a 9:05 (in hindsight) for the last mile as I “sprinted” to the finish… Though I had some challenges during the race, I managed to finish the race in 4 hours and 27 minutes, which was my second best time during a marathon… And I was happy!!
Everyone had to trot another mile before actually leaving the race premises… The bag check folks got their bags a mile later, and the race panchos were located a mile later… why didn’t we get credit for an ultra LOL?
I can honestly say that I gave it my best and my all, and ran the entire race by effort without looking at my watch even once (though I was often tempted).
And to top it off with a nice surprise… Bianca and Cindy came home with a congrats balloon!! Then we went downtown to this Dominican place and pigged out… the end. lol
Okay… so that wasn’t quite the end lol. This was such a great experience. But if I were to compare this race with Chicago, I’d say Chicago is not too far off in terms of crowds and support. This race is unique in that one runs across so many bridges during the marathon course. Also, the trot to get there is equally as exhausting… I took the latest ferry/shuttle possible and it STILL took me several hours.. Can you imagine if people were taking the 5am ferry and sit/stand in the start area for HOURS??
That night, when we were walking around in Times Square, we’d see random people walking around wearing their marathon medals. I stopped doing that since marathon #3 or #4, for it became “no longer a big deal” in a sense (to me personally). But in Times Square, almost EVERYONE was wearing his/her medals. So the next day, I decided to wear mine as well.
The marathon had post race gig… where finishers can get their medal engraved and purchase finisher stuff… There was also an area for post-race recovery with… foam rollers!! Omg they were AMAZING…
Going back to pace analysis… You can see that I was doing pretty good until mile 16… Mentally I felt fine but my hammies decided not to cooperate. Picking up a second wind at mile 24… Is it mental or is it due to me adjusting my running for a bit? Who knows. But the encouraging thing is that it stands as my second best time to date (while beating the previous by a wimpy 2 minutes…), and that I had awesome friends who came out to cheer me on and a surprise later…
Thank you God for one of the best race experiences ever!!