Sunday, November 27, 2016

2016 NYC Marathon Weekend

I have wanted to run the New York City Marathon for several years, and started entering the lottery drawing in 2012. Every year I have been rejected, including this year. But Scot was accepted in the lottery drawing, so I decided to run for a charity. I chose the Migraine Research Foundation and committed myself to raising $2,500. With the help of several friends and my employer, I met my goal early on. Get ready for lots of photos as I tell my story of marathon weekend.

2016 NYC Marathon shirt (long-sleeved) and medal

I insisted on spending a non-rushed weekend in New York. And at the encouragement of my friend and fellow marathoner Richard, decided to also run the Dash to the Finish Line 5K the day before the marathon. Scot and I took a bus up to NY on Friday and were dropped off a block from the Jacob Javits Center where the expo was held. Like all the other huge marathons I've done, this one had a big expo with a lot of vendors and activities going on. We spent too much time shopping for official NYC Marathon merchandise (and even more time waiting in line to pay). As Scot was finishing his purchase, we saw that Meb was about to speak at the PowerBar booth right behind us. We stayed to listen. Later, we said hello to Richard, but we didn't see any other friends at the expo, though several of them would be running the race. After the expo we took the subway downtown to the W, and were upgraded to a room with a great view of One World Trade Center and the 911 Memorial. We were also near The Oculus, a major train station and shopping mall, and really interesting architectural feat.

Entering the expo
It's Meb!
One World Trade Center from our hotel room! 
And from outside, later on 
Inside The Oculus with Magenta the Road Trip Flamingo
FDNY Ten House was the first to respond on 911, and was right around the corner from our hotel
Friday night we had tickets to see Marc Maron at Carnegie Hall, as part of the New York Comedy Festival. Scot had introduced me to Marc's podcast "WTF" and to his television show, and I grew to like him. It was pretty awesome to be seeing a comic we liked in CARNEGIE HALL! And in fact, Marc was quite humbled to be performing there. It was a nice show in a landmark theatre

Outside Carnegie Hall (no photography inside)
On Saturday morning we got up early for the 5K, which started near the United Nations. It was a big 5K with thousands of runners. Its course was mostly different than the marathon course, though they shared the same finish line. It was nice to get familiar with the finish area the day before the big race and to spend a little time Central Park on a cold but beautiful morning. We also stopped by the marathon pavilion in the park and bought more merchandise (they had different items than the expo). We didn't do much the rest of the day, which was kind of nice.

At the UN where the 5K started
Chrysler Building on the 5K route
Radio City Music Hall on the 5K route
At the finish of the 5K, where we'd also finish the marathon
At Strawberry Fields in Central Park
We stopped for a drink at O'Hara's Pub (across from the 911 Memorial) after the 5K, and I saw this Brutus Buckeye button (top center)

Then it was Sunday, marathon day. Our plan was to walk to the Staten Island Ferry (but we ended up taking the subway because it was convenient). At the ferry terminal we tried unsuccessfully to find Doug. And we waited a while to get onto a ferry. Finally, we found Doug in the super-crowded ferry terminal on the Staten Island side. It was jam-packed with people. Doug said it was never that bad in past years. When we made our way out of the building we saw that the line for the buses to the start was slow and the boarding was not well-managed. We had expected to have a lot of time to wait at the start area, get some food, relax a little...instead, we were on our feet for a solid two hours before the race and we arrived at our corral area only minutes before our waves took off. Scot went ahead to his corral while Doug and I moved back to run with our friends Peter and JC, who were pacing the 6:00 group.

Ready for the ferry
On the ferry with Manhattan behind us
The Statue of Liberty from the ferry 
Wall-To-wall people in the ferry terminal on Staten Island

My plan was to run with Peter and JC the entire way. I didn't have a specific time goal, and it was my first marathon since May. I had only run several half marathons and one 16 mile day as training, so I wanted to be conservative. And besides, it was going to be fun to see the course with my New Yorker friends. Doug leap-frogged with our pace group a bit, and then we didn't see him. I think the intervals (2 minutes walking and 2 minutes running) didn't quite work for him. And to be honest, I wasn't sure about having such frequent, and long walk breaks, but that's what JC and Peter had planned. We crossed the Verrazano Narrows Bridge shortly after the start. Unfortunately, the Green group had to run on the lower deck of the bridge, so I never got the experience of seeing NYC from the top. Still, it was nice to be running this race, and with friends. I didn't complain. As we descended the bridge into Brooklyn there were many discarded Dunkin Donuts fleece hats. Since I missed out on receiving this classic annual freebie at the race start, I happily picked one up from the side of the road. Someone had probably worn it for all of 30 minutes. It would wash up fine, and I'd have my souvenir. Doug got one too, and he offered to carry both of them in his belt for the entire race. I had not worn any kind of belt, so thanks, Doug.

Before the start, wearing my NYC SparkleSkirt and my gear from the NYC Half in March
I wore a sign on my back thanking all my Migraine Research Foundation sponsors 
Walking to the start area - there's the bridge!
Selfie with Doug, JC and Peter in the corral

I had heard that the crowds of spectators would be energetic, and they were. We ran several miles through Brooklyn and saw different neighborhoods. Some spots had good views. Then we ran over another bridge to Queens. There, Peter's wife Jing Jing gave him a box of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins, which were shared around with the folks in the 6:00 pace group. We had several people stick with this group. It was the last official pace group.

JC and Peter, my favorite pacers!
Scenes in Brooklyn...
Scenes in Brooklyn...
Crossing over to Queens, with a view

The trip through Queens was much shorter than the Brooklyn leg, and then we ran over the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. This bridge was awful. It was covered, concrete, and pretty much all uphill. And it was so long. We did more frequent walk breaks because it was so tough. It only started to go downhill at the very end, and we descended onto First Avenue.

On Queensboro Bridge
On Queensboro Bridge
On Queensboro Bridge

Someone told me that the crowds on First Avenue are the best, but they must have thinned out a bit by the time we got there. It was still an energetic crowd, but not as big as I expected. I'm sure the cold, windy weather had something to do with that. Not all spectators want to stay out there for the 6-hour and beyond runners. Peter and JC got peanut butter sandwiches from a friend on this stretch of road, and those were also shared with the pace group. We continued north to the Willis Ave bridge, which took us over to the Bronx.

Running up First Avenue

The Bronx was the shortest leg of the race, not counting Staten Island. But I thought the spectators and volunteers in the Bronx were awesome. This is also where the 20 mile mark is located, and they really played that up for the short time we were there, only about a mile. Then we ran the final bridge (Madison Ave Bridge) back into Manhattan. Harlem was great. I loved the spectators there. They were so full of energy even this late in the day.

In the Bronx
One of the most energetic people in our group, a first-timer (Erica?)
"The Wall" near Mile 20 in the Bronx

With a few miles to go, we were running south on Fifth Avenue, going uphill. It was hard for me to keep up with Peter and JC. They had maintained the 2:2 run/walk intervals, but I always got behind on the walking segment. I'm not a fast walker, even when I try. Throughout the race, I never had any trouble making up the lost distance at the beginning of the run interval. So every two minutes I'd drop back a bit, but then I'd catch up in the first 20 seconds of the run interval. These little sprints to catch up wore on me after awhile, and I found it hard to catch up on the uphill of Fifth Avenue. Peter and JC also did not add any extra walking for aid stations, only walking through them when they were on a run interval. So, I dropped back after an aid station on Fifth Avenue while the guys were running. I knew I was only a few miles from the finish, so I didn't worry about my need for a little extra walking. As I ate my final serving of Honey Stinger chews, I started calculating my finish time. Even if I walked a LOT of the last two miles, I was still going to beat 6 hours. It turns out that the guys were a little ahead.

Yay, getting closer to the finish
My favorite spectator and favorite sign...though I never did get those tickets 
Long, uphill stretch down Fifth Avenue

After a nice, extended walk break, I caught my breath and felt ready to run again. When the course started to flatten out, I did just that. And I caught up with JC and Peter in Central Park with about a mile and a half to go. The spectators in the park were so motivating. They knew that we were close to the finish, and they made sure to keep up the positive energy and cheer us in. We had some downhill in the park, so I pulled ahead of the guys. I had the energy to run those downhills fast (relatively speaking) so I wanted to do it. When I made the last turn at Columbus Circle, I knew I was almost there. Just like during the 5K the day before, I ran through the finish chute lined with flags from around the world. It was almost dark (because the race starts so late, and the clocks were just set back the night before), it was cold, but there was the finish ahead of me, and I did it. I finished my third World Marathon Major (after Chicago and Berlin).

The finish area wasn't as crowded as it would have been even an hour or so earlier. I was able to wait just beyond the finish for Peter and JC to come in. We got several pictures, and I met Jürgen, a fellow Marathon Maniac and Marathon Globetrotter who had paced the 5:45 group. We took more pictures. And then we found Scot, who had finished before us and was waiting farther ahead in the finish area. We said our goodbyes to Peter, JC and Jurgen, and went through the chute to get our post-race food and then our ponchos.

All done! with JC and Peter
Jürgen, me, Peter, JC and a runner I don't know

It was a long, circuitous walk just to get from the finish line, through all the "stuff" (food, poncho, etc.), and then out of the runners only area. While we were getting our ponchos we heard from Doug. And then minutes later we found him in the poncho area. It was really getting chilly at this point, with our bodies cooling down, the sweat-soaked clothes getting cold, the sun down and the wind picking up. We walked a bit with Doug and then said goodbye. He had to get to his car. We wanted to get some food, and ended up at a pizza place that we had seen near Carnegie Hall. There were lots of other runners there wearing their medals. Many of them had obviously finished well before us, showered and changed. We may have been the only ones who came straight from the finish. We had good pizza, but couldn't finish it all, so we got it to go and headed back downtown to the hotel.

Saying goodbye to Doug, I'm all bundled up in my poncho (that thing is lined and reusable - love it)

Often, Scot and I will leave town the afternoon or evening of the race. I'm really glad we planned to stay overnight after this race. For one thing, the race started late in the morning, so we knew it would be late and dark by the time we got through the finish area. We would have had no hotel to go back to, because we would have checked out before the race. We would have been cold, sweaty, hungry, etc. Yes, I'm glad we stayed another night. That shower at the W was truly one of the highlights of the weekend (loved the waterfall shower head).

On Monday we had the luxury of sleeping in a little bit. Our return bus wasn't until after 1:00 PM. We proudly wore our NYC Marathon jackets. We don't always buy gear from race expos. I'm usually happy with the official race shirt that is included with registration. But this was a special race, and they had nice merchandise. I felt proud wearing my jacket around the city that morning.

I'm happy to have finally run this race. I am thankful to all of my sponsors who, along with Migraine Research Foundation, made it possible for me to get a spot in the marathon. I love the city of New York, so it was wonderful to run in all five boroughs. And it was really great to run nearly all the race with my friends. I probably won't be in a hurry to return though...the logistics of the race were challenging and a little stressful. So many modes of transportation and transfers just to get to the starting line. And so much walking! We easily logged another 5K on our feet in addition to the 26.2 miles of the marathon. But...what a race. If you're a marathoner, you should definitely do it at least once.

2 comments:

  1. Nice recap Sandy. Brought back many memories. Sorry we didn't meet in NYC. I also ran for the Migraine Research Foundation; lucky enough to get in on the lottery but ran for them anyway. Good luck on your future runs. You are inspiring! Martha

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