|taken in Central Park, in the last few miles|
Finish Time: 5h 30m 50s
Link to detailed marathon results: Official Results
Link to detailed marathon results: Official Results
I feel so fortunate to have been able to take part in one of the most astonishingly exciting running events: The New York City Marathon. Getting there has been a real challenge and it should always remind me never to take things for granted.
In my last 3 road marathons, I've come to trust in the magic of a carefully designed full 16 week training plan to get me in good shape, mentally and physically, and it has worked. I particularly like using Yassos: the increasing series of half mile intervals that help both prepare you for the distance, and also help predict your potential marathon pace. I'd managed to run Amsterdam 2017 in a time that was deemed Good for Age for both New York and London.
Although London allocated GFA places in potentially a random manner, for New York it was first come first served: if I hit that submit button early enough, I was in. Entry was especially expensive with our present exchange rate but the opportunity of a place in one of the world majors, a city I had never visited, was irresistible, and I got in.
Then I fell. Just a slip on a wet footpath twisted my pelvis and back and left me unable to even walk down the garden without pain. The GP reassured me nothing was broken, but several weeks later nothing much had changed. Finally after 3 trips to the osteopath, I was given the go ahead to try running again. With just 14 weeks to go to marathon day, I googled a training plan especially for beginners and followed it. It's not exaggerating to say that I found every single run in it tough going. Panicking that this programme was far short of my normal preparation, I tried to supplement it with extra core work, but I was also worried that niggles just below the surface would re emerge if I pushed it too much. Knee pain that I think was a legacy from the hills of the Snowdonia half almost made me abandon my last Long Slow Run (20 miles) half way. One part of me thought that carrying on might make it worse to the point I'd have to pull out, the other that said I needed to do it, just to give me the confidence to turn up on race day. Torrential rain and gale force winds that day didn't help , but it did help that Cherry turned up to keep me company for that second half even though she didn't have to run (for what turned out to be hours) in the pouring rain at all.
We'd booked flights to give us a week, landing on the evening of the Friday, racing on Sunday. In previous race tourism trips, this timing has worked well to avoid sight- seeing wearing me out, and without the inevitable overindulging in alien food and drink further adding to the impairment of form. I forgot about jet lag: I could have done with another day to adjust.
NY is a point to point route that takes you through all 5 Boroughs of the city but this means that you need to be bussed there before the roads close down, super early in the morning. My start time wasn't until 11am so I might be sitting around for hours in potentially chilly conditions. Freshwater charity shops provided a super warm fleece coat, hoody and pair of jogging bottoms that I could discard at the start, but effectively filled much of my carry-on suitcase. A pot of instant porridge and my hollow foam roller took up the rest of the space stuffed with my running kit and I wore my trainers. I wasn't going to risk a checked bag going astray!
Picking up my number at the Expo could only be done by the runner themselves and many use this opportunity to pose for pictures against giant posters and shop for special merchandise. Nerves and/or the travel made me feel less than bouncy so I got no further than collecting the essential start bag with my number, T-shirt and wrist band for the optional finish-line poncho before heading out for more essential prep: practising the routes I'd need to know to get myself from the hotel to my bus pick up venue and then from the race finish back to the hotel (mercifully, we picked a bar nearby to rendezvous in because as it turned out, I was too careless with my subway card and left it at the start).
So on race day, Times Square was eerily peaceful and the sun was rising on my way to the buses. At my stop in midtown Manhattan thousands of runners were herded like cattle onto lines of waiting buses, and after a 90 minute journey we found ourselves passing through security to get into the start village. 50, 000 people arrive almost simultaneously and were scanned just as thoroughly as at an airport. Anything electronic, and all snacks etc had to be your special bag with no Camelbaks allowed. The delays and confusion were similar to an airport too, except it was more crowded. Inside, the ground was full of people huddled on bits of plastic, searching out a patch of sunshine for warmth. I did think just how awful it would be in the rain and/or snow. As it was it was rather overwhelming because of the sheer numbers of people there but entertaining for the person who likes people watching as a hobby and there were many like me on their own, happy to chat. The bins of discarded clothes were soon filling and I saw lots of people helping themselves to more! Similarly surplus food was being handed around too. As the race began, I could see runners emerging in synchrony on both the lower and upper levels of the 2 mile long suspension bridge that joins Staten Island to Brooklyn and my heart rate lurched alarmingly!
I started in the last wave so it was rather like a festival after everyone had gone, as I found my way to my start pen (there were 3 start areas, each divided into 4 pens). The conditions on the bridge were perfect with low temperatures, a clear sky and light winds. Somebody sang the Star Spangled Banner and then I was deafened by a cannon that sent us on our way. The next few hours went by with me running on the edge of the street, looking out for the kids to High-5: they line the route almost continuously. And people holding up funny signs. And bands. And so many interesting buildings ...once you looked beyond the people. A pair of officers from the NYPD were at every single road that crossed the route. The course wasn't hilly but it wasn't flat and even a small incline up was making me walk at the end. So...whilst I can't say that I enjoyed every single minute of the 5 and a half hours that it took me, I am SO glad I took part. It is a truly amazing event: more like a manic party that goes on for 26.2 miles.
The downsides were few: the major one being that finishers had to walk at least a mile beyond the finish to get out of Central Park to collect their belongings or poncho. That's wasn't easy carrying a huge goody bag and clutching your plastic sheet around you to keep out the cold as the temperature fell sharply at dusk.
Huge thanks are due to all who were kind enough to run with me in training or to send me messages of good luck. I was truly moved to tears by that support and it certainly helped me enjoy an experience of a lifetime.