Big Run Done! 26.2 Miles Through the 5 Boroughs

Well kids, the NYC marathon was every bit as mind-blowing as it was billed. One week later, I’m looking back in awe of it knowing I’ll probably make it to the end of my days with that still sitting high on my list of transcendent experiences. I’ve been floating all week– spiritually anyway, my physical gait hasn’t been quite as graceful–reflecting on the sights and sounds of the day. Here is an assortment of vignettes to serve as my race report.

Lower Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry 7:15am
Lower Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry 7:15am

1. It left my hotel in mid-town at 6:20am to catch the subway to the terminal at the far south end of Manhattan aiming to be on a 7am ferry to Staten Island. Subway packed with runners. Ferry also packed. Then shuttle buses to start village packed. Arrived start village a little after 9am for a start time of 10:05am. Total time from hotel to start village – just under 3 hours. Fortunately very little of this was out in the 42 degrees, high wind. But the hour in the start village and corral was spent huddled with other runners against the conditions.

Verrazano Narrows Bridge - we are ready to run over you, 40mph wind gusts not withstanding
Verrazano Narrows Bridge – we are ready to run over you, 40mph wind gusts not withstanding

2. It was a startling start. The first two miles of the race is up and over the Verrazano Narrows bridge into Brooklyn. 40mph crosswinds literally blew us into each other. The sound that will stay with me from those first minutes is the machine-gun-like percussion of wind hitting the garbage bags so many runners had on for warmth. It took some yogic detachment to just run as steady as possible and get too freaked out. And it turned out that was by far the worst of the wind. Though there were still gusts to contend with, the sun came out and the temps were great.

3. Almost immediately into Brooklyn I came to understand what everyone who has run this race says so emphatically – the people of NYC show UP! The streets were lined with cheering people, clanging cowbells, bands and recorded music. Kid after kid after kid stood at the edge of the sidewalk with hands out-stretched. You could almost have just gone hand to hand the entire way. I flew through the first six miles and found my long time (from junior high school) pal Donna, her husband Dave and their 8 year old Sam. Quick hugs and high fives and onward feeling even more energized.

4. I was holding an 8:45-9:00 pace, which I knew was too fast, so I would slow down slightly, but I just kept going there.

5. Continued to cruise through Brooklyn, including along Bedford Avenue where well-dressed orthodox Jewish women and men stroking their ringlets ignored us.

6. At one point, I was so blissed out by the continuing cheers that I whipped out my phone and recorded :60 of the crowd as I ran past. Writing “Go Rachey Go!” on my shirt in large letters was the smartest costuming choice I made. I tried inserting the audio file here, but it didn’t work, so you’ll just have to imagine it.

7. Into Queens, then onto Manhattan along the Queensboro Bridge. Great views of the skyline. I didn’t stop, but snapped photos on the run. The crowds along First Avenue were five people deep and roaring. I had suggested David watch for me along those first few blocks, but once I got there, I knew it would be crazy lucky if we saw each other. It was a mob scene. I was still feeling awesome though. Being in Manhattan gave me a burst of excitement. I was still holding a strong pace and had less than 10 miles to go.

Heading over the Queensboro Bridge about to hit Manhattan to a roar of spectators
Heading over the Queensboro Bridge about to hit Manhattan to a roar of spectators

8. The volunteers, the water stations, the race support were superb. For such a massive event, incredibly well executed.

9. I saw a woman wearing a Team in Training lymphoma shirt with a sign pinned to her back that said “I run for my dad.” I caught up to her and we talked about our dads, having watched this race with them years before, and losing them to cancer. I wished her a good race and she shouted out “He would be proud of you!”

10. I was still feeling strong over the Willis Ave bridge into the Bronx. Seeing a port-a-potty, I abruptly decided to pee. I had needed to go pretty badly for a couple of hours and felt like I could be more focused and go faster if I did, but I knew it meant losing about a minute. Went for it and was out and running again in less than a minute.

11. Renewed from having peed, I headed back into Manhattan and down Fifth Avenue. I was elated reaching mile 20 that I had just 10K to go and was just over 3 hours of run time. But the Wall was just ahead. I slowed a bit in miles 21 and 22, but then started to be seriously dazed with the effort by Mile 23. 5K felt like such a short distance still to go, but I was starting to really hurt. It took shear will and some short aggressively managed walk breaks in those last 2 miles. I had hoped to enjoy the trip down Fifth Avenue, but I was just focusing on turning it over and getting in.

12. Mile 25 I reached the Plaza Hotel at the southeast end of Central Park. This is the spot where my dad and I would come to watch the marathon 30 years ago when he visited me at college. In spite of the pain, I could honor that place, marveling that that 19 year old never imagined that she could ever be a runner in that race.

Plaza Hotel, where my Dad and I watched the NY marathon 30+ years ago. Never in that 19 year old's wildest dreams did I imagine I'd someday be a runner in that race. (PS - I took this pic the day after the race.)
Plaza Hotel, where my Dad and I watched the NY marathon 30+ years ago. Never in that 19 year old’s wildest dreams did I imagine I’d someday be a runner in that race. (PS – I took this pic the day after the race.)

13. Just half a mile from the finish, I chanced to look up out of my blinders and see David cheering me! It was perfect timing–just what I needed to give that final push into the park and the homestretch. It looked familiar from having watched the finish of the elite runners year after year. So cool to see it from a first-person perspective! The banners, the huge finish structure, the deafening cheers and announcer that actually couldn’t even hear.

14. As I crossed the line, I looked up to see the time clock for my wave: 4:01:31. In my heart, I had been hoping for a sub-4-hour finish time. I trained for that pace, but was a little doubtful I could hold it. So seeing that time, I swallowed hard and said, “well, it was a great run.” I started zombie walking out of the finish area, and then I remembered that I’d tracked myself using the NY marathon app. I whipped out my phone, opened the app, tapped my name and saw my finish time: 3:59:51. Boom!

Done! 3:59:51.
Done! 3:59:51.

15. The post-finish line experience is comical and a tad apocalyptic. Blue hooded zombies walking through the Upper West Side looking for their loved ones.

IMG_074616. A really nice soak, legs up the wall (a yoga pose) and then an evening out with the man at the heart of it all.

My Pal, champagne, and oysters…heaven.

If you’ve read this far, wow! maybe you should run your own dang marathon! Thanks for your interest and support–I mean it! I’m lucky to have friends, clients and colleagues who push and inspire me.