What. A. Weekend.
The New York City Marathon itself almost feels like it didn’t happen, let alone the entire weekend. Probably one of the coolest experiences I’ve had when traveling for a race. This is a long post, you’ve been warned.
I arrived in New York City (well…technically in Newark, NJ) late afternoon on Friday before the race. It was a bit of a commute to Queens, where I was staying, that included my Uber driver getting lost and asking me for directions. Yep, that happened.
Upon arriving, I met another person staying at the AirBnB who was a NY local and offered to show me around the city. And so the night went with adventures to the tourist spots in Manhattan, and to less touristy spots like Lower Manhattan and the bars of Brooklyn. It was a fun night, and I learned a lot about subway transportation in New York, but a later night than one might like two days before a marathon.
Saturday was a day for the expo. I had volunteered to help work at the RAM Racing Hot Chocolate booth all day, so I grabbed my bib, shirt, and the race jacket before heading over to my booth. It was another day on my feet, but for some money, an additional jacket, and bonding with other exhibitors is was worth it. Again, this was a weekend for fun.
As I moseyed back to Queens, I stopped to grab some bagels for the morning, and stopped at a burger bar which allegedly had the best burger in Queens. I wouldn’t know if it was the best, but it was extremely good.
Race morning came quickly, but Daylight Saving Time negated any “extra” early effect being on Eastern Time might have had. I prepped as I normally would, and set off a couple blocks down the road to a Dunkin Donuts that was supposed to be a 24/7 stop. It wasn’t. And so it was time to Uber to the ferry.
All was not lost for coffee though! One of the markets at the ferry was open and I was able to chat with a couple runners, one of whom did NY before, got my coffee, and got on the boat. The ride was mostly uneventful, although I did get to (very, very briefly) chat with Race Director Peter Ciaccia since we was on our ferry.
From the ferry, it’s a decent walk over to the bus that takes us to the start. I deliberately checked my watch once we get on the bus, and I had already cleared 5,000 steps on the day. Yikes. By around 7am we were off the bus and into the start villages. I was assigned to the Green village, which was furthest from the drop-off point, but a super close walk to my starting corral.
Then it was time to kill about 3 hours. It wasn’t tough to mill about the village, get a free Dunkin hat, and eat some bagels. It did take me out of the zone, though. That was something I didn’t adjust to as well as I would’ve liked. I was ready to run at about 6/6:30 per my regular race routine, but I lost that an hour later, which was still 2.5 hours until the start.
Eventually, it was time to drop my bags, and slowly work my way over to the start corral. And that corral was packed! If you’re a claustrophobic person, the start corral at the NYC Marathon is not for you. It definitely felt like we were packed in like sardines. And it was a bit of a wait before we started moving toward the start area.
All races have a bit of a walk to the actual start, and this was no different; just longer. Finally, we got lined up on the Verrazano Bridge. As I mentioned, I was in the Green Corral, but there are also Orange and Blue areas. Elites start blue. But all run a slightly different course to begin the race before merging just after 5k.
We set off across the bridge, which doubles as the largest hill on the course. The bridge lasts two miles, but felt like it took FOREVER. With over 50,000 total runners, you can imagine it was easy to get boxed in a little, resulting in a slower than I wanted first mile.
However, Mile 2 gets the downhill section of the bridge, which I think almost everyone (including myself) flies down. Suddenly we were in Brooklyn and off running.
As we traversed Brooklyn, the crowds seemed like they continued to grow as we worked our way north. The first 8 miles of the race flew by for me. I stayed conservative, interacted with the crowds, and passed a dude dressed as the Joker (which was amazing).
Turning a corner at Mile 10, I almost ran right into my buddy Mike, who also recruits in IL, and we shared a high five, half a hug, and I was back out on the course. It was a great boost at a time where I was wondering when I’d get out of Brooklyn.
Much like the Chicago Marathon spends almost the entire first half of the race on the north side of the city, the NYC Marathon spends almost the entire first half in Brooklyn. In fact, we hit the Half on the Pulaski Bridge which leaves Brooklyn and gets us into Queens. I came through the Half in about 1:45, which was almost right on schedule for the even to negative split 3:30 I had planned out.
Honestly, I don’t remember much about Queens, since I knew we would only be there for a few miles before heading over the Queensboro Bridge. During the race, I didn’t think the bridge was as killer as everyone said it was, but my mile splits would indicate that it was.
Coming off the bridge into Manhattan, we reached the famous First Avenue part of the race. After hearing so much about the crowds in this area, I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed here. Not that it was sparse, far from it, but it wasn’t the wall of sound I expected.
The stretch heading up First also felt like it took forever, as it’s a few miles of a straight road with gradual hills and declines. Crossing the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx was the toughest bridge crossing, I thought, as it continued an unrelenting climb.
Personally, I thought the crowds in the Bronx were some of the best in the race. This was a stage where I was crumbling though. The combination of Chicago, being sick, the late Friday, and the expo was taking it’s toll on me, as I hit the wall harder than I have in a marathon in quite a while.
From there, it was a bit of a struggle through the Bronx, over the Madison Ave Bridge (the “Last Damn Bridge” as the crowds put it) and into Harlem. The course loops us around to Fifth Avenue (which was weird for me to run up since I live on a Fifth Avenue) and into Central Park. The climb up Fifth into Central Park was an absolute killer. It’s the longest uphill grind I’ve run at the end of a marathon, and really destroyed any remaining will power I had.
Central Park is mostly downhill, but rolls for the most part. Just past Mile 24, I passed my friend Andrea (lilredrunner on Insta) said a bit hello and carried on my way. She passed me a mile later.
Once we temporarily exited Central Park onto 59th Street, I was completely done. In addition, my right knee was bothering me in more of a hurt way than a marathon soreness/pain way. But at that point of the race, I pushed that to the back of my mind. Too close, and too many spectators to care.
I’ve seen the finish to NYC plenty of times on TV (and plenty more watching highlights from Shalane’s win last year) and it was kind of surreal to run that downhill back to the finish.
Ultimately, a few weeks after running my fastest marathon at Chicago, I set a new PR (in a way) running my slowest at NYC. But I wasn’t in this one for time. New York was meant to be a fun race and a fun experience, and boy was it.
In the longest finisher’s chute of my life, I ran into Hollie (FueledByLolz) and we were able to chat for a couple seconds before going off in search of our bag checks.
Personally, I liked New York better than the Chicago Marathon. The crowd support was amazing, and the whole mood of the race and the city was amazing. I’ve never been congratulated after a race by so many random strangers in my life.
Would I run New York again? Maybe someday. It would be a hell of a challenge as a goal race, but I would definitely say it’s an experience you can’t miss out on.
Cheers, New York, and thanks for an absolutely amazing weekend and race experience!