The New York Marathon.
Hard. Real hard. But AMAZING.
Got up early. Like super early. As in not enough time for a coffee early. But there was still a real buzz around midtown as runners made their way in the dark to the 6am buses from outside New York Library. It felt slightly surreal, the only people awake and out, trainer clad runners amassing, quietly, stoney faced and hard eyed. I sat on the bus in the dark, the day breaking, focussing on the task at hand; a moment of calm to think about how I was gonna run this thing. It’d been 5 weeks after pb’ing in Berlin and the recovery had gone well, I’d retrained and was thinking a similar performance might be on the cards. But the infamous humps and bumps of the course and the wind meant I’d need a strategy. The bus rid offered the chance to run this over and get ready mentally. Prepare for battle.
Getting off bus and hanging out for 2.5 hours before the start of the race was horrid but also humbling. Met a guy called Ian from Glasgow. He’d never run a marathon before. He came to NYC to hang out with friends but then decided to run it for fun and to raise money for the charity Whizz-Kidz. He was calm, collected, had made scrambled eggs that morning and bought them with. I sat on the ground for like an hour with a guy called Alex who had run the marathon ten years ago and was back for more. He gave me an idea of what to expect. He wasn’t sure he’d finish this year within five hours. Didn’t matter as he’d raised $2k for Ronald McDonald House Charity. He then pointed out that he might run with his new buddy with a prosthetic who he’d met that morning . Because he wanted to help her. As if he hadn’t already helped enough. It made my frustration at the start sitting in the cold wondering whether I was gonna be able to run under three hours insignificant. At this point I vowed to enjoy it rather than try and beast it. And if I saw anybody else in trouble (like I did going over Queensboro) then I’d offer words of encouragement. New primary goal? Take in the day and feel grateful that I had the opportunity to be there.
The run was tough though! On Verrazano Bridge I thought I was gonna end up in the ocean as the headwind / crosswind was so strong. People were literally being buffeted across the road! This wasn’t the only bridge that hurt. There were two others that really got me. Queensboro Bridge was a killer and I really slowed up. But I knew that was gonna be hard and concentrated on effort not time. Actually Queensboro was a benchmark in the race for me as I knew that once it was done I’d be in Manhattan, nearer home – also the crowd noise coming off the bridge was insane, you could literally hear it a quarter of a mile away echoing through the rafters. Exciting! What I wasn’t expecting was Pulaski at mile 13. It wasn’t long, it was steep and the wind was head on. But at the same time the view from here was amazing. The only other tough moment was probably the mile up (literally) 5th Ave. Again to be fair the support here was fabulous and when you round the corner into Central Park you get another kiss on the face.
Let’s talk about the crowds. They were amazing. This is what really set New York apart for me. There was crowd noise and support all the way around. And even the teams at water stations doubled up as cheerers! The diversity of the crowds was amazing. From the Italian / Hispanic and broad New York accents in The Bronx, then the music and cheer in my adopted second home, Brooklyn (GO NETS!). Williamsburg was fun, some of the billboards were hilarious, kids on stoops, several megaphones. Big up to my buddies waiting for me at 1st Avenue and at Mile 24. Harlem was of course awesome as this was where several running crews from NYC – Bridge Runners / Black Roses (thanks for meeting us and the NBRO guys on Saturday for the shake-out and Central Park preview) – and of course friends from Run Dem were stationed at Mile 21. I got a massive boost (and hug) from seeing these guys and, as always, Cheer Dem always brightens up a race and gives you an extra kick of adrenaline (much needed pre Fifth Avenue climb!).
The day was amazing. In spite of the cold. In spite of the wind. In spite of the climbs. I knew it was gonna be one to tough out so had prepared for that mentally. What I didn’t know was that the crowd support was going to be overwhelming and although the race was hard physically, it didn’t matter as psychologically the sights, sounds and cheers meant there was always a lift around every corner. It made it easy. I loved it. I’d do it again in an instant. You ain’t gonna set any records in NYC but trust me when I say you’ll remember it for a lifetime.
Note – big up Chevy for crewing at Cheer Dem and for lending video – follow, follow, follow him on instagram!