Wednesday, November 9, 2011

5 Boroughs in under 4 Hours

This weekend I ran the New York City Marathon.  Since I had just run a PR marathon 3 weeks before, I had decided that this would just be a fun run.  I had no idea how fast that fun run would be going into this weekend, not certain what my legs had in them, didn't know what it would be wise to try to run...  I had a bunch of friends also running the race who I met up with a number of different times over the weekend.  One of them, Elizabeth, was hoping to run 3:40.  That sounded like a good pace to be able to enjoy the city, and I really enjoy having company while I run, so I decided to run with her.

Lizzy was in the back of the first wave in the green corrals, I was supposed to be in the back of the blue corrals also first wave.  I was allowed to drop back to where she was starting rather than try to meet up with her on the course.  Her husband, Steve, was also running with her.  When I got the athletes village, I needed to drop my bag of stuff for after the race before heading to the green corrals.  I realized I had left my GPS in the bag but decided that was fine since this was just a fun run. I was very happy when I spotted Lizzy and Steve coming into the corral.  We decided to wait at the start line after the others had crossed to try to let the course clear out a bit. They played the Sinatra song New York, New York as the race started which prompted Lizzy and I to high kick like the Rockettes.  The last of the people in front of us crossed the line about 4 minutes after the gun, we waited until 10 minutes after the gun.  Seeing the start area after the people cleared our was just amazing.

The green start is just before the Verrazano Bridge, on the lower level.  In big races like this each runner's time doesn't start until that runner crosses the start line.  So, at 9:50 we were off and our time started.  There is quite a climb up the bridge in the first mile, it was hard to gauge our pace especially since Lizzy and Steve's GPS watches weren't doing well on the lower level of the bridge.  Before we had even crested the bridge we had started catching some of the Achilles athletes (athletes with disabilities and their guides).  It was inspiring seeing them out there, some blind, some amputees, some deaf... running, enjoying the day, achieving so much.  

The view off the bridge and a few of the Achilles Runners.

As we passed the first few mile markers, we realized that we were running a bit faster than goal pace.  Steve and I were trying to let Lizzy set the pace but wanted to be sure she knew what type of pace we were setting.  The roads were pretty open for a while, especially since the green start does a long dog leg that the other starts don't run.  Around mile 4 we merged into the road where the others were, but we were still separated from them by a divider in the center of the road.  There were quite a few people in costumes, we saw a pimp, a colonial woman, a really wacky raggedy Ann, a bunch of grapes...  

As we ran we commented on the fun signs, the loud spectators, the strange running gates.  Once we joined the crowd, we were on one of the few long straight ways of the race.  You could see a mass of people both ahead and behind.  It was such a beautiful day, sunny, blue skies, very little wind, not too hot, just amazing.  We got water or gatorade at most of the water stops, grabbing a cup, moving beyond the volunteers, and walking once we could get out of the way of other runners.  We did a good job staying together, not necessarily right on each other's shoulders, but within sight.  Lizzy and Steve had matching shirts for Williams College, so we would hear cheers for teams Williams which would always bring a smile to my face.  

Most areas along the course had a good number of fans.  Around mile 8 there was a school band playing Rocky.  There were quite a few different bands along the course playing many styles of music.  Some neighborhoods were a little quieter.  In one of these quiet sections there was a lady with a stroller who managed to cross an uphill cross walk without making any of the runners miss a step.  The course was starting to get a little more crowded, but we still had plenty of room to move.  We had been told that there was a large number of port a potties just before the Pulaski Bridge around mile 13.  I decided to take advantage of that, then catch back up to my friends.  There was a little wait to get into one of the johns, so it ended up taking me a little over a mile to catch back up.  

The Pulaski Bridge signaled the end of Brooklyn and the beginning of Queens.  We still were moving along at a good clip, but weren't way under pace anymore.  For some reason I was very hungry during this race.  I had drunk Ultra Fuel before I started and taken a gel at mile 5 and mile 10, but I wanted more.  I grabbed a half a banana.  The Queensboro Bridge came up quickly.  There weren't any spectators on the bridge and it was dark, quite a change from where we had just been.  The climb was pretty long, but it wasn't overwhelming.  I kept looking out the side of the bridge trying to see Roosevelt Island since I knew the climb would be over when we were at the island.  

Coming down the bridge was steep and fast.  There were signs on the edge of the bridge saying "if easy means 10 miles left, then welcome to easy!"  Welcome to Manhattan.
Coming down off the Queensboro Bridge was the first time I noticed the crowding, we really had to slow down to make the turn at the bottom of the bridge.  Then we were in our 4th borough, Manhattan.  First Ave spread out in front of us, another one of the long straight stretches.  It was in this stretch that Lizzy said she needed to stop talking and focus for a while.  We continued along at around an 8:30 pace, the mile markers seeming to come quickly.  The road was wide and the spectators were loud.  Mile 17 had the water stop that also had sponges, I grabbed one to wipe my face, then tucked it into my pocket.  I was still hungry, I had been eating my shot blocks, but decided to also take one of the gels that were handed out around mile 18.  I managed to get a raspberry one, which I had been aiming for since I knew it was one of the ones that didn't have caffeine.  When I ate it, I was reminded why I no longer buy power gel, it is so sweet...  

Next we hit the Willis Street Bridge which lead us into the Bronx.  There were roller bladers crossing the bridge in the opposite direction hollering "Welcome to the Bronx."  Somehow Steve and Lizzy got ahead of me crossing the bridge even though I thought they were behind me. I heard someone shout out Williams which was how I realized they were in front.  There was a band just before we left the Bronx, I didn't hear what they were playing but did see the costumes.   

Then we were crossing our last bridge and heading back into Manhattan.  I shouted out that it was our last bridge.  Mile 21, getting so close.  5th avenue was lined with people, which was good, because it included a long climb.  I felt pretty good still, but I could tell it was feeling hard for Lizzy.  The course was getting more crowded.  Many people around us had slowed more than we had so we were weaving through people to keep our pace.  Steve told Lizzy that she could still PR even if she slowed to 9s.  We kept going and entered Central Park for the first time.  

I saw Steve offer Lizzy a cup from one of the water stations.  He was trying to take care of her.  The course rolled through the park, I really enjoyed this part.  We passed the 24 and the 25 mile mark in this stretch.  Lizzy was staying strong, it felt like we were picking up the pace some.  Then we were back out onto Central Park South.  We were really having to weave to get through the crowds now.  Columbus Circle was ahead, time to turn back into the park.  There was a screen showing the runners as we reentered the park, which was not great placement since there was a curb there.  I saw a lady being helped back up after she tripped over the curb.  

We were in the final stretch, a few more rollers, then we would be done.  We passed the 26 mile mark, the 200 yard mark, Steve and Lizzy grabbed hands, 100 yards to go, they lifted their hands in triumph as they crossed the finish line together.  We remembered to head to the left so our friend Rick could give us our medals.  There we ran into another friend, Ann who had finished just a little bit ahead of us.  It was such a nice race shared with friends.  Lizzy got a new PR and we were able to share her accomplishment.  

After the finish line we had to walk for quite a while to get out medals, our mylar blankets, our snacks, our drop bags...  not a port o potty in sight.  We recovered our stuff and headed out to the street.  Unfortunately there was quite a line at Shake Shack, so I didn't get a treat there.  

I really enjoy running, sharing the road with friends.  I would recommend this race, it was beautiful and fun.  


  1. I recommend running with friends, too - especially a friend like you! Great RR Heather and thanks for capturing the spirit of the day in both words and pictures. You remember a lot more of it than I do! It was so much fun being able to share it with you and soak up your positive energy all day. Go Heather!

  2. Very nice report, I also greatly enjoyed the race!

  3. Great report and great race Elizabeth, Steve and Heather....can't wait to see Liz rock IMLP in July!!!!