Thursday, 12 November 2009

New York Marathon Part 2

So my previous post had me up to the start line on the morning of the marathon. Forgot to mention that the weather was absolutely perfect for running - cool, overcast and dry. Definitely my running weather.

So at 10.20am, we're off. I don't hear the gun \ cannon \ whatever started the race but we start moving - slowly at first, then a bit faster as we get up to the start of the bridge (the starting point for the marathon is on the bridge, which is only nominally in Staten Island). The waves are split into three parts, and my part is on the left hand side of the upper level (the others are on the RHS and the final one is on the lower level). Fortunately we're on the Manhatten side and get some awesome views of the NY skyline. The bridges are the biggest hills on the route and the first one is probably the toughest, but the adrenaline helped make short work of it. We passed the first mile marker while STILL on the bridge (1.6-1.8 miles long in total)! Of course, what goes up, must come down and soon enough we were in Brooklyn.

Once we get of the highway (i.e. the bridge) and into Brooklyn proper, the crowds and atmosphere start to pick up. The next 11.5 miles or so are in Brooklyn and it's sub districts. There's plenty of people around, cheering us on, loads of bands (over 100 on the course! That's over four per mile!). I was going well in the first part, felt great and was really loving the occasion. Probably my most enduring memory of Brooklyn though was the long, long, long straight road we were running down - all you could see forwards and backwards were runners! Pretty impressive.

The night before I'd made some loose arrangements to meet up with Idoia at two or three points on the course. We met up for the first time between mile 8 and 9. It was good to see her and I stopped briefly to grab a drink of water and a quick chat(I'd started walking through the water \ gatorade zones which were every mile). Soon enough I was off again, with two thirds of the race still ahead but still feeling good.

Next few miles were ok, settled into a routine of walking through the water zones and running in between. At this point, I'd passed out the 4hr 30m pace group and was still going strong.

My next rendezvous with Idoia was between mile 14 and mile 15 - which was a positive thing to focus on. Another brief stop there and I was back on the road. I was starting to feel a bit bloated at this point and fancied a bit of solid food, but had planned this aspect of my nutrition poorly. Still, nothing I could do about it now but soldier on.

The next challenge was around the mile 13 mark - the bridge over the Pulaski Bridge from Brooklyn into Queens. I decided to follow my usual advice and take it easy on the uphill part of the bridge. This was the point in my mind where it started to get tough, and looking at the split times, they seem to agree. We'd a short 2.5 miles in Queens before we came up to the Queensboro Bridge - quite a sight normally, but really impressive after 15 miles behind you and 11 to go!

I walked up the first half of the bridge which seemed to take ages - was looking forward to the downhill but when that arrived, I started to cramp up - nothing major, just little twinges, but it didn't bode well. Still, I was in Manhatten now, over the half way mark and on the way home. The next few miles were dead straight as well - straight down First Avenue. The crowds here was pretty good also which was great.

At this point I was just in "get home" mode - run a bit, walk a bit - repeat. 19.5 miles in brought us over the Willis Ave Bridge into the Bronx! We only spent a bit over a mile here, but it was good to see a place I probably wouldn't have seen otherwise. I'm not too sure I'd be in a rush back either - I don't mean it in a bad way, the support was pretty good here but from my brief visit, it just seems pretty industrial and even then, a bit derelict. Thankfully crossed the 20 mile mark in this neighbourhood, which is probably the most memorable thing I can say about it.

Crossing over the next bridge, brought me to the 21 mile mark and into Manhatten again. We get onto the iconic 5th Avenue at 138th Street and it's more or less a straight (literally) run home until 59th Street - so I'm counting those blocks down one by one :)

One by one, one by one - its pretty busy in this area and the crowds are picking up a fair bit. The closer we get to Central Park the busier it gets and the more the buzz picks up - its actually exactly what's needed at this point. I'm keeping pace with the same people - I made a conscious effort to finish as strong as possible. I passed a few people I'd been battling with, which help pass some of the blocks.

The 5hrs pace group passed me which was a bit disappointing, I couldn't keep up. I knew I'd a few minutes leeway on that target, as I'd crossed the start line a few mins after they had. At 86th Street, we passed into Central Park itself and soon crossed the 24 mile mark soon afterwards.

I was struggling a bit with borderline cramps, so next two miles were pretty tough, but eventually crossed the 26 mile mark. Idoia had bought a $75 ticket to the grandstands that were erected along the finishing straight and I spotted her pretty easily, giving her a celebratory pose. Soon after, I crossed the line absolutely chuffed with myself.

My finishing time was 5hrs 03mins and 28secs! One or two have commented about the 3 mins or so, but I don't care - absolutely delighted to have finished and those three minutes are the challenge for next time.

I picked up my finishers medal, got an official photo taken, grabbed a goody bag (with a lovely bagel!) and started shuffling towards the baggage collection area. This was probably one of the most difficult parts of the race - huge crowds of runners, down a relatively narrow chute which emergency buggies also needed access to. Finally picked up the bag and made it through the throngs of people to my pre-arranged meeting point with Idoia.

Grabbing a subway back to the hotel was going to be a nightmare so we actually ended up walking all the way back (25 blocks or so) - it probably done me good :)


Matthew James Stanham said...

Great stuff, and well done! Sounds like you really enjoyed it, and I would not be inclined to worry about those three minutes either!

Andrew is getting fit said...

Feel proud my friend! It's a fantastic accomplishment.

You've really made me want to run in a big marathon now!