Some of you already know my results. In case you do not, I did finish the marathon. Per usual for long-distance runners, I had my aches and pains going into it, and I wondered if my body would cooperate. Lucky for me it did. It was a well-run event with over 50,000 participant and 3 million spectators!
The morning started early, 5:15 EST. By 6:30, I left the hotel room, saying good-bye to my friend Carrie, hoping we would see each other somewhere on the course. (Carrie accompanied me to Boston for the marathon there this past April, and she was also with me in New York in 2012.). I caught the #6 line. On my way to the Staten Island ferry, I met a couple of fellow runners. One of them, Victoria (who you see in the photo at right and who told me she had also planned to run in 2012), ended up running with me the entire 26.2 miles. Pretty amazing considering the people we were dodging, water stops, and general marathon ups and downs.
The increased security was prevalent throughout the race. There were police at the gates to the ferry terminal, checking the buses prior to runners boarding to go to the start, and all along the course on the sidelines and in the middle of the streets. In addition, all athletes had to pass through metal detectors before entering the start line staging area.
I mentioned Victoria. Well, we managed to stay together in the staging area, which was a feat in itself. She had mentioned she was not good at pacing, so I said to stick with me in the begining of the race. (I knew I could be consistent for at least 13 miles.) This was more difficult than I expected, due to the numerous people and zigzagging we had to do to stay on pace. At mile 7, we were still together and on pace for a good finish time, but I was exhausted from continually having to watch my foot strike. How was I going to manage another 19 miles?
I was shooting for a 3:40. My watch had me on pace—8:20 per mile. The problem: Due to maneuvering through the crowded streets, I was covering the distance of a mile before I reached each mile mark. On top of this, the course is deceptively hilly. I decided to stop watching my pace and just do the best I could. It helped as well that Victoria had friends positioned at various points on the course. The first was at mile 11. I could make it 4 more miles. I told Victoria if she needed to go ahead, it was okay. She said no, she’d stick with me. Between miles 11 and 20, I took it a step at a time. When I reached mile 20, I knew I could make it. Just 6 more miles.
We crested the bridge out of the Bronx and entered Manhattan. The street sign said 135th. I knew we had to go the 59th, and it’s a long, low-grade hill along Central Park. I recall one spectator yelling, “What’s a matter? It’s only a little hill.” That made me laugh. Still passing runners, maneuvering from side to side, Victoria and I made our way into Central Park: the home stretch and her training ground. She informed me of upcoming hills.
We both could sense the finish was near. Runners were stopping and walking all around us, making it that much more difficult to stay on pace. I saw an opening between two runners and took it. Unfortunately they closed the gap, and I body checked both of them as I went through. I apologized and went on.
Victoria and I finished together. My time was 3:45.13; hers was 3:45.11. It was Victoria’s first sub-four-hour marathon, and she ran it for her dad, who had passed away just one week after the NYC 2012 marathon was supposed to take place.
We made our 1-mile walk out of Central Park and then the mile south to exit at the security checkpoint. Along the way, we passed armored police vehicles and all sorts of security personnel. I tried looking away. I knew it was there because of the Boston bombings, but I wanted to be happy for my accomplishment and not be sad about those injured and killed—at least for a few moments.
Of course, I couldn’t help but think about Boston that weekend. After our experience there, when we had so much trouble finding one another after the race, Carrie and I had made a plan to meet at the end of my NY race—and then we made two back-up plans. We found each other at our Plan B location: in front of the Coach store on Columbus Circle.
On the day after the marathon, despite having run 26.2 miles the day before, I couldn’t miss this chance to see more of New York City when everything was open (unlike in 2012). Carrie and I had reservations to see the September 11 memorial in the morning, and from there we walked through Tribeca, and then made our way to the High Line, which we followed to its end at W. 34th Street. Then we went to Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center, and eventually back to our hotel—covering about 7 miles.
It was a beautiful weekend, and I’m really glad I decided to return to New York to complete the marathon I had started training for 18 months earlier!