Thursday, November 10, 2011

NYC Marathon Recap

What can I say about the race? The NYC Marathon is in its own league. It is an experience like no other and year after year it exceeds all expectations. Running it last year, I thought I knew what was coming. I knew the route, the elevation, the buildings along the course. I knew the distance, the fueling stations, and that the hill leading to the finish line is a bitch. I remember the energy of the crowds and that they call you out by name to move you forward. Knowing all this, each step felt new, exciting, and left me wanting more, wanting to push harder and to see what was around the corner. 

I remember waiting for the start, starting the climb up the Verinzano and it felt like only seconds before we were on the downhill side and on into Brooklyn. Brooklyn was a blur. The intensity of the crowds pushed me to paces that I don't run in 4 mile races and I knew I had no business running in a marathon. I was shocked to hear a familiar voice so early one in the race and looked up with a look of pure surprise and excitement on my face. The music was fun and the people made me fall in love with Brooklyn. I saw my parents around 12.5 miles and they couldn't believe how fast I was. My mom who knows absolutely nothing about running even knew that I should slow down. I told them I'm trying to but the love from the spectators is pushing the gas pedal down and I just can't slow down. 
I was counting on the lonely, industrial streets on Queens to slow me down. Last year there weren't many spectators and there is nothing to look at. Being so much faster this year, the crowds were out in full force. There were nothing compared with Brooklyn but they were there. I was so glad to hear their music but did settle down a bit and reached a more comfortable pace.

Up the Bridge We Go!
 Let me just say, my body was feeling good but I still hate the Queensboro Bridge. Runners are excited to start their climb and as last year there were quiet a few singing and chanting. Half way up the climb this all stopped as everyone was working hard. Lots of people were walking and even the anticipation of Manhattan wasn't motivation enough for my. My pace was awful going over the bridge and I started to see my overall pace even out to what it should have been all along. It is crazy to be surrounded by hundreds of people all moving in the same direction but all completely silent. It's eerie but considering the challenge we'd all undertook that day, I shouldn't expect anything less than silent introspection.

Manhattan Looks So Far Away

Manhattan hear we come! Coming off the bridge and turning the 270 degrees around the loop onto First Ave, I couldn't believe I was less than 10 miles from the finish line. There were signs along the end on the bridge that said "If 10 miles to go is easier" than a few feet down "Welcome to easier." I loved it! 
So Many People!
This part of the course is what everyone talks about and thinks about when they hear anything about the nyc marathon. I love the 10 people deep crowds. The people spilling out of bars while chanting and cheering us along. I spent a good portion of First Ave looking for my parents only to find they had moved further up to 116th instead of 88th st. They thought I was still looking amazing when I saw them and I was feeling good. For some reason I handed my cup of gatorade to my mom and told her I didn't want the rest. I have no idea why I gave it to her and didn't just drop it like I did the rest of them. After the race she said she was confused but just tossed it once I took off. 

What felt like second later I was heading up the Willits Ave Bridge and into the Bronx. Everyone else says First Ave is where its at. Some crazy people say Brooklyn has the most energy. For me though, it's the Bronx. Halfway down the bridge you hear the first mc on the mic welcoming us into the Bronx and demanding we all "throw ya hands up, hands up." I of course complied and dancing my way into the Bronx. The music is loud here, as in I'm pretty sure even deaf people would hear it as I could not only hear it but feel it in my chest. This is the type of energy that take you up and over "the wall." I was stilling waiting for pain to set in but I soaked in every second of my time in Bronx and left wishing we'd spent a few more mile there.

Back into Manhattan we went for the home stretch down Fifth Ave. The sun was setting and it was incredibly bright. I tried to stay in the shaded areas but it was kind of impossible. As I was rounding Marcus Garvey Park I remembering thinking that the race went by too fast. That I didn't soak in as much of the energy as I wanted. I suppose it was good that it all passed so quickly but I had a few seconds of feeling cheated before I remembered that it wasn't over yet. I was still running what I believed at the time and still believe will be the greatest race of my life. I hope that it won't be the fastest but I can only dreaming of feeling that level of love, of honor, and of pure kindness from millions of complete strangers. To experience all those things while feeling strong is something I may never match again. 

Further down 5th Ave I saw my parents again and my dad was in shock that I was all smiles and claiming I was pain free. He kept asking if I was sure. The climb up the hill from 110th to 90th is a hard one. We've been through so much at this point, we can see the park where we know the finish line is, yet for some reason we're not allowed in yet. We have to fight to the top first and then finally we take a slight right turn and are surrounded but gorgeous fall foliage and more roaring crowds. My parents moved forward on the course from 116th and 5th to 86th inside the part really quickly and were able to snap a few more pictures of me. I called my mom as I entered the park and told her I had a real chance at meeting my time goal but that I couldn't afford even the few seconds it would take to stop and talk with them. She said to just keep going and was thrilled and excited for me as I passed by just before the 24 mile sign. 24 mile. Wow, only 2.2 to go. This is where the math started floating around in my head. I'd been toying with my pace calculations and projected finish time all race but now it was real. I was in the park and 2 miles is a third of my daily run. Just keep going and you can hit it.

The cruel joke is that you have to leave the park, run along Central Park South, and then reenter the park where you can see the finish line on top of a hill. I said earlier that I hate the Queensboro Bridge which I do, but I equally hate Central Park South. It is a slight incline at a key point in the race. The spectators see the pain and do their best to keep you moving but running 25 and half miles doesn't come easy and you're still not done. My legs really slowed down but I'm happy to report I still felt good. 

Crossing the finish line was a dream come true. It was not my first finish line, nor my first marathon but feeling so happy for all 26.2 miles was a first. The announcer called my name as I was finishing and I felt like a rockstar. I unfortunately was 42 second off my goal time but I'll get there another time. For NYC 2011 I want to remember that feeling of pure bliss. I had time goals sure but I never dreamed of making a goal about feeling on top of the world for an entire day while seeing the people of my city, the greatest city on Earth, welcome and cheer on complete strangers who were doing something they didn't understand and would never in a million years want to do. 

No comments:

Post a Comment