Tag Archives: New York

NYC Marathon – It Moved Me – Nov 5, 2017

The Verrazano Bridge at the grey, misty start of the NYC Marathon 2017.

50,000 people is a lot of people.  Just so, so many.  How many is it, really?  It’s approximately the population of Monroe, Michigan.  It’s how many days there are in 136.9 years.  It’s how many M&Ms were used to make this.  And it’s how many people ran the NYC Marathon this year, plus another 1,307 (but “only” 50,766 finished).

 

I ran the NYC Marathon way back in 2005, when it was the ING Marathon and had like 2,000 runners in it.  Ok, there were a few more runners than that (about 34,000 more), but a lot has changed in 12 years besides the addition of 14,000 runners.  The race has become even more commercialized and sponsored and bigger in every way.  That’s led to some good things (lots of news coverage, fancy tracking technology with the app, and overall excitement in the city) and bad things (crowds, trash, crowds, lines, crowds).

 

Some things haven’t changed – you still get a tour of all 5 boroughs, you still get a lot of spectators, and you still hear “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra at the start.  Other things that haven’t changed include the terrible roads (filled with humped asphalt and potholes and lots of other fun obstacles that desperately want to break your ankle), the stupid sponge mile at mile 18, and the long wait on Staten Island (which might actually be longer now because of the logistics of getting 50,000+ runners onto the island before closing the roads).

Approaching the midtown bus line… so many people!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  First up was getting to the NYC Public Library on 42nd to catch the 7:00 marathon shuttle bus to the start in Staten Island.  I was on one of the latest bus options because I was in wave 4 which didn’t start until 11 am.  When I arrived on the west side of the library at 6:20 am, the line for the buses stretched about 5 city blocks/avenues.  And this was no single- or double-file line – this was the entire sidewalk packed with people.  It took me about 35 minutes to get onto a bus.  There were several spots where volunteers checked your bib but nobody seemed to concerned with precise bus times.  I heard several people around me saying they were supposed to be in Wave 1, so there’s no way they took the appropriately timed bus (even though they’d still make it in plenty of time for Wave 1).  I did speak with a woman in the starting village who missed the last bus and had to get down to South Ferry to take the boat across instead (which was exactly one of my concerns when signing up for transport!).  She said they didn’t hassle her for using the shuttle buses down there even though her bib said “bus” not “ferry” (which was another big concern of mine).  Regardless, sign up for the transport you want and don’t make a last minute decision, since they might tighten up the security on that and you never know.

The “Bus Experience” courtesy of the NYC Marathon.

The bus ride itself was comfortable and only took about an hour (despite getting stuck in a long line of buses), and the walk from the bus drop off to my corral area in the starting village wasn’t very long, although according to my watch I walked about 6,000 steps before the race even began.  There was plenty of ground space in the village to stretch out and relax and wait (and wait and wait).  I brought a Runner’s World magazine to read during my wait (to conserve phone battery) and I was glad I did.  I was even more thankful that it didn’t start raining until just before our wave started, as there was only one small covered tent that would have sheltered the thousands of non-professional or non-charity runners from the rain.

From the top left corner: The security line, waiting and reading magazine, the tent, the corrals, E corral entrance, a fake smile before the race, and a panoramic shot of Blue Village.

The village had tons of porta potties everywhere you looked, and they even had lots of porta potties inside the corrals.  However, along the course they only had 1 or 2 every mile, and I noticed the lines for those were very long.

 

After sitting and waiting for over 3 hours, listening to wave after wave start (the first time I heard the cannon I immediately thought “bomb,” but since the police right next to me didn’t react, I quickly realized it was just the starting cannon), wave 4 was announced and ushered into the corrals.  Once you got into the corrals, it was like being in a real-life dystopian movie – there were high barricades on both sides of the chute, blocking the view, and everyone was crammed shoulder to shoulder, slowly shuffling forward to an unseen destination while loudspeakers played incessant messages directing us in multiple languages.  It was honestly such a strange experience and one I’m pretty sure didn’t happen back in 2005.  As I stood in the tightly packed crowd listening to the zombie warning in Japanese (at least I think that’s what they were saying), it did not feel like I was about to run 26 miles.  Haha, joke was on me!

Right before the start on the Verrazano Bridge, representing Lady Liberty!

Once we got out of the corrals and crossed the highway, it opened up a bit.  The first three miles flew by like a dream.  The bridge was really neat, even though it was drizzling and gusting winds threatened to take off your hat.  Tons of people were stopped on the bridge taking pictures.  There was a surprisingly large group of spectators at the base of the bridge welcoming the runners into Brooklyn.  And then the miles kept coming…

 

Most of the course had tons of cheering spectators, although there was a section in Brooklyn that was eerily quiet.  Like bridge-quiet.  Other runners even commented on how silent it was.  Maybe it was because of the rain, because even 1st Avenue was more subdued than expected.  At any rate, there was still enough cheering and bands and DJs that there was plenty to see and notice (and not once did I wish I had brought my headphones).  Was it just a coincidence that all the songs I heard being played and performed along the course were from the 90s?  Or was I hallucinating the Lisa Loeb, Oasis, Third Eye Blind, and Green Day that I heard?

 

It took a lot of mental energy to avoid all the other runners, the spectators who frequently crowded the course, the potholes, the garbage, etc. etc. – mentally, it was almost like trail running, but with people screaming and blowing air horns at you at the same time.  In retrospect, that’s maybe why I got so frustrated at mile 16.  I had spent the first half of the race running extremely conservatively.  Even though I felt pretty good (despite some minor knee, calf, and ankle pain in the first mile), I really reined it in, obsessively slowing myself to earn that negative split.  But when we hit the bridge at mile 16, I encountered a solid wall of walkers who had blown through the first half and were now suffering the consequences.

The Queensborough Bridge, aka The Bridge of Frustration

Now, you know I’m a slow runner, and I take my fair share of walk breaks.  But when I do, I always raise my hand to indicate I’m stopping, and I try to be on the side or somewhere in the course where I’m not blocking people (which is usually pretty easy since I run solo).  But the walkers on the bridge had no awareness – they were walking all over the course, forcing anyone who actually wanted to move faster than a snail’s pace to weave around and often stop completely when blocked by them.  It was soooooo frustrating.  Totally maddening.  And I was tired, and hungry, and my knee hurt, and I was so sick of the crowds I had been stuck in all day, and I got pissed.  And unfortunately that anger lasted pretty much the rest of the race, because the irritations kept coming (e.g. the hazardous course conditions because all the water cups turned to mush in the road from the rain and the 100,000 pounding feet, the idiots who grabbed a water-soaked sponge in the mother f’ing rain and then tossed it down in the middle of the course, the spectators who refused to stay behind the barricades and made bottlenecks for the runners, the lack of non-caffeinated Gu at mile 18, the relentless crowds, the incessant rain, and the increasing darkness – there was no irritation too small or large to not fuel my rage in the last 10 miles).

The gross paper cup mush that covered my legs and shoes after the race.

These irritations might not have mattered if I were not so focused on running a faster second half.  Why did I want to negative split so badly?  I think it’s because of this fun fact:  Of the 47,000+ runners who completed the 2011 marathon, only 790 ran negative splits!  (Source: NYRR Virtual Trainer email).  As a back-of-the-packer who’s never run an ultra, I’m rarely in a “special accomplishment” group in any race.  Could I even break 5 hours in this race?  Sadly, no.  But negative splits?  That’s something I could do.

 

After coming down off the bridge, I pushed *hard* during the last 9 miles. I ran the second half of the race almost 7 minutes faster than the first half, despite a slow mile 13, 14, and that horrible mile 16.

Coming across the Willis Ave Bridge around mile 19.5 and heading into the Bronx.

I tried to hold it together until mile 21.5 where I knew My Cute PT was waiting for me.  And there he was, with an amazing hand-drawn panda sign and a bag of food!  I couldn’t stop long because I was still going for that negative split, so I grabbed the bag of food, expressed my irritation and pain, hopefully thanked him, and ran on.  Unfortunately my mouth was too dry for the bagel (rookie mistake!) so I wasn’t able to assuage my hunger until I finally hit some water stops that hadn’t run out of bananas yet.  They were a godsend.  And less than a mile later I saw my other two friends with another sign!  (Or rather, they spotted me, since I was so focused on the mushy hazards on the ground).  It was definitely a nice pick-me-up to see all those friendly faces but made me feel more than a little bit guilty at being grumpy.

 

When I hit Central Park, I suddenly became very emotional – and I’m not an emotional runner!  (At least not in that way – &$(%*#@ bridge walkers!)  I actually tried to make myself angry again because if I got choked up I wouldn’t be able to breathe.  So I shook it off and focused on getting down the east side hills, up the surprising hill along Central Park South, and through to the finish.

 

The fastest mile of my race was mile 25.  At that point my feet were hurting along with my knee (and in the days after the race I’ve dealt with more black toenails and blisters than I’ve had in years).  But I was thrilled I was about to finish.  18 months after breaking my ankle, one year after getting out of my boot, and six months since my return to running, I finally finished a full marathon.  Huzzah!

12 years and 22 marathons apart…

Right after I crossed the finish, I hit a wall of stationary runners.  Literally every runner had stopped just steps from the timing mat to take a selfie.  Welcome to running a marathon in 2017!  I had to duck and weave my way through the pack because I was desperate to keep my legs moving.

The hell that was the excruciatingly crowded and slow walk after the finish to get your poncho.

The marathon wasn’t over at the finish – all runners had a long, slow walk ahead of them to exit the park.  I chose the poncho option instead of bag check, thinking I could make an “early exit,” but I was stymied by incredible crowds that would occasionally completely stop moving forward.  It was truly awful.  The finish line is at about 66th Street and the exit for the ponchos was at 77th Street, except you couldn’t actually get to the open city streets there because it was still barricaded off.  You had to continue south until 73rd where you finally got your poncho and were allowed to exit.  Fifteen blocks (about 3/4 of a mile) doesn’t sound like a lot, and even after running a marathon 15 blocks is a do-able amount of walking – the problem was the speed!  The crowd moved so slowly it took me half an hour just to exit.  Thirty minutes is a really long time to shuffle along clutching a plastic bag of gatorade and water (and a protein drink, an apple, a Powerbar, and some pretzels) in the almost dark rain, wet and covered in mush after waking up at 5 am and running a marathon.  Unfortunately, this was my last memory of the NYC Marathon, and serves as a powerful reminder of why I should avoid large city marathons in the future (although maybe Tokyo would be different… and London… and Athens…).

The NYRR virtual training runner meet-up post-marathon.

The Monday after the marathon I met up in Central Park for a group photo of all the people who used the NYRR virtual training program.  It was really nice to meet the trainers in person and chat with some of the other runners about their experiences running the race.  While I haven’t used a real training program in many years, I really liked the this one and I’d recommend it if you want a program that’s a little more personalized than just following a chart from a book (I paid extra for the “virtual trainer plus” to get email access to the coaching staff).  The daily emails and the online training log also helped keep me accountable (and often served as motivation to get out the door at all).  It was also uncanny how accurately they predicted my race time – my time fell in the narrow range predicted and I hit the exact same time as the “previous runner most like me.”

There was an insanely long line at the Marathon Pavillion on Monday.

Also as an FYI, the line to get into the Marathon Pavilion on Monday was bananas.  I think most people were in line to get their medal engraved (which wasn’t even free), but I think you had to stand in line even just to enter.  I skipped that line and visited the NYRR Run Center on Tuesday – there was a long line there, too, but not as bad as the Pavilion and at least you could wait indoors.  Also FYI, almost all of the New Balance merch went on sale almost immediately after the marathon (I could have saved $7 on my shirt if I waited 5 days!) and many marathon shoes are now 50% (!!!) off at Jackrabbit with code STEPPINGNYC.

 

Overall, I’m thrilled to have such a successful return to marathoning.  I’m grateful for all the help I’ve had in returning to running (I’m looking at you, My Cute PT), and I’m so excited to continue my 50 States quest with the Louisiana Marathon in Baton Rouge in January!  It looks like the medal is a bottle opener! 😀

 

Thinking of running NYC?

If you want a big marathon experience, there is no bigger than NYC.  It’s one of the World Marathon Majors, in case that matters to you, and it’s definitely a spectacle.  If you want to feel special for running a marathon, this is a good one, because people who don’t run seem to take it more seriously than many other marathons (as if 26.2 miles is somehow shorter when not in NYC).  Be prepared to have a lot of money and a lot of patience, and you might even enjoy it.

 

Scores on a 1-10 scale, 10 being the best.

 

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 9/10 – There are 3 major airports (JFK, LGA, and EWR) and no need to rent a car when here.  24 hour subway, plentiful taxis/Ubers, and marathon courtesy shuttles take you from Manhattan or NJ to the starting line.  Not a 10/10 because it can be expensive or time consuming to get around town (sometimes both), and you have to get to Staten Island pretty early because they have to close the bridge you’ll be running on.
  • Staying There (Hotels) – N/A – I don’t really know hotels because I live here and have never stayed in a hotel, but there are tons and tons of options.  Pretty much every neighborhood in Manhattan and even the outer boroughs is pretty safe, but you might want to pick a hotel within walking distance from the finish line (like midtown or the UWS) or the starting transport options (midtown library or the downtown ferry), just for convenience.  Also note that most AirBnBs here are illegal (despite AirBnB being a NYRR sponsor) so think twice before booking one of those.
  • Cost & Registration – 5/10 –  As of 2017, entry fees are $255 for NYRR members, $295 for non-members, or $358 for non-US residents.  You only get the privilege to pay those prices if you actually get in to the race, which requires either getting lucky in the lottery (in 2017, only 17% of runners got in through the lottery), being really fast and time qualifying, paying raising money through a charity, or doing the 9+1 program for local runners.  Shuttle to the start, one shirt, finisher food bag, and one medal included.  You can’t afford not to run!
  • Organization – 9/10 – For such a huge marathon, they do have their ducks in a row.  Lots of emails from NYRR before and after the race.  The expo is huge and can get really crowded, but number pickup is straightforward.  The shuttles to the start had incredibly long lines but they got us there in plenty of time.  Lots of porta potties at the start and some along the course (although those ones had long lines).  They ran out of Gu options at mile 18 (only caffeinated strawberry was left), but they still had bananas in the later miles for the slow people, and I’ve never heard them running out of finishing bags, medals, or ponchos.  Overall, I thought it was well-organized.
  • Course – 8.5/10 – Yes, the roads are bumpy and crowded, but it’s a pretty amazing tour of NYC considering how much of the city they have to shut down to hold this race and the logistics of moving all those thousands of people safely around the city.  Kudos to them for still doing it.
  • Crowd – 10/10 – Pretty much the entire course is lined with spectators (except on the bridges) and the crowd was still pretty big even though it was raining.  I wish they wouldn’t have crowded onto the course (causing bottlenecks for the runners), and/or I wish police would have enforced the police tape, but oh well.
  • Other Factors – 9/10 – As discussed above, it’s NYC, so just do it already.
  • Overall Rating – 7/10 – It’s still not my favorite marathon… Out of the 25 marathons I’ve done, it would maybe make the top 10 only because it’s my hometown and such a spectacle, but …. yeah, I’m just not a big-city marathon fan.  If you are, you’ll love it!

 

Do you ever get grumpy/irritated/angry during a race?  How do you improve your mood?  Do you love or hate big city marathons?  Share in the comments!

Run as One 4 Miler – Sunny Sunday – April 24, 2016

Lining up for the Run as One 4M in Central Park.

Finding the corrals for the Run as One 4M in Central Park.

To make progress on my 9+1 goal to qualify for the NYC Marathon in 2017, I ran the NYRR Run as One 4 Miler in Central Park yesterday.  There were tons of runners (over 8,000!!) and, as usual for a NYRR race, the course was packed the entire way, but the weather was perfect and it was a great way to start a Sunday.

There were more porta potties for this 4 mile race than most of my marathons have.

There were more porta potties for this 4 mile race than most of my marathons have.

The course started on the East Drive around 68th street just south of the transverse, but for those of us with slower times and higher corral start letters (I’m K – the second to last letter assigned!), our “start” was actually several blocks southwest of there, winding down the drive.

I can't even see K yet...

Walking and walking… and I still can’t even see K yet…

This is the second race that NYRR has instituted a “wave” start where they hold the corrals and release them in waves to reduce congestion.  Besides taking almost 20 minutes to cross the starting line (for a 4 mile race!), I barely noticed the wave start.  I heard a couple waves go off, but they were so large that I was never actually stopped – I was still just shuffling along with the hoard.  And if this wave feature actually reduced congestion, I didn’t notice that either.  It was face-to-butt the entire four miles, with lots of weaving if you wanted to pass anyone.

Ten minutes after the race start, this was my view.

Ten minutes after the race start, this was my view.

So, that was the bad.  The good was that it was gorgeous weather – sunny and crisp in the upper 40s with light wind – and the park looked beautiful with flowers still on the trees and a fresh spring vibe.  It was also only 4 miles (basically the internal loop, ending on the 72nd Street Transverse), and you still get a big bagel and apple at the end.  The race shirt is also very nice – a short-sleeved tech shirt with minimal logos in a men’s or women’s cut.

The classic NYRR road race reward - bagel, apple, and Central Park scenery.

The classic NYRR road race reward – bagel, apple, and Central Park scenery.

The front and back of the shirt.  Looking good!

The front and back of the shirt. Looking good!

In other news, I just found two races I really want to do because of their cool medals – the Hop Hop Half in Portland, Oregon, on Easter, which has a giant Easter Egg medal, and the FroYo Run in various locations (mostly California), which has an engraved spoon for its medal this year!  Unfortunately both races are on the opposite side of the country for me, but since I have family in both locations I’m considering making the trip…  But I should really not, right?  I mean, I still have 27 states left, and flying across the country to run a 5K to get a spoon and yogurt doesn’t make sense… Right…?  Right…?  (I have a problem.)

 

Did you run this weekend?  How far have you traveled for a non-marathon race?  Are you excited for the warm weather coming?  Share in the comments!

Race Recap – Pound Ridge 5K, July 3, 2015

At the back of the start of the Pound Ridge 5K.

At the back of the pack for the Pound Ridge 5K.

Despite running and spectating this race two times before, I always thought the Pound Ridge 5K was called the “Independence Run” or “July 4th” run or something like that, since it always occurs around the holiday.  But despite the plain name, this is one of my favorite races.  It also hits three critical S’s – small, shady, and short.

 

Pound Ridge is a quaint town of about 5,000 people located an hour’s drive north of New York City.  Every year they do a 5K race around July 4th, usually the same day they do their excellent fireworks show (also held in the park).  The race usually has a few hundred runners and a decent number of spectators dotted along the course, calling out to their friends and neighbors from their lawns.  The race allows dogs (lots of dogs this year!) and I assume it allows strollers although I didn’t see any this year.  The closed course winds along paved, shady backroads starting near the town’s elementary school and ending in Pound Ridge Town Park.  It has a nice small-town feel and is a great way to kick-off the holiday weekend celebrations.

 

The Pound Ridge 5K race shirt for 2015.

And a fourth “s” – shirt!

This year they even ran a shuttle from the finishing parking lot at the park to the registration/starting area at the elementary school (a very short ride away).  It’s easy to register on race day ($20 includes a cotton t-shirt) although this year they ran out of normal bib numbers so they gave many of us handwritten bibs.  There’s no chip timing so it doesn’t really matter.  The race started at 9 am and wrapped up about an hour later, allowing plenty of time for everyone to finish.

 

Found some like-minded folk at the race.

Me with some other festive folk at the race.

I wore my patriotic Ragnar outfit for this race along with a decorated hat and American flag bandana and sunglasses.  I was probably the most decked-out person at this small race, although I found two other like-minded souls who also were celebrating the reason for the season.

 

Map of the Pound Ridge 5K route.

Map of the Pound Ridge 5K route.

After the first uphill which passes the elementary school, the course veers left and heads downhill for about a mile, then becomes gently rolling hills until turning right onto an asphalt sidewalk for a short stretch through the woods before finishing on the main lawn in the park.  There were three water stops, at about 1.5 miles, 2ish miles, and one right near the end for some reason.  After you cross the finish line (with large timing signs so you can see when you finish), they hand you a mini bottle of water and usually announce your name (although some of us with handwritten bibs didn’t get announced or marked down, but you could fill out a bib tag afterwards so your results would be noted somewhere – maybe eventually online?).

 

All the amazing food at the finish of the Pound Ridge 5K!

All the amazing food at the finish of the Pound Ridge 5K!

The other amazing thing about this race is the food spread at the end.  They had two types of mini donuts, corn and blueberry mini muffins, an assortment of bagels and cream cheese, coffee, tea, and orange juice.  Lest you forget, this is only a 5K!  They had more food than many marathon finishes I’ve seen!

 

I ended up finishing in about 30 minutes, or about a 9:43 pace, which is a lot faster than I anticipated – trying to catch up to my 10-year-old niece made me push hard, although she still beat me.

 

So if you ever find yourself in Pound Ridge around the 4th of July, definitely take part in their 5K race, and then stick around for the fireworks afterwards (although maybe go home and shower and have some BBQ first, since they’re like 12 hours apart, after all).

Some of the awesome fireworks from this year's show.

This wasn’t even the finale.  Happy 4th, everyone!

 

Have you ever visited Pound Ridge?  How are you celebrating the 4th of July?  Did you bake and/or eat a “flag” cake?  Share in the comments!

Race Recap – Ugly Sweater Run, NYC, Dec 20, 2014

ugly sweater run citifield bg

Apologies for this super delayed recap – I’ve been celebrating the holidays with my family (aka half my readership) so I haven’t been on my computer or doing anything more strenuous than eating too many cookies.

 

What was going to be an Ugly Sweater Walk With Four Friends became an Ugly Sweater Slog Through A Parking Lot Alone.  I signed up for this race because it involved dressing up, hot cocoa & beer, and was a silly theme race that was relatively short (5K).  As the date approached and all my friends dropped out (I hope more because of the $50 race fee and other assorted holiday obligations and not because they didn’t want to spend the morning with me), I began dreading this race more and more.  I knew the course was going to suck because it started and ended in the Citifield parking lot, the same location as the dreadful Neon Run.  My suspicions were confirmed when they sent us this course map.

Dreadful ugly sweater run course map citifield

It was as bad as it looks, plus it was too short (which was probably for the best).

So, my expectations going into this race were low.  I was doing a novelty race, in a parking lot, alone.  That’s never a good idea.  Plus, I had to take the 7 train out to Willets Point on the weekend before Christmas.  But I had what I thought was the ugliest Christmas sweater ever knitted.  Behold!

back of xmas ugly sweater

The design covered both front and back (shown).

The original race description mentioned prizes for the ugliest sweater, but I don’t think they actually awarded any prizes because I did not get a prize and I was clearly the ugliest.  Most people dressed up except for two girls wearing all-black Lululemon.  Ladies, why?  Why did you pay $50 to walk through a parking lot on a Saturday morning if you weren’t going to wear the most ridiculous sweaters possible?  Why did you wear your cold, black, joyless inside on your outside?  Why did take time off from your Basic B duties to go to Queens?  But mostly, why did you pay $50 for this particular race?  It’s a question I’m still asking myself.

dog in ugly cute sweater citifield

This guy wins cutest sweater award.

Ultimately, though, it wasn’t a terrible race.  The atmosphere was festive, they had several large inflatable holiday decorations (like reindeer and Christmas trees), and it was fun to see all the runners in ugly sweaters and costumes (or all-black Lulu).  There was no bag check and waiting before the start was really cold, but once I started slowly trotting through the parking lot I warmed up.  I did snag some hot cocoa near the end of the race, but I didn’t get the free beer because you had to stand in a huge long line to verify your ID, then get in another long line to get the actual beer, and it was too cold for any of that nonsense.  They also had several food trucks at the finish which also had long lines, but I probably would have stayed if I hadn’t been alone.

ugly sweater run arms up citifield

Shockingly ugly, no?

The best part about the race was that they had a lot of race photographers on the course and they offered all the race photos for free online.  However, nothing makes you feel lonelier and more foolish than running a holiday novelty race alone in a parking lot, but I’m glad to have lots of free photos to commemorate the experience, especially because it looks like I’m having a great time and that’s all that really matters.

Ugly sweater run swag

So the race itself basically met my low expectations, but the free hat met my high expectations and the free photos exceeded my expectations.  Would I do this race again?  Only with other people, and only if they promised to wear all-black Lululemon.

xmas cookies where's the finish

After the race I made these cookies. Nothing to do with anything, I just wanted to show you my cookies.

 

How was your holiday?!  Have you been as bad about running over the last few weeks as I’ve been?  Watching the ball drop tonight?  Share in the comments!

Marathon Recap – NYC ING Marathon 2005

Finding the NYC Finish in 2005 - time obscured to protect the innocent.

Finding the NYC Finish in 2005 – time obscured to protect the innocent.

In the coming days I will post race recaps of the 9 marathons I’ve run so far.  Since I didn’t write a recap for my second marathon immediately after running it, this is coming from memory eight years after the fact, so I’m sure it’s wildly inaccurate and mostly fictitious.

 

In training for my first marathon I ran a lot of NYRR races.  This was back in the golden days when races were only $11 for members and didn’t sell out in 30 seconds.  I ran enough to qualify for the NYC Marathon the following year (back then it took 9 qualifying races with no +1 volunteer requirement), so I thought, “what the heck, I love me a marathon, let’s do this thang!”  (Luckily, I only thought those words and did not say them aloud.)

 

So, after the first marathon, I kept running.  I have no idea what training plan I followed or what the heck I was doing back then.  I do know that I came down with a nasty case of knee pain and even went to a sports doctor who told me my something-something in the middle of my knee was inflamed and I should stop running and take up to 18 Advil a day.  Ok, I’m not 100% clear on the details, but I do distinctly remember him saying “Look, most of my patients are professional dancers or athletes   I’d be out of business if I told them all to stop before a competition.  So I’ll tell you — run as little as possible, then do the marathon if you really want to, then stop running long distances.  As in, don’t run long distances.  Ever.  Again.”

 

Reflecting back on that advice makes me realize that maybe he wasn’t the best doctor for me.  I never did go back to him, nor did I take up to 18 Advil in a day (although I did partake in quite a few of those orange unicorn pills of magic).  I did skip my remaining long runs and I did run the marathon, and then I did stop running long distances.  For a few years.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

It seems like everyone and their running mother wants to run the NYC Marathon.  And I guess I can see why.  It’s really expensive & difficult to register and held in a really expensive city and it’s really crowded and you start in Staten Island.  Ok, ok, running all 5 boroughs in a day is pretty cool, and every time I see the Verrazano Bridge in the hazy distance it shocks me to think I ran all the way from there up to the Bronx and back down to Central Park.  But the race itself?  Shrug.

 

This is a gritted, fake smile if I ever saw one.  Also, no sunglasses?  Amazing.

This is a gritted, fake smile if I ever saw one. Also, no sunglasses? Amazing.

Granted, I was in a lot of pain.  A lot.  At mile 17, amidst the cheering hordes lining 1st Ave, I chewed up an extra strength Tylenol like it was an Altoid.  My knee didn’t hurt as much as my hip, which was an unexpected new pain that cut through all the other typical marathon pain.  I swore to myself then and there that I would never run another marathon as long as I lived.  This goes to show you that the promises you make to yourself while you’re running, especially distance running, are about as valid as the $10 million check from Publisher’s Clearing House you got in the mail last week.  (Everybody knows the real checks are huge.)

 

My biggest problem with the race was the disorganization, specifically at the water stations.  I reached several water stations (Brooklyn, I’m looking at you) that had NO WATER.  The volunteers (bless their hearts) were cheering instead of pouring, leaving the tables empty of any actual cups of water.  I skipped one station like this, but after another couple of miles, I desperately needed water.  I joined a line of runners while we waited like Oliver Twist, holding out our cups, pleading to have some more (water, that is).

 

I think they’ve improved the stations so I can’t imagine this happening now, but you never know.  I don’t think they have the Spongebob mile anymore, right?  That was a veritable minefield of wet sponges you had to plow through around mile 16 or so.  I think with so many runners on the course the volunteers couldn’t clear them away or something, so by the time us mid- to back-of-the-packers came through, the sponges were at critical levels.  I felt like I was in Double Dare, minus the Gak.

 

Also, the streets of NYC are really not the best.  There are a lot of potholes and manhole covers with humped asphalt around them.  Basically you just had to watch your footing.  But it was quite the big marathon experience and overall it wasn’t terrible.  And now when people find out I “run marathons” and inevitably ask if I’ve run the NYC Marathon, I can say yes and not be lying.

 

Legit smile to be done.

Legit smile to be done.

Finally, if your loved one is coming to watch you run, I think they still have a deal where you pay them a bunch of money and your guest can hang out at the finish line/Tavern on the Green and eat and relax while you’re running your butt off.  I got the deal for my mom, who apparently liked it so much she actually missed me crossing the finish line (5 1/2 hours weren’t enough for her).  She did buy me a burrito after the race, though, so we were even.

 

Thinking of Running NYC ING?

 

If you’re thinking of it, you’re going to do it, and nothing can stop you (not even a hurricane.  What, too soon?).  Because here’s how you’ll get in –

 

  • Lucky lottery, which you’ll take as a sign from the universe that you should run this year.  (By the way, it is a sign from the universe, because nobody gets in that way.)
  • Unlucky lottery, which means you kept trying and trying and after 3 failed attempts you got a mercy admission at the 4th year, which you won’t pass up because you’ve been waiting sooo long.
  • 9+1, which means you’ve run at least 9 NYRR qualifying races (paying at a minimum $153 for those races, not counting membership fees), and volunteered at one of the races (or paid $1k to charity), all of which means you have paid in blood and sweat for your marathon ticket and you wouldn’t let anyone tear that away from you.
  • Charity runner, which means you’re willing to ask your friends and family for money to support your running habit.  A lot of money.  Like $2,600 to $3,500 money.
  • I’m not going to cover those who get in because they run really fast or they’ve run over 15 NYC marathons already, because we are not those people.

 

At any rate, I’m glad I ran NYC, especially back then, so I got it out of the way.  I think most of the magic was lost on me since I lived here, and a lot of the fun I have in running different states is to see new sights (even if it’s crushed rats on the streets of Baltimore).  I would never tell someone not to run NYC (go tourism!), but keep your expectations low and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

New rating system!

 

At the suggestion of a reader, I’m going to add some quantifiable measures to my race recaps.  I hope they will help you decide whether a particular marathon is for you or not.  The number one way I decide whether to run a marathon is based on the reviews at MarathonGuide.com.  I read a page or two to get a sense of whether it’s a good race for me, then I visit the race’s website to get more info on the race and see how difficult logistically it would be to get there.  Your considerations will certainly differ from mine, but the more info the better, eh?

 

Scores on a 1-10 scale, 10 being the best.

 

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 10/10 – very easy, 3 major airports and no need to rent a car when here.  24 hour subway, plentiful taxis, and shuttles take you from Manhattan to the starting line (and while it’s early in the morning, it’s not the end of the world).
  • Staying There (Hotels) – N/A – sorry, since I live here I’m the worst person to ask about hotels.  In general I think they’re expensive, but there are definitely deals to be found (like $150/night or less at decent hotels).
  • Cost & Registration – 5/10 – see above for more on that.  As of 2013, it’s an $11 processing fee, $216 for NYRR members, $255 for non-members, or $347 for non-US residents.  Shuttle to the start, one shirt, and one medal included.
  • Organization – 5/10 – Expo was great but huuuuge, course support I discussed above, and then you get dumped into Central Park which varies every year in terms of how well that goes.  Also, they keep changing the baggage check policy, so who knows what’s going on there.
  • Course – 7/10 – it’s neat to see the 5 boroughs, but it’s also bumpy and crowded (so New York!).
  • Crowd – 9/10 – there are few places along the course that don’t have spectators.  Personally, I can take or leave cheering crowds, and they can be demoralizing when you’re in pain (some people yelled at me to run while I was in the worst pain along 1st Ave, and back then I was too polite to tell them what they should do to themselves instead).
  • Other Factors – 9/10 – As discussed above, it’s NY, so just do it already.
  • Overall Rating – 7/10 – Certainly not my favorite marathon so far, but glad to have done it.  Also, I’m volunteering to work the expo this year, so maybe I’ll feel a little more loyalty to the race after that!

 

Have you run NYC?  Share your experiences in the comments!