Tag Archives: NYC Marathon

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!

The NYC Marathon Expo – Big and Buzzy!

Welcome to the Expo!

Usually I fold any coverage of a marathon expo into the marathon post itself, but since the NYC Marathon Expo is not your typical expo, I thought it deserved its own (brief) post.

 

The expo opened yesterday and is open 10-8 today and 9-5 on Saturday at the Javits Convention Center (11th Ave and 35th Street).  It’s free and open to the public so even if you’re not running the marathon, feel free to stop by!

Thursday morning at the NYC Expo guarantees seeing runners in business attire picking up their bib numbers.

I went first thing Thursday morning when it opened, expecting to avoid the crowds – but there were already a lot of people there!  Luckily there was zero wait at either the bib or t-shirt pickup.  Unlike at some other large marathons, there was no scanning or checking of the bib after you picked it up.  Just past the bib pickup there’s an area to try on the marathon shirt to make sure you get the right size.  I ended up getting a women’s large instead of XL since the large was baggy enough for me.

The 2017 NYC Marathon shirt – nice and thin, but kinda cluttered with logos (and note the large, reflective NB logo on the sleeve and hem).

While the bib and t-shirt areas were relatively empty, the New Balance store (the largest shopping area and the one you’re basically forced to walk through to get to the “main” expo area) was surprisingly crowded with medium long lines already forming.  I rushed through that area since it was unpleasantly tight and was quickly rewarded by a relatively empty main expo area.

The main floor of the NYC expo.

After buying the one shirt I “allowed” myself to buy (the New Balance NYC “arms up” shirt I’ve had my eye on for weeks now), I wandered the rest of the expo looking for bondi-band style headbands (surprisingly not available), picking up some Gingerade Gus for the race, and buying more things I wasn’t “allowed” (sunglasses, anti-fog cream, another shirt).  I picked up a few free things but avoided the food samples since I didn’t want tummy troubles before the race (some sort of egg white protein drink? no thank you!).  I also checked out the course strategy lecture (held every hour on the hour!) for tips on how to run the race.  In a nutshell – don’t go out to fast, don’t get swept up by the excitement of the crowds, and only let yourself open up after mile 20.

Tonight in Central Park near the finish line they’ll have opening ceremony events including the parade of nations at 5:30 and fireworks afterwards (at a runner-friendly time of 6:30!).  See you on the course!

 

Do you enjoy visiting expos or do you try to get in and out as quickly as possible?  What’s been your favorite free giveaway from an expo?  Did you buy any Halloween candy on sale?  Share in the comments!

Tapering for NYC

The NYC Marathon finish line bleachers being set up today, with some fall color in the trees finally.

I’ve made it through 19 weeks of training and now I’m tapering for the NYC Marathon that’s in a little over a week!

 

In those 19 weeks of training, I’ve gone on 54 runs for a total of 336 miles.  That sounds like a lot until you divide it up and realize my weekly volume was only 18 miles/week and I only went on 3 runs per week, on average.  However, I did totally skip two weeks while on vacation in the Pacific Northwest (one of the best places to run, I know, ironic), and in the 10th week I ran only once because of travel to see the solar eclipse.  Also, while I’ve been plagued by knee pain since I’ve been running again (hello darkness my old friend), it’s gotten worse in the last two weeks, and has even cut short (and cancelled) a few of my runs.

The finish line pavilion is also coming along.

Encountering sharp knee pain during my taper has… not been great for my mental game.  After a successful 18 mile tune up and another 19 mile run on my own, I felt great.  My legs felt strong, I felt strong, heck, I even felt refreshed.  But then I started my taper, and suddenly I’m having this knee pain issue, and I can only shake my fist at the sky and shout, “why, God, why have you sent me knee pain when I’ve prudently built up a base and am resting even more now?”

A picture of the pavilion from October 19 (but with the carriages instead of the cars it looks like a few decades ago).

Of course, God doesn’t answer, either because he’s not real or he’s not a runner (do not try to tell me he ran in those sandals like a Tarahumara).  And so I look to a more trustworthy source, my PT.  He tells me to stretch and ice (and ice and ice) and he periodically inflicts searing pain works my knots out and tells me to rest and stretch and ice some more.  But even he doesn’t have the answer as to why my knees are hurting now more than ever.

 

So, I keep tapering.  I’m tapering hard.  So much taper.  And I’m still carbo-loading (since summer ’77)!  And I’m still dreaming of the expo and race morning prep and all the fun non-marathon things I’ll get to do after the race… But I’m not thinking much about the race itself anymore.  Maybe because it’s such an unknown again?  When training was going well, I was kicking myself for not signing up for another state and making progress on my 50 states goal.  I’ve never repeated a state!  But then I remember why I signed up for NYC – because if things go upside-down, I can easily pull the plug at any time with very little on the line.  No flight, no hotel, no missed state, no pressure.  And I might have to use that escape hatch after all.

The NYC Marathon app is now available for free in the app store, and lets you track runners and has helpful info like maps and more.

You can also use these amazingly cute NYC Marathon stickers in your texts (on updated iOS, for free in the app store).

My goals for this race are, in order of importance:  (1) to not injure myself (further), (2) to finish, (3) to get negative splits (even by sandbagging the first half), (4) to finish in 5:30 hours or less, and (5) to enjoy it?  I’ve already signed up for three more marathons next year, with plans to sign up for 5 more after that.  And then 18 more after that…  Plus I’d really like to run Tokyo… and Athens… and London… and Antartica…  I guess I’ll just have to keep praying to the PT Gods…

 

How much do you love/hate the taper?  What should my spending limit at the expo be?  Do you think the more frequently I check the weather forecast, the less likely there will be rain?  Share in the comments!

Ferry vs Bus to the NYC Marathon

The eternal debate rages on…

Warning:  Long boring post ahead that will only be interesting to you if you’re considering baggage and transport options for the NYC Marathon.  Mom, you can skip reading this one.  😉

 

This year the baggage and transport options for the NYC Marathon open on Tuesday, July 11 (and close on August 22). But runners won’t find out their bib numbers or starting corrals until much, much later (probably October).  So how do you choose between the options?

 

Bag or No Bag?

This one is pretty easy.  Most people say not to check a bag.  The upside of no baggage is an earlier exit from the park (relatively speaking – you’ll still exit 1/2 mile after the finish line vs 1 mile for those with bags) plus a free waterproof fleece-lined hooded parka.  These parkas are huge, thick, just massive things that really help you stay warm (and dry, if it’s raining).  They are ugly, and you’ll never wear it again, but you’ll also find it hard to toss because it’s so nice.  The downside is you’ll have to toss your warm layers and whatever else you want at the start but don’t want to run 26 miles with.  Use this as an opportunity to get rid of clothes you don’t want anymore (everything is collected and donated) or buy cheap or used clothing if you don’t have anything you want to leave behind (but I mean, c’mon, when are you going to wear that stained sweatshirt again?).

 

The only reason you’d check a bag is if you absolutely have to have something at the start that you can’t toss but can’t carry.  If you need something particular at the finish (but not at the start), I’ve heard you can check a bag at Jackrabbit on 72nd between Columbus and Amsterdam (for a small fee). Otherwise you can probably last until you get back to your hotel or car (or, heck, even buy it from a store near the park).  Ultimately, I haven’t heard many complaints about the choice either way – I think the bag check runs pretty smoothly, and those who don’t check a bag are fine, too.  Can’t really go wrong here.

 

Ferry or Bus?

This is the big question I’ve debated for a long time, but I think I’ve finally made my choice.  When I ran in 2005, the buses left from downtown and the ferry was not an official option.  Now, buses leave from midtown (next to the library at 5th and 42nd) and the ferry is an official transport option.  (I’m only going to debate the NYC options since if the bus from Jersey is an option for you, you’re probably not debating anything!)

 

The bus is appealing because it’s one-stop-shopping.  You get on the bus, you zone out, and you get off at the starting area.  Lovely!  My friend who took the ferry last year said it was cold and if he had to do it again he’d take the bus.  Plus, the bus is in midtown, which is easy to get to even if there are delays on the subway or something (I could taxi or uber or even walk if it came to it).  So at first the bus was the clear winner for me.  But then I realized they close the bridge at 6:45, which means that all the buses are really early.  Not a problem if you are in one of the first couple waves, but if your start time is 11:00 and you’re taking a bus at, say, 5:45, that means you’d board the bus more than five hours before your start time!

 

So what are the start times, and how do you know which wave you’ll be in?  I’ve found several old pace charts that really, really help with this question – this is from 2014this is from 2015, and this is from 2016.  NYRR will seed you based on what you said your finish time will be (and maybe possibly based on data it has on you, but I’m not 100% sure on that).  Basically, and assuming this year will be like last year, if you’re a 3:00 to 3:30 marathoner you’ll be in Wave 1 that leaves at 9:40 am, 3:35 to 4:00 will be in Wave 2 at 10:15 am, 4:00 to 4:30 will be Wave 3 at 10:40 am, and 4:30 to 6:00 (yikes that’s a big spread) are Wave 4 at 11:00 am.  Note that it might take several to many minutes to cross the actual starting line.  Last year I had friends who started almost at noon.  That means that even if they finished in 4 hours 45 minutes, the sun would already be set.  🙁  (Let’s note here that I’m gunning for a 5:15 finish, but will be happy with 5:30 and ok with 5:45.  So, yeah.  A lot slower than sub 5.)

 

So, setting aside the fact that there’s a decent chance I will finish this marathon in the dark, I will certainly be in Wave 4, and I will probably have a green colored bib and have to run on the bottom of the Verrazano bridge (rumor has it blue and orange get top, green gets bottom).  These are all depressing things to learn, but I guess I’d rather make peace with them now than be surprised on race day.

 

Back to the ferry!  The ferry is highly recommended on online boards, but why?  It seems like a hassle – you have to subway or taxi all the way to the tip of Manhattan, stand in a crush of people to get onto a ferry that holds 5,000 people, then get off in another crush and make your way onto another bus (one hopes there are enough buses there waiting), which then finally takes you to the start.  And as my friend said, it’s cold.  And it sounds like a lot of standing and walking and generally being on your legs to me!  So why so recommended?  Honestly, it sounds like the #1 reason is because the “view is nice.”  Yeah, you get to see the Statue of Liberty and feel like you’re really “in” New York City.  I mean… I guess?  But as someone who has lived here 17 years and has seen the statue many times, I think I can pass on marathon morning.  Other ferry advantages?  You can “stretch out” and there’s a bathroom on board (and in the terminal).  But there are also bathrooms on the buses!  (or so I’ve read)

 

The real reason I’m (probably) choosing the ferry?  (Gasp, yes, I think I’m going to deal with the ferry hassle!)  Because of the time cutoffs and my late start.  Even if they have buses as late as 6:30 (which I highly doubt what with the 6:45 bridge closure), that’s still 4 1/2 hours before my wave starts.  I could take the 8:30 or even 9:00 ferry and probably make it on time (although I’m sure my nerves will get the best of me and I’ll be on the 8:00 ferry).  Regardless, that’s a pretty big time difference, and ultimately makes taking the ferry worth the additional hassle.  And who knows, maybe I’ll be so inspired by the beauty of the Statue of Liberty that I’ll crush my time.  I am strongly considering dressing like the statue for my race costume anyway…

 

Either way, people say be on the bus or ferry 2.5 to 3 hours before your official start time to give yourself time for the transport(s), walking, security, bag check, porta potty visits, getting to your corral, etc.  Also note that in the past, bag check closed a little over an hour before the wave (e.g. 9:20 for a 10:30 start) and corrals closed about 20 minutes before the waves started (e.g. 10:10 for a 10:30 start), so you might need even more time to get to the start depending.  The upside is it gives you more time to eat the free bagels, Powerbars, coffee, tea, and water that’s at the start.

 

Ultimately, getting to the NYC Marathon start is a big hassle, no matter how you slice it.  And then after getting to the start, you will inevitably be waiting around a long, long time (in the cold and other unpredictable elements).  But then after all that hassle and all that waiting, you get to run 26.2 miles, so there’s that.  Why do we do this again?

 

TL;DR – take the bus if you’re in waves 1 or 2, if you’re staying in midtown, or if you don’t mind hanging around the starting village.  Take the ferry if you’re from out-of-town and really want the “NYC experience,” if you’re staying at a downtown hotel, or if you’re in a later wave and don’t want to kill too much time in the village.

 

Are you or have you ever taken the bus or ferry to the start of the NYC Marathon?  Checked a bag?  What meal are you planning for before and after the race?  Share in the comments!

I got into the NYC Marathon!

It already has!

I was just finishing my dinner when my email dinged – I checked and my stomach dropped – I got into the NYC marathon lottery!  Hooooooo boy…  I did not see that coming.

 

First, apologies for the incredibly long break in posting.  I still can’t run due to injury, so I haven’t been in the running mindset, so this blog has been gathering as much dust as my running shoes.  I was going to write a post about what I have been doing besides running, but I kept putting that off because, well, it is profoundly uninteresting.  I’ve been resting a lot, and walking a little, and just started rowing and going to the gym again, but then I played tourist in this beautiful weather we’ve been having and overdid it, compressing my ankle and causing pain and swelling, helping keep my PT busy and my running shoes dusty.

 

On a lark, I applied for the NYC Marathon lottery two weeks ago – the last day they accepted applications.  The odds of a local resident getting selected for the lottery were only about 23%.  Well, apparently I am one of the 23%, because I got in!  (You might remember I was only 2 races away from qualifying last year, but I couldn’t make it because of the injury.)

 

I really didn’t think I’d get selected, and I was okay with that.  I still can’t even run a block, so the idea of running a marathon seems farfetched.  But I also rationalized that if I did get in, it might be a good way to test the waters – I ran the NYC Marathon in 2005 (good lord, has it really already been 12 years?!), so there would be no pressure to finish for my 50 States quest, plus it’s a local race so I wouldn’t have the added expense and stress of travel and hotel.  But now I’m realizing it’s only 8 months away, which seems so so so very soon to learn how to run 26.2 miles.

It’s making my stomach do flips, that’s for sure.

 

So, I just won probably the worst lottery in the world and I paid $255 for the privilege.  As the immortal Forrest Gump(‘s momma) said, “stupid is as stupid does.”  I guess I’m back to being a stupid runner, even without the running!  Huzzah!

 

Did you get into the 2017 NYC Marathon?  Have you ever won any sort of lottery or prize?  How much would you pay to not have to run the NYC Marathon?  Share in the comments!

Volunteer Recap – TCS NYC Marathon, Nov 1, 2015

And this is only half the tent!

And this is only half the tent!

The 45th NYC Marathon was this past Sunday and I was lucky enough to work in the first medical tent after the finish.  I had a great time, learned some medicine, and also learned that I really enjoy doing this kind of thing.  Of course, helping fit, motivated runners who are not very sick and grateful to boot is pretty easy compared to most medicine (I imagine) – but I’d never complain about that!

 

They divided the tent by “boroughs” using colored tape on the floor – Manhattan was near the entrance, then Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.  I was stationed in Staten Island which was right in the middle of the tent, directly across from the critical care area (which had curtains for privacy) and adjacent to the resupply station (convenient!).  The tent itself was 60 feet by 160 feet, with soaring ceilings and huge industrial lights that were so bright I had no idea night had fallen by the end of my shift.  I’d estimate that we had about 125 cots, give or take, plus an area with chairs for podiatric patients.

 

There were several hundred volunteers, enough so that when they asked for 100 people to work the finish line, you could barely tell anyone had left.  I was initially bummed I was in the tent instead of at the finish, but by the end of the day I realized I had dodged a bullet, since those people had to transport well over 1,000 patients from the finish line area to the tent, wiping down the wheelchairs in-between transfers, and repeating the process all over again.  Those people did their own marathon that day.

 

Upon check-in every volunteer picked up an identifying bib with their medical designation – e.g. Attending Physician, Resident Physician, RN, EMT, PT (Physical Therapist), LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist), DPM (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine), Student, Spotter (catching people at the finish), and others.  I’d estimate about 30 to 40% of the volunteers were students of some sort (either med student, nursing, or PT).  Oddly enough, I was the only EMT in the “Staten Island” section, and in general there weren’t many EMTs in the tent.  Our team leader broke our “borough” down into smaller teams, with one or two people of each designation on each mini-team, so there would be someone of each speciality available.  However, when the runners started pouring in, people seemed to just go where they were needed, although we did stay within our “borough.”

The med tent! (Located just after the finish, on the northern side of Sheep Meadow).

The med tent! (Located just after the finish, on the northern side of Sheep Meadow).

 

The worst part was the waiting.  Our call time for the finish line tent was 9 am, and they claimed we’d see our first patients at 10 am, but that makes no sense considering the starting time for the wheelchair athletes was 8:30, professional women were 9:20, and professional men at 9:50 (the last wave started at 11 am!).  We all actually ate our lunches (ham, tuna, or mozzarella sandwiches) before we saw any patients, since we didn’t see our first patient until almost noon.  It did get incredibly busy from about 1 pm until about 4 pm.  We had every cot filled with a waiting line in wheelchairs!  Over the course of the day, our single tent saw about 1400 patients, 8 of whom went to the hospital for further treatment.  We administered more IVs than any previous NYC Marathon (I think – don’t quote me on that), and I heard that in general we were a lot busier than recent years (possibly due to high temps – it reached 65 that day, which means it felt like 85 for the runners).

 

We saw a lot of Exercise-Associated Collapse (aka postural hypotension – basically running dilates the blood vessels in your legs, which temporarily remain dilated after you stop running, and when you stop you lose the “pumping action” of the muscles that help return blood to your heart, so your blood pools in your legs and you can faint – that’s why most races make you keep walking after the finish line).  We also saw a lot of cramping and gave out a lot of salt (just poured from the packet right into their mouths, washed down with a bit of Gatorade).  The magicians in the tent were the PTs, as I saw some of them stretch and massage away the most gnarly of muscle spasms.  The most helpful item I would not have predicted turned out to be old race t-shirts – swapping out a runner’s wet shirt with a dry one helped tremendously.

 

I heard a lot of complaints about how disorganized the tent was during set up, although it didn’t strike me as particularly chaotic, but I’m not used to well-organized hospitals and such.  We did run out of some materials, most notably the iStat stuff, which meant we couldn’t run some of the blood tests we wanted.  Overall, though, it seemed to go pretty well, with most of the patients I saw visibly getting better in a matter of minutes.  And everyone I worked with was really great – quite inspiring to see so many talented and friendly medical professionals!

Walking past the finish line after my shift ended at 6 pm.  Sunset at 4:52 pm meant a lot of nighttime finishers.

Walking past the finish line after my shift ended at 6 pm. Sunset at 4:52 pm meant a lot of nighttime finishers.

 

I don’t know what it was like in the other tents, and we haven’t gotten any final emails from NYRR yet.  I 100% want to do this again, and it made me more interested in running the NYC Marathon again, too (although I won’t be able to do both at the same time!).  Next time I’d bring more snacks, especially snacks to share (one woman brought a big bag of homemade chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and a sack of apples – she was a saint!).  I also wish I had gotten the info of one of the PTs on my team, as I’m still suffering from my tendonitis and am sure to suffer other injuries in the future.  For more info about the NYC medical tents, you can check out this article.  And if you want to volunteer for next year, sign ups are already available here.

 

How was your Sunday?  Are you still eating endless Halloween candy like I am?  Have you ever fainted after a race?  Share in the comments!

Gearing up for the 2015 NYC Marathon

Really nice jacket, unfortunately it's enormous.

Really nice jacket, unfortunately it’s yooge.

 

Oh, no, I’m not running the NYC Marathon this year.  I’m gearing up to be one of the many medical volunteers that day!  Last night the Medical Director (Dr. Stuart Weiss) held an orientation session which, I have to say, was pretty great.  It covered some basics about the race, some common injuries we were likely to see, procedures and record-keeping, and what to do in case the race needs to be stopped for whatever reason (basically pull flags across the course and have runners stop so they don’t all start crashing into each other).

 

We also got a Medical Manual (a booklet of info and maps) plus our bright red medical volunteer t-shirts and jackets.  Overall, it was incredibly well-organized and infinitely more structured than the way the medical volunteering went for the 18-miler.  Dr. Weiss mentioned that supplies in the tents reflected what volunteers in the past had requested, and that he pushed hard this year to have red jackets made for all the medical volunteers so they were easily identifiable.  The one big thing we haven’t gotten yet is our assignments for race day, which they said would come in an email later, so I don’t know where I’ll be along the course yet.  I do know that if I get my finish line request, I’ll have a 12-hour shift!

 

Last night I was surprised by two things – just how freaking many med volunteers there were (we filled the NYU Skirball Center, which holds about 900 people, and this was just one of two orientation nights) and how freaking young they were!  As an Old, everyone looks young to me these days, but I also overheard some nurses in the line behind me saying that most of the volunteers were med students (not sure how they knew that, but since they’re nurses I assume they know everything).  I also had to laugh when they covered scene safety in the presentation, since that’s drilled so hard in EMT training, but I realized a lot most of the people there we not emergency medicine folks but had other specialties, so scene safety would be a good reminder to them when they’re used to an examining room instead of the side of a road.

 

While there will be hundreds of professional EMTs and paramedics along the course in their ambulances, past statistics indicate those ambulances are mercifully mostly unused.  Of the approximately 50,000 runners, about 5,000 will stop at some point for medical care, but only about 20 people out of that 5,000 end up needing to go to the hospital.  The finishing rate of the NYC Marathon is also incredibly high, as 99.2% of those that start will finish.  See, finishing a marathon is easier than eating a Cinnabon!*

 

If you are running NYC this year, good luck and have fun, and I hope to see you happy and healthy at the finish!

 

*I don’t have any statistics on what percent of people finish an entire Cinnabon, but I can’t imagine it’s anywhere close to over 99%.

 

Are you running a fall marathon this year?  Have you ever visited the medical tent during or after a race?  When’s the last time you ate a Cinnabon?  Share in the comments!

Twizzlers Heal Injuries by Where's the Finish

NYC Marathon Spectating – 2014 Experience

Twizzlers Heal Injuries by Where's the Finish

Many people asked if it were true. I said yes, and that I was a doctor.

As a marathon runner who has benefitted countless times from spectators who passed out food, beer, or just had a funny sign, I feel I have a duty to karmically pay back these good deeds.  My one big chance every year is the NYC Marathon.  I volunteered at the Expo on Thursday, but my real “good marathon deed” came today – for almost 5 hours, standing at about mile 21.5, I passed out 12 pounds of Twizzlers and 4 bags of Kit Kats.  I had two signs – “Twizzlers heal injuries” while passing out the Twizzlers and “Show Us Your Tata Consultancy Services” when I ran out of Twizzlers.  The Tata sign was from last year, but since TCS was the actual sponsor this year, many, many more people got the joke this time.

Show us your Tata Consultancy Services

Sign with candy bag detritus. They still smell strongly of Twizzlers.

 

I also learned a few things from spectating today:

 

  • Norwegians love Twizzlers.  Or they don’t have Twizzlers in Norway and they wanted to literally grasp the one chance they got to try this waxy American treat.  Either way, I think the first 4 pounds of Twizzlers went exclusively to Norwegians.  Or maybe they were Swedish.  I’m not so good with the flags.
  • There’s no such thing as overdressing to spectate a cold-weather race.  It was in the 40s today but with a windchill in the 30s.  I wore long underwear, thick jeans, an extra wool top, a wind-blocking fleece, wool socks, boots, fleece headband, hat, scarf, and (rubber, for sanitary reasons) gloves.  When it got shady I added my long down coat and hood.  All of this was just barely comfortable, although my ears and fingers were still cold by the end.  While my friend somehow, amazingly, ran the marathon shirtless, if you plan on standing still for multiple hours you won’t be sorry you’re warm.  You can always remove layers if you’re hot, but you can’t put on the extra wool sweater you didn’t bring.
  • I probably pissed off several runners today.  To those runners, I say:  I hope you understand it was only because I was trying to get candy to another runner, and I really didn’t mean for that runner to clothesline you while reaching for a treat.  I hope those minor irritations only fueled you to a stronger finish.
  • Having a sign explaining what you are handing out is very helpful.  I saw people reading the sign that Twizzlers heal injuries, which then helped them identify the strange red ropes in my hands.  I didn’t have a sign that said “Kit Kats” and people seemed confused by them, although they still went like hotcakes (assuming marathoners love hotcakes).  It would have been even better to have multiple people passing out treats, but amazingly I haven’t convinced anyone to join me on these marathon spectating adventures yet.  Maybe next year!
  • Twizzlers are a great candy to pass out.  It’s cheaper than chocolate (12 lbs for about $22 on Amazon, vs 4 bags of Kit Kats on sale at Duane Reade for $10, but they lasted about 15 minutes because there’s not much in a bag) and I personally enjoy eating Twizzlers more during a race than other candy.  I wore disposable rubber gloves so it was moderately more sanitary and I didn’t have to hand anyone candy I touched with my bare hands.  Plus the Norwegians love it.
  • Candy grabbing goes in waves.  When one person takes candy from you, usually a bunch more will also grab for candy right afterwards.  Then 50 runners will go by and nothing.  Then, one person wants candy, and 5 people right around them also want it.  If someone wants to run a detailed psychological study on this, please give me credit in the footnotes.
  • A ton of really attractive men ran the marathon this year.  I saw so many guys who could be doubles for the ridiculously photogenic runner meme guy, it was hard to believe they had already run 21 miles in the freezing cold.  If someone wants to run a detailed psychological study on this, please include my contact info in the footnotes.
  • Even when I ran out of candy, people seemed to appreciate that I stood there holding my silly sign.  I felt terrible I couldn’t offer them more, but since they didn’t know what they missed, there were no hard feelings.  Now that they know, however, I can understand if they demand candy from me if they ever run into me on the street.  “You’re that girl with the sign and the blog?  Where’s my candy?!”  “Hold on, handsome, I have some right here in my handbag…”

 

Did you run or watch the NYC Marathon today?  Or are you mostly just excited for another Walking Dead episode tonight?  Do you also always carry candy in your handbag?  DO Norwegians love Twizzlers?  Share in the comments!

Hey baby, slow down so I can pick you up - NYC Marathon sign

Watching the NYC Marathon

Hey baby, slow down so I can pick you up - NYC Marathon sign

The “winning” sign of my three signs.

Congratulations to all the NYC Marathon finishers today – you looked great out there!

 

Geoffrey Mutai and Stanley Biwott leading the race at mile 21.5

Geoffrey Mutai and Stanley Biwott leading the race at mile 21.5.  Mutai went on to win!  Also, they are as fast as they look.

After watching the first couple hours of coverage on TV, I put on every article of hot pink clothing I could and made my way to the course with my three giant signs and 8 bags of candy.  I arrived between miles 21 and 22 just after the lead women ran by, but I got settled in time to see the elite men fly past… and then 5 hours of everyone else.

 

Yep, I cheered for 5 full hours and passed out all 8 bags of candy and a giant baggie of cut up bagels.  By the time I pulled the plug, my hands were cramped and I couldn’t feel my toes.  But it was great!  The best moments were when I could see a serious runner read my sign and then smile with the realization.  I also had several runners (usually women) say I was a lifesaver because of the chocolate and bagels.

 

Show us your Tata Consultancy Services sign

I really liked my “risque” pun sign, but people didn’t seem to get the joke. Maybe I jumped the gun and people will get it next year when TCS is the named sponsor?

I was worried security would prevent me from getting close enough to the course but it was fine.  The entire course was lined with blue “do not cross – police line” tape, but you could push up against it as long as you were still on the sidewalk and not on the course.  The police were definitely present, but they did not hassle me as I passed food to the runners (I purposely did not carry a backpack today).  Happily, the experience was not much different from what it was 7 years ago.  I do recommend watching along a less-congested area of the course (like Harlem) if you want more personal interaction with the runners and an easy front-row spot.  Next time, however, I will wear warmer clothing and bring even more food (and buy Halloween candy before Halloween, since drugstores don’t seem to stock enough for sales anymore).

 

I also got to see three of my five friends who were running today (only because they called out to me – it’s a lot easier to tell people where you’ll stand and what you’ll wear rather than find the runner in a sea of 47,000 runners).  I’m sorry I missed you other two!  I’ll try again next year if you do!

 

Today reminded me how fun it is to cheer for a marathon.  I definitely would (and will) cheer again even if I don’t know anyone running.  A marathon is a really happy atmosphere, and doubly happy when you’re a spectator and don’t have to run the thing.  During most of the MDI Marathon I was looking forward to my chance to stand still and hold a bowl of candy as my next marathon participation.

 

Now I’m almost feeling a post-race letdown as if I actually ran it.  Luckily I have a real marathon in less than a week, so I can funnel any longing to run into that.  I have only run twice since MDI – three miles the Friday after the race, and three miles yesterday – so it’s an understatement to say I’m not prepared, but I’m changing my approach to the race so it’ll still be enjoyable (I hope).  I’ll post more about that later.  For now, I’m going to relish the steam heat in my apartment and eat the candy I stashed away before the race.  Congrats again to everyone involved in the NYC Marathon!

 

Did you run or watch the NYC Marathon today?  Share in the comments!  Subscribers, visit the site for three more photos, if you’re curious.  

The Volunteer t-shirt for the NYC Marathon 2013, with Boston support ribbon

Volunteering at the NYC Marathon Expo

Volunteers waiting for instructions at the NYC Marathon Expo

Volunteers waiting for instructions at the NYC Marathon Expo

For Halloween I spent the day volunteering at the NYC Marathon Expo!  It was my first time volunteering for the marathon but it certainly won’t be my last.

 

The morning was a bit disorganized – from my personal difficulty finding the volunteer check-in area to many of us missing instructions on how to do our jobs (way too many t-shirt distribution people and too few bib distribution people meant a lot of last minute switches), we finally got into a groove after a bit.  The most exciting part was when Dean Karnazes checked in at my station.  He used his phone to find his bib number, and as his name quickly flashed on the screen, I exclaimed, “You’re Dean Karnazes!” like a giant dork.  He smiled and said yes, in fact he was.  Whether or not you’re a Dean Karnazes fan, if you’re a runner, you probably know who he is (actually, none of the other marathon-running volunteers near me knew who he was – how is that possible?!).  Handing a race bib to Dean Karnazes is like handing a baseball bat to Derek Jeter.  (He’s a baseball player, right?)

 

I was surprised how many volunteers were running the marathon this year – I expected a lot of 9+1’ers (NYRR’s program for guaranteed entry into the marathon – run 9 qualifying races plus do 1 volunteer job means the following year you get guaranteed entry), but I didn’t expect so many people who were actually running this Sunday to be volunteering all day on Thursday.  I was also surprised how busy it was – there were definite lulls, but for a Thursday morning/afternoon, there were a ton of people there.  I can only imagine how crowded it gets when it’s really busy.

 

The Volunteer t-shirt for the NYC Marathon 2013, with Boston support ribbon

The volunteer t-shirt for the NYC Marathon 2013, with Boston support ribbon

After volunteering I wandered the expo and bought practical running socks plus a flouncy silver running skirt I totally don’t need but definitely love.  All expo volunteers got a bright orange t-shirt to wear as well as $14 credit to use at the food court downstairs (more than enough for a giant chicken parm pasta lunch).  But of course the real reward was meeting and greeting all the excited runners (many of whom had travelled halfway around the world for this race), and getting to meet and chat with other volunteers.  I had a great time today and I’m even more excited to cheer on Sunday.  I hope my new volunteer marathoner friends spot me between miles 21 and 22.  While I was horrified to find the CVS completely empty of Halloween candy tonight, I promise to find candy somehow, somewhere, and have a big bowl of sugary encouragement for the NYC Marathon runners.

 

Are you running NYC this week?  Share in the comments!  Candy requests will be noted, but not guaranteed.