I started the process of getting into the NYC marathon four years ago. Starting in 2010, I entered the lottery for race entry and was denied every year for three years. However, there was a rule that if you have 3 consecutive lottery losses, then you have guaranteed entry the fourth year. And though this entry method is being phased out, I was grandfathered in. Since the qualifying times are ridiculously fast, if I was going to run this marathon, it was going to be this year. I started training for it back in May, opting for a radically different training program called the 5-pace method, since my last couple marathon attempts didn’t work out as well as I wanted. More of the same just didn’t feel like a smart option. At the beginning, things were going OK. I was having trouble hitting goals on the fast workouts, but my marathon-pace runs and long runs were going fine. After a couple months though, everything seemed to be slowing down and I was feeling a bit defeated. It was starting to look like a 3:45 finish might be in my future. Around that time, my wife suggested I hire a coach and with the recommendation of a few friends I was able to get some quality help at a very reasonable price. There was an immediate noticeable improvement in how I felt during and after workouts, as well as in my performance. The only problem that I had was that the training was so different from what I was accustom to, I didn’t have a really good idea of how it would translate to finish time on race day. My coach was thinking potential for a personal record (PR), but I had no idea if I was capable of that or not (spoiler alert: I was not). Ultimately it didn’t really matter that much to me. In the past, I often felt like other things in life got in the way of training and racing. But since my wife and I found out we are having a baby boy in the spring, it has felt like training is in the way of life. It doesn’t seem to matter to me any more if I PR a marathon or not. Nevertheless, I did want to do my best and I made the effort to make each workout count.
Race day came and I got up about 3:30 am in Manhattan, not by choice but because I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep (also it had changed from daylight savings overnight so it only felt like 4:30 AM). This gave me plenty of time to eat, stretch and take care of other morning business before catching a 6AM subway train down to Whitehall station to catch a carry to Staten Island at 6:45AM. The ferry ride was really cool actually, which is why I picked that as my mode of transport. There were plenty of great views of the city and we had an armed (as in 50 caliber machine gun, armed) Coast Guard escort. Once off the ferry, it was only a little after 7AM and my start time wasn’t until 9:40AM, so I took my time, made a pitstop, and eventually made my way around the area to where I thought the runners village was. What I failed to learn in advance (almost definitely my own fault) was that I still needed to take a bus to the staging area. So, I got on line, then on a bus and took a nauseating 25 minute ride to start. At this point it was about 8:15 AM and the wave one runners were instructed to be in their corrals 45 minutes prior to the start. So, I should have had about 40 minutes, but the announcements said 25 minutes until wave one corrals were closing. Now, I was feeling rushed, so I quickly found a bagel, wedged that, hit the bathrooms one more time, then got suited up for the race. Or unsuited as the case may be. I threw my warm up clothes into the bag provided, gave them to the volunteers manning the donation station and went into my corral with about 5 minutes to spare.
Now, I could swear that they were announcing that all clothing had to be donated before going into corrals, but apparently this was not the case. A lot of people still were keeping warm in their warm up clothes, while I was freezing my butt of in the 43 degree weather. Also, there were no announcements about there being bathrooms available in the corrals, but there were and fortunately there were no lines. I had almost an hour to hang out still, so I just sat down and hugged my knees to my chest to try to stay warm. After about 15 minutes though, they started marching us out onto the Verrazano-Narrows bridge to the start. With more than 40 minutes to go, we all moved out of the holding corral, past the conveniently located last-chance donation bins and onto the bridge. Once on the bridge, we all just stood around for 40 minutes, trying to make out what was being said over the PA system. I quickly figured out why they wouldn’t take any more clothing at this point. People were dropping unwanted clothing next to the busses parked bumper to bumper, and then people were peeing between the busses. So there was a line of urine soaked clothing along the entire length of the starting area. Pretty nasty.
Finally, the race was underway. About 10 steps in, I figured out that the problem all along was that I didn’t want to do the race. It’s not easy to get into this marathon and they are making it more difficult. I got in, so I kind of had to do it this year if I ever wanted to do it. But I think 7 years of racing with no real break, combined with reorganized life priorities finally caught up with me. Nevertheless, the first 30K went at a pretty steady pace despite taking a pee break at mile 8, followed immediately by pulling my left arch, stomach cramps at mile 10, right achilles pain at mile 12, and pretty serious headwind the whole 2nd half. Around 20 miles in, I started feeling real muscle soreness which became very bad within a mile. Determined not to walk, I managed to maintain at least a jog through the finish, despite all the aches and pains. Everything hurt so bad at the finish, but pretzels in the recovery bag made me happy as did the free ponchos they handed out to those of us who donated our warm up closed instead of checking them through to the finish. It was a very long walk (about 3 miles) out of the finish area and back to where I was staying, but that turned out to help immensely with recovery.
Time: 3:24:08 Pace: 7:47
Place: 3397/50062 Overall, 3029/30536 Men, 627/5005 M35-39
Age Graded: 63.2%