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New York City Marathon 2014

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

I arrived at my destination with no mishaps this year, unlike last year’s Wineglass Marathon travel fiasco. My first afternoon and evening were spent with friends, and the next morning I headed for the Expo. I expected it to be bigger than it was – other than the Asics market, there wasn’t much else. Sure, some other vendors had displays, but not as big an expo as I expected. I went upstairs to view the 5 boroughs display, then lost patience with the whole thing and returned to my hotel.

I had made plans to meet up with two Spark running friends, so I met with OFFWERUN and DEEJ4FITNESS and their spouses for lunch on Saturday. It was cold and rainy outside, but inside a great time was had by all. We then headed off our separate ways to rest before the big day.

As I usually do, I got up way too early just so I wouldn’t be late. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. The race director had sent a message that much of the signage and tents were being removed from the start village due to the dangerously high winds. We were expecting winds of 24 mph with gusts up to 40 mph. That wasn’t great for my nerves! I checked and rechecked my directions, as I wasn’t sure where to get the subway.

I walked briskly to the subway (it was cold and windy) and went down to find my train. I had expected to see loads of runners but didn’t until I was down on the platform. Once we were on the subway, each stop brought many more marathoners until we all got off at the Whitehall Terminal stop. I had needlessly worried about how to find the terminal: no sooner were we off the subway than we were within sight of the entrance where we were met by dogs and security staff. After the dog sniffed my clear plastic bag and satisfied himself that I didn’t have any contraband, I was allowed inside the Staten Island Ferry terminal.

A sea of humanity greeted me, all pushing to get to the door to the ferry. After a 30 minute wait, I finally boarded a ferry and I was on my way. I peered out the window on my side of the ferry, struggling for a good view of the Verrazano Bridge. I therefore missed the Statue of Liberty on the other side, although I recognized the base of it as I peered across the ferry. I remember getting up early on the last morning of our transatlantic ship voyages to the US as a child so that I would be able to see The Statue of Liberty.

We reached Staten Island, and disembarked. As we headed outside we were hit by a blast of arctic air, and we ran to the waiting buses. Once on the bus, it took approximately 20 minutes to get to the village. I hopped off the bus, and ran obliviously past the police security barrier. I was stopped and searched, just in case those dogs hadn’t done a thorough job.

Then I went off to find my ‘color’. Each of the 4 starting waves was also broken into color groups and corrals. I walked through the village until I found the green group. There I found myself a bagel, some water, and I hunkered down on the ground in the two garbage bags I had brought. We looked like a village of homeless people, crouching wherever we could to get out of the wind and bitter cold. People were wrapped in all types of garments, blankets, trash bags, and even bubble wrap. And there we stayed until they called our wave to the starting corrals.

I sign up for marathons feeling strong and competent, but by race morning, I feel like a fraud. It seems to me that everyone there is entitled to be, but somehow I’m there under false pretenses. Fortunately the minute the gun goes off, that melts away and I’m where I belong. And so it was this past Sunday.

I lined up with the 5:30 pace group. She was doing Galloway method, but 5/1 intervals. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I hung around until I found it too distracting and then I went off on my own.

The Verrazano Bridge proved to be no big deal, or maybe it was the adrenaline and the fact that on the lower level I wasn’t experiencing as much wind. Then we were in Brooklyn. The surge of runners never let up, and the noise level was astonishing. Between the crowds, the runners and the wind, I had trouble hearing my Gymboss. And let me tell you, mine is exceedingly loud.

As we approached Williamsburg where my father grew up, an area that is now home to a heavily Chassidic community, I was struck by how out of place we seemed. Schoolgirls on their way home for lunch, mothers pushing baby carriages, men on their way to or from the synagogue – none of them gave us a glance. Finally I heard three men cheering us on, and wondered whether they would get in trouble for doing so. The only acknowledgement we received in that area was the occasional look of irritation from someone wanting to cross the street.

On we ran. If the Verrazano wasn’t much, the Pulaski Bridge and then the Queensboro Bridge made up for it.

Of course by then my feet were hurting a lot. Not sure what that’s about – I’ll need to check it out because it made the rest of the marathon miserable.

With the exception of two blocks where the wind was at our back, we were faced either with headwinds or buffeted from the side. When the gusts came through, I was almost blown off the street and had to fight my way back onto the road. The grit and dust blown in our eyes didn’t add to our enjoyment.

We headed up the East Side, and crossed another bridge and then we were in the Bronx. We ran about a mile and a half in the Bronx and then we were headed over another bridge and running through Harlem. In every neighborhood, the music was vastly different, but in every neighborhood the crowds were huge.

We ran down next to Central Park, and at E. 86th street, we actually entered the park which was lined by crowds on both sides. The last two and half miles were in the park. In spite of the pain, I managed to maintain my 30/30 intervals throughout the race, even when the pain set in. True to form, I continued on where others were faltering and just walking. It’s always gratifying at the end of a race to see how well the Galloway method works. I may not be able to maintain my pace at the end, but I have yet to find myself unable to run/walk/run!

Then the finish line, where in quick succession I got my medal, a space blanket and a bag with beverages and snacks. As a ‘no baggage’ runner (no physical baggage checked – we won’t talk about the other baggage), I was entitled to take the earlier exit to the park where I would receive a finisher’s cape. As we reached the exit, volunteers put a blue plastic poncho lined with fleece on us, and velcro’d it closed. Then we were free to leave! A veritable army of Smurfs!

I’m thrilled to have run the New York City marathon, and very happy with my results. I wish I had enjoyed the second half more, but my feet hurt too much for that. Throughout I was impressed by the logistical planning that had gone into this, by the vast hordes of cheerful volunteers we encountered everywhere, by the crowds cheering us on (if the weather was cold for us, it must have been worse for the spectators.) I must have heard every language known to man, both on the course and on the sidelines. At the start I spoke with two sisters from Dijon, and at the finish, I was surrounded by a group of French runners. Seems appropriate.

After the marathon, a runner posted on Facebook that he’d lost his wedding ring somehow. The next day, it had been found and returned to him.

On my way back to my hotel, getting ready to swipe my Metro card in the subway, I was stopped by an attendant who opened the gate and told us the least New York could offer us marathoners was a free ride home. As I walked from the subway station to my hotel, strangers congratulated me. Remember, I was a blue Smurf, so easily identifiable.

That’s New York for you!

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