Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New York Marathon 11.4.2007

I finished the New York Marathon! What an experience, soooo many people and from all over the world. Every one sporting the colors of their country and yes I wore my American flag shorts. I met people form Germany, England, France and a couple of runners from Israel. The crowd and diversity was the best and worst of the race. While very interesting, it made it impossible to run a consistent pace. At times it felt more like a NASCAR race the a foot race constantly weaving in and out of people and trying to find was to pass. I finished in 4:05:58 not quite my goal time but I ran a good race, I stuck to my plan and ran a fairly consistent pace, never panicked when I fell behind (maybe I should have) and felt strong at the finish.

The day started a 4:00 AM. After getting ready I grabbed a coffee and bagel from the deli downstairs that was open 24 hours for the occasion. Took the subway from the hotel to Grand Central station which was a short walk to where I had to catch the shuttle to the start at Staten Island. Surprisingly well organized getting all these people to the start. Plenty of busses and “New York Hospitality”, volunteers with bull horns hollering at us to “get moving”. We arrived at the start area at 6:00 AM so now I have four hours to kill in the crisp cold morning. I found a place to lie down and nap when some one hollered my name! It was Collin, the British guy I met on my way into town from the airport. I had a chat with him and his friends and I have to say I think the German guy I met spoke better English :)

The organization at the start was pretty decent plenty of porta pottys and no problem getting food or coffee. A decent Blues band was playing but I was just anxious to get started. The sun was coming up and it was looking to be a great day. We started lining up in our corrals that were sectioned off into groups of 1000. There were three different corrals and three different initial routes. I was in the Green corral which started off running on the bottom deck of the Verazanno-Narrows Bridge. I lined up towards the back of my group, thinking that I didn’t need to worry about getting in front. I expected my first two miles to be slow and didn’t want to make the same mistake I did in Portland and try to make it up all at once.

The Gun went off at 10:10 AM. The race started the corals started moving up and the order turned to chaos. Every one is pushing a head and we haven’t even got to the start. I saw the 4:15 pace leader way ahead of me but thought to my self “don’t worry, run your race as you planed there will be plenty of time to get on track after this breaks up a bit”. I finally crossed the starting line at 10:37. As we head up the bridge we got a spectacular view of New York City from the south. We’re not even a mile in and people are stopping to pee right on the side or the road. Europeans.

Mile 1 was at the crest of the bridge. 9:47 pace. Yea that’s ok, I expected that. (I need to run 9:09 to make the 4 hours) coming down the bridge I had to avoid temptation to run too fast. I have plenty of time to make up 40 seconds. Mile two was about an 8:45, a little fast but good. As we head into Brooklyn people are starting to line the streets. Proud immigrants cheering for runners sporting their national colors. Mile three crowds thinning a bit 8:55 pace, looking good.

As we come around a corner on 79th street the Blue corral merged in to our group and the crowd thickened. The spectators were awesome. The street was lined with brick and concrete row houses and everyone was outside, playing music handing out water, candy and paper towels. This is pretty cool. I can see people on the other side of the median that started in the orange corral and they look surprisingly slow to be ahead of me. I hope I pass most of them before they merge in. Miles 4, 5 and before you know it we’re at 6, wow time flies, this is going to be cake.

The water stations were pretty chaotic. With water on both sides of the road you couldn’t run around the crowd, things just bunched up. So many cups on the ground and we were running through huge puddles of Gatorade and water. It was as if there was a major rain. They handed out the Gatorade in these huge 12 oz cups that were practically full. Most of the runners take a sip or two and throw the rest on the ground. I need to pee but there aren’t many porta pottys on the course. Maybe four at each aid station and people are stopping and standing in line. I can’t stand in line, I guess I’ll hold it.

At mile eight the orange corral merged in. This is where things started getting difficult. Weaving in and out of traffic. Slowing down, and speeding up trying to weave my way through the crowd. We hit an ever so slight incline at mile 10 and quite a few people are starting to walk already. As we run through this part of Brooklyn there is a pretty interesting diversity of people on the streets. Bands at every corner and firemen out in uniform with their fire engines cheering us on, 9-11 is still fresh in every ones mind here. As we enter the Hasidic area I saw a bunch of people run up and pee just up against the buildings on the side of the road. That’s not cool, but maybe I should just do that, no I’ll wait.

The crowd is starting to frustrate me a bit. I have to run all to corners very wide to avoid getting stuck. Up ahead I see a bunch of guys lined up at a fence taking a leak, F it, you got to do what you got to do… That feels much better. Around mile 12 we climbed a small overpass which narrowed and more crazy congestion. I passed the half marathon mark at about 2:01:30 Not good but no time to panic, My legs are feeling fine and sooner or later I should get passed most of the slower runners.

The Queensboro Bridge was just past mile 15. It crosses from Queens into Manhattan. I carried my cell phone to check in with Debbie. She should be waiting for me on the other side of the bridge. This was probably the worst congestion of the race. The bridge narrowed and had a fairly steep incline. So many people walking, this is more like trying to squeeze into a concert then running a marathon. I’m running from one edge of the bridge to the other trying to get through. Probably running twice as far as I should. Trying to convince myself, “don’t get frustrated, enjoy this, your in New York, look out over the bridge there’s Manhattan.

As I come down the bridge and into the city I need to find Debbie. This will be tough, with so many runners and the crowd is just packed along side the road. How are we gonna… There she is, Wave hopefully she’ll see me, slow down for a picture, no kiss this time, she’s back off the road in the crowd. I can’t believe I spotted her. I later found out that she didn’t get a picture :(

Moving into Manhattan we headed up 1st street towards the Bronx. This street was wide and long. An amazing site, for as far as the eye could see, over 50 street blocks, wall to wall runners. This may be my chance to make up time. As I pass the 18 mile mark, I’m trying to do the math in my head… I’m about 5 minutes behind pace, crap I’m not going to make it. DON’T GIVE UP. It’s decision time, Quit or dig deep. Eight miles to go, If I can do about 8:20s the rest of the way I could still make it. Pain is temporary, pride is forever (I saw that one some ones shirt). It will be tough to live with quitting, time to dig in.

So I picked up the pace. Mile 19 about an 8:30. OK were making up time, don’t quit. I don’t know if I can keep this up or not but I’d rather crash and burn then quit. Crap, another narrow bridge to get into the Bronx. Climbing the bridge was though, not physically but congested and more people walking. Once on the bridge it widened up, it was s steal grate bridge with a carpet over two lanes. I moved over to run on the grating to get away from the crowd. The Bronx marked the 20 mile mark. Still feeling good but not making up any time. Still not gona give up trying. A big group of rappers were on the side of the road accentuating to the New York feel.

Another on-ramp and bridge to get back to Manhattan and into Harlem. A group of gospel singers and some guy shouting out inspiration when I needed it. There’s a park up ahead, I know it’s not central park yet but were getting close. Around a couple more corners and I see the park and the empire state building in the distance. I’m trying to find some speed but it’s not the crowd holding me back any more as much as I just cant get going. Mile 23 was an 8:55, decent but I’m not making up any time. I’d need to pull 7:30s from here to get in on time. That’s not going to happen so just enjoy the run through the park and see if you can find Debbie.

I called Debbie, she’s lost. I figured that would happen the finish area was very chaotic. Huge crowd and many of the roads were closed. I told her to stay put and I’ll find her after I finish. Getting close, past the zoo and out of the park back on to the road. Less then a mile to go. There’s the 26 mile mark up ahead and I’m already at 4:01 oh well. There’s the finish smile and pose for the photo. I made it.

Contrary to the start, the finish logistics were terrible. A huge crowd trying to get though a narrow path where every one is tiring to get food, have there chip removed and get their luggage from the start. I ended up leaving my luggage, it was cloths I planed on ditching but thought I may want them at the finish but now I just want out of the park.

After a long walk I found Debbie and we had about 20 blocks to get back to the hotel. I thought I’d jump on one of the Pedi cabs but couldn’t bring myself to pay $30 for it. So I got a NY hot dog from a street vendor and headed back to the hotel.

Although there were some tough moments it was a great experience. The scenery, fan support and crowd of runners helped the run go by painlessly. I followed my plan and felt good. The things I was concerned about, my sore calf, lung and nasal congestion from a cold I’ve been fighting, my endurance and training and the logistics of getting to the start were all non-issues. The thing that got me was the unforeseen crowd issue. If I was to ever do this race again I would not do it for time, and maybe sandbag my time to get an earlier start position.