Monday, November 14, 2011

My New York City Marathon

Statue of Liberty
     When I applied for the New York City Marathon this year on the very last day to enter, I honestly never thought I'd get in.  After all less than 10% of all the people in the world who enter the race ever get into it (so I've read).  But I was accepted and THRILLED!  I had never been to NYC and I had excitement all year while I waited to run the worlds largest marathon.
     A week before the race I was in a lot of pain and the Dr. diagnosed me with hip bursitis.  Things weren't looking good for me, I could barely stand the pain I would get running just a few miles, how I was going to finish a marathon?  I got 3 cortisone shots and then took a week off of running and did a lot of praying and mental preparation.  Bursitis usually takes 6 weeks off of running to begin the healing process, I had less than 5 days just to be able to take the pain...

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn
(In my opinion the best place to view)
     I arrived in New York and checked into the Brooklyn Marriott.  (I decided to book the marathon portion of my trip with Anthony Travel, because not knowing the area and being alone they guaranteed me transportation to the expo and to the race start along with my hotel stay.)  Took a shuttle bus the next day to the huge expo at the Javits Center.  I had a bus driver who on the way took us on a sight seeing tour of parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan which was cool.
     The expo was huge, but unlike others from all other races I have ran.  It was more of a shopping mall for runners, Asics was the sponsor, and literally anything a runner could want in several colors, I could have gone broke with all the cute shades of pink running gear options available.  Several other big running gear names were there as well, races from around the world just a bit more high priced commercialized than most race expo's.  But full of lots of energy and pre-race excitement.
My hip ached a bit just walking through the expo and it kept my worrying up.

Famous Brooklyn Bridge
     Usually the day before a marathon in rural area's I love to go for a hike, but being in New York I decided to just go for a city walk.  Starting in Brooklyn originally the plan was to just walk to the famous Brooklyn Bridge and then back, but curiosity got the best of me when I crossed to the other side in Manhattan and I decided to walk around the city a bit (turned into several miles).
I had no idea where I was going, but figured if I got lost I could just grab a taxi to take me back to Brooklyn, so I just walked around eventually ending up at the 9-11 Memorial Site, which wasn't much to see since it was still under construction.  But had a good view of the new WTC tower they are half way through building. (Didn't get lost.)
New World Trade Center
It's half built
That night I took a locals tip and enjoyed some great New York pizza from a small Brooklyn Pizzeria. (Yummy)
That night I had another problem, I during the day discovered a new muscle pull behind my knee, it was bad I was limping while walking. (Not good!)  Worried about a hamstring pull, I spent most the night icing it off and on.

     Marathon Morning, mine started at 4:20 a.m.  The back of my knee was really hurting me, but when jogging across my hotel room I discovered it only really hurt while walking, not so much while running.  This was good news to me!  I skipped my regular routine and just had a bagel and got dressed and headed downstairs for the bus. 
Had fun talking to a runner from North Dakota along the way, and arrived at the race start on Staten Island at 6:30 a.m.  Normally this would be fine, but I was in the 3rd Wave, and my green corral line up start wasn't going to start until 10:40 a.m.
I had A LOT of time to spend waiting...  I put on my ear covers, gloves and garbage bag, and found a good place to sit and try to keep warm.  I was keeping my hip and thigh injuries warm using those peel and stick heat warmers, and then I just sat and waited wishing I had a book or a comfy spot to lay down and take a nap.  Instead I people watched and talked to runners around the world.
     Things started going a little faster when I heard the gunshot in the distance for the elite women runners, then a few hours later I loaded for my corral.
I didn't actually get across the start until a little after 11 a.m.   (Yes I had to wait almost 6 hours before I could start the race.  A VERY long morning!!!)

Verrazano Narrows Bridge
Longest Bridge in the world
     There were 47,000+ Marathon runners that morning and broken into 3 Wave starts, and each wave had 3 color start lines.  By the time we were in the corrals we were like packed sardines.  Each wave got their own star spangled banner song, and gun start (which was cool).  Then as we walked to get to the start to begin our race on the longest bridge in the world the Verrazano Narrows Bridge which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn.  They played Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" and every one sang along "Start Spreading the News, I am leaving today, I want to be a part of it, New York, New York..."
Immediately the energy of the race went up, and everyone came alive. 
I knew right then that this was going to be a GREAT race to be a part of!!!

     The bridge was long, and yes I can honestly say with the thousands of footsteps pounding on it, it did feel like it moved a little.  Other bridge, fire boats spraying water up, down below from the bay.  Clear beautiful blue sky and perfect temperatures in the 50's for running.
Thousands of runners on the top and bottom sections of the bridge, I was on the bottom.  There were actually 3 courses with the different wave colors and we all were on different sections and courses until later on around mile 8 on the course when we all combined.  Mostly it was running on different sides of the freeway, or different sections of the bridge.
Central Park
     Soon as the bridge ended the spectators began, at first there were only a few hundred, and then when we hit the Brooklyn neighborhoods WOW they were out in the 10's of thousands if not 100's of thousands.  They weren't just standing around watching, they were cheering, singing, playing music, dancing...  You would have thought us running through Brooklyn was a national holiday, everyone from families, gangs, heck even a few groups that looked like mafia were there enjoying it.
We went through old neighborhoods, to places that I would probably never venture into any other time even with a police escort.  Some area's were nice and clean, others plastered with graffiti everywhere except on the churches and schools.
Unbelievable energy running through Brooklyn, I was so caught up in watching and listening to the spectators I literally forgot all about my hip injury at times.  It was great!
Passed a group of kids playing music with metal garbage can's and lids, AMAZING they were unbelievably good, you would have never guessed the musical instruments were metal trash cans.

Brooklyn Visitors Center at Night
     Brooklyn was the area I'd say that had the most spectators, I would even guess possibly close to a million of them, by far the most energy and some of the best music.  Who would have thought I'd enjoy listening to gangsta rap & Jamaican music while running...  Heck one group was even singing Beastie Boys songs, haven't heard that in a while.  But I really did enjoy it all, and the singers were mostly great!  Even the gospel rock singers at an old church that they had put up huge speakers and just sang and danced.  Lot's of fun!
I was told there were 130 bands along the course, and I believe it, other than when on the different bridges, (the only places spectators weren't allowed) all you heard was cheers and music.
I personally no longer run with headphones in Marathon's just to experience it all.  But in this race particularly, anyone with them turned on was really missing out on the experience.

Fountain in Central Park
     The fun didn't end in Brooklyn, we entered Queen's next, and although not as many in the crowds I'd still say it was a safe bet to say it was still in the 10's of thousands range.  Good music, and still lots & lots of energy!  I was surprised Queen's was a really unique place.  I wish I could have enjoyed it a little more, it turned out this is where a lot of my problems starting to occur, so I was sidetracked a little at times with my own issues.  But I loved seeing all the people, and at one point at the city basketball courts just playing ball and cheering and having fun at the same time.
     I started having some running problems around mile 11, I mentally prepared for them in advance, but it was still discouraging when it happened.  But I wasn't about to let it get me down, even if it slowed me down a bit and put me into a slower group of runners.

"The Lake" at Central Park
By the time I started feeling good again, after crossing the Queensboro Bridge it was too late I was already stuck in a crowd of runners that were going much slower than my normal pace and it would have added more miles to the race weaving in and around them, not to mention the energy to do so to bother so I just shrugged my shoulders.  Unless you are an elite runner, this isn't a race that in my opinion you can really go for a PR in, so I just accepted the fact that this was going to be my slowest marathon ever and I just concentrated on the original goal, to finish regardless of my injuries.

     Entering the Bronx was fun too, we were only in there less than 2 miles, but boy did they have a lot of energy and fun.  Their gangsta rap stuff was re-written for marathon runners (like those in Brooklyn did) and it was raps of all about running.  Fun stuff!!!
View from Empire State Building
Then back into Manhattan, the Harlem area first, then past the rich area near some "Trump" hotels a few miles later entered the Central Park area.  The crowds in Manhattan were still out in the thousands, although I am sure several had already gone home by the time I got into the area.  It was still more spectators than I had ever seen in a race.
Central Park is not like any park I ever would have imagined.  Not only is is huge, several miles in length and at least a mile across in width.  Had a reservoir and several lakes.  Lots of hills and I swear mountains, trails and beautiful fall tree's.  I can't believe I was so lucky to be there before all the fall foliage had gone away.  It was so beautiful!
The last few miles of the race in my opinion had more spectators out cheering than if you combined all the spectators from the last 10 marathon's I've run.
It was really incredible and indescribable!
I should also mention all the jumbo trons along the course, I almost want to say there were at least 6 throughout the race before the one at the finish.  It was so fun to look up and see myself running on on the screen, it just picks up the energy a little.

Red, White & Blue
Empire State Building
     After spending 6 hours waiting around, then another 5+ running lets just say it was a long day!  I was tired (actually words cannot explain how exhausted I was.) I felt pretty hungry by the time I reached the last miles of the course too, after all I was living on 1 and a half bagel and water and Gatorade all day. 
Because of daylight savings the sun was already starting to drop by the time I reached the finish area, and it was starting to get cold, really cold even got a sore throat at mile 25 from it.
But their is so much energy from that race that it carries you to the finish.
When I did finally reach the finish area I was thrilled, I just finished running the worlds biggest and greatest marathon.  Less than 1% of runners ever run a marathon, let a lone the small percentage of those that actually get in to run New York.  It was one of the most expensive races to enter ($200 entry fee alone) not to mention hotels are well over $300 a night.

Picture I took after the Finish Line
Lots and lots of tired runners
I can honestly say when I approached the finish I thought about how it was worth every penny of it!  All the hype was true, this really is one of the best marathon's ever!!!  (I should know this was my 23rd and 16th state.)

After I crossed the finish and received my medal, and was handed a heavy bag of recovery drinks and food, I made my way through the finish corrals and past all the UPS baggage pick up trucks...  It took me over an hour, there were thousands of runners no chance of getting through it sooner. By now it was full on dark, I was told that no taxi's were allowed in the area, (how I had planned to get back to my hotel) so I was going to have to take the Subway for the first time. 
Looking back at my fear now I laugh, but at the time I was worried, at night in NY and having to take the Subway alone...  Not what you hear is the smart thing to do, but I had no other choice.
I followed other runners who seemed to know where they were going, I asked a few volunteers for help, which they gave me but they all gave me different Subway directions to take, all it did was confuse me and make me almost want to cry.  After all I was cold, exhausted and just wanted to get back to my hotel take a bath, eat something and collapse on my bed.
Mary Poppins
Amsterdam Theatre
     I just walked underground, and decided to follow the last ladies advise, however she ran up to me just as I was going down and changed her directions once again... (Yikes, apparently not many knew the best way to get to Brooklyn..)
I bought a ticket easy enough and then went through the gates and waited and just decided to climb on the first train...  There were others around, but they were all just as clueless as me, and none going to Brooklyn.
    Luckily after getting on the Subway about half way into my ride when others were getting off and it was starting to empty, a nice older couple came over and sat with me.
Turns out they were from Brooklyn and were more than willing to help me out.  I will be forever grateful for their help, because turns out the directions I had previously been given were wrong, and the nice couple got me to the correct stop I needed to get off on.
In all after the race it took me 2 more hours to get back to Brooklyn, and I walked around another 2 miles to get out of the finish and to the trains.  It was almost 7 p.m. when I got back to my room that night.

Inside Grand Central Terminal
     I have to mention that this race had some of the best race organization I have ever seen.  I guess it would have to be, to accommodate 47,000+ runners.   I also need to mention the volunteers, especially those in the ING orange raincoats who helped at the water stations.  I never needed to wait for a cup, and they were extremely friendly and supportive.
Which is surprising after how drenched in sticky Gatorade they were. 

I didn't enjoy going through all the water stops, they were at every mile on the course after mile 3.  I just stopped every 2-3 miles for water.  When I didn't want any I tried to stay in the middle of the road, keeping my eyes on the mountains of water cups and watch out for the thousands of slippery banana peels. (That was all I wanted to have to come back and say, yes I broke my tailbone again slipping on a banana peel in the race, LOL..  Thankfully I never fell when I slipped:)
Near Wall Street
Trinity Church down Center
The other annoying thing about the water/Gatorade stops was the sticky ground.  It was sticky for almost 200 meters past the pick up point.  Your shoes would literally stick to the ground, I laughed and thought of it as resistance.

A few more interesting things about running in a big race like this, I ran elbow's out at the beginning until the crowds thinned and I wasn't getting pushed into so much.   I got punched in the back of my ribs a lot.  Because runners behind me would move over because someone pushed them, and then their hand/fist would get shoved into my back.  I seriously thought I'd have some bruises from it...
Also, you really had to pay attention to the runners in front of you.  If the guy in front decided to stop or slow if you weren't paying attention you'd run right into them.  It took some getting used to in the beginning, especially after I started paying attention to the spectators.  But eventually you get the hang of using the peripheral vision and it works out okay.

Time Square

I wasn't expecting New Yorkers to be so friendly, but they were, and went above and beyond really!
I am glad I booked with the travel agency, because it was one less thing I had to worry about that weekend.
I lucked out the shot I got really did help, and so did keeping my leg heated before and during the race, I know I was being watched out for and helped because I was expecting the worst.  I honestly prepared to be in tearing horrible pain every time my right leg hit the pavement and the sheer constant pain never came, and what did come I was able to mentally push aside, it helped with all the excitement on the sidelines I used it to detour my mind at times.

The race was huge, running through all of the boroughs was amazing, I still can't believe it.  I finished the New York City Marathon. 
I only shared a little of it above, but I have hundred's of other memories from it that I'll be talking about it for the rest of my life I am sure!
     People kept asking me which celebrities did I see, well I didn't see any while running.  But on the rest of the trip I did run into a few.  I met Ann Curry, Adam Sandler and Talor Lautner.  Yes I am bad with the camera, I didn't ask for a picture with them, and I decided to take pictures before or right after I met them.

Ann Curry, just before I met her


Adam Sandler, just before I met him
Taylor Lautner

Al, Ann & Natalie giving a morning broadcast on the Today Show
     To re-cap the rest of the trip in short.  After the race weekend, I transferred over to another hotel in Time Square, and spend a week sightseeing and experiencing NYC.  I saw a couple of fabulous Broadway plays, Mary Poppins, and Adam's Family (with Brooke Shields).  I saw the famous sites, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Tiffany & Co., Grand Central Station, Central Park, Empire State Building, Macy's on 34th Street, Time Square, was on the Today show, Rockefeller Center, ate NY Cheesecake, NY Pizza and so much, much more... 
I mentioned earlier I laughed at my original fear of riding the NY Subway system, well it turned out to be a financial saver...  I saved what I believe was hundreds from taking the trains instead of Taxi's...  I found it to be perfectly safe and after the original trip quite easy to navigate and much faster than driving.  I consider myself a pro now:)
I had a great trip, a fabulous marathon and memories to last a lifetime!
Tiffany & Co.

Inside Macy's on 34th Street
One of their Christmas Displays
Bryant Park Ice Rink
Time Square, Ball they Drop at New Years

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