Leading up to the race, the NYRR did a great job at keeping us informed of everything that was going once. They stay on top of their social media and send emails, but not too many. All throughout preparation and race weekend never once did I find myself saying "where should I be now?" or "what should I be doing?". Communication was A+ throughout the entire weekend and I felt very safe, too.
After having my train arrive to NYC almost 2 hours late due to downed power lines, I arrived at the Javits Center for packet pickup around noon. The line was outside and down the sidewalk, but as with most lines in NYC, it moved pretty quickly. Once we entered the actual Javits Center, they checked our bags and in we went to the expo! WOW - it was HUGE and very well organized. I picked up my number, got a picture with the "countdown until race day" clock, and did a little shopping.
The Asics section was huge - as it would be since they were a main sponsor! I decided against buying any apparel because I told myself I would only buy finishers apparel -- what's the point of buying apparel for a race you didn't even finish?! I stopped by the Saucony area and said hi to Jeff, one of our Tech Reps. I treated myself to some CEP recovery socks for post-marathon recovery. I also got my hands on the new Garmin 220, but had to resist buying one. Maybe that will be my birthday present to myself :).
After leaving the expo, I walked around the city for a little bit, grabbed some dinner, and headed up to my cousin's in the Bronx. She was having a "Day of the Dead" party, so I got to meet her friends. I got to bed a little later than I was planning on going to bed, but I was able to sleep in on Saturday so that made up for it. Saturday afternoon we explored the Bronx a little and then before I knew it I was headed down to Manhattan for dinner! Saturday night I stayed with a friend who lives right near Hell's Kitchen, so we had a great Italian dinner. I was in bed by 10:30pm....didn't fall asleep until about 2... and was up at 5:45! I'm really glad I opted to stay with my friend in Manhattan - made the commute so much easier and shorter in the morning!
One mistake I did make was not planning where I was going to be eating breakfast race morning. I assumed there would be a 24hr Starbucks in Times Square - I was wrong! Luckily I didn't have to wait too long until it opened, so I got plain oatmeal, a banana, and a shot of espresso. I hopped on the subway and headed to the Staten Island Ferry!
I arrived and the wait wasn't long and the ferry had plenty of seats. I had selected with my registration to take the 7am ferry, but because I hung around in Times Square for a Starbucks to open, I got on the 7:30. No one checked to see which ferry we were supposed to be on, which was fine with me! I'd say I waited 15 minutes to get on the ferry and the actual ride was about 30 minutes. Once we reached Staten Island, I joined thousands of other runners hanging out in the ferry terminal to stay warm. I charged my phone, got all of my stuff situated for the race, and then was ready to head to the start! I went outside and was greeted with a cold wind and a long line for the buses, but as I mentioned earlier, just because there may be a long line, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll be waiting a long time. I was on a bus within 30 minutes and headed to the start.
Once we got off the buses we had to go through metal detectors and headed to Fort Wadsworth. They had tons of port o potties and the corrals were clearly labeled. I started in the 3rd wave in the Orange Corral. I had been warned that I was going to be sitting outside for a long time in the cold, but I was sitting for maybe 10 minutes when they ushered us to the start! The sun was out so it was much warmer than I thought it was going to be. Glad I had layers on!! After I ditched my excess layers, I was all ready for the start.
People have said it before, but there is really nothing quite like the start to the New York City Marathon. Just imagine tens of thousands of people lined up to run 26.2 miles through the streets of NYC..."New York, New York" playing... the cannon goes off -- and we're off!!
The Verranzano Bridge really wasn't that steep, considering what I had been warned and some of the hills I've run. The bridge in Annapolis, MD that many races have included in them is 10x worse, and I've done many races in Annapolis, so I didn't have any problems running the Verranzano. I did get a little hot on the bridge, so I had to peel off my pullover and re-pin my number onto the shirt I was wearing underneath. Now I understand why race number belts exist! I'm going to have to get one of those.
As soon as we got into Brooklyn there were SO many people cheering for us - it was awesome. Throughout the entire race I didn't need my music because there was so much music being played throughout the course! Apparently the NYC Marathon has more music per mile than any other race - ~5 bands per mile (that isn't even including people just blaring music from their speakers!). The bridges really weren't that bad - even the Queenstown Bridge was fun!
There really is nothing like running up First Ave with tens of thousands of people cheering for you on either side of the road! I ran into one of my good friends from Maryland, my cousin, and another friend who was working at a water station during the race. I'm glad I had my phone. I didn't hit the wall, but around mile 18 my back started to cramp up -- the crowds helped me along and I powered through until the finish! Running through Central Park at the end was probably my favorite part -- the leaves were beautiful and the crowds going into Columbus Circle were electrifying. The finish was breathtaking!
Right when you finish they keep ushering you along for your medal, space blanket, official finishers picture, and bag of recovery food. Then the hard part starts - the walk to the exit. I swear that walk is feels like you're running another 26.2! Luckily, I had opted for "no baggage" so I was able to "exit early" which meant I only had to walk one mile uphill after the finish instead of 2 miles like the people who checked their bags! If you didn't check your bag you also got a snazzy fleece-lined poncho -- TOTALLY worth it!! The recovery food was great, poncho was toasty, and the pictures have turned out really well so far(I might even consider buying some).... the walk to the subway and walking the next few days has sucked haha but I'll survive.
After I finished, I headed to my friend's in Manhattan to get my bag of stuff. He was at a bar watching the Pat's game and as soon as I walked in everyone cheered for me - it was pretty cool :). I ate dinner at Chevy's in Times Square and then began the journey back to the Bronx where a hot shower, my recovery compression socks and stick were calling my name! I slept like a baby Sunday night!
Monday morning I got up at 5:30am to get down to Central Park for the Marathon Monday Finisher's Festival to get my medal engraved and official finisher's gear. Getting my medal engraved was totally worth it - it was only $20! The finisher's gear was lame - it was some off brand with weird sizing and was ridiculously over priced, so I just bought an Asics Marathon jacket instead (they only had 4 left at 7am when they opened, and I was able to snag one!). Everyone wore their medal that day in the city - it was fun to be able to look at the runners and if you made eye contact you would both wave and embrace each other's pain!
All of this being said, if you can do one marathon in your entire life, make it the New York City Marathon. It is worth every penny and you will have so much fun! Who knew you could have so much fun running 26.2 miles??
Some final thoughts...
- I'm really glad that I decided to not check a bag
- I got a little sun-kissed, but I'm glad I didn't wear a hat. Wish I didn't even bring one with me!
- You don't need water bottles- there is water at every mile after mile 3!