ING New York City Race Report

 

Sunday, November 7, 2007

Time: 5:17:13

 

It all started in 2006. My friend, Linda, said she wanted to run the NYC Marathon. I agreed that someday, I too wanted to run the NYC marathon! We decided that when the sign ups opened, we'd throw our names into the lottery and we'd run by 2010! Because there are so many entries in New York, they hold a lottery for people who haven't qualified. If you don't get chosen to run the first two times you put your name into the lottery, you are automatically in the third year. For us that meant we planned to run in 2010!

In January we both registered and joked through the next six months that we would run NYC in 2010. June came along, the day they announced the lottery winners. We didn't think we'd get in, but of course we were excited! I had a field trip planned that day so I made my kids wait until the announcement. I stood at my desk refreshing the page over and over again. Finally they said results of lottery were up. I looked up my name and announced to my kids, "I'm in! I'm running the New York City Marathon! I'm in!" They cheered because they knew how excited I was.

I quickly looked up Linda's name and was shocked to see SHE GOT IN TOO! I ran into her office, "We're both in! We're both running in November!" She didn't believe me at first, but looked it up and confirmed! We jumped up and down disrupting the nice quiet atmosphere of the school office. We ran into Steve's office (the director) and announced we needed our personal days off in November of next year. My poor kids, in the meantime, were waiting in my classroom to take them to Gameworks.

The whole rest of the day I would announce to anyone standing anywhere near me, often over and over again, "Guess what?"

"What?"

"I'm running in the New York City marathon."

Roy heard this at least 54 times, each time patiently saying, "Yes, honey. I know."

 

The week before was spent doing important race preparations. Tuesday we met and got our race nails done. We had been discussing this important aspect of the race for WEEKS. We settled on white nails with blue tips (yeah baby) and a decal related to New York on every finger. Subtlety was a goal, and I think we hit it head on!

Fast forward through months of training runs, injured knees, overused quads, and deep tissue massages to November 1. We hopped the redeye to New York City, one of our favorite places! We got off early in the morning only to find our luggage had decided to take the day in Boston. Darn...but okay. I'd packed all my race gear. No stress. (We'd had enough leading UP to the trip when our bank decided that a transaction on our account looked fishy, so they canceled our debit cards and had JUST returned access to our account the day before we left.)
Once we’d put in our claim for our missing luggage, we dropped our stuff at the hotel and headed straight to the expo. It was HUGE! The biggest expo I’ve ever seen! It was so big that I didn’t realize until later that I’d missed parts of it! Darn! I checked and we picked up our packets for the Friendship run on Saturday, and then my race packet for the Marathon! I couldn’t believe it! This was REALLY HAPPENING! The guy who checked me in noticed my nails and commented on them…he thought they were great. Everyone was REALLY supportive, but we found it amusing that they were all saying “Good luck on the race tomorrow!” Um, isn’t the race Sunday?

 

We went to the sale part first. My luggage was gone, and I might be lost in New York sans clothing, so I’d better buy stuff. Right? Well of course! I picked up a hat (I always get a hat from every marathon), a shirt, and some gloves that had the name of all five boroughs on them. So cute! No way was I wearing THOSE and tossing them. They would be for home.  We sampled stuff, picked up flyers for upcoming marathons, talked to people, took pictures, and met Grete Weitz (she's won the NYC marathon nine times). She signed a hat, water bottle, and poster for me! We also got lots of GREAT free schwag, including a really nice Livestrong technical shirt. Dropped about $100 on new clothes (since after all, our luggage WAS lost) at the expo.



The rest of the day was spent walking all over downtown Manhattan. By the end of the day I was regretting this as my knees were KILLING me and I was honestly quite concerned how I'd feel on the marathon. Friday night we saw "Mary Poppins" which was AMAZING! Definitely a "must see" play for anyone who ever believed in magic, or who (like me) is practically perfect in every way.

 

Saturday morning we hopped out of bed and headed to the United Nations for the International Friendship Run. Originally this was to be only for international racers and their family, but in October they opened it up to anyone related to someone running in the race, so I signed Roy and I up. Friday night we were pretty tired and we’d actually discussed not going to the run, especially with how much my knees were bothering me.

 

I am SO glad we ran! What a trip! Imagine standing in front of the UN building being surrounded by people from many different countries speaking almost any language you could imagine. I believe I head there were 100 countries represented! We made our way through the crowd completely stunned by the color around us! Runners were decked out in the colors and flags of their country, and I do not think I have ever seen a more enthusiastic group! We fell in with the Holland Runners. They were orange from head to toe with flags, banners, silly hats, some ran in rubber clogs. They sang and chanted as they ran and we just laughed! What a neat group of people!

 

As we ran through the streets, New Yorkers stopped and cheered us, although I don’t think most of them really knew what was going on. Groups called out to each other and laughed and sang. It was only 3 kilometers, but it was a really enriching experience.

 



After the race on Saturday I decided I needed to take it as easy as possible, so we headed downtown and I found places to park and watch the city go by while Roy secured box seats to see "The Color Purple" which was also absolutely incredible, another must-see, and a tear jerker. Beautiful play!

 

After the play we headed to the Olive Garden to carbo-load. Yes, I know that’s not very “fancy” but I know I can eat stuff there without issue, so I enjoyed my shrimp primavera while watching the lights of Times Square. We then went over and indulged in a Tasti D-Lite and grabbed the subway back to the hotel in Queens.

 

Before we headed up to our hotel room before bed, we secured a cab for 4 a.m. the next morning with the bell captain. I got upstairs, took a long bath, iced my knees (which we were feeling better than the night before), and laid out three race outfits. I'd decide in the morning whether I wanted to go with the yellow and green running skirt with green top, the psychedelic pink, yellow, and blue running skirt with the yellow Livestrong top, or the running capris. (Hey, these are important decisions.) Laid everything out I was going to need; shoes with chip, biofreeze samples (didn't use), 4 packs of Jelly Belly Sports Beans (used 3 plus a gu I was given on the route), pain killer (didn't need), knee straps (removed during race, didn't need although I'd needed them even on short runs up to this point), Injinji toe socks, iPod, headphones (only used last few miles), sweatshirt to toss, really ugly bright very 80s jacket to toss, blanket for snuggling in while we waited, magazines to read while we waited, Breakfast cookie for breakfast, gloves to toss, San Diego Marathon hat, Blistex, Endurolytes, Immodium (a GODSEND at mile 14 when I had GI issues), sunscreen (forgot to use), and sunglasses. Whew!

 

 



Went to bed and didn't sleep much at all, but that was to be expected.

Sunday loomed dark and early with a 2:55 a.m. phone call telling me that our cab was waiting.

"What? Already? Okay, I'll be down in ten minutes!"

squinted at clock...

"Wait...what time is it?"

"3 a.m. ma'am."

"
Yes, but I wanted a cab for 4 a.m."

"Well it is 4 a.m. if you don't change the clocks."

"Yes, but I wanted a cab WITH the clock change. 4 a.m. I have to be in the city at 4:30."

"Oh, so not now?"

"
No, can he come back in an hour?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. Yes, in an hour. Sorry for waking you."

"That's okay, I had a 3 a.m. wakeup call anyhow."

So I was UP! Ha ha! Got ready with plenty of time to spare and at 4 a.m. our cab arrived. We headed into the city to meet Linda at her hotel at 4:25 where we'd walk together to the buses. We had run the San Diego Marathon together and wanted to make sure we did NOT get separated this time, as we had in San Diego at mile 5. She was waiting for me. We walked towards 6th and 42nd where the buses were waiting. We had been so afraid we'd have a hard time getting onto the buses because we kept getting these warning emails leading up to the race about NOT taking the bus, but taking the Staten Island Ferry instead. Eeek! Well we walked right up, were told that Roy and Jim couldn't go any further. Kissed them goodbye (well, I kissed Roy, she kissed Jim) and then got right on a bus. The ride to Staten Island was about half an hour.

We arrived in the dark and the way was lined with people guiding us to the correct location. Everyone was ALREADY so encouraging! As we passed by one police office he said in a thick NY accent, "4:15! I predict 4:15 for you two! Today's your day!"

"The amazing Kreskin he isn't" I whispered to Linda and we both laughed and thanked him. We found the "green bib area", saw a tent with a few people in it, and headed in there because we knew it would warm up faster than outside would. We staked our spots and sat down to wait five hours until the start. Both of us dozed, or at least tried to. I was VERY thankful I'd brought a cheap fleece blanket because I was able to keep relatively warm while I laid on the cold ground. Really gave me a respect for what the homeless have to deal with during the cold months of the year.

Finally after a few hours the tent started to fill up with people wearing lime green singlets that said "Team 4 Kids". Uh oh! We were in someone else's tent! The wind was whipping up outside and it was chilly. No one asked us to leave so we stayed. We met a really nice Professor who was running his second NY marathon and had only been training for 5.5 weeks. Yipes! Braver than I am!

At about 9 a.m. we moved outside into the bright, cold sun and looked for our corral. We were in the 35000 corral. We started at the 1000 corral and started the LONG WALK to the very last corral. Corrals did not appear to be based on time, since we actually walked past pace groups in front of pace groups with faster times. (4:15 was in our corral while 5:30 was well ahead of us.) Snipers lined the rooftops for our safety, which was kind of different. The grounds were strewn with thousands of of discarded clothes, energy bars, and other implements that runners left behind. People were already starting to gather up goodies either for their own use, or to give to charity groups. I left a nice Gap sweatshirt (old but warm...a favorite), and a new fleece blanket.

 

This was an interesting image. You don’t see a lot of snipers in marathons.

Finally at 10:10 we heard what we'd been waiting for! the cannon went off and a cheer went up! And then...we waited....and waited...and waited some more. We saw the first open field runners up on
the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and cheered them on, but we hadn't moved an inch. Finally at about 10:35 we started to slowly move towards the start. And when I say slowly, I mean S L O W L Y! I started my Garmin at about 10:53 or so, literally almost 45 minutes after the rest of the field started! To be honest, I'd heard SO much about how amazing the start of the race is that I was very disappointed. We weren't shoulder to shoulder on top of the bridge with helicopters looming overhead. The copters had all left, and we were well spread out on the bottom of the bridge. The view was beautiful, but it didn't seem like that big of a deal. I did stop for a quick picture of the skyline and a fire boat spraying water everywhere, and for a moment to think, "You are actually running the NYC Marathon!"

As we came down off the bridge we were greeted by our first borough, Brooklyn. Shouts rang out "Go Linda!" (she was wearing her name on her shirt, my one regret is that I didn't because they were chanting her name throughout the race) and "Welcome to Brooklyn, the BEST borough in NYC!" Wow! What a welcome! NOW it felt like we were running the NYC marathon! Before it felt no different than the start of any other race.

We ran through Brooklyn for about 8 miles. Parts of Brooklyn looked like a charming movie set with beautiful brownstones and cute yards. Part of it looked like a different kind of movie set with boarded up windows, vandalism, and garbage piling in weedy barren yards. But it didn't matter whether the residents were wearing CK or K-Mart, everyone was cheering! In fact we rarely talked through most of the race; not because we didn't want to but because it would have been futile! The noise was deafening as people came out to sing, cheer, dance, yell, bang pots and pans, and do just about anything to make NOISE to spur us runners on. It was like they were all out there just for me and just for Linda and just for every other person around us. We all felt so HONORED!

I had this very strange feeling of being a guest in every borough. Where normally I might take a gel and drop the packet on the course, I didn't feel right doing that here. I was a visitor, a guest. I wasn't going to defile my hosts home!


Some of my favorite moments in Brooklyn:

  • The brownstones lining the streets.
  • Chubby little hands stretched out for high fives, and the look of sheer joy when we'd stop and give them.
  • The group out in front of a broken down tenement banging on all sorts of kitchen implements making a joyful noise.
  • Hook and Ladder 102 where Linda joked that she would feel better if she found a bathroom, and one of the firemen's wives ushered us in to use their bathroom, then invited us to come back any time.
  • A rap group shouting out every piece of salty language in the book as we ran by. Don't censor on our account, fellas!
  • Velma, who was 70 years old that day and running the NYC marathon! I wished her a happy birthday as I ran by.
  • The accents and music as it changed as we ran from section to section, as well as the smells...Italian, Hispanic, Soul.
  • One woman held up a sign that read "In Memory of Ryan Shay" the marathoner who died at mile 5.5 during the Olympic Trials the day before. That choked me up and I thought about his wife a LOT throughout the rest of the race.

After Brooklyn came Queens. We were staying in Queens so we knew some of it. Again we were surrounded by thousands of screaming people! In fact at one point we turned a corner into a quieter area of the race and it was almost a relief. But you won't catch me complaining! Those voices "carried" us through the toughest parts of the race!

At multiple points in Queens people had their own food and water stops and tissue stops. Now who would have thought? But let me tell you, 12 miles into marathon tissue is a welcome sight! You know what else was a welcome sight? The cute little boy holding his chubby little hand out with a half melted miniature Nestle Crunch Bar in it. I knew I shouldn't. I KNEW I SHOULDN'T, but he was so cute, and I was so hungry! I took it from him and thanked him profusely and gobbled it down thinking "You shouldn't be doing chocolate on the route!"

Sure enough, mile 13 came and that chocolate came back to haunt me. SERIOUS stomach cramps and I could not find a porta potty fast enough. I tried to hold back as long as I could, but finally had to give in. Thank the Lord there were plenty along the route. I didn't have to wait in line at all. I was in misery, but thankfully it was short term. Immodium can be your very bestest friend EVER on the marathon when this happens! I took one and that was that, problem solved and within half a mile I was feeling normal again. WHEW!

I did have a slight challenge after that. Once your tummy starts bothering you food is the last thing on your mind. But I knew I needed to take another gu and soon or I would be crawling the last 8 or so miles. I forced myself to take it, even though I didn't want it.

Crossing the Queensborough Bridge into Manhattan seemed to take FOREVER! Seriously! In fact, it was so long I lost a mile. About 3/4 of the way across the bridge I saw the mile 16 marker and said "Whoa! When did we get to 16? Where is 15?" Man I LOOOOOVE when that happens on a marathon.


Turning the corner into Manhattan was a TRIP! Imagine people lined up on both sides of the street, 6-7 deep, all screaming at the top of their lungs for FOUR MILES! I had read that the cheers will carry you up First Ave. and they weren't kidding! The sound was literally deafening! The city loomed ahead and it seemed that everyone in the city turned out to cheer us on! The bars were overflowing with revelers cheering us with their beers, and one of my fellow runners near me made at least four pit stops to take a drink out of someone's beer! Each time this happened, the owner of said beer would send up a HUGE cheer. It is amazing the experience of "oneness" that was seen not only on the route, which is a common experience, but off the route. Shoulder to shoulder people stood; some in Prada some in rags, all there to make every single runner feel welcomed and supported. It was amazing.

The next stop was the Bronx and let me tell you, they have ATT-I-TUDE in the Bronx! The first man I remember was a big burly guy just hollering "Welcome to da Bronx! Da Bronx is da best!" and looking like we'd DAMN well better agree! We had such a short run in the Bronx, but it was equally as interesting as the other boroughs. It was a little more rundown in even the nicer areas, but still full of welcome and  acceptance. We hit 20 miles in The Bronx. Only a 10k to go. We were DOING it!

Even though our visit was short, three things really stand out about The Bronx:

  1. The gospel choir singing their hearts out. They were magnificent! One of the best bands on the route, by far.
  2. The church bells ringing loud and long as we ran by.
  3. The three nuns standing on the steps of a brownstone cheering us on. Thank you sisters!

We crossed the Willis Avenue Bridge back into Manhattan and fifth street. Now it felt like we were really 'back in the city'. Things took on that familiar "New York on TV" look. The buildings stood a bit straighter and a lot taller, and images of Dustin Hoffman and Jimmy Fallon welcomed us to their hometown. Before we knew it Central Park was on our right. Man that's a beautiful park. Linda seemed to really not be feeling well at this point and I tried to distract her by pointing out how beautiful the park was. She agreed, but I could tell she was about done. I was feeling pretty tired, too, but I think I'd gotten my second wind at that point. It's an area of New York I just love and was happy to be back in.

Again the streets were LINED with people. I had not yet caught a glimpse of Roy, although I looked. Every red jacket I saw made my heart soar, then dip when I realized it wasn't him. I kept telling myself to just be happy knowing he was on the route, but it sure was starting to look like I wouldn't see him at all. I scanned the streets looking for his familiar face, but no Roy. Sigh. Oh well. I knew he was out there. I knew he was thinking of me. He'd promised he would pray for me (I was VERY nervous going into this race), so his spirit was definitely with me the entire way.

Mile 22. Just four miles to go. We can do this. One foot in front of the other. By now I'd put my music into one ear because I needed it to carry me through this last rough part. The first song that came on was No Mercy's "I Can Only Imagine" and wow, I needed that. It reminded me of the father/son love of Team Hoyt. I'd first heard the song in a video about those two and it makes me tear up every time. Next was Amy Grant's "In a Little While" and again, I needed it. It's funny. I really only have two or three Christian songs in my Marathon playlist, and God sent them to me right when I needed them. Of course after having my spirit lifted, the song "Extraordinary" by Liz Phair came on to remind me that I
and every single person on the route, am extraordinary! Funny how music has a way of lightening the soul, and a lighter soul is DEFINITELY called for in the last four miles of a marathon!

Mile 23. Just three miles to go. Can I do a 5k? Sure I can do a 5k! One foot in front of the other. Music carry me. Cheers carry me. Look at the foliage on the trees. Look, there's the Dakota. Keep on keeping on. Almost done. Food at end. If we could do 10 minute miles we could beat 5 hours, I think...not gonna happen. Oh well.

Mile 24. Only two. One foot in front of the other. Run run run, walk walk, run run run. So tired. Pretty streets. "Thank you! Thank you!" big smiles. Goofy grin. Wave at the camera. "Looking good" to the woman next to me who looks anything but good.

Mile 25. My second favorite number. I love 25 because 25 means there's only one to go. Still no Roy. Sad, but don't be sad. He's out there. He loves you. One foot. One foot...run shuffle jog, pretty leaves. Want to walk around Central Park tomorrow. Jog Jog. Good music. Ouch, no don't think about it. Ouch is not in your vocabulary. I know it hurts, but don't be a baby. Some people have real problems. Who will kiss me on the route? I wanted a kiss on the route.

Mile 26. Still no Roy...wait, I hear my name! For the first time on the route I hear my name! IT'S ROY!! I break off from Linda and run over to him like it's nothing! BIG kiss! I love you! I love you! I'm doing good! I'm almost done! You're almost done! You look great! I feel great! I love you! Kiss again! I got my kiss on the route. I have now managed to meet ALL of my race goals on the route!

Finally!!!


We had been running 5:1s the entire time and my timer went off for a walk. I'd run back to Linda and said "Do you want to just run it in?" She asked how long we had to go. "Not long. We've passed mile 26. We're almost done." She looked at me skeptically and didn't answer...obviously she didn't believe me! Ha! We kept on running, unable to even hear ourselves think. I poked my one ear bud away, I can't hear anything over the crowd anyhow. Music was playing, the course was twisty so we couldn't see the finish line. We just kept on kept on kept on and then, almost before we realized it, we were crossing the finish line!

We finished and were handed a heat blanket right away. Someone asked if I wanted a sticker and I looked quizzically, "Why would I want a sticker? Oh! To hold the blanket on. Thank you! Cool!" For some reason that seemed completely ingenious to me! Medal placed over my neck. Linda and I hugged and someone was asking her questions to make sure she was okay. No one ever asks ME if I'm okay after a marathon. Maybe I just look okay or something. I felt okay, well as okay as one can feel after pounding the streets for 5 hours. We stopped and got our pictures taken, including shots of our race nails. The race nails were VERY important!

I headed back to find Roy, but they steered us out of the park in a different direction. In fact, they had us walk about 1/3 a mile before we could exit. Someone handed me a bag of food; apple, water, Gatorade, PowerBar, and Bagel. NONE of it sounded good. I think I was at that “beyond hungry” stage where I need to eat, but I can’t eat, so I forced the apple down and it gave me cramps. All I wanted to do was find Roy, but I couldn’t get out of Central Park! Finally we found the exit, and Linda went in one direction and I headed back to where I thought Roy was.

 

Within about 10 minutes I realized I had NO idea where he was, and he said his phone was dead! I was starting to panic and was REALLY getting cold and feeling all 26.2 of those miles. I tried to call him, but no answer. I started to cry. I had no idea how to get to him and here I was in NYC! What was I going to do? A police officer came up to me and asked if she could help, which really made me cry. I told her I couldn’t find my husband and needed to know how to get to mile 26 (which was where he’d left me). Another officer came over and tried to help. Finally they said, “You go down this way and if you don’t find him, come back and we’ll help.” I started down and decided to try the phone again, and saw six missed calls. I actually had his phone and the ringer was off, and on the marathon I hadn’t wanted to stop to figure out how to turn it on. I tried him and he answered, so I started crying again, but this time with relief. He had gone to find me, figuring I might have trouble, and we had passed each other. I started back and he said to stay, he’d come get me. WHEW! I turned and saw a pretzel vendor, bent over (SLOWLY) and snagged the $20 bill I carry in my shoe pocket, and bought a pretzel.

That was the BESTEST PRETZEL EVER!

 

I finally found Roy and we started walking back towards the Subway. I coffee and I needed it NOW! I was SO cold! We headed to Starbucks and got in line with a lot of other people who had raced or had supported a racer. It was really neat to talk to everyone about how the race had gone. One lady had been cheering her friend. They came from the UK and had to apply to be in the race last year before the 2006 race! She was so kind and just neat to talk to. I think that’s what strikes me the most about this race. People were just so kind and friendly all through New York, whether they were natives or visitors from other states or other countries. I have rarely felt such overwhelming warmth on a race. Salt Lake City was a close second, but in New York it was like the entire city came together as one for a day just to welcome the world.

 

My post race meal MUST be sushi…it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law. Roy had located a Todai so we headed to the Subway about a mile away. I was surprised by how good my legs actually felt. I wasn’t tired yet. I had eaten the Pretzel from Heaven, so I wasn’t too hungry. I just felt really good. We grabbed the subway and said hi to the rats in the subway, and made our way to Todai. The Empire State Building was in view right as we exited the station and it was all decked out in orange and blue, NYC Marathon colors! It was beautiful!

 

Much sushi eating ensued. There was another runner there and we talked about the race with enthusiasm. She was from Nebraska and it was her first marathon. (Quite a feat since this is one of the more challenging marathons I’ve run.) We ate and talked and ate some more, and talked some more. It was a wonderful time. On the way out I had to get my picture taken with my little Todai friend!

 

I would say this was one of my more challenging marathons. It was much hillier than I expected, so that was part of it, but the main thing was fueling. Since we didn’t start until almost 11 a.m. I really hadn’t had enough food to start with. I actually was feeling hungry when I started the race. If I ever run a race that starts this late again, I’ll bring some solid fuel with me on the route.

 

Other than that, I felt relatively good most of the way. I was tired, sure, and by mile 20 things were hurting but nothing hurt really badly. I felt such a need to take in everything as I ran the race. I wanted to remember every single minute, but I found it was almost so overwhelming it was a challenge. The noise from the 2 million people lining the route was, at times, deafening. The sites were incredible…how do you parse moving through so many amazing places? It was like visiting the world in five hours! The people could not have been kinder, from the children offering their high fives and chocolate bars, to the impromptu water and food stations, to the people handing out tissues. It was just so neat. Even the day after, people continued to be kind. We walked around Times Square and OF COURSE I wore my medal. I mean come ON! I received so many congratulations and high fives from street vendors, passers by, shop keepers, and NYPD it was cool.

 

The ING NYC Marathon was definitely one of the neatest experiences of my life! It was like coming home and being welcomed by everyone one in town. And it was a town for a few hours on Sunday November, 4. It ceased to be a big, faceless city and for those hours it was a warm, accepting, smiling home town to 38,500 runners from 50 states and 100 countries. Thank you New York. You really are my kind of town. (Sorry Chicago. Maybe next year.)