What an experience! NYC Marathon is indeed a great adventure.
We arrived in the city on Thursday. On Friday we went to the Expo to pick up our bibs. That’s a party in itself already for any race I think. In the afternoon I went for a short jog in Central Park to check out the finish line. Lots of activity there already in preparation for the opening ceremony that took place in the evening.
On Saturday I tried to not walk too much (failed miserably). First cheered on the runners that took part in the Dash to the Finish Line 5k, then sat in the sun at Battery Park staring at Verrazano Bridge in the distance, mentally preparing for the race.
Went to see a movie afterward and had dinner with most of the group at a nice Italian restaurant. We decided to skip the pasta party in the park since our time slots were all over the place (I was up at 4:30pm, and some of my friends after 8!).
On race day I got up at 4am (easy with the shift in daylight savings), and went for a pancake breakfast with a friend. We had found out a day before that a diner across the road from the hotel had decided to open at 5am on race day to cater runners. Very smart business decision as by 5:10am the place was packed. At 6am we took the bus to Staten Island. The complete bridge filled with busses is a sight to behold. Waited in the orange start village with a couple of friends for my corral to open. It was pretty cold so I was happy to be in the first start wave.
While we were sitting there busses kept coming, with the final one being towed: imagine being on your way to the start of NYC marathon and have your bus break down. The stuff that runner nightmares are made of. I entered my corral around 8 and actually ran into a colleague there who wasn’t part of my tour group (over 50000 people there, and you end up together between two lines of rope strung 20m apart). As the clock got closer to the official starting time of 9:40 we were allowed to get onto the bridge. I was about 100m behind the start line, and we were all freezing our asses off (it was about 6C with strong winds at that point). By 9:38 sweaters were flying getting ready. It turned out however the official pleasantries took about 4 minutes longer, so by the time the cannons fired at 9:44 everyone was shivering.
But then: onto the bridge, Manhattan skyline in the distance, an NYPD helicopter hovering 20m to your left, your mind going “you’re actually here”…what a rush! I had read up before the race that the best strategy was to mostly ignore pace per km since the course is so hilly, run by feel, and just keep an eye on overall pace over a longer distance. This is sound advice: running up the bridge my first km went in 4:50, cresting the bridge the second km went in 4:21, stomping down the bridge the third km went in 4:04. In Brooklyn we encountered the first spectators: thousands of them. I had decided to aim for a 4:30/km overall pace initially, and see where that would get me (realising the course is a killer). First 5k went in 22:00 (4:24/km), second 5k in 22:03 (4:25), reigned myself in a bit after that 10-15k in 22:26 (4:29/km), 15-20k in 22:38 (4:32). Half marathon point was reached in 1:34:12 (4:28/km avg). This is where you start hitting bridges again: first the Pulaski Bridge into Queens. Then the bridge I now hate with a vengeance: Queensborough Bridge. This thing is about 2k long, and just goes up and up and up. My pace dropped to 5:20 over the 25th km. 20-25k went in 23:37 (4:43/km). The bridge is much steeper on the way down, so there’s no real long acceleration to be had there. Coming down the bridge though you turn onto First Avenue, and the amount of people there is insane. Especially coming from Queensborough Bridge, which is empty apart from some medics. First Avenue is pretty hilly, and I could see my pace slipping. 25-30k in 23:32 (4:42), which was slightly faster than 20-25k again (by 5 seconds), but at this point my overall pace was down to 4:33. I could see no way to get back on pace, since at the 30k point you’re facing yet another hill on First Avenue. At this point I decided to let go, and enjoy the rest of the race. 30-35k in 25:44 (5:09/km). Coming back down from The Bronx onto 5th Avenue brings you yet more: hills! And crowds. Man: all those people cheering you on are quite an inspiration (I had printed name and flag on my shirt which got me lots of cheers). At 35k you can see the Empire State Building in the distance, and you know Central Park is somewhere in between. I was starting to hurt badly at around 37k from all the hills despite the dialled down pace, and kept waiting for the turn into Central Park to come up.
This is at around 38k and provides some nice winding roads over hills to get you to the corner of 5th Avenue and 60th Street, at which point there’s less than 2k to go. 35-40k in 26:54 (5:23)/km). After completing the run along the south side of Central Park you turn into the Park again at Columbus Circle. At the entrance to the park there’s a curb, and I remember clearly wondering how many tired runners would trip over that over the course of the day. Last 400m there’s stands along the course with people screaming you across the finish line. I didn’t have anything left for a final sprint. Got in just above the 3:20 mark at 3:20:40.
This is my third time after Rotterdam 2012 (3:11:34) and Amsterdam 2011 (3:19:55) and considering the course I think I can be very satisfied with it. If I’d gone out a bit slower (5-10seconds/km) I might have prevented the final collapse and beat the Amsterdam 2011 time, but there’s no way I would have beaten the Rotterdam 2012 time. So it looks like I will have to enrol Rotterdam again to attack that elusive 3:09:59 time.
After the race we were donned in crazy but warm orange ponchos. It took me an hour to get back to the hotel due to all the roadblocks, but the fact that people kept congratulating me helped a lot :). Final results (as they appear on the website today: it appears they are still fine-tuning the final results): 2836th out of 50304 finishers (50740 starters), 2548th male out of 30502, 533th out of 5004 in age group, 49th Dutchman out of 1542. It was a great experience. It’s sad it is so expensive you can’t do this each year.