Monday, November 11, 2013

The 2013 ING NYC Marathon

November 3, 2013 was the longest day of my life, starting at 5AM.

I was more nervous that I thought I would be. Even though this was a "local" race for me, the logistics were pretty crazy. This was NOT a usual long run commute. I gave myself even more of a time cushion than I thought I needed and was STILL running late. Leaving my apartment at 6:45AM was not nearly enough time to get to the start line for 10:55AM: TRUST ME! You know those people who say you're going to be sitting on Fort Wadsworth forever? They're liars. . . or in an earlier wave start. Or just had better luck than me.

This was my commute:

Wait forever for the L train, which was having mechanical problems. Hello, Murphy's Law. Nice to see you this fine morning.

Jammed myself onto the 1 train because most of these runners were tourists who had no idea how stand in a subway car properly- hint, it's not in the doorway.You have to be in the 1st 5 cars of the train to get off at South Street Ferry. Luckily, a lady stopped me from getting too far ahead. The last train's cars were so full with runners, she couldn't get on and figured the 5th car would be the best plan to get on the next one. Bless you! When the 1 train finally came, it was no where near rush hour full, but everyone sure acted like it as I made my way into some open space. 

Once I got to The Ferry terminal, I miraculously ran into this amazing woman and we endured the rest of the commute together. Just as I had texted her (we knew we were supposed to be on the same ferry), she appeared! It was really nice having someone there with me, definitely calmed the nerves a lot! 

I've never seen the ferry terminal so happenin! 

The Ferry terminal was full to capacity. I was supposed to be on the 8:15AM; that ferry was late and there were so many people, I had to wait for the next one. PS- No one cares what time you signed up for the ferry, just get on one ASAP.

Getting to see the Lady in the water definitely calmed a lot of my nerves.

Once I was finally standing on Staten Island, I was still about another 30 minute bus ride from the starting village. There was another tight crowd of slow crawling runners to the buses that were going to transport us to the start. We were on the bus so long, I thought the driver was lost- the island couldn't be THAT big. I could see the Verrazano from the terminal for the love of Christmas!

Looking back, even though it was a long and slow process, it ran extremely well. If I had to do things differently, of course, I probably should've left even earlier. That commute was no joke, people. 

courtesy of Kim

I really should have waited to put on all my throwaway clothes until AFTER the ferry. That was the first time I was really outside, and by then with the garbage bag, tshirt and robe- my actual race shirt was soaking wet. I was scared it wouldn't dry and I'd catch pneumonia in that weather. 

By the time I got to the start villages, people were running every which way to their corrals. Little did I know, this was Wave 3 but I starting rushing, too, not knowing any better. I said my good-byes to Kimberly and followed the crowd into the orange area. Once I realized that it was organized by color, it was easy to navigate. 

Luckily, I met up with Megan in time to stand in line to get into the corrals. I was peeling off clothes and getting myself situated as we were walking to the start line on the bridge. There was announcement that peeing off the bridge was unacceptable and I remember thinking "Wow. So that's NOT an urban legend created by non-runners". Either way, if you're in the Green wave, stick to the middle of the road ;)
The start line.

At the exact moment I gave myself to take a deep breath, the cannon was fired- scaring me half to death- and New York, New York started playing and I was crying- probably more out of sheer terror than anything else. This was it. It was actually happening.

This was all before I had even taken a step into my 26.2 mile journey! 

It was pretty surreal crossing the Verrazano bridge. Heads up: It's a suspension bridge and this was a windy day. Don't worry, your knees aren't giving out (but they might later. . . ), the bridge IS actually moving.

Once we had gotten off the bridge, Batala NYC drumming group was there to meet us and it was an awesome welcome into Brooklyn if I do say so! The crowd of runners had thinned out and the spectators were pretty thin as well. Police tape followed along the course, which I could only imagine held back hundreds of spectators earlier, but were completely bare when we were passing. I tried not to let it get to me. This is when I realized my NYC marathon experience wasn't going to be the same as what everyone else says it's like. 

Welcome to the NYC marathon through a very slow runners eyes!

The different colored corrals actually have 3 different routes for the first 4ish miles of the race and don't officially merge until about mile 8. Being in the last corral of the last wave meant we were on a pretty empty road until we met up with the Green wave. That was a couple of the most depressing miles of my life. Don't get me wrong, I'm used to thin crowds. I'm normally in the back of the pack, but this was different. I had no idea why we were, what felt like, the last runners. I knew it wasn't possible, that there HAD to be other runners, but it definitely did not feel like that for those miles. As soon as I saw the green wave runners merging with us on the opposite side of 4th ave, I breathed a sigh of relief. Even if it was nice having an entire highway to ourselves (I would definitely miss that when we officially merged!), it was nice to know it wasn't going to be a long lonely day. 

BEST Cheering spot on the course was Park Slope HANDS DOWN! It was around mile 8 and the rogue hill (a friend who previously ran the course mentioned this hill to me, but I forgot. Seriously. Who put that hill there?!) I finally understood what people meant when they call this  race the 26 mile block party. It was INSANE! People were dancing in the streets and having the best time. The signs, the high-fives, the random food! It made me really excited to see what Manhattan would be like (spoiler: NOT as awesome). There were spectators on the course and they were amazing. Up until that point, it felt like we were late to the party. This made me feel like I was the Queen of the best Mardi Gras parade ever!

We saw our first spectators around the Atlantic/ Pacific area- Megan's older sister! Words of encouragement and hugs were passed around and it was a great boost of energy! Familiar faces along the course are always the best! 

Originally, I was super excited that the majority of the race was in Brooklyn, but just like everyone said, I was ready to get the hell out of that borough. There were tons of spectators right before the Pulaski bridge "kicking us out" which was cute. No worries, we were ready to be out!

Then my knee started bothering me (funny, the opposite one that had annoyed me all training) and it pretty much didn't stop until I was done. Bummer. Like serious bummer. I spent the mile or so we were in Queens trying to psyche myself up for what was coming. 

We hit the Queensborough bridge and I was ready. Everyone always talks about this bridge being a big breaking point in the race. It's a long incline and feels like forever. For me, I didn't realize until I was half way down it, that it wasn't the uphill that killed me, it was the downhill. Holy Cow! You can't train for that either; I can attest the walking/biking path is no where near that steep. We stopped and stretched at the end of the bridge and that's when I noticed the lack of "wall of sound". 

Yes, I get it. The 1st Ave. support was probably home sleeping off their hangovers by the time I got there, but it was still disappointing. Every time someone mentioned 1st Ave., I would say "Yea, but I'm slow"- and they'd always respond it doesn't matter. Eventually I started believing them and I wish I wouldn't have. I would've preferred to be surprised than disappointed. But, I didn't dwell- I was still in pain and looking forward to seeing Pam and Sarah at mile 18.

Thank goodness for these ladies. They were awesome! Pam tried to take my mind off of the pain by asking about the race so far, but I wasn't having it. I just could not get positive! That pissed me off even more. I didn't want to be mean or rude to my friends who were only there to support me. I kept complaining about my knee, but I was reminded I would have a lifetime to recover from it; this was the last time I was ever going to run this far. That really resonated with me and my bad attitude started to disappear. 

The Bridge into the Bronx magically appeared faster than I thought and then we ended up back in Manhattan before I thought. Seriously, if you blink, you miss The Bronx- although I do remember there were a more supporters than I thought there would be.

The first time I've ever taken food from a random person during a race happened in Harlem. Those pretzels were delicious and I was really excited to chew actual food. Admittedly, I had kind of messed up my nutrition plan. I was supposed to be taking Gu every 30-45 minutes, but I was only doing on the hour. I was also not drinking as much, because I did not want to have to go to the bathroom. Portapotties, sweaty compression and mile 20 just sounded like a recipe for disaster. But towards the end, I drank for thirst and it helped.

This was also about the time, when it was pointed out that I was walking faster than I was running. Around mile 23 I just started power walking. I know I trained for the possibility, but little did I know I would need to actually do it. I told myself I wasn't giving up, I was just finding a better way to get there faster. 

Your arms will get you there was Coach Barb's favorite saying my season with TNT and I didn't FULLY know the meaning of that until about mile 24. I remembered I had arms and I started swinging them and holy crap, it was working! And at that moment, I was super focused on getting to the finish line. I knew I had missed my A goal (an hour PR), but I wasn't giving up. 
During the Disney marathon, I gave up running towards the end because it was just too hot. I did not want that to happen this time. I don't have another chance to try again. If there ever was a race I needed to leave it all on the course, this was it. I'd be damned if I wasn't going to give it my all! 

I have no idea what happened from there to the finish. It had gotten dark. I was weaving around lots of people once we got into the park. I think there were a lot of spectators on Central Park South? I do know I was really focused and all the screaming was annoying. There was a stage at the Mile 26 marker? Maybe some flashing lights? Those 2 hills I thought were going to kill me? Don't remember the slightest inclines. I have no idea if those bleachers were full or completely empty. I do remember Pam saying not to start running until I saw the 200 meters sign; the 400 was deceiving. I saw the finish line and it looked a lot different in the dark with only a few spotlights.

Then I was hyperventilating on the other side of the finish line. I knew I had to catch my breath before medical thought I was in trouble. Megan finished before me and got video of me crossing the finish line (and as soon as I figure out how to upload it, I will!). I hugged her and then we started the second part of our marathon: find those infamous orange ponchos.

It was a cold death march. Even with the no baggage/ early-exit wristband, we had to walk up to the 77th street exit only to walk back down Central Park West to 72nd street before we got our ponchos- the thing I had been looking forward all day. 

FINALLY! I got my poncho!

NYRR, that was too long for slower runners not to have any access to anything warmer than a mylar after the sun had gone down. I highly suggest you move it closer as the finishers start to thin out. Kind of like you moved baggage pick up to the 77th street exit, which is super not cool, by the way. The baggage check runners got warmer and exited the park faster than the actual early exit runners.

Roads were still blocked off and closed to the public, so we took a very slow walk to meet Pam/Sarah to get on the 1 train (Central Park West from 59th to 86th St. all the way over to Columbus Ave. is closed off to the public). Megan wasn't doing so well, and having Pam and Sarah there was amazing. Even though I wasn't in any serious pain and didn't have the Gu brain I was concerned I would have, I was still frozen and had no idea what to do. We parted ways and getting home wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Thank you, Baby Jesus for the invention of elevators in the subway stations that I needed them in. 

And to make the ending of this day just as bizarre as the beginning, like any other long run morning, I stopped in the bodega for my 2 bags of ice and headed into my apartment. Only this time, it was night and I had just run the NYC marathon. Ice bath followed by a shower, all in time to enjoy a date night in on the couch with B. Funny how quickly life can just bounce back to normal.

The New York City marathon was one of THE coolest experiences of my life. If there is only one marathon you run in your life, I highly suggest it be this one. I'm extremely glad this is my local marathon and I got to participate in running through all 5 boroughs of my home. I am not a fan of the marathon distance, but it was definitely worth the blood sweat and tears to get to that finish line. As a slower runner, this is also a good marathon to participate in. There is support all the way to the finish (which is not always the case for other marathons), just know the support is going to be different than the faster runners ;)

What's your bucket list marathon?


  1. Congrats! Great post! I had no idea that runners started the race so late! 10:55 yikes and I was complaining about starting Chicago around 8. It would be weird to start in the morning and finish in the dark...kind of like an Ironman I guess. I've taken food from strangers on the course, and always question myself later....but it seems ok at the time

    1. Thank you!

      YES. The start time is my biggest complaint! It's painful. I'll take the Disney 5:30AM start over 11AM any day.

  2. I finished before it got dark, but I found the start process to be a little bit more annoying and exhausting than the race. The race itself was amazing though! I guess that's the price we pay for trying to get 50K runners all on one tiny island.

    1. There are 8 million people in NYC alone, so I know they know what they're doing. . . I just wish I would've given myself more cushion, haha!

      CONGRATS, LADY!! So glad you liked the race as well!


    OMG, I'm so scared about the logistics of getting to the start. I know I'll be a mess trying to figure it all out. Congratulations, Abby! I'm so excited and happy for you. Did B get to see you on the course?

    1. Thanks, ma'am! We will talk more as it gets closer next year. I just say pick an earlier Ferry and leave lots and lots of time!

      B had to work, but she was following along via the AWESOME app they have!

  4. Great post! I am considering doing the NYCM as my first marathon next year, so I appreciate all of the details. Sounds like a great race, and as a not-so-fast runner myself, it's good to know that there's support throughout.

    1. I highly suggest you do this one! It's very slower runner friendly and I suggest running a race that has support for your first one.

  5. Congrats! I need to soak up all of this info. as I am in for 2014--finally!

    1. Congrats for 2014! Can't wait to cheer you on!

  6. Sounds exciting, but I'm a bit put off by the logistics. I'm a slow runner, so I'd probably be in one of the last waves. The hanging around would get to me. Congrats on finishing!

    1. Yea, the logistics are a little annoying but I promise the race is soooo worth it.

      Thank you!

  7. glad it all went well and crowd support was your biggest complaint! ;) not sure if i can train my feet and legs to not hate life like they did at disney...altho 40* is a lot different from 80* so hopefully it will be better. do you feel different now that you're a Finisher?? didn't realize you were retiring the marathon distance, are you sure that's it for you?

    1. LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than Disney! 40* feels AMAZING! and you wouldn't have run a half the day before. All of that equals wins!

      I feel a little sad that my journey is over but I'm also extremely relieved that it's over.

      Marathons were never in my plan. It's just too much, honestly. I only wanted to run the NYCM. I decided on Disney bc it was the 20th anniversary and I could squeeze a 2nd race out of 1 training. But I really have no desire to do it again. I've gotten 2 amazing experiences, don't want to press my luck ;)

  8. Congratulations on an amazing race! Great recap, Abby!! Sounds like the crowd support was incredible. Love that medal!!

  9. Congratulations! I love that the thing you were looking forward to all day was the poncho, that's hysterical (but I saw my friends and they are pretty damn cool!).

    The race sounds amazing and I know I'll do it one day, but I have to admit I am partially turned off by the "morning commute" part, it sounds like such a nightmare to get to the start! I'm sure it's worth it though!

    1. Let's just be honest, I've been looking forward to that poncho for over a year ;) I don't think any medal will ever top the 20th anniversary Mickey medal, so what else was there? Plus, it was cold and that thing is WARM!!

      Just remember to leave early and you'll be fine! So excited for you to run in 2015!

  10. Congrats!!! I can't imagine doing a race so huge. The biggest I've done was about 17,000 people, I think, and that was insane enough. =)

  11. Awesome awesome AWESOME!!!! I'm so happy you finally got to do it and it sounds like it was quite a memorable experience! Heck you actually made me want to run it, and I am feeling over the marathon distance as well. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!

  12. Congratulations on the finish! Slow, fast, doesn't matter, all that matters is crossing that finish line! I've yet to do a full marathon and would love to give this one a try (being from Queens and all), but I am terrified of bridges, and having the Verrazano shake while I'm on it, I think that could take me out of the race :/ But CONGRATULATIONS again! Awesome job! :)

  13. Your ordeal arriving at the start of the marathon reminds me of the "Planes, trains and automobiles" movie starting Steve Martin. Congratulations on completing the marathon! Sounds like a must-have experience.

  14. Yayayayayayayay!!!!! Congrats, kudos, great job, and atta girl! Oh wow - that commute sounds super stressful! And add in swaying bridges and finishing in the dark! Oh my! Love the medal and the poncho!

  15. AHHHH, CONGRATULATIONS! Sorry I'm a little late to the party. I'm super excited for you -- what an incredible accomplishment. I am DYING to run NYCM...I was going to try to get in for next year. Thanks for the inspiration! :-D

  16. Batala hey! Congrats on finishing the marathon and glad Batala NYC could welcome you into Brooklyn and help cheer you on. It was great banging it out for the runners.