Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New York Marathon 2014 Experience Part 2!

near the Family and Friend Reunion Area.  Photo taken by Per

The New York Marathon is a point to point race, where runners would start at Staten Island, head toward the various areas of New York City (Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Manhattan) before finally finishing at Central Park (at Upper West Side).

My wave started at 10:55AM (with DST, it was more of 11:55AM) and I had a early race goal of finishing in less than 5 hours.  Well, that goal went out the window with my sprained ankle.  As I was part of the fast wave, I was left behind by 80% of the runners.  But I didn't mind as at least it wasn't crowded.  I ran on top of the Verrazano Bridge, which linked Staten Island with Brooklyn, and I felt the strong wind here.  It was strong enough that it pushed all runners from the middle or left side of the bridge to the far right side!  A guy who ran next to me was pushed by the wind, and said that he will just walk instead!

It was an extraordinary weather for this morning, so much so that the earlier race for the Wheelchair Division had to be moved from Staten Island starting line to AFTER the Verrazano Bridge by the race organizers for safety reasons!  That was more than 2 kilometers difference in distance! 

It also affected elite runners gunning for first place as both Men's and Women's Division Winners were slower by about 10 minutes compared to previous race editions.  Small difference for a regular runner like me but I think it was a big deal for them where every second counts!

Luckily, I liked the cold weather and preferred that to the hot weather.  I had to keep moving though as it was just too cold especially on top of the bridge where nothing was around it but water and wide open space.

Eventually I got out of the bridge and headed into Brooklyn where I saw the first of many, many spectators that cheered for us.  Crowd just got bigger and louder.  It was just awesome to see all these New Yorkers cheering for everyone in the race.  The atmosphere was indescribable and no race I had done in the past was able to duplicate the atmosphere from this event!

Distance was conquered easily from the very encouraging crowd.  There were areas in this race that had few people but those lasted for just one or two kilometers before the crowd came out again.  Bars were open along the race course and people were shouting with bottles of beer in their hands.

As it got warmer, runners started throwing their extra layers on the sidewalks.  I had on three layers of clothes and just at 5 or 6km, I threw away the jacket I bought at the expo just a couple of days ago.  I kept going with my light jacket and shirt on and a pair of running gloves that I bought at the expo as well.

Note:  It was revealed days after that race organizers were able to collect 6 tonnes of clothes from the race!  All will go to charity of course.  Good Job!

Once we were in Brooklyn, we also merged with the other waves and kept on going.  With 50,000 plus runners all doing the New York Marathon, it was a big surprise that there was never any moment where I felt it was crowded here.  No need to weave around runners.  No bottlenecks.  Nothing!  That is how it should be!

 Brooklyn took up a major part of the course but I didn't mind as there were people everywhere supporting us.  Lots of pizza places here (if only they offered those at the water stations!).

Next borough was Queens, which was quite short before we ran on Queensboro Bridge and headed towards Manhattan.  From 59th Street, we headed up towards 125th Street, crossed another bridge and hit Bronx.  Another bridge conquered, then we headed down on 5th Avenue towards Central Park.

There were portions here that were a bit hilly and I used that chance to walk.  It was mostly on the bridges when that occurred and pretty quiet in these areas as spectators aren't allowed to be here but once we passed them, local residents were there once again to motivate and keep us going.

Meanwhile, at the hotel, Per was watching how I was doing via the App she downloaded.  My finish time varied from 5 hours to 5:15 hours.  But at the halfway mark (where I had to walk for a bit), it went all the way up to 6:30 hours!  She got scared that I got injured again or my existing injury made it difficult for me to run!  Thank God that wasn't the case and she saw that my predicted finish time went down slowly to below 6 hours.

At 22.5 miles, I was at Upper East Side, and it was HILLY here!  I was tired but didn't want to stop.  I had to keep going.  As I saw Central Park, I got excited for this to be over.  But Central Park was a pretty big place and I still had a long way to go!  I kept going, knowing Per and Blanche were on the other end and I was excited to see them.

By this time, a lot of people were walking already but I didn't want to so close to the finish line.  I was tired though so had to walk for 1-2 minutes before I ran again.  I kept going.  I constantly prayed.

Eventually, I saw the place where I was the day before, where I waited for Per to finish her 5km race and knew that I only had 400 meters to go!  This was it!

I crossed the finish line at 5:39:39, a good time for me when my goal was initially at just below 6 hours (I found out later on that it was my fastest for the year in terms of pace!).  God is really good!

A finisher medal was placed around my neck and a Heatsheet was wrapped around me.  I was shivering from the cold and my legs were all jelly from this race.  I was tired and dizzy but I can't help but smile that I was able to complete this race because God was there for me.

Thank You Lord!

The Friends and Family Reunion was about 1-2 kilometers away from where I ended.  So no other choice but to walk slowly to that area.  As I didn't leave any baggage at the start of the race and chose the No Baggage Option, I received a very nice Poncho from the organizers.  The whole time, I was shivering from the cold and once the marshal wrapped this around me, I was on the verge of crying, as I finally felt comfortable and safe from the cold, cold weather.

I finally got to the Friends and Family Reunion area and slowly walked down the alphabets (starting from Z) as I looked for my surname letter.  After what seemed forever, I finally saw them!

I was happy to see my wife.  And it was when I saw her, that I felt accomplished for all that I did to get to that area and be united with her again.

Thank You God!

Happy to be reunited!  Thanks Blanche for the photo!

my split time on the App

email letter I received a week later

medal for God!  Thank You!

It was a very tiring race, with the weather, the hills, the injury and lack of training.  But Praise God for a good time but more so for getting me to the finish line in one piece.

We celebrated with some beer and burgers later on that night.

The next day, when I was sore all over, we walked back to Central Park, and not to relive the experience.  But they had MARATHON MONDAY there where finisher gears were sold to the public.  Of course I bought again!  Haha!

After all is said and done,  I would agree to anyone saying that this is the best marathon in the world.  IT REALLY IS!  And this should be in the bucket list of every runner out there, whether they are fast or slow, whether they run long or short, this is the race they should join!  A once in a lifetime experience!!!

So glad I was able to do it!  And yes, I definitely want to do this again!!!


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