Another biggie crossed off the 101 in 1001 list: Run my first marathon. Everyone I talked to leading up to the marathon who had participated in past years overemphasized what an incredible experience it would be.
It’s one of those few events that actually lives up to the hype (unlike, say, seeing the Mona Lisa in person). The New York City marathon course provides a holistic view of our iconic city; the excitement of the race itself creates an atmosphere amongst runners of camaraderie and love (which I don’t always see in this urban jungle); and the race personally appeals to my love of introspection and challenge.
A bit about the course:
The commute to the race is a notable part of the experience. I left the apartment at 7:00 a.m. (my start time wasn’t until 10:50 a.m. — thank God for Daylight Savings). On the platform waiting for the 7 train, I made an unexpected friend: a fellow marathon first-timer who was nervously checking his supplies to ensure he had brought the necessary items — bib, water, Gu. We switched to the 1 together, jammed into the first three cars to ensure our exit provided us access to the Staten Island Ferry terminal. I had more conversations in that car than I’d had in the New York City subway this year prior; the entire car was full of runners, eager to make small talk and empathize with each others’ nerves and anticipation. (It also offered plenty of entertainment: I enjoyed fly on the wall status listening to a man and woman — previously strangers — loudly and passionately arguing the efficacy of consuming salt packets vs. pretzels.)
From the ferry (which, of course, offer stunning views of Lady Liberty), I made my way to the long line waiting for buses that would take us to the start — again, befriending several folks on the bus, all first-timers. When we finally arrived at the “start villages,” I took advantage of the opportunity to use one of the many porto-potties. (Standing in line, I was again provided with some entertainment: A tiny woman dressed in fluorescent attire and a huge fuzzy hat, performing grandiose, acrobatic-style stretches for a large group of spectators.)
Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of downtime following. I found my corral, waited in line a bit more, but before I knew it, it was time. After a fairly long (but exciting) walk to the start.
I’d done a lot of Internet research prior to the race, and knew that a common rookie mistake is to start out too quickly on the Verrazano: The adrenaline kicks in and makes the beginning feel like a sprint, only to leave runners regretting it several hours and miles later (especially since those first two miles have the trickiest elevation increase of the whole race). I managed to stay on track, sticking to a 10-minute mile pace on the way to Brooklyn (a pace I ended up maintaining throughout the whole course).
I’d been told the First Avenue stretch would be awesome, but I wasn’t expecting Brooklyn (Park Slope especially) and our very own Long Island City to give the Upper East Side a run for its money for “best fans.” When I met up with Brian in LIC around the halfway point, I was feeling great (see photo).
By the next time I saw him, however, I wasn’t in the mood to smile: The hardest part of the race (aside from after the race, waiting for a damn coat in the freezing cold) was exiting the Bronx coming down Fifth Ave. Though the crowds were plentiful and enthusiastic, my feet were killing me, making the last Central Park jog nearly unbearable. I finally crossed the finish line in 4:27:05 … only to wait another hour, shivering, to exit the park.
I’m not sure I’ll be signing up for another marathon soon, but it was absolutely a Bucket List item I’m thankful to have completed.