I knew I had been extremely fortunate when I got into the New York City Marathon through the ballot back in March. To be honest I had entered just for the crack and never dreamt I would actually get in so my initial reaction was how I was going to break it to wife about the $$$ that are coming out of our account! Fast forward nearly 8 months and I had convinced her to join me with the incentive of a relaxing trip to Arizona with friends tagged on the end so after many days planning the trip and even more hours training for it we were off to New York the Friday before the Marathon.
I would love to say that I stayed on UK time because that’s what the pro’s do however with a three year old it wasn’t that easy so with a bit of jet lag we headed to the expo. After a relatively quick look around the anxiety was put at ease by the fact I had finally got my hands on my participant t-shirt and the all important race number. We intended to do a little bit of sightseeing the day before and stretch the legs with a gentle jog around Central Park as the opportunity was too good to miss but I didn’t intend to walk 11k and having set out on a 2.5km warm up I ended up doing the worst starva doodle in Central Park and clocked up 6km run- legs definitely stretched. Not really a great example of resting the day before but there again I wasn’t convinced dinner at Hard Rock Cafe and ice cream in the park was pre marathon nutrition but I was doing it all the same!
I only really freaked out once and I don’t think I’m quite ready to see the funny side yet but it was the longest 20 mins of my life when the wife lost my expo bag (race number and all) in Central Park and I was convinced my whole world had ended. Lucky for our marriage she found it at the bottom of a giant kids slide she had been on with the little man and the handle had ripped- the relief at that point was so overwhelming I realised just how much I wanted to do this.
RACE DAY! or should I say the middle of the night! had been wide awake 2.45am half jet lag and half going through my strategy that will no doubt go out the window after about 100 meters and before I knew it my alarm goes off at 4:15am. My clothes are all laid out in order as you’d expect so Im quickly ready to grab my taxi to the MetLife Stadium home of the NY Giants. When I arrive it suddenly dawns on me how big this race is – and I am taken aback when I see well over 200 buses in the car park waiting to take 1000s of runners to the start from New Jersey.
A 45 minute journey to Staten Island, followed by nearly half an hour in a security check where I’m strip searched (must have one of those faces) and a short walk to my blue start area means it is now 6am and after a coffee and cold porridge that I had brought with me from the hotel it starts to finally get light – only 4 hours to the start!
I position myself next to my coral entrance in between a tree and the only available patch of grass left. Lay out my space blanket I’d brought from London marathon and lay my music, phone, energy drink, carb drink, gels and whatever else that feeds my OCD into perfect order – all set. Apart from a few lovely conversations that I had with a few runners from all 4 corners of the globe including one guy from Brooklyn who was starting his 34th NYC marathon in a row and another fella from Serbia who would complete all 6 world major marathons after today’s race the next few hours went very slowly and it made me realise just how much I may depend on my phone and Internet access to pass the time!
I finally got into my coral and after queuing for the portaloos for the 5th time we started to move to the start line like sardines. I removed the 4 items clothes that had been keeping me so lovely and warm and the klaxon goes – as always it’s a bit of an anticlimax when you realise it may be a minute or 2 until you actually cross the line. After panicking I hadn’t got signal from my garmin (heaven forbid) I cross the start line and I’m off over the verazzino bridge where I know it’s a tough start, the first kilometre takes me a good 30 seconds more than I budgeted for as the crowds are so large but it gives me time to let it sink in – I’m running accross one of the largest bridges in the world with 52,000 other runners with one of the best views of NYC you will ever get and then I’m brought back down to earth by several guys peeing over the bridge that I have to say did somewhat tarnish it a little!
After the first bridge we were hit by the crowds in Brooklyn where I was a bit overwhelmed to see so many supporters at such an early stage. I was running along 1st avenue when I realised I was running 5k in a decent parkrun time and by 10km I realised I was running this race as though it’s a half – oh dear! But I can’t slow up as now the guys who are tracking me on the app are seeing my predicted time and I can’t let that slip now can I?
At the half way stage and I finally give into the fact that I’ve needed the toilet since mile 2! That wasted time won’t play on my mind for the rest of the race in the slightest! We go over yet another bridge, I’m sure it’s like the 25th one now or something but the novelty has well and truly worn off. It’s here where I see some of the funniest banners I’ve ever seen “run like you stole something”, “smile if you aren’t wearing any underwear”, “if it helps pretend I’m your mom cheering”, “worst parade ever” I could go on but you get the picture!
The 30km mark comes up and here it comes – the dreaded wall! My first marathon was London this year which I ran with Elliott so I imagine his calm voice in my ear saying “you’ve aimed for this, you’ve done the miles” yet the feeling of my quads about to burst seems to overpower that!
I cross the last bridge into my fifth and final borough of Manhattan and I see my wife and little boy on the sidelines at mile 22- I stopped for a kiss of both of them and then got pushed away to continue – to be fair it was just the incentive I need to complete the final 4 miles.
As I turn into Central Park for the last mile I try my best to “enjoy the moment” but just want it all to be over, I cross the finish line and instantly my thighs seize up, but I had done it – my 2nd marathon and my 2nd major out of the 6.
It suddenly dawns on me I have to walk 10 blocks north in Central Park to collect my bag followed by another 20 blocks back down west avenue to meet Helen & Kallen at the family reunion point. I’ll not go into how painful that was but as I started reading the lads group chat commentary of my run it did bring a smile to my face and made the walk a little bit faster!