And so it began…
What an experience, running that bridge-so much excitement, the planes and everything flying overhead…the start was surprisingly, and thankfully clean-I was actually able to start actually running right away, but conservatively, keeping the bridge in mind. TB and I stuck together at the beginning…but she pulled ahead partially through mile 1 and I let her go. I saw a mile 1 marker when my watch said 8:15 and freaked out for a second…but then realized it was for the blue start, and that I still had a little ways to go 🙂 And I didn’t freak out on my actual mile 1 split either…I totally expected that with the incline, and knew I’d make it up on the downhill. And by then, it was pretty much ideal temperature, so I tossed my arm warmers to the side. So I exited the bridge, pretty much right on pace!! One borough down, 4 to go!! And now the fun would really begin…
Now, I know I have said in the past that Brooklyn will “never be my borough,” but that was not the case today. Brooklyn was a huge, huge party. I loved miles 3-7, running up 4th Avenue through Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and Carroll Gardens…as I guess my splits showed 🙂 Uptown Girl warned me about this-“Brooklyn will make you want to go out fast!” Oh well 🙂 I spotted JGo from the Reservoir Dogs running near me around mile 4 and we chatted for a coupla minutes and wished each other luck for the rest of the race. Around mile 6, I saw NS from the Flyers cheering and holding a “Go Flyers” sign and offering me banana pieces (I declined, as I am probably the only runner who can’t stand bananas.) And the best sign ever was near the 10K point-“SLOW DOWN, THIS ISN’T A 10K!!!” Miles 7 and 8 were even cooler, it seems like the crowds and cheering just intensified there. To my left, I heard the Spanish version of “The Cup of Life” by Ricky Martin (best version of that song, IMHO!) To my right I heard “Eye of the Tiger.” Who the hell needed an iPod today? Not I!! And even though I know some NYC marathoners have said that the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower by mile 8 is visible for miles, teasing you…I briefly noticed, but did not dwell on it, or how much further I had to go to reach it…sorta living in the moment here 🙂
The course merged just before the mile 8 marker on Lafayette Avenue-the nicely open road I had been running on for 5 miles seemed to bottleneck for mile 9. Actually a blessing in disguise, as I knew I really needed to pull it back. Mile 10 was through the Hasidic part of Williamsburg, and though a little more low-key than the 4th Avenue fiesta, still some support there. Miles 11 and 12 in Greenpoint seemed to have some familiarity…because that was part of the route we ran in the Hunter Moonlight Run back in October! It looked much different in the light 🙂 (XMas decorations were already up and it looked so festive…like I was running through a big block party.) I was hoping to see Jon amongst the cheering crowds in this area but missed him. Before I knew it…I was approaching the next big climb of the course, and I had conquered 2 boroughs!!
Over the Pulaski Bridge and into Queens. That bridge was another stop on the Hunter Moonlight Run, so I was completely prepared. Hit the half-marathon point on the bridge at 1:58:02-perfect, exactly 9 minute pace! If I could keep this up through the second half that would be great. Down off the bridge and running strong…and then it happened.
I was rounding a corner during mile 14-and some idiot who I guess thought I was moving too slowly knocked me down and didn’t look back. With the help of a couple other runners, I was able to get up, but my knee didn’t seem to like that fall too much. At this point, I thought my race was over…but I really took it easy for the remainder of that mile to kind of work out the kinks. I had regained my composure by….you guessed it…the Queensboro Bridge. (Though before we arrived at the bridge, I saw Silvercup Studios-where Sex and the City, in addition to other shows, is filmed. Cool.)
You hear so many horror stories about the bridge. So many people who run NYC dread it. For some strange reason, I was actually looking forward to it. I had run the bridge several times in training, so I knew what to expect. And that paid off-not only did I feel strong and steady while climbing the uphill portion of the bridge, but I was passing quite a few people (I do also think part of it was the excitement of knowing what was waiting for me on the other side!!) On the uphill part, a bunch of people were shouting “What goes up…must come down!!!” I cheered when the bridge crested and the downhill started “all downhill from here!!” Oh-and there was one part of the bridge where there was construction and was absolutely pitch-black-man, I was really, really watching my footing again, afraid of another wipeout!! Finally, we left the darkness of the bridge behind and were welcomed by screaming spectators on the exit ramp…just a taste of what was to come for the next 3 1/2 miles.
This was the part of the race I was so looking forward to…not just because it was in my borough, not just because the fans were 4 to 5 deep here…but I had my own personal cheering sections to look forward to. (Best sign I saw in this stretch BTW-“Your feet hurt because you’re kicking so much ass!!”) First was a “Go Flyers” sign above Banshee Bar on 74th St (and I did hear some of that same cheer as well!!) But what I was looking forward to was just past mile 18…the PowerGel station, and in turn, my teammates!!! I was soooo happy to see them…their cheers gave me more energy than the Plain Energy PowerGel that I got from them did (yay, they had my flavor!)
But I had 2 more things to look forward to before I crossed into the next borough…approaching 104th St, I saw a familiar faded Yankee cap that belonged to my brother. My parents, brother and cousin were there cheering and holding signs for me-my brother even ran a few yards to high-five me!! I was looking forward to seeing them again later on 5th Avenue. A half mile later was the Reservoir Dogs’ cheering section!! Uptown Girl and her teammates cheered like crazy for me…what just the ticket I needed to finish out that mile!!! (especially since pretty much north of 100th St, the crowds really thin out compared to the insanity of the 60s, 70s and 80s.) And to the Bronx I go…
Crossed over the Willis Avenue bridge (made a little more tolerable by a red carpet-cool, we were like royalty :-p) and into the Bronx. I saw PD with the rest of his bagpipe crew on the bridge-his back was turned so I had to yell and wave to get his attention. The Bronx was short but sweet-kinda like a big boom box party 🙂 And crossing back over to Manhattan on the Madison Avenue Bridge, I was able to get a glimpse of Yankee Stadium…yay!!!!
Past mile 20 was uncharted territory for me, as I did nothing more than 20 miles in training. Though I had slowed down a little bit from the first half, was still feeling fine and showing no signs of bonking. I did not have to do any walking just yet (though at some of the water/Gatorade stops, I had to slow dramatically due to some major bottlenecking-but I was able to drink on the run.) I did some quick math and noted that I needed 58 and change for the last 10K in order to make it under 4. I told myself I’d be OK if the clock time was over 4. I wanted to finish strong first, and if I could do that with the chip time under 4…even better. With some fuzzy math, I estimated I’d need to average 9:20s for the remainder…so my plan was to try and do that, then once I hit Central Park, leave it all out on the course.
Manhattan-5th Avenue to the finish line
Last 0.2-1:52 (8:32 pace)
Back in my home borough, to finish what I had started. I had no doubt in my mind at that point I was going to finish. It was now just a matter if it would be under 4 hours, and it was going to be very close at this point!! I heard “Eye of the Tiger” again during mile 22…and you know, I honestly welcomed hearing it again 🙂 Was looking for another teammate of mile who was cheering near Marcus Garvey Park at mile 22…dang it, missed him!! But saw our men’s masters captain cheering near 110th and 5th…around the time where the last killer incline would start!! And my family cheering contingent made one more appearance at 104th St…my dad got a picture and my mom shouted that I’m almost done, I’ve got it…normally, you just want to tell people who say that to shut up, but I believed her 🙂 The remaining half-mile or so uphill on 5th Ave…although my mile split shows the perceived effort, it didn’t feel so hard-the crowds are fabulous here. Finally I got to 90th Street and entered the Park at Engineers Gate, and was welcomed to cheers from the Flyers’ secretary, who was cheering with CPTC‘s “Wall of Orange.” (and yes, they actually cheered for me. Well, I know one of them did.) Now I was really home. I knew once I got here, I was golden 🙂
At this point, I knew every single hill in this park, I knew what to expect when…the crowds were screaming my name (so glad I had my name on my shirt!!) and knowing I didn’t have much further to go…I picked up the pace and as I mentioned before-left everything I had out on the course. Cat Hill downhill was sooo welcomed at that point…and I was so happy to see my mile 25 split, I knew I had sub-4 in the bag. But wait a minute…right around the mile 25 marker, I passed Morrissey…that wasn’t supposed to happen!! I hoped he was OK.
We exited the park and headed out onto Central Park South…another uphill but I didn’t notice it. I didn’t notice the avenue signs so i didn’t even know how many more I had to cross. I just noticed the crowds. The TimeWarner Center, the fountain at Columbus Circle, was getting closer and closer…and another kick-ass split for this mile…I was still able to move my legs this fast, at mile 26…this was unbelievable!!! Not only did I NOT hit the wall, I knocked it down!!
Columbus Circle had the big video screen, and the last thing I remembered there was a band beginning to play “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benetar…I thought that was a very appropriate song to hear at the time. Set me up for that last .2 miles to Tavern on the Green…and yes, another uphill that I didn’t even notice. Either all my practice running that hill paid off…or once again, the crowds carried me…or I was just too focused on that finish chute up ahead. I got closer and closer and saw the clock still said 3:59:xx…OMG, I couldn’t believe it. 400 yards to go…300…200…100….I put my arms up in the air just as I did when I finished my first half-marathon…but this one was so much bigger. In less than 4 hours after I started this journey on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge…I crossed that famous NYC Marathon finish line at Tavern on the Green.
Net time-3:58:26 (half splits 1:58:02/2:00:24)
781/4362 females 30-39
After the finish line and beyond to follow in the next installment!!