This is really, really long, so let’s get started!
I didn’t feel nervous at all the night before the marathon – I felt excited and yet surprisingly calm. I slept really well, only waking up twice and pretty easily falling back to sleep each time. Daylight Savings Time ended the day of the race, so we got an extra hour to sleep.
I woke up at 6 a.m., giving myself an hour to get ready and do everything I needed to do before leaving the hotel at 7. It took me a grand total of 20 minutes to get ready, and then all I had to do was basically sit and wait. I was looking at Twitter and Instagram updates, seeing posts from people who had already gotten on the ferry or a bus headed to the start. That for some reason made me nervous, I guess just in anticipation and the feeling of people out there doing already what I needed to go do. At 7 I made my husband wake up to take a quick picture of me, then headed out the door.
Our hotel was about a half-mile from the Whitehall Terminal where the Staten Island Ferry departed, so I walked there in a short amount of time. I was glad I had left so early, despite my assigned ferry time not being until 8 a.m., when I saw the huge hordes of people just waiting outside the terminal to get inside. I waited with the masses, was greeted by a girl from Louisiana who had noticed my Saints running shirt, and then eventually got to shuffle inside with everyone else.
There was a lot of security for this race, just about everywhere you went. At the ferry terminal there were police and bomb-detecting dogs everywhere. We packed in like sardines and after about 20-30 minutes, I was able to get on a ferry, just before 8 a.m. It felt like a long wait at the time, but it went by pretty fast.
The ferry ride was lovely, especially since it wasn’t too cold, just chilly and breezy. At first I sat down inside, but as we got going, I decided to hang out on the back deck and watch the Manhattan skyline get smaller as we sped away. I thought a bit about the marathon, what my goals were – I didn’t have too many. I wanted to conserve energy – during a couple of my long runs earlier in October, I had gotten out of breath really early, which I wanted to avoid. I decided I would walk up the bridges and uphill climbs, try to run everywhere else.
Once the ferry docked, it was a little bit of a wait to get off – there was a lot of waiting for everything marathon-related because of the number of people involved. We exited the terminal and walked a short distance to line up for buses. Waited some more again until I could get on a bus, and then the bus took us to the start villages. For some reason, the bus trip took about 45 minutes. We were stopping and starting a lot, idling in traffic or waiting for police to let us through – not sure if it was supposed to take that long, but it did. We finally pulled up to the start area at about 9:20, so it ultimately took over 2 hours for me to get to the start from my hotel in lower Manhattan.
The start village was just like I envisioned thanks to race recaps I had read and pictures I had seen – people everywhere. I was a little concerned at first about making sure I was in the right area and corral, but there were people everywhere giving directions. There were three different start villages based on the color of your bib – I was blue, and someone pointed at me as I walked up and said, “Blue turns right!” So I did.
I found my corral, D, and set up shop right by the entrance. They were about to close that corral for Wave 2 and I was in Wave 4, so I had made it with plenty of time to spare. I set out an old RnR marathon space blanket on the ground to sit on, pulled out my bagel with PB that I had prepared at the hotel, and ate while I read the magazines and newspaper I brought.
Everyone was given a clear, plastic bag at the expo that was supposed to be the only bag you were allowed to bring to the start village (but I saw some people with solid bags and whatnot. Hmmm.) Other stuff I brought in the bag included my Spi Belt, gels, phone and armband, iPod and headphones, Garmin, a travel size tube of sunblock, Tylenol, band-aids, etc. I also wore some throwaway sweatpants, which were nice because it was chilly, and I was never cold.
The start village had booths set up with Gatorade, water, bagels, coffee and tons of Porta-Potties. When it got to where people were crowding around my corral waiting to be let in for Wave 4, I kind of maneuvered my way up to the front because I hadn’t made time to go to the restroom. There were tons of bathrooms in the corrals, so as soon as they let us in, I made a beeline to one. When I came out, there was a line of about 5 people waiting for mine, so I was glad I did that!
We didn’t have to wait too long in the corral, or maybe the time just went by quickly. We heard the gun go off for Wave 3, and then we started being herded from our corral to where the start line actually was. Catching glimpses of the Verrazzano Bridge excited me, and the race announcer over the loudspeaker did a great job at getting us pumped up. He said the Wave 4 cheer was the loudest of the day, and I said, “That’s because we’ve been waiting the longest!” Our start time was 11 a.m.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” singer performed the national anthem and then hopped into the group to run the marathon, which I thought was awesome. Then they started playing “New York, New York,” which made me tear up! I was finally doing it!
As the race got started, I knew pretty much immediately I had dressed way too warm. I was wearing a long-sleeved but thin Nike running shirt and black running capris with shorts over them. Within the first mile I was already sweating! We headed up the bridge, and proceeded to run the next 2 miles on the bridge. I was so glad I was in one of the groups that got to run on top of the bridge. I think those with a green bib had to run on the lower level.
I didn’t study the course too much, I had just seen all the bridges we had to run over and heard that the Queensboro Bridge was the worst. I knew we were going to hit Manhattan for a little while and then leave and then come back. So I didn’t realize that Brooklyn makes up like more than a 1/3 of the whole race.
We were in Staten Island for a second at the beginning, then we were in Brooklyn for about 11 miles after we got off the bridge. I wasn’t struggling per se in the beginning, but I was warm and just focusing on not pushing too hard. I feel like I have heard people say that this race isn’t really hilly and isn’t tough, but to me, maybe because I have the perspective of a person who lives in flat Louisiana, this was pretty hilly! Not steep hills at all, but a lot of rolling hills and subtle uphill climbs.
There were a lot of funny signs along the course, the spectators were great and encouraging, and I enjoyed seeing runners recognize their friends and family who were spectating and go run to hug them. I was feeling kind of sluggish, and I drew a lot of motivation or inspiration from other people’s shirts around me.
Many people were running for charity or causes or in honor of someone who had died or was sick, so if I was ever feeling kind of low, I would inevitably see one of those shirts and remember that there was something bigger than this and more important, and that I was doing something many people can’t. I also saw a shirt near the beginning that said “Run the race with patience,” and that stuck with me. My race might be slow and long, but I just needed to be patient.
I also immediately corrected myself any time a bad attitude popped up and reminded myself how special this opportunity was and how I needed to savor the whole experience.
I really liked Brooklyn, but I was also ready to leave Brooklyn and get somewhere new by the time it finally ended. I had to stop and wait for a Porta-Potty at mile 12, which really aggravated me, but I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy the race if I didn’t stop. So I probably lost about 5 minutes there.
We approached another bridge at the half marathon mark, but it was a short and relatively harmless bridge with a nice view at the crest. We entered Queens and it also felt like we weren’t there for very long – I guess ultimately it was maybe 1-2 miles? Because soon enough, we were going up the Queensboro Bridge. It seemed like everyone around me, including myself, just walked up this bridge. It definitely wasn’t going to do me any good to try to run it, so I just tried to walk swiftly. This bridge also had a great view, so I stopped to take a few pictures.
We disembarked the bridge, and I stopped at a Porta Potty that had no wait again, then headed onto First Avenue for our first stretch in Manhattan. This was about miles 16-18 or so, and I was starting to struggle mentally with having a good attitude. I don’t know what my problem was besides just physically feeling uncomfortable and being too hot. It was a mental battle to stay positive at times.
We got on another bridge to enter the Bronx, and again, it felt like that borough went by really quickly. Before I knew it, we were on the last bridge taking us back to Manhattan at mile 21. I texted my husband, who had said he would watch for me between miles 22-24, to find out where he was. It turned out he wasn’t too far, about a quarter-mile before the mile 22 marker, so I started watching for him.
I was very happy to spot him, and I ran up to him and talked to him for a minute, got him to take some pictures. He told me the Saints were winning their game against the NY Giants, which made me very happy. I had hoped to be heckled by some Giants fans on the course thanks to my Saints shirt, but they must have all been watching the game. I said goodbye to Hunter and got started back on the course – the next time I would see him would be when I was done!
For the next 4.5 miles, I simply focused on running when I could and walking any time I started to feel out of breath. We entered Central Park and there were numerous inclines that we had to tackle along the way. As the finish got closer, I started actually slowing down more to savor the final miles. There were huge signs to mark Mile 24, 25 and 26, and before I knew it, I could see the finish line ahead. It was already starting to get dark because of the time change and because of how long it took me to finish. Although there were numerous pictures taken of me on the course looking unhappy, I crossed the finish with a big smile. My final time was indeed the slowest of my 8 marathons, but I didn’t care – 5:30:23.
It’s true what everyone says about having to walk forever after crossing the finish line. I got my medal and recovery bag that had water, Gatorade, a protein shake, Power Bar, and pretzels inside, then followed everyone along as we had to walk to the eventual split where people who checked bags would go one way, and people like me who opted instead to get a post-race poncho would go another.
We walked and walked and walked. Got our ponchos, then kept walking. I was meeting Hunter at Letter C in the family reunion area, and family reunion started at Z and went in reverse alphabetical order so I had to walk by numerous letters to find him. Just meet your family at Z!
After I found Hunter, we had to walk a bit to the Subway, then change trains like 3 times to get back to our hotel. So while it was great to be so close to the ferry in the morning, the trip back to the hotel was lonnnnggg.
Overall thoughts about this race – it’s the biggest marathon in the world and it is so well-organized, high quality and truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was so fortunate to get in this race via lottery and I will never forget the day. I love NYC and hope that maybe one day I will get to run the marathon there once again.