A week ago and I was yet to experience the spectacle that is NY marathon. We arrived in New York on Wednesday 30 October after what seemed an interminably long flight from Sydney, stopping briefly at LAX.
Amid the colour and clamour that is NY we still had to focus on the task at hand: a 42.2km event that was happening on Sunday 3 November. It was brought home to us when we visited the expo and picked up our numbers and competitors bag. Some of us shopped a little more than others! Then there was the Friday morning training run in Central Park – again for some of us but not others, namely me. However Keren very kindly offered to keep me company (and ensure I got back to the hotel without getting lost!). The big bonus of the early morning start was that we could take photos of the John Lennon Imagine memorial with absolutely no crowds, we were the only ones there.
On Saturday we walked the finish line of the marathon to get some idea of what to expect at the end Unfortunately we missed the Travelling Fit meet & greet at the Empire Hotel because our navigator went missing. Not once, but twice.
Our pre-marathon preparation probably wasn’t ideal but who’s not going to sightsee when in NY?! We managed to fit in Statue of Liberty, Wall St, 9/11 memorial, Times Square and a host of other places before the marathon
Saturday night. Normally I’d have a home cooked meal – pasta or grilled salmon with sweet potato. But we weren’t home but instead relying on restaurant food. We did manage to get grilled salmon which came with quinoa tabbouleh. I also had dessert – dark chocolate gateau with raspberry sorbet. Simply delicious and not as heavy as expected.
I didn’t sleep a wink Saturday night – not a wink. I saw the digital clock change back from daylight savings to regular time at 2am. I heard countless sirens, lots of outside noise, garbage trucks in the early hours. No sleep. Naturally at 3.55am I was ready for sleep, 5min before the alarm was due to go off at 4am. Naturally.
5.30am and we joined the growing congregation of bleary eyed runners downstairs, all clutching breakfast bags, waiting for the buses to collect us. We had to be on Staten Is by 7am before the road was closed.
It was the coldest morning since April. It was freezing cold, not helped by a very brisk cutting wind. We had to go through security before being allowed into the start area – 3 start villages: orange, green and blue (my village). Now a 4hr wait before my start.
Finally, 10.55am was close. At 10.15am it was off to find the correct corral before they locked them off. Then more waiting. I had decided that I would try to jog/walk as much of the course that I could do, then walk the rest. So it was that I discarded my long sleeved top which left me in a running singlet and leggings, plus gloves. No worries. I’ll warm up from the jogging.
And initially I did. I managed to slowly jog the first 5km to the first aid station, then walked a minute. Now aid stations would be roughly every 1.6km (1 mile) so the plan was to jog to each one and then walk about a minute. Well that was the plan and for the first 20km it worked out that way. I also ditched my gloves along the way because I had warmed up sufficiently. Remember, I didn’t start until 11am. By the 20th kilometre I was ready to stick to just walking – the effects of the cortisone were no longer evident. Up until this point I had enjoyed the atmosphere and the changing street scenes. The one that is most vivid for me was running through the Hasidic Jewish area of Brooklyn, not only for their distinctive dress and hair, but also because they completely ignored the event and just went about their daily lives.
Now comes the part I hadn’t thought through.
Because I was only walking, from the 20km onwards, I cooled down very quickly. There was a very cold breeze blowing. There was some brief glimpses of sunshine but most of the time we seemed to be in shade. And crossing the bridges it was extremely cold. I was also feeling sore and lack of sleep was starting to take its toll. And after having managed some running, walking suddenly seemed to take forever. The hours passed by ever so slowly. The sun was rapidly disappearing. And still I was walking. I couldn’t feel my feet or my fingers because of the cold. I recall walking into Central Park. But there was still a way to go. I recall a male spectator exhorting us to start running as we only had a mile to go. I wish. If I could’ve run I would’ve gladly done so. But now I was beyond caring. I just wanted to get warm.
Finally I crossed the finish line. There was no punching the air, high fives or big smiles – just tears starting to slowly run down my cheeks. Why? I don’t know – I was just so tired, sore, hungry and so bloody cold. I couldn’t function let alone think straight. I recall a medal being hung around my neck, saying no to photos, having a foil sheet wrapped around me, a plastic recovery bag shoved into my hands. And then more walking to get to Family Reunion, where I had planned to meet Mr B at the letter Q. To get there felt like walking another marathon. At some point I acquired a hooded orange poncho. What a picture. A slowly moving mass of bodies, dressed in orange hooded ponchos, heads bowed. As someone next to me said, we felt as though we should be chanting.
Finally the letter Q and shortly the very welcome sight of Mr B, who had to deal with an over-tired, over-emotional, frozen, hungry competitor who couldn’t stop bawling. And then another walk – back to the hotel. Followed by a hot bath (bliss – the best bath ever), food (chocolate mousse really does make everything better) and bed.
And let me just make this very clear – I was not upset about my time. In fact it was a lot better than I had predicted because of the jogging. I did the event in 5hr 54min, a far cry from my original estimate of 7hr.
It was a hard event because of the cold, lack of sleep and hunger. And I was sore. And I should’ve worn more warm clothes. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
That was my NY marathon experience.