This was my first New York City marathon. It won't be my last.
I now believe that everyone must do at least three things before he/she dies: visit Venice; do an Ironman; and run the NYC marathon. It is absolutely wonderful. A great course, unbelievable crowds -- over 2 million screaming people, and this year, we had fantastic weather -- started in the low 40s, finished in the low 50s, partly cloudy skies and no wind.
I just wanted to enjoy the race and had limited expectations for a good time, but turned out having great fun and a decent time, finishing in 3:08:42 (overall race pace of 7:12 min/mile).
Pre-race: I went up Friday on the train with two of my boys - the third (who lives in NYC) joined us Saturday. (Always take the train to NYC...very restful). Stayed in the Upper West Side. (I recommend staying in the City for this race).
The number pick-up Saturday was smooth despite the fact that over 37,000 runners registered. Well organized but crowded expo. Picked up a $5 sweat shirt and $2 stocking cap in mid-town as throwaways for pre-race. There are great places to carbo load in NYC -- had pancakes at 80th and Broadway Saturday a.m.; Chinese for lunch Saturday ("The Big Wing Wong" [believe it or not] at 102 Mott St. in Chinatown -- great prices, great food -- rice and noodles); had early dinner of pasta with a mild red sauce at the apartment. To bed around 10 p.m.
Sunday morning - the start was for 10 a.m., but the buses from mid-town begin early. I was up at 3 a.m. for 16 oz of Accelerade, a banana and an energy bar. Caught the subway at 4 a.m., made Times Square by 4:15 a.m. to catch the buses to Fort Wadsworth from the NY Public Library. The first bus out was at 4:30 a.m., and I made the first one. No lines. (I've been told you can stand in line up to an hour if you're not early.) Arrived at the start by 5 a.m., and staked out prime real estate in a tent near the coffee and porta potties. Next year I'll follow the veteran's lead: bring an air mattress and sleeping bag and check both. The old hands were sacked out for 3 hours before getting in the corrals. It was chilly, so I wore two pairs of sweats (those I checked and the throwaways) and crashed on my plastic garbage bag. The start area was well organized -- lots of portapotties and places to hydrate.
The start - this is one of those huge races where you stand in the corral for at least an hour. Only 1-1000 bib numbers are enforced; the other corrals are "suggested" by bib number, so it's a madhouse. At about T-30 minutes, you start moving from the chutes toward the start. Throwaway clothing by the thousands starts flying toward the sides. Guys move to the side for their last (or second to last) pit stop or do it on the street (bad news if you're downhill from them in the corral); women must just tough it out...
The race - what a rush. The first mile is uphill on the Verranzano Bridge -- great view, but best to be on the upper tier like I was.... Hundreds of guys rush to the side and take their final pitstop. It's ugly if you're downwind and down below....
The runners thin out faster than Boston -- must be the wider roads.
At mile 2, into Brooklyn and the screaming throngs begin. The next 12 miles are through Brooklyn -- some very nice areas with brownstones (and otherwise). Incredible crowds the whole way. The course is up and down, mainly up due to bridges it seemed. Mile 13 is the Pulaski Bridge and into Queens. Mile 15 starts the Queensboro Bridge across the East River and into Manhattan. When you arrive at Manhattan, it's like Wellsley on the Boston course -- thousands of people screaming their heads off. The next 5 miles are up First Avenue -- it seemed like we had six lanes. Into the Bronx and then looping south into Harlem and onto Central Park. The crowds never let up and, at times, narrowed so that only 3-4 runners abreast could squeeze through -- like some cycling races. Mile 24 on is into Central Park -- up and down with the crowds building -- to an uphill finish.
Boston is special and always will be, probably because you have to qualify -- but there's something about the New York City marathon that is difficult to describe until you do it.
I had fun and a decent race although Lance beat me by about 9 minutes. First half in about 1:32, second half in about 1:36. It wasn't one of those days where running feels easy, but (notwithstanding the sideache that followed me through Brooklyn), it was a very fun race. Very international. My age group was won by a 47-year old from Belgium who ran a 2:28!
I'm going back.