Pink Ladies - NYC Marathon Race Report

Well, I finally got to run in the NYC Marathon. It's, uh, big. Large scale. Ginormous. I am still conflicted on just how I feel about all that - on one hand the energy was great. On the other, there were too many people in my way, too much of the time. Perhaps by the time I finish writing this report, it will all become clear to me :)

On to the nitty-gritty -

Thanks to a pasta induced coma, I managed to get into bed Saturday night at 9:30 pm (8:30 pm once I set the clock back). Napped until just after the start of SNL, and slept like a rock until waking up at 4:05 am. Freaked out a bit, thinking my alarms didn't go off, but then I remembered that I had set them for 4:30 am. Whew.

Rolled out of bed, and sleepily made my way over to my plyo box, upon which I had set my running outfit (complete with bib already pinned onto my shirt) for the marathon. No longer naked, I went downstairs to prepare my pre-race breakfast (bagel and peanut butter), threw it in my bag along with a few other snacks, and double checked that I had everything I needed. I was about to head out the door to meet my local running club's chartered bus when Mr. Diva sauntered downstairs. I had opted to leave sleeping beauty in bed, but Milo (the cat) had other ideas and woke him up with a lovely puking session. Luckily, I was able to benefit from this and bartered a clean up session with a ride to the bus :)

After a quick drive to the park-n-ride, I got on the bus along with a large contingent of local Rockland runners, including my fellow Pink Lady - running partner Mary Pat. Today was all about running together and just having a great time. Dorks that we are, MP and I were both in bright hot pink running shirts. I completed my dork outfit with a race vest by Nathan - have I mentioned lately that I'm a particularly unattractive runner? ;)

Our trusty driver dropped us all off into the brisk 7 am air and MP and I made our way to the Blue athlete's village. Earlier, another friend had managed to score a cardboard box, and she graciously made room for our tushes so we were spared the misery of 3.5 hours of sitting on a cold surface (thanks, Melanie - you rock and you looked adorable in your running skirt!). Instead, we were able to sit like a hobo on a cardboard box for 3.5 hours, with frozen fingers and toes, waiting for our turn to begin to run. We had smartly packed our own supply of TP, and I had brought along 3 gossip mags to occupy our time. I quickly learned that it's difficult to turn magazine pages with dollar store fleece gloves on, but that you can use your tongue to lift the page enough to slide a fleeced finger in. Ah, the glamorous NYC marathon.

After what felt like 3.5 hours of sitting in the cold (ok, so it actually WAS 3.5 hours of sitting in the cold), wave 3 made our way to the start of the 2008 NYC Marathon. With a bit of hubbabaloo and an early morning rendition of "America The Beautiful", the cannon sounded and we were off!

We crossed the Verrazano Bridge amidst a sea of discarded hats, gloves and windbreakers and entered Brooklyn (which, btw, I have decided that although it's a pain in the ass to get to from Rockland, is pretty cool. But please don't tell anyone I said that!). What followed was a very breezy half marathon, complete with lots of great music and cheering crowds. This was where we first heard "Go Pink Ladies!", and it actually took us a moment to realize that it was meant for us. Dorks. GREAT time. I even passed by CrossFit South Brooklyn, where I'd had my nutrition certification on Saturday having no idea that it was on the marathon route! Big city, small world. At the halfway mark, we were only 3 minutes behind my 2007 marathon time, giving me hope that we'd miraculously pull off a faster finish than planned.

We crossed the Pulaski bridge and entered Queens. MP summed up the Queens experience in one statement "All you do is turn in Queens!" - a throwback to the Queens half marathon, which has something close to 67 turns. A fairly quick mile and a half or so and we made our way to the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge.

Coming into the race, I received quite a bit of advice in regards to this bridge. Basically amounting to this: the bridge sucks, suck it up and get across to the glory that awaits you up on 1st Avenue. The bridge in fact does NOT suck. However, the congestion created by slow moving runners giving in to the bridge, DOES.

The bridge finally out of the way, we made our way through a bottle necked curve and out onto 1st Avenue in Manhattan. The street was lined with spectators. MP had friend working the first water station, family waiting for her up near 92nd, and I had a friend about 10 blocks further north. We maneuvered up the avenue, keeping an eye out for the people we knew....all the while slowly moving northward through a sea of ever slowing runners. Apparently, 1st Avenue is virtually all uphill, but it's so slight so as not to be really noticeable. What is obvious is that it's long, straight, and have I mentioned yet that it's long and seems to go on forever? Thankfully we had MP's family and the lovely Maria to distract us :)

After what seemed like the longest 4 miles ever, we approached the Willis Avenue Bridge. As we got closer, I noticed that people were only running along one side of the bridge. Hmm, curious. Once we reached the bridge I realized that the span was made up of metal grating and not a solid road surface. The race officials had put matting down on one side of the bridge only, which created yet another area of congestion. We were unable to weave through the tightly packed runners, and couldn't go around without running directly on the metal grates (trust me, not fun on the soles of your feet after 20 miles of pounding).

After crossing the bridge we ran to shouts of "Welcome to the Bronx!" to which I replied "Run for your lives!" (thank you Rachel). We were in the Bronx for all of one mile and I have to say they did a great job urging the runners on. Good things come in small packages :)

We crossed our last bridge, the Madison Avenue Bridge, and made our way down 5th Avenue towards Central Park. Much love and thanks goes to Rachel for waiting for me along 5th, handing me a gummy cherry and running with us for a bit - she's the runner who poisoned me with this sickness, and I love her for it. We then came upon my CrossFit family, who came out in full force, signs and everything! My only regret is that I had to run past them and couldn't stick around to play! Lastly, we came across MP's family one last time before the final stretch.

We entered Central Park at 90th street and were engulfed by runners. If you think regular NYRR races are crowded, just wait until the last 3 miles of the NYC Marathon! As we ran down the familiar pavement within the park, we were confronted with runners that were walking it in, who had slowed down to a mere saunter, limping with the battle wounds of a fight well fought. I had immense sympathy for their pain and suffering, but it was disheartening to be so close to the finish and yet have to fight tooth and nail just to keep running.

The race exits the park at the southeast corner and runs along 59th before entering again for the final home stretch. If possible, it was even more congested here, and several times I lost MP as we both fought for space. As the signs for 1/2 mile and 400 m came into sight, I made a final push to the finish (and really, there were times I almost did have to push people - it's a good thing my Mama raised me right), crossing the finish line in 4:29:59. MP was less than 30 seconds behind me.

Our first NYC Marathon was finished.

What followed was over half an hour attempting to make our way out of the park. But that's a different story all together :) Let's just say that it's loads of fun to run 26.2 miles and then have to slowly shuffle in a line, shoulder to shoulder with sweaty strangers, just in an attempt to go home.

As for the NYC Marathon? It is a superbly organized race. The support that the runners receive, from both the volunteers and the spectators is truly phenomenal. But as I said when I began this race report - it's big. Large scale. Ginormous. The amount of work entailed in getting to the start, and then having to wait for hours before running can be exhausting. The new wave start was a fairly successful attempt to assuage the congestion issues along the course. Since this was my first NYC race, I can't measure just how successful. However, having started in the 3rd wave we definitely ran into (no pun intended) a problem when we began to encounter runners that had slowed down just about halfway into the race. The runners seemed to slow even more at each bridge, eating inexorably into our time. After a point it was virtually impossible to recover any time, as the course got more and more crowded with every step closer to the finish. Whether or not this would have been a problem had we started in an earlier wave, I don't know. Also, it may not have been an issue if I'd actually been racing - perhaps with some added time in the bank earlier on I could have avoided some of the bottle necks. No way to know for sure.

What I do know for sure is that the NYC Marathon is a way to experience the 5 boroughs in a way that most people never will experience. If you can do it running along side a friend, it's even better.


  1. I'm so glad your experience was [mostly] positive. Running through Brooklyn is THE BEST and seeing all the diversity our beautiful city offers makes all the headache of the waiting and congestion worth it. Great job Staci!!!!

  2. Thanks :) It's also worth it just for the spectators. You kick butt, Lady.

  3. Good job with your race :) I cannot handle running over all those bridges, me no likey bridges.

  4. I'm glad you had a fun experince (well mostly!) Thanks for sharing it in such great detail, made me feel like I was there with you.

    You are amazing!!

    I was LOL at the sitting on the cardboard box- now that sounds like something I would do!

    A big MWAH and hugs to you!!

  5. omg staci- i didn't know you were running nyc!! great - no awesome - job out there!! congratulations!!woo hoo!

  6. Staci --great job!!! The NYCM is large scale indeed -not exactly Greenbelt trail run:))


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