Thursday, November 6, 2014

New York City Marathon Race Report

Let me just warn you... this is going to be long! Like the longest post I have ever written.  I promise for it to be overly detailed, marginally informative and riddled with typos but this post is for me....   I want to remember everything about this day!
I have been waiting for this race for a LONG time!  Even when i used to complain about running a mile in 8th grade for time, I still would see the marathon on TV and think "those people are crazy but man, that would be cool to run through NYC."  I have always loved NYC and did the 3 denial (2011/12/13) to auto entry in 2014 so have conspiring for this race officially since 2011.  I really hoped to be in tip top shape for this but due to some nagging back issues, i probably came into this marathon the most unprepared I have been ever.  BUT, I kept telling myself if  I had no pain standing up straight and could bend to side/side.. I would run this race!   The goals was to have the most fun possible, soak it all in and enjoy the process.

Expo:  Chaos.Anticipation.Exciting
Welcome to New York!!  #W2NY

I have been to my fair share of big race expos but I was blown away with how busy this one was. However, even with all those people, I was able to walk right up and get my bib (they were in segments of 5,000).  Was given my bib and info for no baggage and instructed to walk over to the shirts.  Although I am pretty sure I ordered a specific shirt size, we were able to pick up whatever size we wanted and there were even two ladies that were the "shirt size sample" girls. I have no idea how they maintained inventory but I was so excited to be able to try on different sizes.  I put down a large but I ended up getting a Medium after trying them on. Then, we were dumped into the shopping part of the expo that was INSANE.  If there was ever a crisis on marathon clothing and people had to stock up ... it would have looked like it did.  People were grabbing things like they were free!  I joined in the chaos and grabbed 3 jackets knowing I was going to get one.  Tried them all on and went with the most comfortable vs. the one I thought was the cutest.. i still think that was the best decision but ask me late :) The lady at check out told me that Saturday was "quiet" compared to Friday so who knows what the expo looked like on a "busy day" I could have stayed at the expo for hours and probably would have spent a few thousand dollars but I demonstrated some self control but still managed to spend $250 bucks.... yeah, "self control" is relative! I also grabbed some PowerBar gels as I forgot mine at home.. You know you truly love a product when I turned down freebies to buy full priced fuel from a group I am sponsored by!  Went upstairs to get my free poster and then met my family at the exit.  Would have liked to stick around a bit more but everyone was hungry and it was time to grab some grub.

Takeaway:  You could easily spend 2+ hours at the expo.. plan accordingly. 

Getting to the start: Waiting.Walking.Wind.Anticipation
My alarm went off at 7:20.  With daylight savings time, I had over 8 hours of sleep minus a 3 am disturbance thanks to loud hotel neighbors playing C & C Music Factory.. (yes, the pop band from the 90's!).  I took a shower the night before so all I had to do was get dressed, grab my muffin and I was in a cab by 7:30am.  I opted for a cab vs. subway just to make my life easier.  I soaked up the scenery as we drove down FDR.
In honor of Elaine from Seinfeld, only ate the top of my muffin.. Top of the Muffin to you!
Got to the Staten Island Ferry Stop around 8 am and they were loading one of the ferries. Lots of security and sniffing dogs everywhere hard at work. Goldie sniffed my bag and gave me a paw of approval to proceed.  I was tempted to get on early but realized that I would just be hurrying to get on the ferry to sit outside in the cold at the start.

So, I found a corner and sat down and chatted with some runners near me.  I watched the 8 am ferry go and then the 815.  The runners near me were assigned to the earlier ferries but chose  to wait for the 8:30 one.  8:30 rolled around fast and we were off.  I found a seat and the Blues Brothers ended up sitting next to me.  They explained this was their 42ed race between the two of them and gave me some great tips. 

We departed off the ferry to beautiful views of the city.  At the terminal, there was lots of energy.  Runners took over the terminal, sitting around, packed in at the breakfast places and of course, the bathroom lines.  I grabbed an orange and got my pic snapped by an enthusiastic race photog.. he was screaming "Welcome to Staten Island Baby" and "Flash me!"  (as in our bib numbers since they were hiding under all our layers).

Photog in the center.. with girls "flashing" him!

Left the station and walked down to the buses.  Made a pit stop at the bathrooms and found some poor girls who forgot their hats at their hotel. Thanks to my overpacking.. i had 2 extra throw aways in my bag so I gave them to the British ladies and it was like I gave them $1,000 bucks. (Now that we are post race, those hats were basically gold for that course!)  The line for the buses was pretty long for the bus but moved quick.  The wind was swirling around and had my hood on with my winter jacket to keep me warm along with my $5 boys sweat pants from walmart to keep me warm.

The ride from the Ferry Terminal to the start was fairly quiet.  We passed a sculpture that struck me.  It looks like wings and when we drove by right down the middle you could see the Freedom Tower.  I assumed it was a 9/11 memorial and later googled it to confirm my thought. We pulled into the start village at the Fort Wadsworth and was greeted with metal detectors and pat downs.  Security was on high alert and there were so many first responders out there.  I felt safe and secure the ENTIRE race!

Once I walked over to the orange starting area they were announcing that that the corrals were closing soon. Since it was the last wave (10:55), they weren't even checking bibs.  The lady at the corral kept saying "we love all you back of the packers.. get in there and run my city!"  Once I got into the corrals, went to the bathroom again (yes, 3x before the start but as usual didn't go during the race).  The gun went off as soon as i got back into the corral and we all started shuffling to start. A guy was singing Start Spreading the News.  We all made our way to the start line and it was surreal crossing it to start my 26.2 journey through NYC!  Ended up with fingerless el-cheapo gloves, my headsweats visor and my Rev3 buff.  The buff was perfect b/c when it was code, i crunched it up and it blocked the wind and then when i was warmer, just had it around my neck but didn't overheat me!

Worth Every Penny.Simply Amazing

Images as we went over the Verrazano bridge
The first 1.25 miles were on the bridge and it felt like .75 of it was uphill. (~175 ft elevation gain in the first mile)  They said it was low 40's but with the 25-35 MPH winds, the weather "felt" like below freezing. The night before I got a hoodie from H&M to wear with a hood that I had on for the bridge.  It was perfect. The bridge was relatively quiet although you could feel the excitement.  No one in my wave was trying to kill themselves on the first mile and we took it easy up the bridge and as soon as we crested, it was a bit of relief. As we were about to get off the bridge, you could hear the crowds of Brooklyn.

The streets of Brooklyn were amazing. People cheering "Welcome to Brooklyn" and signs of "Brooklyn loves you" were all over the place.  I felt good and settled into a grove.  I tried to avoid looking at my watch and time and just soaked it all in.  I ditched the hoodie (i would have kept it if i had known my family was going to be at Mile7 but happy it was going to a good place).  Brooklyn was pretty flat.  Fall leaves were out and the melting pot of people were pouring over from the sidewalks.  Plenty of bands were playing and a few kids bands were out too. 
South of Prospect Heights, there was a very dense Orthodox Jewish and Russian Orthodox population- Borough Park.  This area was noticeable quiet even with a fair amount of people around.  Although I do not believe they were observing their sabbath, they seemed very disinterested in the race.  Lots of young girls in skirts were coming and going from a class i assumed.  I wanted to take a picture with them but didn't want to offend anyone.  Lots of ladies wearing their orthodox dress standards and Hasidic men in traditional hats and payots.  I honestly loved this part of the race b/c it was another moment of quiet and a visualization of how diverse Brooklyn is.

We turned a corner and the crowds were back with my family was just ahead.  Scott had texted me that they would see me at Mile 7 which was totally unexpected.  I planned to see them only once on the course so this was an extra little boost of excitement for me.  Saw my family, gave them hugs, they gave me good wishes and I was off again.  Felt pretty good through Brooklyn, going through Williamsburg and Greenpoint.  I kept chugging along and then the aid station was yelling "Last water in Brooklyn"  "Come again next year".   Took a gel at this point (or was it a Snickers someone gave me along the course?)  .. and then started up the bridge.  The halfway point came and went on the bridge and we were in Queens.


Started slowing down/falling apart in Queens as i figured i would.  Being so under-trained.. it was bound to happen. The jog .5/walk .2 made the few miles in queens go by fast.  There was a lot of turns during this stretch and the crowds and queens were awesome.  Lots of bands, churches had their doors open with music (of all varieties blaring through  Lots of inspirational people out there! 

Once we hit the QB Bridge, it started getting cold again and that bridge was a pretty steep uphill.  Everyone was walking it around me except one little old lady that pushed through and yelling "First Avenue.. here we come!!"  As she passed, she had a tag on her back that said 17 NYC Marathons and counting.  She knew her task at hand. At this point, i had my first emotional moment.  The city was looking so pretty and I think i played Taylor Swift's Welcome to New York like 3 times over the bridge.  My iPod also stopped working on the bridge which I couldn't figure if it was because of the cold or revolting against me for playing #W2NY so many times. I could see the crest of the bridge ahead as people starting running and within a few hundred feet, i could hear and then see the crowds of First Ave.
Blurry, but you can see 1st Ave on the left below and the crowd was going crazy!
The Blues Brothers told me this next stretch was uphill and to keep calm but it was hard not to get excited with seeing my family again and the lines of people on 1st ave.  Although we were only 1.5 miles from the finish, we had about 10 more miles to go!  I kept plugging along first ave and my feet started hurting at this point.  The kind of hurt where you feel every step but got my Pandora going on my phone which proved to be a good re-start.  Saw friends at 93rd which was another good pick me up. They gave me a hug and said "get your hot dog!"
Honestly, the 1.5 miles in the Bronx were kindof a blur.  I don't remember going over both bridges at this point and just remember a lot of turns.  I was either in a zone or too tired to remember at this point.  But, i did remember coming back into Manhattan with the excitement of 5th Avenue.  Was greeted with one of the most enthusiastic aid stations.  The ladies were booty bouncing, dancing to Beyonce and so energetic.  It was hard not to get pumped for the last 5 miles.  Ate my powerbar and continued on.

Saw my family again for the last time before making my way to the park.  I had joked for the past two weeks that I would buy a hot dog during the race.  I don't know if anyone really believed me but I had $5 in my pocket and on a mission. As I could see people turning into the park, i knew that my chances were getting slim.  I am fully aware that with a few miles to go, most people are looking at their watches, calculating their time, worrying about a potential PR.. and i was worried about a hot dog! It was probably the most concerned I was about anything the entire day.. Nic needs her Hot Dog! ... I know that isn't normal.. but made it for a fun day.

As we made the turn into central park, I saw an umbrella but it was on the other side of the barricade.  I asked the police officer if i could get out to get a hot dog.. here was our dialogue:
Me:  Hi, can i scoot over there (pointing to the stand) and get a quick hot dog
Police: What?!
Me: I would like to buy a hot dog.. can i just get out to go over there, i will re-enter right now.. i am willing to forgo 1st place b/c of this decision 
2nd Police officer to 1st: She wants to get a hot dog (and is laughing as i think he got my joke)
1 Policeman:  OK, whatever.. all of you are crazy
The hot dog people were funny and so eager to give me my money b/c he thought I would want to get back on the course fast.  Instead... i am taking of picture of his urgency!
Ok, back to the race...  turned into Central park with a little over 2 miles to go.  The park, compared to the rest of the course was calm.  There were people but much less which provided a great time for reflection.  The leaves looked beautiful and the sun was setting at this point.  I was tired but adrenaline was starting to kick in.. or maybe it was the sodium from the hot dog.  Plugged along and stuck with one girl for a bit and we chatted for a while.  She did the 3 denial entry process too and we were just so excited to be living this dream.  Central park had little rollers but nothing bad. 
We turned the corner and was headed toward Columbus Circle (i.e. 600 Meters to go!)  -  The south side of the street was lined with so many people.  Music was pumping and there was a band on the corner and the girl at the mic has SOOO much energy.
Thousands of Runners march pass Columbus Circle
At this point, it was legit dark and the lights of the finish started pulling me in. The last 200 meters.. i just soaked it all in.  This season has been hard for me.  Lots of days where I couldn't stand up straight, countless trips to the Chiro, ridiculous amounts of prednisone along with weight gain, crying to go to the bathroom b/c sitting on the toilet hurt so bad and rocking the back brace more than ever.  But being on the course, regardless that it was one of my slowest marathons ever, i soaked in every moment.  I remembered all the disabled athletes I have either raced alongside the course with throughout the years and reminded myself that my setback was so small in comparison to others. It was a good day... an amazing day.. and one i won't forget.

Takehome:  Do what you want on this race. If you want to PR, go for it but attempt to look around in the process or if you want to take 200 pictures like i did.. go for it!  The roaring crowds and experience will be there either way!

What's another 2 miles

After you cross the finish line, you are medaled and given a bag of food and slowly moved along towards the exit.  You finish at 67th street and hobble down to 77th where the exits splits.  Either you checked a bag or not.  I did not ck a bag and go a poncho instead so i was able to exit at 77th.  The Poncho handlers were so nice and helpful and proceeded to direct us back down CPW to 74th.  I had about 1% battery on my phone but Scott planned to meet me at 74th and he was there waiting for me!  I just wanted a cab but due to another 9 blocks of blackout area by the time we were able to, we were back at Columbus circle and only .5 miles from our hotel.  I decided to tough it out and walk back to the hotel.  My whining started to set in and I wanted Mac and Cheese.. It turned into "Mac and Cheese or die" at one point and Scott threw a soft pretzel in my face which tied me over till we had dinner at Landmarc that evening.

Take home point:  the finish line is glorious but you have another few miles to go till you are really done. You will also probably look like THIS in the process

I highlight recommend this race to anyone and everyone.  It isn't and easy course but the crowd and NYC support make it an experience of a lifetime.  A lot have asked me to compare the race to Chicago.  I have a running bullet point list and will list them at some point... perhaps the title will be "Chicago vs. NYC for the Slow Poke Runner"  Till then, I will bask in glory of my $29.95 digital download. Some buy the ones where they are gutting out that last few strides, or in perfect form mid air... I choose the pic with a hot dog.

According to official finisher stats:
Weather 43°F, 48% humidity, sustained wind 31 mph, gusts to 45 mph, wind chill 32°F
50,896 started, 50,530 finished 

Weather 43°F, 48% humidity, sustained wind 31 mph, gusts to 45 mph, wind chill 32°F

Starters and Finishers Started Finished Started Members Finished Members Men 30,324 7,949 30,108 7,855 Women 20,572 6,334 20,422 6,272 Wheelchair 4 - 133 7 Total 50,896 14,283 50,530 14,127 - See more at:


  1. Awesome recap! The highlight for me was you getting a hot dog! Classic. Congrats on the finish! :)

    1. Thanks so much.. wanted to get it all down so i would remember!

  2. Awesome! I'm so excited that you got to live your dream - and I love all the photos of eating NYC classics while on the run!

    1. Thanks! Great to see your husband this past weekend. Sorry i couldn't stay for you. I had to be back in the burbs by 10. Hope you had a great race!

  3. Great job Nicole on accomplishing another one of your goals!!! Happy for you.

    1. Thanks! I MIGHT have just bought more swag online to remember it buy!

  4. Awesome recap and I love your hot dog picture. I totally would have bought that one, too. Now, I want to train with hot dogs.

    1. training with hot dogs.... perhaps we can start a new training regimen

  5. Love it...loving reading other race recaps...we were definitely at the same race. :)

  6. I just read your race review and now I am even more excited about running NYC! Great race recap! And the hot dog story is the best thing ever:)

    1. the hotdog really will go down in history!