The New York City Marathon is like nothing else. It is one of the World’s iconic marathons, perhaps the World’s single most iconic marathon. Over 51,000 runners finished this year’s race – putting it almost 10,000 finishers ahead of Paris and Chicago, the second and third largest marathons in the world respectively. The event gets a tremendous amount of attention given its enormous size and famed legacy. Many recaps out there. You can see some fabulous aerial shots here.
When the New York marathon started in 1970, its origins were four laps around Central Park (BORING!). After six years, the race was outgrowing Central Park and race organizers were looking for something grander in celebration of the country’s bicentennial. In 1976, the race moved to the streets of New York City, encompassing all five boroughs, and redefining urban marathons. This year, marked the 40th anniversary of the five-borough marathon so it was fitting that I ran in the same year I’m celebrating the same birthday.
In the Spring I entered the race’s lottery on the off-chance I would get a bib. It didn’t happen and so I considered racing with a charity. In the ended, I decide to just wait and run it another year. About a month ago, and roughly four days after I signed up for the Venice Marathon, I got a call from United Airlines. As a title sponsor of the NYC Marathon, they had bibs they were offering to their elite members who hadn’t been able to get in through the lottery. Additionally they were throwing a swanky dinner the night before and would have a heated tent available at the start line. How could I say no?!!! Thank you United! I heart you!
Everything about the New York City marathon is crowded, starting with the Expo. Picking up my bib was actually pretty flawless, but the aisles of the expo were definitely full. This was my 7th marathon and my 7th expo. The excitement of a marathon expo is waning for me, but it is awesome and inspiring to see all of the runners – from first-time marathoners to seasoned veterans. The volunteers at the expo, and throughout the entire weekend, are amazing!
Getting to the start takes foreeevvver if you are staying in Manhattan. I stayed near Columbus circle so I could walk back to my hotel after I finished. I took the 1 train to Whitehall, took the ferry across to Staten Island, and then a bus from the St. George terminal to the start of the race. There are runners everywhere! I came out of my hotel around 5:30 AM and the few people out on the street were runners. Our numbers grew in the subway at each and every stop and exploded as we flooded into the Staten Island ferry.
There is a tremendous show of security around the entire race. From the ferry it looked like we had an Coast Guard escort. Everyone had to go through strict security to get into the start area and there was an NYPD copter buzzing us as we came across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start.
The start is a village! There are tens of thousands of runners milling around. Dunkin Donuts was passing out free coffee. There were free bagels, water, and bananas in other places. Because it took so long to get to the start, I didn’t spend much time before moving to my corral. I did check out United’s tent (Go United!). The race started at 9:50AM but the corral closed at 9AM so I made my way in that direction. “Hurry to Wait” defines the first 4 hours before the marathon actually starts.
….and BOOM! There’s the cannon…we’re off!
Well sorta. I was at the back of my corral so I did a short step shuffle through the length of the corral with hundreds of other runners for about 8 minutes until we made it to the official start.
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is awesome. You run up it (YES!…UP!), but off to your left you have this amazing view of Manhattan. The harbor is filled with boats of a variety of sizes.
“This is awesome!”
“Look! There’s Manhattan! What an amazing view!”
“Look at the harbor! Look at the boats!”
“Look at all of the people in front of me!”
Coming down the bridge and into Brooklyn is awesome. The crowds are incredible. There was a big sign saying “Yo! Welcome to Brooklyn USA”
“all the runners with overgrown beards and mustaches are getting cheered way louder than anyone else….maybe if I run next to them I can pretend people are cheering for me…hey, this is totally working!…I’m so growing out a beard or moustache if I ever run this one again….”
“Wow, look at all of the hipster boutiques!..it’s gotten really expensive to look poor these days…”
“Hey! It’s the Meatball Shop! I love that place! Should I stop quickly?….”
“wow, the crowds are amazing! New Yorkers have really made this race THEIR race and they really make every runner feel like a New Yorker today!”
“My time looks good. These crowds are great! Maybe I can PR this race!…”
“how long is Brooklyn!…”
“A bridge! We must be finally moving into Queens…”
“…can we go back to Brooklyn?!! The crowds were so much better!”
“I can’t wait to get a black and white cookie after this is all over!”
“the Queensboro Bridge! We must be moving onto Manhattan on our way to the Bronx. Queens went fast!….”
“…this bridge sucks! It is soooooo quiet…..HEEELLLOOOO (echo, echo, echo)…”
Coming off the bridge, where no spectators are allowed, and turning the corner into Manhattan is just awesome. The crowds are great!
“hey!…I’ve run 16 miles and I just did that last mile in complete silence! EVERYONE CHEER!”
“wait!…60th street! The Bronx are around 135th aren’t they?!!!”
“SHAWN! Why were you talking about a PR!!!”
“if I see a deli selling black and white cookies I’m stopping!”
“The Madison Ave. Bridge! Back into Manhattan! The final stretch…”
“138th!!! I’ve got to run to 59th!…how many blocks is that?!….why can’t I do that math?!!….that’s simple math Shawn!!!…OH! I’ve run 21 miles that’s why I can’t do simple math!!!!…ok…just keep going”
“…PR?!!! Seriously?!!! You thought you were going to PR this?!!! What were you thinking?!!!”
“Why is 5th ave uphill!!!!”
“I want my black and white cookie!!”
“Can’t I cut through the park to the finish line?!!!!!”
At this point I’m delusional and swear I hear people cheering for “Shawn”
“did someone just say go Shawn?!”
“did he just say “go Shawn?!”
“how does everyone know my name?!!…”
“59th!!! I’m out of the park! the final stretch…almost there!”
After crossing the finish line, they keep you walking another half mile in order to keep the finish line clear. Along the way they provide you a bag of drinks and snacks and a poncho before dumping you on Central Park West at 66th.
“when does this walking end?!!”
“why did I think it would be a good idea to get a hotel close enough to WALK!!! I don’t want to walk anymore!!!”
“I want a black and white cookie!!”
I walk down to Carnegie Deli to finally get my well earned black and white cookie….
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU ARE OUT OF BLACK AND WHITE COOKIES!!!!!!…”