I entered both Jim and me in the New York City Marathon lottery in 2017. He got accepted, and I didn’t. I knew that I’d eventually run this race as it’s one of the Majors, but I honestly wasn’t that interested in making it one of my 50 BQ’s. (I’d been eying the Wineglass instead.) It happened to be the best fit for my schedule, though, so I added it to the list. Since getting in through the lottery is such a crapshoot and I really needed to knock off New York this year, I went the fundraising route for a guaranteed entry. This is the first race that I have done with a charity partner, and I am so grateful to everyone who donated to my efforts.
What follows is essentially going to be a list of complaints about the New York Marathon. But with that said, this is still the New York Marathon, which means that it is an experience of a lifetime in an iconic city—just one that I am ok not repeating…
First and foremost, New York really isn’t my kind of city. I LOVED getting to see a couple of great plays while in town, but aside from that, I was overwhelmed by the noise, congestion, and general rudeness of New Yorkers. Also, my hotel room was depressingly small; the bathroom was so tiny that I had to sit at a diagonal to use the toilet. I know that this city has a ton to offer, but I think that I’m too much of a Midwesterner to fully appreciate it all.
Because this is such an overwhelmingly large city, race day logistics were quite a production. I was in the first wave of runners, and my start time was set for 9:50 AM. However, because New York City traffic is so atrocious, I had to get up at 4:30 AM so that I could walk to my bus loading area and take a 2 ½ hour ride out to Staten Island. One of the highlights of my day was walking from my hotel near Central Park to the city library in the predawn hours. Times Square was virtually empty, and it had an almost eerie vibe being all lit up with no crowds of people. I definitely enjoyed New York the most in this sleepy, late night state.
It took about a half an hour to get through security, and then the bus ride to the athlete’s village took an hour longer than advertised. I’m not sure why this was, because the buses were pretty much the only vehicles allowed on the roads. When we got to Staten Island, we had to wait in yet another long security line, and then there was the business of finding the correct tent to wait in. Because I raised money for Team For Kids, the official charity partner of the marathon, I had access to a special, heated tent. If it had been a colder day or if I had more time to kill before the race started, this would have been a very nice perk. As it was, by the time I walked through the village to the tent, I really only had time to use the rest room and stretch a little. Pre- race food had been advertised, but it was essentially gone by the time I arrived.
I found the starting corral system to be confusing as well. In order to manage the large number of participants, the New York Marathon starts the race in blue, orange, and green groups—each running a slightly different route for the first couple of miles. I was in the orange group, but when I got into my corral, I realized that there wasn’t a 3:30 pacer with us. That guy was with the green group. By the time I figured out that I could move to a slower corral to find my pacer, I didn’t really have time to do anything about it. I did end up finding my guy once the race began and all of the groups met back up, but it was a confusing start.
The race itself was, of course, an experience. From the cannon fire that started us all off to crossing all of the bridges and running through the five burrows, this was definitely marathoning on a grand scale. However, I didn’t find it to be a particularly enjoyable race, and it’s my least favorite Major so far. I didn’t know that it was possible to have too much crowd support, but New York just might have done it. While I appreciated there being SO MANY people out supporting the marathon, there were times when it got so incredibly loud and when the spectators were uncomfortably close to runners. I felt like I couldn’t hear myself think half of the time.
I also felt sick for most of my run, which didn’t help my day at all. I attribute this to the late start and not taking in enough calories before the race. I expected to eat something in the athlete’s village, but as I previously mentioned, there was no food available by the time I got there. I had also expected there to be food on the course. For a race this size, I anticipated there being at least three or four Gu stops. I had looked for these on the course map the night before and couldn’t find them. I assumed that fuel stations weren’t marked—not that there wouldn’t be any. The ONLY gel that was provided by the race was at mile 19. (There may also have been bananas or something similar during the last five miles, but I honestly don’t remember seeing anything.) I made the mistake of bringing very little nutrition with me on the run as I was anticipating it being provided. I think this added to my upset stomach. My overall pace was a little under 8:00 miles, and I should have easily finished under 3:30, but I had to stop four times to use the rest room. So, as much as I wish I could say that I marveled at the beauty of NYC throughout the race, I pretty much spent my time trying to chase my pacer back down after each of my stops.
Even though this was a loud, congested, crazy race, I did enjoy my pedestrian tour of the city. Aside from the bridges, the course wasn’t very hilly, and all of the spectators and participants made it easy to run fast. We even had nice weather in 2018. (It got a little warm towards the end.) The highlight of this event was definitely the finish in Central Park. The last couple miles of the course were legitimately pretty, and running through the park just about made up for the rest of my race day experience. Although, of course, it took forever to get out of that park once I’d finished, and I did get pushed and shoved by NYC pedestrians during my walk back to the hotel, but I guess that comes with the territory 😉
Race Highlights: Running through Central Park to the finish.
The Downside: I felt really sick from mile eleven on (I blame New York food and the late start time for this.) I ended up having to stop to use the bathroom four times during my run, which really slowed me down.
Sub 4:00 State #34, BQ State #33
Finish Time: 3:36:04
Overall Place Within My Gender: 1,211/ 22,123
Favorite Race Day Song: “Waiving Through a Window”
Total Training Miles: 7,118
Shoe Total: 23