They say there is nothing that can compare to running the NYC Marathon. From riding the Staten Island ferry over to the Verrazano Bridge to starting your run while Frank Sinatra blasts his beautiful vibrato to New York, New York is something, I believe, everyone should experience – literally goosebumps. I even enjoyed the pre-race “villages,” as NYRR calls it. Each Village has its own set up with food, porta-potties (oh yea!) and coffee lots and lots of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee!
You honestly don’t know what to expect as you cross that start line, but what happens next is not the typical, just get to the finish feeling. It is all of the little things you will notice after the race ends.
In 2013, I ran the NYC Marathon for the first time. I was supposed to run the race in 2012, but like 50,000 other runners our plans were derailed by a hurricane that got in the way. So what do you do, you run the race the next year because you have technically been training for 18 months!
On November 3, 2013, I crossed the finish line four hours and 45 minutes into starting the race. My fastest marathon to date, about 30 minutes slashed off my first marathon.
So what was it that caused me to slash 30 minutes off my time and achieve a PR?
It could be a number of things, I have outlined everything that you could do to improve your time during this very exciting few days of your life.
Take lots of picture, because this is your first taste of you weekend. It may be crowded, but it is so worth spending time here. Getting your picture taken in front of the huge course map to commemorate what you are about to do.
Getting to the Start
There are multiple options the morning of the race on how to get to Staten Island. I HIGHLY suggest to take the ferry. There are multiple ferries that leave that morning. Get yourself on one, get a seat and look at the NY City Skyline, take in the runners and try to go to the bathroom as this will be your last “real” bathroom available.
Wear layers, keep your body warm as you will be outside for a couple of hours before you start. Make your way over to your village and just chill. Check your bag, take a seat, grab a power bar and a coffee and meet some new friends. Oh, and did I mention try to go to the bathroom!
The Starting Line
Are you a crier? Do you get emotional? Well get ready to choke back the tears. As you start your race Frankie will be blasting from the microphone: New York, New York and you are running across the Verrazano Bridge, google that bridge if you do now know what I am talking about, because it is huge. It is a weird feeling to be running across a bridge that is closed down for this moment, to have YOU running across it. Another favorite part of the course, your first bridge and this one has an incline right off the back so my timing was about 1-2 minutes slower than my normal pace. Take that into consideration when you are running that you should NOT go out like a bat out of hell on this bridge because it will mess you up for the remainder of the course.
Once you exit the bridge, you will be in Brooklyn for the majority of the race. TIP: Settle into your pace, find a pacing group to run with for the first half. Brooklyn has great crowd support, every neighborhood is different, there are costumes, bands, drum lines and Irish Bagpipes. Take it all in.
When you head on over into Queens, this part goes fast and is my #1 favorite part of the race. When you are approaching mile 16 which is running over the Queens Borough Bridge.
It is REALLY quiet. There is no one on the bridge, but you and the other runners. As you come to the end of the bridge and approach Manhattan you hear the screaming, yelling, honking of the hundreds of people waiting for YOU. Waiting for you to turn onto first avenue.
It goes by fast and it is a really sharp turn, but you have so much adrenaline pumping through your body you don’t know what just happened.
All along first avenue the street is lined with people, the light posts have banners hanging with motivational quotes and smiling people, there is food and hydration and you have lots of bands and DJs.
Personal Tip: at mile 18, I try to have some friends bring a banana and a Coca-Cola to give you that extra pep before heading into the last leg of the race. Shout out to my BFF who has brought me something every year I have ran NY and always captures great pictures! PS – Yes, that is Captain America behind me.
It is no secret that The Wall is something us runners prepare our best to not hit. Well, let’s say it happens to the best of us and if you are going to hit it. It will be in The Bronx and/or right before you head back into Central Park. Here is what I say to you, run through it. Look around for some motivation. Give someone a high five, sing out loud, smile because you are coming up to the last part of the race and then you will be able to call yourself a Marathoner.
If you are a native New Yorker, like me, you will know Central Park like the back of your hand. Every hill, lamp post, water fountain and oh the people!
The crowd support starts to build up again here as people are just waiting for you in the park. My Mom made these cool looking shirts for everyone to wear so it was easy to spot them along the course. TIP: have your family and friends wear colors, bring balloons, signs, face banners anything to stand out as there are SO MANY people it will be easy to miss them.
SO here is the bad news: Miles 23 until the end are basically all up hill. Yes the folks over at NYRR thought it would be best to let us struggle some more with ending on a hill. BUT the good news: you are almost done and mile 25+ will go by so fast because you are on 59th street running past the Plaza and an INSANE amount of people. People you don’t know just cheering you on like you are the Queen of Egypt! Keep running because it is almost over.
The Finish Line
You end at Tavern on the Green (fun fact: Me and my Husband got married there!) you finish the race and you better smile for the camera. You get your metal, your picture taken and your goody bag filled with all the stuff you need to eat and drink to replenish your body. You will walk out of the park around 72nd street and find your family. The Family reunion is categorized by last name, so tell your folks to meet you at your last name when you are finished and you won’t get lost. Running 26.2 miles and having to use your brain to find your family is not something that is easily done.
Tip: There are 50,000+ runners crossing that finish line along with their families or friends. Just imagine everyone trying to find a taxi or subway. Nope, not going to happen and the last thing you want to do is walk to wherever you have to go. So my personal tip is to walk the other direction. Everyone will be walking downtown. You walk uptown to 80th street, that is where you should park or get a cab, less crowded and will have better luck.
If you are thinking about running the NYC Marathon or it’s on your bucket list, what are you waiting for?!
There are a number of ways to get into the NYC Marathon, leave a comment and I can show you how!
Bask in your accomplishment. You did it. Only 1% of the population can say they have completed a marathon. Wear your metal around town for as long as you like, you earned it!
On a personal note, I am dedicating this post to my Grandma. She is in the featured picture above with me. After I completed this marathon I went straight to her house and gave her my metal. She was battling Emphysema and died a month after this picture was taken. She was the backbone of our family and missed every single day. It is weird to have someone you love so much not be here with you, to call, to talk to, to go over their house and cook with. But you do have their memory and everything they left you behind. When I run, I think of her. When I need strength, that extra pep I think of her and I know she is there to push me with her angel wings across the finish line.