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November 3, 2009 / stephaniehanart

My NY Marathon Experience

I ran the NY marathon on Sunday, November 1st. The event was 4 years in the making. From getting egged on to do it after I did the LA marathon in 2006 to now. You don’t have to time qualify for NY so they’re on a lottery system. If you don’t get in three years in a row, the 4th year is guaranteed entry. This was my 4th year, so I had to do it. I’d started training way back in February, I think, at first following a mileage buildup schedule for about 4 months and then the official marathon training schedule for another 4 months. It was a long year but I’m proud that I was able to stick with it and follow through, all by myself. I didn’t train with a group like I did with the LA marathon. I felt pretty confident that I’d be able to train for it myself, based on my experience with the LA training. I recommend training with a group for your first marathon, but after that, I don’t think it’s really necessary. It’s harder to find groups out here training for that event anyway, and since I’m used to running by myself, not having a group around me wasn’t a big deal. I was actually kind of curious to see how I’d do on those really long training runs all by myself and I was relieved to find that it was totally OK. For me, I think it’d actually be harder to run together with someone over such a long distance, because someone may want to go to the bathroom, or have to slow down or speed up, etc etc. Ultimately this is a personal challenge and I think you have to be prepared to go it alone to be mentally prepared. Anyhoo, here’s the recap:

The bus was leaving the hotel at 5am, so I got up at 4am. I was all nervous because of the time change and even though I’d asked the front desk for a wake up call I set the alarm on my phone and then ended up actually waking up right around 2am to make sure the time change had occurred the way it was supposed to. Sheesh, needless to say, I didn’t get a perfect night’s sleep. But all those months of just getting my ass up through all kinds of conditions paid off as I was able to get up and get ready. I had all my stuff set out and it didn’t take me long to get everything on. At 4:45 I woke up Curtis so he could take a picture of me. Then he went back to bed while I headed for the elevators. There was a woman with a pumpkin headband on who was talking a mile a minute. OK, just because I was up and walking around didn’t mean I wanted to have a conversation! I just wanted to get on the damn bus. I did, however, end up talking with the girl who sat next to me on the bus and we kind of became comrades in arms during the bus ride and long wait. Her name was Ashley, and I found out that she’s a recent college grad from Connecticut, and that she’d forgotten her shoes and had to buy a brand new pair the night before. You don’t EVER want to run in brand new shoes during a marathon. God, I hope her feet are ok. I was so paranoid about something happening to my shoes that I wore then on the plane, and I hate wearing running shoes when I’m not running. Well, she’s young and resilient (and fast–she ran a sub- 3:30 on her first marathon, wow!) so I’m sure she’s fine. She’s on a Caribbean cruise right now with her boyfriend. You get to bond with someone pretty well over 4 hours. And in a strange twist, while I was chatting it up with this girl, turns out Curtis was chatting it up with her parents on the way into the city, and we didn’t know it til we met up later that night to talk about what happened during the day. So funny!

So the 4 hour wait. It was brutal. Why so long? Well, to get 43,000 people into one place is no mean feat and it takes a while. Since we were coming from an outer borough I think they wanted to make sure we’d make it there with no incident so we left way before the crack of dawn. Also, they put you in different waves according to your projected finish time. My projected finish time of 5:30 is on the slow side, which meant I was toward the back. There were 3 waves and within each wave were 6 corrals. I was in the last corral of the last wave, which meant I had the longest wait. Aside from the waiting around was the cold wet miserable weather. When we got to the start area it was in the mid 40s, overcast, windy and drizzly. The forecast called for clearer and warmer conditions so we knew we’d be OK once we started moving, but man, waiting around for that SUCKED. They had some tents set up so people could get shelter from the wind and drizzle, but it got filled up pretty quick. After shivering outside for a while, i noticed a tiny clear spot inside one of the tents and we made an illegal border crossing. It was so much warmer in there, it was a godsend. Never mind that we were packed in like sardines, next to some rather ripe French people. Speaking of which, there were a TON of international runners and it felt like most of them were French. So we ate some food, snoozed, talked, played around with our phones, anything to alleviate the crushing boredom of just waiting around. Since Ashley was so much faster, she had to get to the start like 40 minutes before me, so we bid adieu and I did some more lounging around. But after what seemed like an eternity, it was finally time for me to approach the starting line.

I chucked my flannel shirt (they pick up all the discarded clothes to give to charity, so that’s good) but kept my blanket over me as long as I could. It was an old fleece blanket that had all this cat hair on it, lol. Someone saw it and remarked that she wished she had gotten a Snuggie, and I had to wonder why there weren’t any Snuggies, actually. Seems like the perfect thing for this kind of a situation. Anyhoo, it was time to run, and once we got going we warmed up pretty quick, and the temperatures eventually climbed into the 50s for the rest of the race, which turned out to be nearly perfect for me. I was able to run in shorts, a sleeveless top and running gloves. It was definitely colder and windier on the bridges, but overall very nice running conditions. I was trying not to run too fast starting out, since that’s like the #1 advice you always hear about doing marathons, so I was taking it easy, but starting around mile 6 my feet started to feel uncomfortable, especially my right foot, which has been giving me problems the past few months. Instead of getting better, it got steadily worse until the pressure on my ankles was pretty painful, making me slow way down. Around mile 16 or 17 I finally figured out my laces were probably too loose and stopped to tighten them. I felt soooo much better! I was kicking myself for not realizing it sooner, but oh well. Still pretty slow going til about 22 miles (I think averaging 12:30 – 13:00 miles), and then I was able to kick it into higher gear after popping a couple of Tylenol and feeling the adrenaline knowing I was near the end! The last mile I ran faster than all previous miles and I was feeling really good–passing a lot of people and determined to finish strong. My time was 5:29:44, which I think is almost exactly the time I got for the LA marathon a few years ago, funnily enough. I was hoping for a better time, but considering how much pain I was in I’m glad I got in when I did.

Overall, the crowd support for this marathon is everything I’d heard–just amazing. There were some quiet stretches (like in this one orthodox Jewish area in Brooklyn), but the city really turns out to have fun and boost the runners. It was just a big ole street party in a lot of the areas–it was awesome. The bridges were the hardest parts, because not only were there no spectators, that’s where all the “hills” were. But you really couldn’t call them hills–they were all long inclines, which I was thankfully used to and I just plugged into the ipod. The race handbook did say that they strongly discourage the use of ipods (since they felt that it was kind of disrespectful to the people who showed up to support you), but you really needed them during those slow spots! I did have my headphones off for the majority of the race, though. I did also manage to run most of the course too–only walking around the water station areas–so I feel good about that, as that was one of my goals for this marathon. This is a very well organized race and having all the staggered starts helped a LOT with crowding problems, and there was still plenty of water and gatorade for people near the end like me. Also lots of Porta-potties along the course, another testament to how well-run the race is. Longer lines for them during the first half, so I did spy some public urination going on, but during the 2nd half I’d say almost no wait. Pretty sure I don’t want to do it again, though, as that morning wait was almost unbearable. Probably not my last marathon, though 🙂 Now I’m pretty sore but I’m stretching a lot and the hip thing I was really worried about doesn’t even hurt at all, so I’m relieved!

Finally, some funny/inspiring things I saw along the way:

– Guy dressed like a British constable running with an ostrich-shaped inner tube thing
– Oldish guy with a t-shirt that read “This is my 51st marathon, but my 1st with a pacemaker!”
– Someone said they saw a guy in an eiffel tower outfit
– A guy from Denmark with dog ears and a tail–not sure what that was all about
– A 60-something woman who was keeping pace with me for like the first 10 miles–I was trying really hard to shake her! And I THINK I did…not sure.
– Ditto an equally old Korean dude who kept going even after he fell and got a bloody knee. I finally overtook him at mile 24; I could NOT let a 70 year old wounded guy beat me! But it turns out there were quite a few 70 year-olds who beat my time.
– Pissed off a table of Swiss supporters when I mistook them for the medical tent (I’d forgotten my lip balm so I kept stopping at the medical tents for some Vaseline for my lips)
– A guy with one leg who blasted by me on his running prosthetic–amazing
– A double-amputee going for it with a mono-prosthetic and crutches
– Several blind people running the race with help of guides
– A lot of people running on behalf of loved ones’ memories and causes

The Bookends Marathon Quest is complete. To see my Flickr album of my official race photos, click here.

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6 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Pensguys / Nov 4 2009 5:33 am

    I read your report on Ravelry but wanted to come read it here too. I like the medal! YEA on the bookends!!! Congrats !!!

  2. Virginia / Nov 6 2009 2:30 pm

    Wow, what a great recap of your marathon experience! Thanks for sharing it Steph. You made me feel what it's about, even though I'm not a runner.Poor Swiss: eternally to be confused with the Red Cross. The difference is red on white vs white on red. Too similar under duress!

  3. Anonymous / Nov 7 2009 8:53 pm

    Congratulations Stephanie! Awesome achievement, and a lot of fun to read.Linda M.

  4. Stephanie / Nov 13 2009 3:39 pm

    Thanks, guys! Definitely something I wanted to chronicle for posterity 🙂

  5. Anonymous / Nov 30 2009 8:06 pm

    Wow Steph…that is great. But does this mean you won't let me train with you for the Boston?Patt Nicol

  6. Anonymous / Dec 1 2009 8:40 pm

    Great marathon recap, Steph! That wait at the start sounds terrible, but the marathon itself sounds awesome. It's definitely on my list of marathons to do…someday.Congratulations again! Now we need to start thinking about your next marathon. :)Amy Katz

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