NYC Marathon Race Report – Julie Meltzer

TCS New York Marathon November 1st, 2015

The New York Marathon was my third major marathon and the second major marathon I’ve run this year.
I didn’t know what to expect coming into this race because for the first time ever I didn’t train with the Running Room.
Instead I trained with a group of amazing accomplished runners that by far out-classed me and out-trained me.
Martina, Joanna and Amanda all secured entries into the race so it written in the stars that we should spend our summer running together.

Race Day:
By either dumb luck or by design we spent 3 hours getting from our respective hotels to the start line. From what I’ve been told by past participants, the trip should not have taken that long. We cabbed it to the Staten Island terminal with plenty of time to catch the 7:30am ferry, but for whatever reason, the police had the doors zip-tied shut and we were not allowed to enter the building. Eventually the cops stopped acting like it was a zombie apocalypse and allowed the massive crowd to funnel inside. We could not hear anything being announced on the loud speaker but it became clear we were not making the 7:30am or the 7:45am ferry. No worries, we still had plenty of time (we told ourselves in order to not freak each other out). We got on the 8am ferry and made the 30 min journey across the river. Statue of Liberty…ooohhh…aaahhhh…stand in the mile long line for the bathroom…and then we arrived on Staten Island. Off the ferry into another long line to wait for the buses to transport us to the start village. We stand around, grumble some more….we tried not to panic, we try to talk ourselves into being okay with possibly starting in Wave 3, rather than Wave 2 like we have been assigned. We finally board the bus and the nice man who was coordinating ours said the ride would be “10 mins”. Ha! Ha! Ha! More like 30 mins. By this time we are cutting it very close to being shut out of our corral. Even though our official start time is 10:15 we are mandated to be in the corral by 9:40. The police search all the runners getting off the bus (I know why they do this, but I will never get used to it. I will forever be mad and upset that the sport of running has been tainted in this manner). We run to our assorted villages, Amanda and I are in Orange, Joanna is in Green and Martina is in Blue. We make our way into the holding pen for Wave 2 and are promptly told that there are only 2 porta-potties for our area. The other porta-potties belong to other runners and we are not allowed to cross over (cross over a yellow rope being held by volunteers I may add). This is where I will readily admit that the organizers of this race failed miserably. We should have been allowed to use any toilet and it’s ridiculous to expect hundreds of runners share 2 toilets. Then there’s an announcement: Wave 2 is now closing, move ahead or else you will be locked out and will have to start in Wave 3. At this point Amanda and I are still in the line, but most of the people had cleared out when they heard the news. We were literally screamed at by the volunteers: Get out now! Move! Move! Go!!!! We did our business as fast as possible and ran like hell. We just made the cut-off. Then we had to wait 15 mins for our wave to officially start. What an exercise in futility let me tell you. Part of me was glad that I didn’t have to wait in the “refugee camp” like I’ve heard it described, but I certainly didn’t want to be rushed and flustered and screamed at before either.

And it’s Go time!….

Old Blue Eyes is blaring over the loud speaker, the canons go off, there are no less than 4 helicopters overhead and it’s exciting to be able to finally start.
I started on top of the bridge so I got a lovely view of lower Manhattan and all I could think of “Holy shit, I have to run over there. How the F$#@ is that possible?” Well, left, right, repeat was the only option so that’s what I did.

The bridge itself is almost 2kms long so all you hear at first is the roar of the helicopters and the patter of thousands of feet. It wasn’t overly windy, the temps were great, and the cloud cover was very welcome. Off the bridge and into Brooklyn. And it’s party central. So many people out cheering – little kids high-fiving, people yelling “Go Canada” and there was even one guy offering Free Hugs – which I accepted. Within about 3 or 4kms I started thinking I really should stop being so damn over-exuberant otherwise I would exhaust myself in no time. By 5kms things had settled and the crowds were keeping it down to a dull roar. And then at some point I stated wondering “Where the hell is Queens”. Brooklyn never ends. The crowds were intermittent but once we reached the Hasidic neighbourhood, it was radio silence. No one cheered or even clapped. Even the little kids just sat there in stunned silence.

Once we got into Queens it was party central again. Home of the Mets! Then onto the Queensboro bridge. Around the half way point I saw a man laying on the ground being worked on by EMS personnel. Heartbreaking to see someone in that condition. And not far away were people taking selfies against the backdrop of Manhattan. It takes all kinds of people to run marathons.

Coming off the bridge I had been told that I would be met by a “wall of sound” from all the spectators cheering. And…yeah, not really. I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, people were lined up 6 deep on both sides of the sidewalks of 1st Avenue, but I was expecting more. Speaking of 1st Avenue, if I thought Brooklyn was never-ending, then 1st Avenue was even worse. I think we started at 59th or 60th street and we had to run to 138th. That’s 78 blocks at least. Oh, for those keeping track at home, we have to run that same amount of blocks back to the finish line. Shoot. Me. Now. Thankfully the crowds were loud and they kept me in the race. Finally I’m on the bridge to the Bronx. That means I’ve run thru all 5 boroughs, but just because whoever designed the course is evil, we had run thru Manhattan again. And that’s where I started to fade – on the way to the finish line. The wind was coming from the south and I was heading right into it. Then the sun made an appearance. And just a whole bunch of things caught up to me. I was perpetually thirsty but couldn’t stomach any more water. I was running on fumes. And those damn blocks would not go down fast enough! I knew we had to head into Central Park at some point but I didn’t know where and I was just hoping and praying I’d see people start turning right. After about 50 blocks they finally did and I was in the home stretch. Up to this point I only walked at the water stations but I had to start walking more often. I was miserable and just wanted to lay down.

At Mile 24 I entered the park and I was looking at the ground willing myself to keep running. And then I look up and to the left and I see him. My husband. The man who was supposed to be in Toronto tracking me. The man who never told me he was coming to New York to watch me run the marathon. The same man who I told a week prior how sad it was that this would be the first marathon he wouldn’t be there to see me. The same man who planned his surprise about a month ago. We locked eyes and I did a triple take. I was shocked. But then again, not really. Somewhere deep down I had a feeling he would do something like this. Because he is the best husband ever. Ever! I ran over to kiss him and I would have stayed longer (hell, I would have gladly walked off the course) but he kind of pushed me away so I took off. Seeing him gave me some pep in my step and I tried not to cry. I ran for another little bit before my stomach and brain took over and told me walking was a much better idea than running. I agreed. Up to this point I had not looked at my watch all day. I looked at it when I started just to make sure it was working, but other than that I ran by feeling and I gauged my time by the clock on all the timing mats. I honestly thought I was doing better than I really was. I finally broke down and at 40kms looked at my watch. I was at 4:15. I knew that there was no way I was getting a PB. It would take me way more than 9 mins to cover 2kms. I walked a fair bit in those last 2kms, hell I even walked with 300 meters to go. I just didn’t care anymore. I was going to finish that’s all that mattered.

This race was completely different than London. I enjoyed London so much more because I was overcoming an injury and it was my first marathon in 4 years and I made a concerted effort to be grateful. With New York I wanted to do better, but I was worried because people said it was tough. I had a really good 34km training run 2 weeks before so that made me think a PB was possible. And even tho I told people I “just wanted to have fun” I lied thru my teeth. I didn’t want to have fun. I wanted a personal best on a tough course. But alas, it did not happen. The race itself is totally worth running. The 2 million spectators alone make it worth it. Aside from the disorganized ferry/bus/starting corral fiasco, I would tell anyone to run it. You really truly do feel like a Rock Star for 42.2 kms.

Next up – Berlin 2016!

Picture was taken right around the time I looked up and saw Nir standing on the sidelines….