It was this past June when I received the notice via email that I will be running in the 2011 New York City marathon. Well to be honest I was both excited and worried. I was excited for the obvious reason…the NYC marathon is one big stinking deal! But on the other hand I was a wee bit worried about being able to actually complete it. You see I was sidelined from running for most of 2010 due to a left tibial stress fracture which took forever to diagnose, and then I had 8 weeks in an air cast. Not fun. Once the cast came off it was a real struggle for me to get back into the swing of running again. Then over the winter months I packed on a few extra pounds which did not help the cause much at all!
Once it sunk in that I would be running this marathon, I remember thinking to myself that I have to pull it all together enough to train hard during the warm weather…which I hate…and imagine myself running 16, 18 and 20 miles! But thanks to my dear friend Donna, whom without I never would have been able to train the way I did, by July my training was off and running…and so was I.
So here it is the morning of November 6th, it’s early and we had to be at the charter bus in Clinton by 6:15. The weather forecast for the day was actually fairly mild for the beginning of November, but I know that the city is always a few degrees cooler than here at home so I packed a freaking wardrobe of various tops and jackets to take with me “just in case”. The bus ride up was pleasant but overall pretty uneventful. The bus dropped us all off where the race begins, at the base of the Verrazzano bridge on the Staten Island side. This is where the so-called “villages” were set up for the runners. These villages are coded with the colors blue, orange and green, so there were approximately 15,000 runners per village. The colors correspond to the line in which each runner will be running in until mile 8. There are 3 waves if runners that go out from all villages. Each wave has upwards of 70-80 corrals and these corrals are determined by how long each runner estimates it will take him or her to complete the marathon. So the faster folks are in the lower number corrals of each wave and us poky folk are in the higher number corrals. O.K….so now that you’ve got this bit of info you will never need or ever use, here is a shot of the mighty Verrazzano bridge.
The bridge is approximately 1.5 miles long so you start the race on either the top-level or bottom level and run a slight uphill for 3/4 of a mile and then down for last 3/4 mile.
Below you can see the two levels of the bridge as the first wave of runners from the blue and orange head out on the top and the green on the bottom!
Once you come off the bridge you are in the hub of Brooklyn and oh my God is Brooklyn beautiful!!! The fans there are awesome to boot! Thousands of spectators lined the sides of 4th avenue as the runners made their way down. At about mile 5 my husband and kids along with one of my oldest and dearest friends Christina were there ringing bells and clapping to cheer Donna and myself on!
So let me tell you a little about some of the other runners Donna and I encountered along this race. While we were in Brooklyn we ran past a young man who had bilateral prosthetic lower limbs and only one arm. As Donna and I ran by we gave him a big cheer and clapped as many other runners did when they saw him. Donna and I just looked at each other knowing we were thinking the same thing…”now how can I complain?” We also ran past a guy who was juggling 5 apples as he ran the 26.2 miles…he got quite the cheer as people on the sidelines were yelling “Look at the juggler”…or “Hey juggling man way to go!” I have to say that he was pretty impressive!
Here’s a shot of Donna in Brooklyn at about mile 11 with the Manhattan skyline in the far background.
Bands were playing all along the route so there was noise and cheering going on at almost all times. And the signs people had were awesome. There were signs stating how much “Brooklyn loves marathoners” all the way to “Run like you stole something” or “Run like someone is chasing you”. Then as we hit the Queensboro bridge the signs we saw mostly read…”Now get out of Brooklyn”!
We ran for about a mile and a half in Queens and then at mile 15 we were back on another bridge only this time it was the dreaded 59th Street bridge. This one mile long bridge has a slow steep incline which is countered by a fast and steep decline. Once we were off the bridge we were on 1st Ave in Manhattan and the large crowds were back again along with all of the bands. The bars lining 1st Ave were brimming with spectators and if you looked up you could see balconies filled with onlookers cheering. It was here at 63rd and 1st that our personal cheering section had convened. There was Chris and our kids along with Christina and then the rest of my husband’s siblings and spouses cheering and yelling, but most of all they all had enormous smiles on their faces!
We had about 3 1/2 miles to run in Manhattan and it was roughly at about mile 17 or so that Donna began to get a cramp on her right side just under her arm. It got so bad in fact that it had begun to nauseate her. But being the true trooper she has always been with any adversity she’s encountered in her life, she refused to walk and just kept plugging along. We reached the Willis Avenue bridge at mile 19 1/2 which brought us into the Bronx. As we came off the bridge and made the left turn onto 5th Ave. we were greeted by a massive Jumbotron and our own image as we began our one mile run through the Bronx. It was pretty cool. I tried to get a shot of this but the closer I got the more mottled the image became.
So it was one mile in The Bronx and then we hit our last bridge and believe me there were people with signs saying “This is your last bridge”. Over the Madison Avenue bridge and we were in the Harlem section of Manhattan. It was there that a line of lovely and lively black women about my age were cheering and yelling “Come on Philly you can do it!” They were yelling to me and calling me “Philly” because I had now removed my jacket for the final time to expose my bib number for all the photographers and right above the number my tank says…”Philadelphia Marathon”. Well these ladies were just what I needed at roughly mile 22. They stood there with their arms extended and hands out to hi-five runners as they passed and I made sure I tapped hands with every one of them and as I did I said “Oh how I need you ladies right now!”
By this time the stitch in Donna’s side had begun to lessen and we headed down 5th Avenue looking for the entrance to Central Park. As we ran we heard people shouting to us that the park is only a mile away. There was a girl standing on the right side of 5th Ave holding about a dozen balloons and a sign which read “You’re almost there and I checked, there is a finish line”. At mile 24 we entered Central Park and in front of us were a series of rolling hills which to be honest, by this time we barely noticed. So up and down the hills we ran, however for me this was the first time in the whole marathon I had begun to wonder if I would finish. I didn’t hit the proverbial wall but I was just so ready to be done with this 6 hour 26.2 mile long jog that mentally the miles became longer for me. “Where the hell is mile 25?’ I said to Donna. She smiled and replied ..”Oh it’s there somewhere soon”. I was also looking for Chris and the kids and anyone else from our cheering section. Then finally, just past mile 25 there they were. Chris and Christina where again cheering their hearts out for us with words of encouragement.
We ran over and again gave them all hugs and thanks for their support. We knew that they would not see us at the finish by virtue of the fact that the finish line is kind of roped off from most specatators. There was one more Jumbotron as we rounded the last turn and there were banners one each side of the path telling you 1/2 mile, 800 meters, 400 meters, 200 and then 100 meters until the finish line. And there it was…the glorious finish line! I turned to Donna and grabbed her hand as I have in many of our past races. We wanted this photo finish of the greatest race in the world to be of us together, arms up and smiling through the tears! And tears did come for both emotional and physical reasons. But we had finished…we can stop running now. This race was over and we did it!
Now as far as any more full on marathons for me…well I don’t know. It is all in a way a bit beguiling to me. But one thing I do know was what I saw written on one of the signs towards the end of the race. The sign read…
“Pain is Temporary…Pride is forever!”
This accomplishment is something I will always have and can ever be taken away. It is all mine and then again it’s not. I’ve shared this journey with my family and close friends…it was a long and difficult one which I could have never done alone. And I am thankful for all of the love and support I received up to and including race day. And I am forever thankful to my husband Chris that our children were there to witness this most incredible race!
You are incredible—a champion in your own right! You finished the world’s greatest marathon on Sunday.
Just like our champions Geoffrey Mutai and Firehiwot Dado, Masazumi Soejima and Amanda McGrory, you achieved something that most people only dream about.
You were part of a record-breaking weekend, in so many ways. More than 47,000 runners. A stunning $34 million raised for charity. Mutai’s 2:05:05 in New York is now the fastest performance on a record-certified course in the United States. In fact, the top three men as well as the women’s wheelchair champion beat course records.
From Friday night’s inaugural Marathon Opening Ceremony to Saturday’s Dash to the Finish Line 5K to Marathon Sunday, the weekend was a blur of inspiration. As Jack Waitz finished, we all thought of our beloved Grete Waitz, to whom we dedicated this year’s race. We hope the moment of pure elation when you crossed the finish line will stay with you forever.
You’re an official ING New York City Marathon 2011 finisher with a time of 6:01:20. We call you champion. Don’t you love the sound of that?
On behalf of NYRR—your biggest fans,