iRun – Running NYC 2011
by Caitlyn Zimmerman -- November 21st, 2011
My fifth marathon, run through the streets of New York City, encompassing the five boroughs, 26.2 miles and over 47,000 runners.
It was an idea started three years ago. Elyse, a friend on the dance team in college was training for a marathon; she was up to running 10 miles and after hearing that I was a runner, asked me to join her.
At that time, I was not a serious runner. I enjoyed lacing up my running shoes and exploring whatever city I was in for a set amount of time – I never knew how far I had gone or my pace.
But running 10 miles with a friend sounded like a fun challenge.
It was a challenge I’ve overcome countless times since then for after finishing that run, I promptly signed up for the ING Atlanta Marathon in Georgia. It was the first of four marathons that I have now completed with Elyse.
All throughout our training, we’ve dreamed of one thing: the ING NYC Marathon. 26.2 miles through the boroughs of NYC, weaving through the blocks of culture and history and ending in the pristine beauty of central park.
Elyse grew up watching her relatives run this race and this dream is what started her running in the first place. After entering the lottery last year with no luck, we waited with baited breath to find this year’s lottery results.
“I’m in. You’re in. We’re in.” We got it! The NYC Marathon slogan, “I’m in.” was ours!
After five months of training (including a half marathon in Chicago), race weekend arrived in a blur of delayed flights, running through airports and sleeping in the cab to Elyse’s house.
We woke up Saturday morning, picked up our bibs and free merchandise at the expo and explored the city. In Time Square, the Coca-Cola video board announced it was powered by wind energy!
Saturday night. Filled with pasta, a little football and preparations for the long day ahead of us. Bed by 10:30pm. Thank goodness for daylight savings!
3:15am – My phone alarm goes off. Apparently, my new iPhone didn’t realize it was daylight savings. Back to bed.
4:15am – Elyse’s alarm goes off. For real this time. Time to get up, get dressed in our freshly painted shirts (we make a shirt for every race), pack our bags and drive to the bus that takes us to the start line on Staten Island.
5:30am – At the bus. It’s freezing (at least in my southern opinion) and we are forced to wait in line to get on the bus. Luckily, we have extra layers from Goodwill (to throw away later that the organizers then donate back to Goodwill). We finally hop on and take seats next to other runners; everyone is groggy but you can feel the excitement and anticipation buzzing throughout the bus.
6:15am – Off the bus. Herded through police officers yelling at us to show our bibs. Lots of tight security.
7:00am – Reach the “Green Village”. Three villages correspond to the color of your bib – green, orange and blue. Each village is equipped with coffee, bagels, free Dunkin’ Donuts fleece hats, water, more porta-potties than you would hope you’d ever need and a huge screen and sound system yelling out instructions and the course map.
8:00am – Still in Green Village. The race officially starts at 9:30 but our wave, wave 2, doesn’t start until 10:10 (yes, we had to get up 4 hours before we started running).
9:00am – People watching. This race draws in runners from every country. The sound system speaks so many languages you feel like you’re in Disney World.
9:15am – The elite runners head to the start. They pass by our village and Elyse and I stare in awe. One of these runners will win. All will finish under 3 hours. Most under 2:30. Impressed can’t describe it.
9:30am – The race starts. The sound of a large cannon resonates throughout the village and chills chase down my spine. We’re next!
9:45am – Our corral opens. We make our way to Orange Village where everyone enters the corrals. Gates surround the runners with ropes between each corral. More porta-potties line the side of the start; there’s no such thing as too many porta-potties with over 47,000 runners.
10:00am – We walk to the edge of the bridge. The top of the bridge looms in the distance. I never like starting uphill but at least this bridge isn’t as tall as the Charleston, SC bridge I’ve been doing most of my training on.
10:05am – Clothes are flying into the trees. Runners are taking off their layers in preparation for the start. People are cheering. We watch the elite runners pass mile 7 (35 minutes into the race – that’s a 5:00 minute mile!) on the large screen off to our right. We take pictures, jump up and down to warm up; the anticipation is unbearable!
10:10am – BOOM! The second cannon sounds and we’re off. Running watches beep, tracking chips chirp, runners yell and cheer. I lose track of time, start watching the water under the bridge, the pavement, the people, the mile markers, the spectators. The start of a 26.2 mile adventure begins.
Mile 3 – Over the bridge, into Brooklyn. The second borough on the course (the first being Staten Island), filled with screaming people on the sidelines, signs saying, “Occupy 4th Street” and “Will you marry me, Peni”, gorgeous architecture, and motivating crowds. The miles seemed to fly past. Over a small bridge and out of Brooklyn.
Mile 13.1 – Halfway! The start of Queens. A 2 mile path that left me wanting more of this borough. People lined the streets 3-5 people deep throughout every inch of the course. The bridges were the only dead spots.
Mile 15 – The Queensboro Bridge. The toughest bridge on the course. An even gradual incline for what seemed like miles. Runners started to cheer to fill the void of rousing onlookers.
Mile 16 – Over the bridge and my stomach turns. Something doesn’t feel right. My 10 mile body assessment long past, I felt slightly sick but refused to slow down. Faces blurred past, colorful signs, posters of faces, all seem to run together. The beginning of Manhattan and I feel I know more about the pavement beneath my feet than about the borough.
Mile 19.5 – Out of Manhattan into Bronx. A short mile and a half curve takes us out of the Bronx faster than I can comprehend. My stomach, still deciding whether or not it wants to get sick, keeps me from enjoying this borough.
Mile 21 – Back to Manhattan. The final stretch. 5.2 miles left, I can do this, we can do this. Elyse has put up with my lack of enthusiasm up until this point; knowing that my stomach isn’t happy, she’s understanding and offers to walk through the water stop – we haven’t stopped once – but I refuse. We’re finishing this.
Mile 22 – My second wind. We enter Central Park and I feel like a new runner. The green of the trees, the swarms of bystanders, all cheering, looking at me and assuring me that I will get to the end. The hills are the worst part. Who’s idea was it to put so many hills at the end of a marathon?
Mile 25 – This is it! 1.2 miles to go, that’s nothing! The crowds, at least 20 deep now, seem to push us forward; they won’t let us give up. Adrenaline moves through our veins, telling our muscles to ignore the stabbing pain, the large amounts of lactic acid building up, the knee pain, sore feet, IT band syndrome – ignore it all.
Mile 26 – Rounding the last curve. Signs show the distance from the finish in meters, yards, feet, so close. Elyse and I grab hands, we always make sure to finish the race the way we started, together.
Mile 26.2 – Finished! The best feeling – hearing the chirp as you past the finish line, spectators cheering you on, race marshals telling you congrats. Get your medal, get a bag full of water, Gatorade, fruit, pretzels, the perfect pre race snacks. Adrenaline still coursing through our veins, the runner’s high is never higher than at the end of a race.
We walk for what seems like forever. The UPS trucks we put our bags in back in Green Village are spread out, interspersed with all the trucks from the other villages. At least 2 miles separates the finish line from our bag truck. Race marshals continue to yell encouragement as runner stumble into each other; walking becomes difficult when running felt so natural.
As fast as it started, the race is over. Runners disperse with families, the course is cleaned and reopened to the hustle and bustle of New York City. Cheering onlookers turns to the standard noises of the city: cars honking, sirens blaring, people laughing while walking from bar to bar.
The sun fades away and only my sore muscles and bright memories are left to remind me of the most popular race in the world, the NYC Marathon, until next year that is.