2018 NYC Marathon
2018 NYC Marathon: 974th Overall of 52,705, 2:58:02
Ahh, New York! This has been a major bucket list race for some time. And, after my first ever DNS for last year’s race, it was even better to join in on the fun this year. Plus – last year it rained on race day, and this year it was beautiful. I had better company joining me this year than I would have had last year, too.
After a small-ish race in Eugene, I was pumped to dive right in to a race field that was the polar opposite: the largest marathon in the world! The feeling of lining up next to over 50 thousand international hyper fit athletes, each prepared to haul A through the five boroughs of NYC was a stark difference from the more relaxed morning in Eugene this April. The only similarity between the two? Seeing one of our USA Olympic runners!
The only negative part of the NYC experience was the same as with every other mega-marathon I’ve raced. Prior to the start, athletes are herded through security and then must wait in a huge “village” with porta-potties and people scattered everywhere spanning over huge areas. Admittedly, I did not check to see where I needed to drop my post race bag off to UPS (thanks logistics crews!), which led to a minor moment of panic as I attempted to enter the A corral. With ~20 minutes until the corral closed for Wave 1, I had to run about a mile to drop off my sweatpants and hoodie on the opposite side of the village, all the while jumping over people napping and dodging folks in lines for restrooms. Oops. Those big morning waiting areas are really tough for me to manage apparently.
When I actually made it into the corral with my fellow San Diego Track Club competitor, Aaron, the weather had warmed up slightly to 51 degrees with a light breeze over the Brooklyn Bridge. The sun was shining, the sky was bright blue, the leaves were all bursting with color, and we got to listen to the Star Spangled Banner play with a panoramic view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. It was the most American race imaginable.
The start of the race is up and over the Brooklyn Bridge with a view of Manhattan off in the distance. A lot of people I talked to mentioned this as a “hilly start,” to which I now will reply that they need to hill train more. With all the adrenaline and excitement, the incline was barely noticeable. Come on peeps…
After descending the bridge, the course winds through Brooklyn for the next 6-7 miles. This had to have been both my favorite part and my fastest segment. The town was awesome, the cheers loud, and the excitement infectious. It was picturesque NYC blocks with pizza shops and golden trees. A slight bit of trouble reared its ugly head here though, as my right hamstring tightened up pretty good at mile 3. I didn’t have great stride length and it kept catching, which I began to worry could lead to my first DNF ever. What is it with this race??? All I could do was “keep on keepin’ on” and hope it would all work out.
The first challenging part of the race for me at least was the ascent out of Queens/Long Island City and into Manhattan. Thankfully the hamstring eased up around mile 9 and I could relax a bit before around mile 15, which was another mile long bridge climb and descent. The crowd thinned out and the race field began to stretch. This deep into the race, those who went too fast at the start had faded and those rallying hadn’t yet started passing me. It was an awkward spot in the race, and I struggled with the incline and had no one to pace with. At least it was only a mile! Unlike another race… (cough.. RALEIGH..)
During the descent into Manhattan, Mr. Hamstring decided to give me shit again. Nice and tight, leading to nagging thoughts about the possibility of a DNF if it would happen to give one good, hard yank. Frankly, I thought it would at any moment. But – nothing happened. Miles 17 – 22 stretched through Harlem and the Bronx, which I was warned ahead of the race that it would have a little less energy than the start in Brooklyn. However, these neighborhoods were still a ton of fun, and only miles 21 – 22 were quiet. I can’t stress enough just how amazing it was that I hadn’t bonked by this point, like I did in Pittsburgh, Raleigh, and Missoula, so it was more a great opportunity to gather my mental strength together for the coming hills in Manhattan and Central Park.
As I expected, the crowds really picked up once back on the Upper East Side. I fed off of the energy as much as possible, but that climb from mile 23 – 24.5 was ROUGH. It isn’t particularly long or steep, but what made it so challenging was that I could pretty much see the entire stretch yet to come. At the point where my legs are starting to operate at about half strength, and at the point at which I’m definitely ready to call it a day, AKA anytime after 150 minutes of running, the course yacked up this hill. Sweet. My hamstring also felt like a crusty, dry rotted rope that had the elasticity of a baked rubber band, too. Any minute it could go, I thought.
Then the course turned into Central Park. Now, I’ve heard quite a bit about this park, but embarrassingly have never actually made it to NYC despite living close by for nearly 30 years. It took until living in San Diego that I actually got to experience this long rectangle of joy nestled in one of America’s greatest cities. There’s something magical about it. The peacefulness of the old growth trees, families relaxing, horse drawn carriage tours, and winding roads through it all. Yeah, there were a lot of rolling hills, but nothing too bad. This was a welcome break from the urban scenery of 98% of the race.
As I left Central Park for the small stretch of running alongside Upper Manhattan on W59th Street, I could tell it was time… the BONK. It hit right at mile 25.5, so I really cannot complain. The last few years, and even at Eugene, I’ve been pushing this black pit of misery back further and further. It’s a tough moment when it hits, but I also was extremely fortunate to hear my best friend scream out some motivational energy at the exact moment. He’d challenged me earlier to beat his NYC time from a few years back (2:58:40), and I knew it would be nail bitingly close. The risk was real, but our friendship thrives on this competition, so I HAD to get there!
Entering into Central Park the second time was the best feeling of any recent race. I knew that there was less than a quarter mile to go, and even though it was uphill, the energy was unreal and powerful enough to pull all of us competitors along. There were no wobbly legs here, only a rush of happiness as I caught a glimpse of my just-slightly-quicker-than-friend’s time:
Yeah, it wasn’t as fast as earlier this year, but I was extremely happy with this effort. It had been a rocky training buildup, I fought off a few colds the month earlier, and my SDTC friend and I decided to take a red eye in from the west coast. All signs pointed to a possible personal worst, and yet on this morning I was able to nab another BQ and a clean sweep of the US major marathons all under 3:00. The hamstring held up. My SDTC friend crushed it in 2:43! And, now at last, it was time to go get our finishers’ medal and a BEER.
But not so fast…As if 26.2 miles wasn’t enough distance, the race organizers have us walk at least a mile further to get our checked bags. They were all in UPS trucks according to bib numbers, but since I was a low number I had to march my wobbly legs alllllll the way to the very end. Perfect. But, I met up with Aaron and we were able to fake a few happy smiles before walking alllllll the way back to our hotel to shower, nap, and prepare for a night on the town!
So now I’ve got all 3 US Majors done, all under 3 hours, the state of NY, and another BQ checked off the list! Next up: Boston and IM Boulder… Oh baby.