TCS NYC Marathon: Experiencing The Five Boroughs of NYC, A 2nd Time
Part 2 of 2:
My alarms went off on time, not that I needed them. Sleeping the night before 2016’s TCS NYC Marathon was not going to happen.
Last year, I took the mid-town bus to Staten Island. This year, I opted for the Staten Island Ferry. I was told those taking the ferry don’t wait as long in the cold at Fort Wadsworth. It took me a matter of seconds, it seemed, to get dressed and ready to go.
Quadruple checking my supplies, and race gear, I went down to the kitchen to eat my eggs, then fill up my bottle with Gatorade. Grabbing my keys, I made my way out the door, down the stairs, and toward the subway station.
Much like in 2015, the platform was slowly filling up with a steady stream of people in various levels of running attire. The shoes were always a dead giveaway. As were the pre-race transparent bags. Our train arrived at the station. Unlike in 2015 we were not greeted with nearly empty cars. No, this year, we had to cram onto rather packed subway trains.
Getting to know the runners around us, we made small talk as the train made its way down the tracks. Some of the bus riding marathoners hopped off at the appropriate stations, while the rest of us rode the trains to the end of the line. Exiting the subway at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal stop, we were ushered into the terminal by enthusiastic volunteers, and cops that look like they may have been enjoying their day, as well.
Staten Island Ferry
By the time we got to the ferry terminal, the sun was starting to rise, coloring the sky with an inspiring palette of pastels. My assigned ferry time was 7:15, so I had a while to wait before being herded onto the boat. I lucked out, and found a bench to sit on, while waiting. Another runner sat next to me, noticing my ankle tattoos, he struck up a conversation. We compared ankle wings, before he jumped up to get on one of the arriving boats.
Wave, after wave, of people entered the terminal from outside, and went straight through to the appropriate gate to load up, and take the ride to Staten Island.
With everybody heading to the same place, there was ordered chaos, and nobody really cared if they were first, or one-hundred and first to get to the next step of our journey to the start line.
Time to board
The clock was near enough to 7:15am as another Ferry was arriving, so I got in the queue for a ride across the water. I was able to snag a seat with a nice view of the New York City skyline, as well as Lady Liberty.
It did not take long to fill to capacity, and get on our way. Once we were at speed, it seemed like NYPD’s water cops were trying to race us. It was a valiant effort on NYPD’s part, however, we were victorious! Not a bad way to start the day.
One last bus ride
Reaching land after our sea journey, it was back to the herding phase of our day. This is where my morning decision making started to get a little cloudy. Opting to hang out inside the terminal for a little bit, I asked a volunteer how long the bus ride was to the start line. She let me know about 25 minutes, plus about 20 minutes to get on the bus.
My travel math completely overlooked the corral open/close timing. I waited a hair too long in the terminal, and our bus ride took a bit longer than 25 minutes. Those things combined got me to the start line as 2016’s TCS NYC Marathon Wave 2 Corral D was closing. Wave 3 was supposed to queue up now. By the time I made it through security, to the corrals, I was lining up with Wave 4. I should have left Green, and headed over to Blue, or Orange, to start atop the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, as I was starting in slower groups, so different colors were allowed, too.
Instead, I went where I was assigned, and joined D corral’s 4th wave of runners in the Green compound. Everybody was getting anxious, slowly pushing toward the gates to let us into the holding pen. Runners were stripping off donation bound clothing with each step. Of course, some of it made it onto the bridge, and beyond.
With each successive boom of the start canon, everyone cheered. Our excitement kept building, as each second ticked by. Our turn was fast approaching. Standing there in the shadow of the Verrazano Narrows bridge, among thousands of friends that did not know each other, a nearly synchronized cacophony of GPS watches starting joined the din of too loud music, and foot falls.
And, we were off…
Not taking the same line I did in 2015, I ran along the very edge of the Verrazano Narrows bridge. I was trying to make certain my Garmin Forerunner 220 would keep reading the satellites’ signals. This would keep my time, distance, and pace calculations accurate. This line also afforded me a great view of the New York City skyline, and the NYFD boat on the water with all of its water canons spraying into the air, celebrating us TCS NYC Marathon runners.
My watch beeped, indicating mile 1 was now behind me. Success, it was nearly in tune with the course markings. Descending off the bridge, we started up the off-ramp, into the first neighborhood. Spectators were out in force, cheering us on, waving signs, and setting the tone for our day.
The race organizer/volunteer must have been confused as he saw my bib, and those bibs around me. He asked what start group we were in. I quickly explained what happened and kept running, despite the confused look left on his face.
Neighborhood, after neighborhood. Borough, after borough, we kept moving forward. Around mile 8, we made it to the point of convergence. Green, Blue and Orange runners were now all running together. Up through this point, it seemed like the mile markers, and mile beeps of my watch were one right after another. I had pace bands on each wrist. One for my ideal goal time of 3:45, the other for a back-up goal time of 4:00.
Around this point, I was really trying to bring my pacing in line with where I needed it to be, to continue toward my time goals. Unfortunately, my legs, mind, and spirit were not in sync. My legs were pumping along, keeping me at a pace quite a bit faster than was needed for even a 3:45 finish.
My legs speedily carried me to the halfway point. I could start to feel, and see on my watch, that a sub-3:45 was not in the cards for the day. It also meant I was going to start struggling to hit the 3:45 time.
As I told myself before I even got to the airport, I was running this race for the experience. Time was not a real factor, I just wanted an injury free finish. Spending more time, and energy, I began making my way along the edges of the course more. I had a blast high-fiving kids, and adults alike, who were out there that morning, giving us energy as we ran the TCS NYC Marathon that fine November morning.
Reading TCS NYC Marathon runners’ shirts & wishing happy birthday to runners, or otherwise cheering their cause, purpose, and motivation for running helped distract my mind from the discomfort of my under-trained legs. I also took the time to try and enjoy the sights a little more than I did the previous year. The walls of people, both runners, and those lining the sides of each road we ran on, was such an amazing sight.
Some more stomach issues sent me to play the TCS NYC Marathon porta-potty lottery. Knowing that I really do need to fix my pre-race diet, along with possibly working some nutrition in mid-race, I allowed myself to do something I had not done in months, and months. Spectators were on the side of the course giving out Halloween candy, when I saw Kit-Kat bars, I did not resist. I had my first candy in ages, and it was glorious!
I was fortunate enough to run along side, and converse with, a few runners. As my wife, Jet, calls them, “Social Miles” are very helpful during tough races to distract my mind from my body. When the last runner, starting the conversation about my mohawk, had to take a walk break, I continued on. By this time, we were approaching Central Park.
This is where we had to dig deep, the proverbial 20 mile training run was behind us, now the 10k race lay ahead.
Running near Central Park, with the treed canopy, incredible architecture, and some more of the best spectators on Earth. I could not deny my self-assessment. My level of hurt was very present. Especially in scenery like this, I avoid spending too much time playing with devices during races. That is aside from taking a photo, or video, here and there.
Traversing this portion of the course though, I was hit with a thought, that I felt was perfect for the moment, and posted a version of this photo on my Instagram, with a caption relating to what an inviting pain cave I had found myself in. I wasn’t completely miserable, but I wasn’t doing as well as I had hoped at this point in the race. Time to push through.
Beyond the wall…
I began doing a steady routine of run-walk-run-walk to keep moving forward. I was able to make it behind a gentleman with a sign on his back, “This is my 45th NYC Marathon, Fastest: 2:25” – what a feat! Very inspiring to see those who have continued to run year, after year, and still appear to enjoy it.
Shortly after that, I kept hearing spectators gasp, then exclaim, “He’s juggling!” Now, I have a confusing level of competitiveness. Allowing a joggler to finish ahead of me definitely drew out my competitive side. I used a desire to not have someone running a marathon, while juggling, finish ahead of me. That was enough to get my legs moving in a steady rhythm.
Next thing I knew, our jaunt though the five boroughs of New York City, ending with a U-shaped journey around Central Park was nearly over. Mile 26 was about to be behind us. With only two-tenths of a mile left, that final surge of energy was injected into my legs, allowing me to finish the race strong.
I reverted to the technique I had at the beginning of the race, weaving through other runners, who’s tired legs were spent.
The end is near
At last, our undertaking of the 2016 Tata Consultancy Service New York City Marathon was about to be complete. Only yards, then feet, then inches separated us from the finish line.
Approaching the finish line, arms seemed to take on lives of their own, as they raised to the sky in triumph.
So many of us were crossing the announcers were having to pick and choose which finishers to call out over the PA system. Cheers were non-stop as the runners crossed the finish line.
Once across the finish line, everybody’s watches were stopped. Many tears flowed from happy eyes, while wobbly legs were asked to not fail. Not quite yet. Cheer on spectators, and start your own cheering runners, for you have completed the TCS NYC Marathon!
I received my medal, and had a wave of relief wash over me. Another finish line crossed, the 2016 running of the TCS NYC Marathon was now in the books. This race was also my tenth marathon of the year.
Beyond the finish line
Our day was not quite done, runners were doing our best walker impersonations, stiff legs, and single-minded thought processes had us marching up the path. We stopped for photos with our medals, before receiving our Heat Sheets – side note, if you don’t believe a foil/Mylar sheet will do anything, as I used to, that could not be further from the truth. They are incredibly helpful in keeping what little body heat we had left contained around our sweaty, drained bodies.
A short way up the path, we were able to get our finishers’ bags. Included in it were a recovery drink, water, apple, and some other goodies for completing 2016’s TCS NYC Marathon.
Those who opted to have a bag transported to the finish line had to keep walking to the bag pick-up area. While those of us who opted for a post-race poncho made a left turn. There, we were wrapped in our blue NYRR ponchos by some of the helpful volunteers this race is known for.
I downed my recovery drink, and made my way back to the apartment. Surprisingly, the five flights of stairs were not as bad as I had anticipated them being. Guess we will see what happens on the way down. I mentally crossed my fingers that the descent would not be an issue, when the time came.
The hosts were great, chatting with me about the race. I then managed to slowly get into the shower. Water burned chafed spots, and washed the salty residue off my skin.
Refreshed after my shower, I got dressed, and psyched myself up to go get food. Staring down the first flight of stairs, I prepared myself for the worst. And was severely “disappointed” when I was able to float down the stairs, almost like normal.
At the end of the street, police had the road blocked off, only allowing marathoners to exit the area. I struck up a conversation, to see if I would be able to make it back to the apartment, after getting food. Looking at my mohawk, one officer stated he would remember me, and to enjoy dinner.
Each restaurant I walked past was extremely packed, as one would expect following the marathon. I did not opt for Five Napkins again. In 2015, it seemed to be too heavy of a meal. Instead, I went to what would be “my spot” for the second year in a row. More Caesar’s Palace pizza was in my future.
Resisting the temptation to add fries, onion rings, and such to my order, I stuck with two slices. This visit, I went with the pepperoni and black olive, along with a BBQ chicken pizza. Those slices heavenly, especially after having just completed the marathon.
Congratulations to everybody who toed the TCS NYC Marathon start line! Whether you made it to the finish line, or somewhere before it. There is something in waking up, and accepting a challenge that means more than never even attempting it.
Until next time New York!