New York City Marathon Race Report – Part II

Once we entered the corrals, there was not long to wait. We started up the bridge and they played the Star Spangled Banner over the loud speakers. Then, before we knew what to expect, the cannon went off! Our wave had started! They played Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York over the loud speakers and for me, the most magical moment of the race started. Yes, we were really doing this. Right up that famous bridge to that famous song and then: All the runners started singing along! It was incredible! “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere, it’s up to you! New York, New York!” Right up the bridge, and finally we could start running!


I didn’t take that picture, but that’s pretty much what it looked like. Very crowded and very wonderful!

My plan was to take it easy for the first mile up the bridge. Apparently burning out here can have lasting consequences later in the race. I train on a lot of hills, though, and I didn’t find the incline all that challenging. The wind was another matter. It was really crazy. Mostly it was a “cross-breeze” but one strong enough that it could blow my left foot right into my right foot. People started shedding clothes now and even though they were being careful, stuff was just flying everywhere. Lots of people also stopped to take pictures so everyone got kind of crammed up together. But it wasn’t long before we got to the top of the bridge and started down the other side. By the end of that second mile I was warm enough to drop my sweatshirt. Down the ramp and around and into Brooklyn!

One of the pieces of advice I had read about this race said “Patience through Brooklyn” and that was a great motto. These were some of the best miles of the race for me. The spectators were fantastic. I was getting a feel for the race. It was very, very crowded, but I was able to find some space and I hit my planned pace of 9:55/mile or faster for the first 8 miles or so. I had my name on my shirt and lots of people were cheering “Sarah! Sarah! Go Sarah!” Incredible. Tiny Dynamo, my friend from Albany who ran NYC last year, told me she wasted a lot of energy high-fiving people in Brooklyn so I limited myself to a big smile and a thumbs-up when I heard my name. Really, before I knew it, we were at mile 6.5 and I had spectators waiting at mile 8.

I was a little unsure of the corner where my gang would be so I started looking too early. Then I managed to run right past them. They were screaming Sarah! Sarah! Sarah! But so was half of NYC it seemed! Incredible Mervus and Snarky Girl had to chase me down to find me! They said I was doing great, gave me some water and sent me on my way with a “see you a mile 18!” Fantastic. Spectating this race on this day was an enormous challenge, I’m sure. The wind and cold were pretty brutal. My little gang of Incredible Mervus, Snarky Girl and Mr. Snarky Girl managed to see me three times on the course and I so appreciated them chasing me all around New York

Now I got a little more serious about the race, though actually my splits through here are slower. By “serious” I mean, I put my sunglasses down and turned on my music to focus on running. I spent more time in the middle of the road, though perhaps I should have stuck to the less crowded edges? In any case, there was still quite a lot of Brooklyn to go. I saw the Bishop Loughlin Memorial high school band that plays the theme from Rocky for several hours consecutively. I saw the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood I had read about. I saw a full gospel choir singing outside on the steps of the church. I saw the miles on my watch ticking away at a good clip. Nine, ten, eleven, twelve, finally the halfway mark right at 2:13.


The halfway mark was time for me to review race expectations. I had hoped to be at the half at 2:10 or even 2:08. I had the legs for that, but the crowds were really cutting into my pace. A perfectly evenly split race with a 2:13 half is a 4:26 marathon. I knew even splitting was unlikely and negative splitting probably impossible. That meant my original goal of 4:20 was out of reach, but 4:30 was possible. Coach Cowboy had said I might need to adapt to the conditions of the day. We had been talking about the wind, but it was really the crowded course that was the issue. I did not want to throw time goals out the window so I decided to try to get back what I could, but also to not have my heart broken that this wasn’t going to be as fast a race as I had hoped.

I knew The Donohue of Sub-30 would be waiting for me somewhere after mile 14. Even though I was looking for him, when I heard “Hey! Professor Badass!” all I could think was, who in the world knows me by that name here? Of course there was The Donohue himself, all decked out in his Sub-30 shirt and his hulk hands! His friend snapped a bunch of fabulous pictures and off I went.

HandsOut highfive   hug3centered  waving

Just after mile 15, the course crosses the Queensboro Bridge. This is supposed to be a lonely and tough spot on the course because there are no spectators allowed on the bridge. Actually, though, I couldn’t believe how fast this marathon was flying by. We were already at 15 miles? How did that happen? However, I slowed down a lot here. The road gets a lot narrower on the bridge and my splits dropped to just over 12 min/mile. This is where it might would have made a difference had I started with wave 3 instead of wave 4. I improved my marathon time by nearly an hour after I purchased the lottery ticket, but I never got around to updating my information with the NYRR. I did not realize how important that could be! At mile 15, many of my fellow runners were really struggling. There was lots of walking going on along that bridge and plenty of runners pulled off to the side to stretch. I admit in my brain I was saying “Fuck, fuck, fuck! Get out of the way people!” because I was still ready to run. But, we had a great view of the skyline. Some of the walkers were helping Achilles athletes. And I was able to remember that yes, I do want to run fast, but I am not the only one on this bridge. And even though this was a frustrating moment, I truly love running marathons and I was getting to run possibly the greatest marathon in the world and I just wasn’t going to waste time being unhappy about anything. My watch also lost connectivity here so I couldn’t see my pace, which was probably just as well. We got off that bridge, finally, and my next mile was 8:19! Ha! Take that, slow bridge people!

Now we were running up 1st Avenue and I could count up the streets until 97th where I was meeting my gang again. I hadn’t had anything to eat but Gu yet and I wanted a banana. I found my gang easily this time at the NW corner of 97th and 1st. [If you are going to run NYC and have people meet you along the route, you definitely need not just an intersection, but a particular corner of the intersection. Otherwise, you will really struggle to find each other. It is that crowded.] So, I slammed down that banana and a salt tab, and some water. I couldn’t get it all down fast enough because I knew I had some time pressure at this point.

758416-1261-0043s  758456-1140-0023s

I followed my standard long run fueling pattern, which is a Gu at mile 4 and every three miles after that. Above 15 miles, I try to figure out a way to get a banana or two. During my other marathons, I was hungrier and ate 2-3 bananas, but in NYC I only had one. I had Gu more or less at miles 4, 7, 10, and 13. Maybe 15. Then the banana at 18. Gu again at 23. I started to worry about my hip cramping up fairly early on so I added a salt tab with every Gu after mile 7. Taking the damn salt tabs out of the plastic bag and stuffing the bag back into my pocket seems to take forever so I would like a better system for that. I had thought I would drink every other mile, but I probably drank more than that. It’s hard to eat every third mile and drink every other mile, but also, I felt like with the wind, I was in danger of getting dehydrated so I just drank more. In my first marathon, I was very strict about only drinking water, but my stomach hasn’t been bothered yet (knock on wood!) so now I switch it up between water and Gatorade depending on what I feel like or even which part of the aid station is less congested. I feel like I fueled well for this race. Maybe I should have stopped for water less often because water stops were slow in NYC. On the other hand, I was worried about cramping and I know dehydration can cause that so maybe it was good I drank as much as I did. No way to know.

Back to the race. At this point, I had lost track of how far I had run. Sounds silly, but marathons can be kind of disorienting and since my watch had lost its connection, I really wasn’t sure where I was. I asked at the mile 19 water stop what mile we were at. The volunteers for this race were 100% amazing. So many of them yelled out “Go Sarah!” whenever I came in for water. Lots of people also riffed on my shirt “You’ve got to believe Sarah!” “We believe in you Sarah!” Incredible. If you run NYC, PUT YOUR NAME ON YOUR SHIRT!

With seven miles to go, I could start to calculate finish times and I could see that I was right around 4:30. I would of course have loved to at least get under 4:30, so that meant time to boogie. We were still headed north and this whole next section of the race had me thinking, when the hell are we turning around??? We were still running the wrong way. I couldn’t remember if we had another bridge, but I was pretty sure we had another whole borough because we hadn’t run through the Bronx yet. Finally the Willes Avenue bridge. Up and over. The Bronx greeted us with a great and LOUD rapper and plenty of spectators. I kept flipping my music on and off, depending on how much I liked the bands we were passing. But mostly I was thinking, when are we turning around??? Central Park is the other direction!!

I also started calculating my plan for the rest of the race. From talking to friends afterwards, I know quite a few people tracking me were wondering at this point if I was keeping an eye on my watch and whether I knew how close I was cutting it. Yes, I knew very well! A PR was still in reach, but I had to hustle. At that mile 19 water stop, I planned for two more stops. Water or Gatorade at 21 miles. Then I knew friends and family were at 23 miles so I would stop for a few seconds there regardless. I didn’t want to stop separately for Gu, but I also thought gutting it out from 19 to 26 with no Gu wasn’t a brilliant idea. So, at 23 miles I said no banana, but grabbed a salt tablet and a Gu and a swig of water. Snarky Girl told me I was doing great, but her eyes also said, You’d better hustle now girlfriend, so off I went.

From mile 23 to the end, I just ran as fast as I could. I negative split these miles, though I never got another sub-10 split, damn it. I was rushing down 5th avenue as fast as I could go. The course got narrower again here and the crowds were definitely an issue. I found my aisle right along the left side of the course up against the spectators. This area was often clear and I could zip through. I passed tons of people here. I’m not exaggerating when I say I am sure I passed over 100 people in the last three miles of the race. It could easily have been more. Lots of people were walking and I had flashbacks to all the walking I did in the last six miles of Hartford. The final miles of a marathon are really tough.

I wasn’t walking now though. I am not usually one for picking people off, but I started trying that. I thought I would run alongside a woman in a white jacket, but I passed her. I picked out a big guy and ran behind him for awhile, then passed him too. It was still crazy windy but a lot of it was at our backs at this point. At 24 miles we turned into the park and I knew I really had to hurry. I ran by Runar Gundersen, who was running his 36th consecutive NYC marathons and has the most helpful website I found: I thought about saying hello, but I really just wanted to get done. I thought about my trainer. I am trying so hard to do one real chin-up and when I’m working with him, he’ll say, “You have to want it!” So, how bad did I want it? Very bad. I thought about a friend from sub-30 who threw up near the end of her most recent (3:38!!) marathon. Did I want it that badly? I have never wanted to puke while running. Would I puke now? Would I slow down if I thought I was going to puke? Thank goodness I didn’t have to answer that question because I could tell I wasn’t going to. But yes, for the first time in my life I thought, if I puke, so be it. I saw a big arch over the course that said 800 m to go. That is just twice around the damn track! I ran like crazy and crossed in just over 4:31. Official time 4:31:28. No 4:20 and not even under 4:30, but a PR all the same. Given the wind and especially the crowded course, I am thrilled! Did I cry a little at the finish line? Well, you have to pay $75 to sit on the grand stands and watch the finish of the NYC marathon so no one will ever know…..


After the finish, it’s a crazy death march. Volunteers give you your medal. You walk. They take your picture. You walk. They give you an aluminum foil blanket. You walk. They tape the blanket together. You walk. On and on and on. At some point you get the “recovery bag” which has water and Gatorade and some kind of protein shake, plus some actual food. Then you walk more. It was endless. But it was also awesome.


758552-1021-0003s 758525-1063-0048s

The most interesting thing here was that they had “Red Cross Spotters”. These were volunteers who kept asking everyone if they were ok. If someone said no, the Spotters had orange flags on poles that they could hold up and then a paramedic would come with some sort of medical backpack. I saw quite a few people getting help but most of us were just trudging onward. Even up a hill!!! What evil person put that hill there! Finally we were out of the park and they pinned the cozy blue ponchos on us to turn us into little slow-moving blue ghosts.


I had to walk two blocks west to Amsterdam and eight blocks north to 82nd. That was a long, long walk. Finally around 78th, I flagged down a bicycle taxi. I wish my phone had been working because I would have loved a picture of me in that thing. I arrived in style even if no one saw it! The Increible Mervus, Snarky Girl and Mr Snarky Girl were all at the peacefood café. We had a delicious warm (!) meal and a great post-race celebration. Then the train ride back to Connecticut and normal life.



This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to New York City Marathon Race Report – Part II

  1. Pam Aviles says:

    Enjoyed your race!!

  2. alright, I LOVE your nicknames for your friends!! Congrats on toughing it out and running an amazing race! I am so inspired for my own now! Thank you for thus awesome recap!

  3. Oh my gosh! I just loved reading this. I kept having flashbacks to my marathon and am so very teary right now! The name on your shirt is huge. Philly puts it on your bib and it was such a thrill to hear your name over and over. Strangers cheering you on, “Go, Go, go! Just awesome! You ran a fantastic race. I know how tough the crowds could be and with that, you still had a PR and a fantastic time. Love this recap. Way to go, my friend! Way to go!

  4. Bryan B says:

    Thank you Sarah, great write up! Moments like that can be emtional, to the point of not being able to remember much of it. It was exciting getting the race updates from fellow Subbers. Congratulations, and thank you for sharing!

  5. Tiny Dynamo says:

    I am so, so proud of you. You are absolutely, radiantly glowing in all those post-race pics. You are simply awesome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *