You've heard about it, read about it and talked about it for ages; but it's not until you actually take the epic trip, gather at the start line and take off onto the Verazanno Bridge towards Brooklyn that you start to get a sense of what it's all about. They call it the biggest street party in the world, as an estimated crowd of 1 million excited supporters line the streets along the entire 42.195 kms through the five boroughs of New York. From the start way down at Staten Island all the way to Central Park, Manhattan, you feel like you're running through the middle of a massive street festival, as the thousands upon thousands of wildly cheering spectators and supporters, that includes bands, DJ's, & marching bands cheer you through every step of the way.
This incredible event is most certainly an unforgettable experience. From the time we landed in New York, and made our way towards Central Park two days before the race for our last pre-race run, there was a palpable buzz that gripped the city. Runners from all over the globe have descended upon NY for this huge event, which has become the biggest marathon in the world, and for good reason sits atop many a runners' bucket list!
Our team of six 'Run Well' athletes came together months ago as we individually & collectively trained towards this common goal. Now the time was here and we were all suitably nervous and excited, as we gathered for the buses very early on race morning to transport us out to Staten Island for the start.
Moving 51,000 athletes out to the starting area, which happens to be an island some 40 odd kms away from the finish line is on hell of a logistical feat, and this operation was performed seamlessly and without so much as a complaint from anyone. It is a huge credit to the organisers just how well run this event is from registration, to lead up, race-pack pick up, getting to the start, to the finish and beyond was impeccable.
Finally, and all of a sudden you're at the starting line, and the gun goes off, and you're off and running. Before you know it you are one of the mass of runners that decorates this stunning suspension bridge on your way through the five boroughs of New York. You are immediately reminded of how big this event is as despite starting from the front wave there is nothing but a sea of magnificent colour and bobbing heads as far as you can see heading to the crest of the 2 mile long Verrazano Bridge that takes you from Staten Island over to Brooklyn. As we reach the peak, your eyes are drawn to the left and far off in the distance the majestic skyline of downtown Manhattan sits proudly in the far off distance. Shit, it looks a long way away.
Just a few minutes later and you're into the streets and into the party zone. Welcome to Brooklyn, the home of the most excited, loud and proud supporters you will ever see. It's not hard to feel a bit like a rockstar or in local terms a premiership player in the grand final parade as you squeeze your way through the miles of cheering masses. It's pretty bloody exciting and uplifting as we seem to float along the course with little effort.
This is the marathon you run for the pure enjoyment of the crowd; the streets and the scenic tour of New York through it's five boroughs. There is heck of a lot of runners out there ( some 51,000 on this occasion) and people everywhere so naturally it can feel a little crowded early on. Hence it's important to stay relaxed during these busy, early stages which is also a good thing as it will allow you to enjoy the atmosphere of the crowd at the same time as preventing you going out too hard.
There's no doubt that the crowds lining your run with give you an added boost along the way, but remember to stay relaxed and cruise along at your desired pace through the middle stages & enjoy the atmosphere, the rock bands, the DJs, the full ensemble, the high school brass band, the fans and their entertaining signs. This is no more evident than when exiting the long Queensboro Bridge that transports you from Queens across to Manhattan Island and down onto First Avenue. The absolute roar of the crowd can be heard well before you can see them, as you descend from the bridge, and finally emerge from the lower deck turning into a wall of the loudest cheering supporters that must be 10 deep. This is nothing but exhilarating and the perfect trigger to get you going into the fastest part of the course along First Avenue between 25 and 32 km, and certainly one of the most memorable crowd spots, particularly when you spot your loved ones leading the chorus.
But sure enough, no matter what, like all marathons, the last 10 and in particular the last 5 kms are very tough. And in this case quite hilly too! Thankfully the crowds around Central Park are bursting once more and if they could they would pick you up and carry you. Despite feeling like you have nothing left but what it takes just to run, each & every effort you make to acknowledge them here will be rewarded 10 fold with a mighty cheer that will lift you around the final stages of Central Park to the finish line.
If you're thinking of running the greatest marathon of them all in New York, here's a few tips to consider;
1. Don't worry about your PB, this is not the course for that. This is a deceptively hilly course, not a fast course. Of course the thousands of other runners may hold you up a bit, and the brutal travel time getting to NY, and subsequent jet lag/recovery to get to NY will no doubt also take it's toll. And then there's the 4am get up for a 10am start!
Now that's out of the way, you can focus on this. Just run & enjoy.
2. Wear your name on your shirt for non stop personal support.
3. Interact with the crowd, and they will give it back to you in spades!
4. Wear your medal out that night for further adulation.
The real reward of course is that you get to spend the next few days or week in NYC to recover, relax and party!
My highlights ( recommendations) post marathon are;
1. Dumplings & Beer at Joe's Shanghai ( 24 W 56th), straight after the finish line. Well, straight after meaning once you can get yourself moving again, had some fluids, get warm, and hobble a couple of miles out of the course that is. But well worth it.
2. Beers & IV drip rehydration in your hotel room. Taking no chances to ensure recovery & some good nights out to follow.
3. Team celebratory dinner - Mexican, & margheritas at Tacombi (Bleeker Street) - always a winning combination.
4. Russian & Turkish Baths - since 1892, this place is the real deal. Nothing fancy here just cold cold pools, and hot hot saunas, and burly Russian men in trunks offering you massages. Yeah, slightly terrifying but unforgettable. I'd recommend the oak leaf treatment for a real experience. Excellent for recovery, but maybe wait a couple of days!
And finally, if you're considering running the NY marathon next year, like any marathon, make sure you are well prepared so that you can perform well & enjoy the experience. Any marathon, but even more so an overseas event is a big investment of not only your time, but money. Don't forget the most important ingredient, and that is an effective training program that will get you there in one piece, with a race plan, and ready to run!
Run Well Marathon Training can help you achieve your dream of running a marathon. If you want to know more, click here.