I arrived in New York the Thursday before the race so that I could get my Pacific Standard body used to Eastern Standard life. In retrospect, I don’t know why I made such a big deal about the time difference; it’s not like I was running the Rome Marathon. However, the advantage of arriving a few days before the race was that I was able to visit the (mammoth) expo the Friday before the race instead of the day before and I got to go on the Marathon in a Motorcoach tour. Woo hoo!
I paid around $40 to go on this bus tour that traced the majority of the race course, omitting only the last couple of miles that run through Central Park. As this was my first NYCM and first solo marathon, and as I was more than a little anxious about running such a huuuuuge race all by myself, I wanted to see the course. Obsessively studying the course map and course elevation profile just wasn’t doing the job.
Friday morning, I dragged my West Coast self out of bed at around 7:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. PST–ouch), choked down a bagel, and grabbed a cab to the Jacob Javitz Convention Center. I got on the bus around 8:45 a.m. with dozens of friendly, upbeat marathoners. It was like a big love fest. Everyone on the bus tour was probably as Type A as me but everyone was happy and excited to run the race in two days. I met a very nice mother and daughter from Ohio in line for the bus. They immediately took pity on me as a solo rider and had me sit next to them for the tour. And then we were off!
The bus drove down Manhattan to the Battery Street Tunnel and over to Staten Island. We traced the course as it started at the Verrazano Bridge toll plaza and across the bridge, through Brooklyn (where we took a quick break from the tour and got out to walk around), Queens, across the Queensboro Bridge, and uptown through the Upper East Side to The Bronx, then back to Central Park and, finally, Columbus Circle. The atmosphere on the bus was electric as we approached Columbus Circle and the turn-off to the finish line. Many of us (self included) snapped terrible, out-of-focus shots of the turn-off. See?
The tour effectively ended on Central Park West, where the bus stopped so we could have a peekaboo view of Tavern on the Green and finish line. Again, I took some great shots.
After that, the bus took us back to the convention center. I needed to go to the expo for packet pickup. Like on the bus, there was a lot of energy in the crowd as we waited to enter the expo. As dorky as I felt taking a picture of the entrance to the expo, I was not alone in my dorkiness.
The expo was huge, which probably comes as no surprise to anyone when the NYCM usually has in excess of 45,000 runners. Security was good and unobtrusive. I didn’t have a big bag through which security needed to rummage, so I entered relatively quickly. Once in the expo, the packet pickup procedure was organized and efficient. I was able to get my race shirt in the size I wanted, and it was actually cute!
After that business was out of the way, the fun began. I went to, I believe, every single booth in the place. I bought an official NYCM jacket–in fluorescent, “don’t hit me with your car, please!” yellow, a cheesy NYCM-specific headband, more Nuun only so that I could get a free NYCM-limited edition Nuun bottle, a NYCM Christmas ornament, a NYCM Mizuno shirt, and, I’m sure many other things I can’t remember. New Balance had this cool promo where authentic (?) New York graffiti artists would spray paint your shirts. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I was in hog heaven. Because I was there alone, I had to resort to texting dumb photos of sparkle skirts, reports about what I was buying, and squealing missives (“OMG I just saw Deena Kastor!!!!!!”) to my running partner back home. I was at the expo much longer than my coach and I wanted to be. However, how many other times will I have the opportunity to be at the NYCM expo? Probably not many. Carpe diem.
The next day, Saturday, is the subject of a different, future post tentatively entitled “Other Things I Did in New York/What Not to Do the Day before a Marathon.” For ease of reading and to prevent this post from looking like The Iliad, I am going to skip to Sunday, race day.
I woke up the morning of the race at 6:00 a.m., which was the time of my assigned Staten Island Ferry ride. I wasn’t concerned about missing my ferry because I had learned from NYCM veterans that it really didn’t matter if you rode the ferry at your assigned time. I did not want to take the 6:00 a.m. ferry because I was in Wave 2 (10:05 a.m. start) and I didn’t want to arrive at the start village 3+ hours before the start of the race. The predicted weather that morning was upper 30s and gusty winds. Not my idea of good, “let’s hang out outside!” weather.
I had laid my race clothes out the night before. Everything I wore was something I had trained in for a run of at least 17 miles. My shirt, for which I had painstakingly cut out and applied duct tape letters in order to personalize, already had my bib number attached.
After getting dressed in my race clothes (Lululemon Run Swiftly t-shirt, Oiselle Distance shorts, Pro Compression socks, Asics arm warmers, and Brooks Adrenaline shoes), I donned my sweet staging area clothes so that I would stay warm while I waited for the race to start. My very chic start village clothes consisted of large, early 90s-era, Adidas tear-away warm-up pants and a large warm-up jacket for a local high school’s soccer team. Too bad I was going to have to leave them behind in the start village, because I would have liked to have kept them for the next cocktail party I attend.
I grabbed the clear, plastic bag they gave me at the expo. I crammed in some more warm clothes, a hat, food (Gus, a granola bar, and my breakfast), a regular sized water bottle, a teeny 8 oz. water bottle, and a magazine. My husband wished me “good luck” and I was off!
I was too anxious to try to figure out a subway route from my midtown hotel to the ferry terminal, so I hailed a taxi and ate my breakfast (peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a banana) on the way downtown. The ride was quite fast and there was no traffic until about a block away from the terminal.
The ferry terminal was, not surprisingly, a hub of activity. There were thousands of people and several NYPD officers. I was able to get on the first ferry (the 7:00) that arrived after I arrived at the terminal and managed to snag a seat inside, where it was toasty and warm. I struck up a conversation with another friendly runner and finished the rest of my sandwich, which I basically had to choke down for lack of appetite and nerves. Although I really enjoyed talking to my fellow marathoner, I kind of wish I had gotten up to take some photos of the views along the ferry ride. I have been to New York many times and had never seen the Statute of Liberty. I thought I would see it on the ferry but I was too busy chatting it up with my seatmate and shoving food in my mouth. Oh well–next time!
We arrived on Staten Island around 7:30 and, again, it was really crowded. Many people had decided to stay in the terminal to stay warm rather than move on to the start village. There were hundreds of people sitting on the floor, even in the main pathways, and some of the NYPD officers were more than a little irritated about it. We snaked through the crowds in the terminal and went out to get on the buses.
The bus line was kind of a mess. About 8 to 10 buses would arrive at a time and take on as many people as they could fit. I had to wait about a half hour to get on a bus because the volunteers weren’t running the lines first come, first served. My bus seatmate was a really nice guy from Princeton, NJ. NYCM was his first marathon and he told me that he felt a little undertrained because his longest long run was 12 miles. I tried to be as diplomatic and positive as possible, assuring him he would probably do great as long as he took walk breaks during water stops, but internally I was shocked. Wow. Do people really do that when they train for marathons? I guess they do. I hope the race went well for him!
We arrived at Fort Wadsworth, the race’s staging area, around 8:30. I was started to get nervous because I had to go to the bathroom, the clock was ticking, and didn’t know how long the portapotty lines were going to be for such a gigantic race. NYPD officers were waiting for us where the buses dropped us off. They waved those security wands over us and searched our bags. It was surprisingly smooth and efficient. Then I started wandering towards the Orange Wave start village, which was easy to find. The portapotties were plentiful and I had no difficulty taking care of business, sitting for a bit in my start village, shedding my stylish throwaway clothes (damn it!) and then making my way to my corral.
My corral closed about a half hour before my wave started, which meant we were trapped in there from about 9:35 until 10:05. Fortunately, there were portapotties in there so everyone who needed to use one could (thereby negating the need for anyone to pee off the top level of the Verrazano Bridge–a big no-no per NYRR). At 9:35, we heard a very loud “BANG” that startled many of us in the corral (self included). It sounded like a bomb exploding but was actually the cannon that started the first wave of runners.
Finally, around 10:00, we started moving forward out of our corral holding area and around the Ft. Wadsworth grounds to the bridge’s toll plaza. It was almost time! Holy crap!