In short, great adventure, fantastic day, amazing marathon, very proud of myself and Sal, feel motivated to keep running and great fast. Here are the photos of the marathon and of our time in New York with Mags and Mano.
My official results and a video of the highlights and the route
I was very nervous before the race, got taper crazy! I had trained throughout the year, but didn't feel I had done enough in the last months. My longest run was 25k and the following week I wanted to do 30K, but my left knee seized up half way round. This was bad psychologically, but probably helped me physically. I took it easier the last few weeks in the taper. I was scared about the marathon, because I knew how much it had hurt after London in 2001. I couldn't walk properly for weeks and didn't run again after that for several years. Anyway, running up to New York, I tapered, but everything in my legs ached and twinged!
On race day, we had breakfast in hotel at 0430 with hundreds of other runners then had an early morning walk though broadway to the marathon buses at New York Public Library. A sea of nervous runners. Felt like an early morning evacuation :-) The queues started there and last all day. The coach journey to State island took less than an hour. At Fort Wadsworth there were 3 separate start areas (we were green) and 4 waves - we were wave four, pen A. There were free hot drinks, bagels and hundreds of portaloos. Nowhere to sit, but on the ground, and no shelter. It was very cold. We were there at 7am and we gave in our bags at 10am to start queuing for the pen at 1020, to start at 1050am! It was a long, cold wait. We were able to dump/donate extra layers of clothes, but it was a tricky calculation!
We made friends in the queue and in the start pen, but before we knew it, "New York New York" was blasting over the loud speakers and then the start gun went! A flurry of starting iphone apps, garmins, and discarding layers of clothes. The Verrazano bridge is a double decked one and we were on the bottom layer, which was just as well, given the high winds. The Sunday was clear and sunny, but very cold and windy. Hard work running. Halfway across the bridge we had already done a mile and by the other side of the bridge, everyone was discarding more and more layers of clothings. It was a relief to be running and to be getting warm.
I had prepared an elaborate playlist, but I never used it or needed it. I was proud of that. I didn't need this safety crutch, there was so much going on around me. And for many miles, I was tracking our pace on the watch, but at some point I gave up. Our goals was to finish, to finish strong and to not get injured. Sub 6 hour was a secondary goal. My tactic was to run 9 minutes, walk 1 minute from the very start. It was hard to do this from the beginning, but it was important to do this pattern before getting fatigued. We kept 9:1 as long as possible - at around 18 or 19 miles we went to 4:1 which was a lot harder to keep to. We also walked through each water stop.
After coming off the Verrazano bridge, we were into Brooklyn for the next 8 miles or so, and boy did they have the best atmosphere and the best supporters! At about mile 5, all 3 starts joined. We "merged" from a quite side street onto a main street and it felt like joining a motorway of runners!
There was fantastic support. Lots of churches and congregations in the first miles. Lots of cheering, funny signs from supporters, people holding boxes of tissues. We had our first loo stop at about mile 5 by barging into a restaurant and begging for mercy! Later one, our supporters would suss out a kindly chinese restaurant and a hairdressers in the Bronx. I would sprint in, do my thing, say thanks, then sprint out again :-)
For funny signs, see below!
I saw 2 nuns at one point standing on the street, cheering us on. There were groups of trendy young new yorkers out on street having parties throughout the course, with sounds systems. There were also lots of roadside bands, including rappers in the Bronx. At one point I laughed out loud. Coming up to mile 9 in Brooklyn, we passed a large YMCA - all the supporters were playing the song on a loop, with actions, so all the runners joined in! The only quiet section was running through the jewish section of Queens. No support there at all, but old jewish men wandering across the road oblivious to the runners!
One of my highlights was seeing a big group of swiss supporters at road side and running over to them and shouting "Hopp schwiiz" and getting some high fives! We also saw lots of fire trucks and firemen watching the action. We took our time. We talked to fellow runners, stopped to take photos of the manhattan skyline and of course stopped when we met Mags & Mano our support teams!
Mags and Mano did a sterling jog and met us at miles 9, 12, 19, 23 - this was so fab! It just kept us going, particularly the 12 to 19 stretch. At mile 9, handed them my grey sweatshirt and took off my middle tshirt. They had signs, they shouted for us, they found us toilets and held my pain relief gel. They told us we looked great (even when we didn't) and they cheered on everyone else who was running with us!
We also passed some fantastic tshirt designs (on the back!)
"I thought this was a 5K"
"If you see me unconscious, pause my garmin"
On the subject of tshirts - I had bought transfers for us that had our names on the back of our shirts. I also bought sal a UK and a SA badge, and me a UK and a swiss flag. Near the start, someone behind me said "hey helen!" and I turned round, thinking someone knew me :-) Later on, someone passed me and said "Hopp Schwiiz". A guy stopped to talk to Sal about South Africa which was cool. We should have put our names on the front though - those people got lots of calls. We did run for a long time near a woman in a Statue of Liberty costume, so we revelled in her calls!
At mile 16, I remember thinking "I have 10 miles to go and this is now the furthest limit that I have ever run. This is "Neuland" ie the unknown. What will happen from here? just take it km by km". There was a marker every mile and strips to run over every 5km. We knew that Sal's Dad would automatically get a sms every 5km, so each time we passed one, we said to each other "hello Mr. Hawkins!" Unknown to me, lots of my friends and family were watching my progress online and sending my texts. But my iphone was playing up (I recharged it half way round), and a week after the marathon it finally died a slow death. I got all my texts the day after. A daughter of one friend refused to go to bed (ie 11pm in UK) until the website said that I had finished!
At Mile 16 we crossed the massively impressive and long Queensboro bridge from Brooklyn into Manhattan. As we were running, you could hear a thundering sound. As we came down onto First Avenue, we realized it was the sound of hundreds of supporters cheering. Generally there were lots of bridges and they had all bastard on ramps and slopes! The hard section was the section in Bronx where it as a bit of an industrial waste land. We lost all sense of time. We started at 1050 and finished just after 5pm. I remember passing a clock that said 1500 and being amazed it was so late.
For a long time we were running in sight of the 0530 pacing group, then later the 0545 group, but towards the end, our pace definitely slowed, although we were still running more than walking. It did get tough around 20 miles and I realized that my mantra of "slow, steady, stubborn but strong" was getting very hard to remember. I kept thinking about advice from 2 running friends Katie and Antonio - keep my head up, keep arms moving, "es passiert dir nicht". I don't ever remember thinking though that I would not finish the race. And I didn't seem to hit the wall.
After mile 23 and our final meet with M&M, it seemed to get cold and dark very quickly. For a long time, we ran parallel to Central Park, but weren't actually in it. Then we were in the park for a mile or so where we joined the 6 hour pacing group, running and walking. This got us through the next 2 miles. We realized too late though that they started after us at the start, so to get in under 6 hours, we needed to push ahead.
We ran a solid, faster final mile or two. It felt good to be passing people. The route took us out of central Park again. This last mile and a half was the hardest, we were so close, pushing so hard, but so tired! Finally we were back into the park and into the familiar final half mile. The last stretch was bit of a anticlimax, because suddenly we were across the line and getting our medals. I forgot to cheer and raise my arms across the line, so my photos look awful :-( But we got a good selfie of ourselves, then a nice official finisher photo with medal. Then I rang Alan and burst into tears of joy! I think I was incomprehensible "It was f*cking mad but I f*cking did it!" or words to that effect.
We then collected blankets, recovery bag and then a long long walk to get our baggage back. there were lots of medical personnel checking people out. It was lovely to see the same woman at our truck, who we had seen at 10am that morning. Then Sal managed to blag us a quick way out of the park, otherwise we would have been walking another half a mile. We belatedly realized that we were completely disorientated now, this was a another edge of the park and we didn't know how to walk back to the hotel. There were very few taxis and we were suddenly completely cold and exhausted. So we paid a ricksaw taxi a whole lot of dollars to get us back to the hotel, but money well spent!
We felt like rockstars afterwards. That evening and next day, everyone was wearing their medal (and it was a lovely bit of bling) around the hotel and even in the airport! When our official times came through, Sal beat me by a second, she got 06:05 on the nose. We crossed the finish line together, so she stole a march on me at the start! Afterwards she said to me that she was so proud of me, that I had run really well and really strongly, so much better than London, and that she as so happy that I had paced us and made the timing decisions. High praise coming from her.
I was proud of myself and still am. I was so scared before the marathon and so nervous. I felt I hadn't prepared enough, even though I have done so much running and gym work this year. I was scared, but I did it anyway. If I can do this, what else can I do? A true "Erfolgserlebnis". My motto from now on is to "get my new york on". I am so grateful for Alan helping me to do this, all the childcare when I was doing my long runs, enabling me to go away by myself for almost a week, figuring it out financially.
The rest of our (short) time in NY was fab. We arrive Thursday evening, went to the Marathon expo on Friday and afterwards took each other to lunch. Friday evening Sal treated us (mags, mano and I) to dinner on the 48th floor of the hotel in the revolving restaurant. Amazing views, food and gossip. On Saturday we did a quick 5K warmup run, then back to hotel for breakfast. Met Mags and Mano at hotel and planned our marathon day. We then did a little bit of sight seeing, including the African burial ground and the Twin Towers Memorial. The weather was foul - cold, grey, icy rain. Afterwards I found a local nail bar where I got manicure and eyebrow shape! Early to bed on Saturday evening, then up early for marathon on the Sunday.
After the marathon we met Mags & Mano in our hotel room, where they had fetched food and icepacks for knees! On Monday morning I booked 2 therapists to come to our room and do a sports massage (for me) and a pedicure for Sal. We then met Mags & Mano for a little stroll through Broadway to see the Empire State Building and have a spot of lunch. Our coach whisked us back to the airport mid afternoon and once at the airport we spent a hour or so in the priority lounge, before flying back to London!
*Dead Fucking Last is better than Did Not Finish is better than Did Not Start.