Wednesday, November 16, 2016
The TCS New York City Marathon Race Report

Okay, so better late than never!  I know it’s been nearly a week since I promised part 2 of this series on the New York City Marathon.  Unfortunately I had some family situations come up that took me from the area over the weekend and catching back up on work, sleep, and life in general has kept me from writing this post.  I always say if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right.  I really wanted to give this the time necessary to write it correctly and not just throw something together.  Given that my Penguins are getting hammered after one period, I thought I’d finally sit down and share my TCS New York Marathon experience.  So without further delay…

Sunday, November 6, 2016
4:40 a.m.

I can only hope that I run as fast as I slept because the alarm seemed to be going off no sooner than I closed my eyes.  Just like the Boston Marathon five years ago, the New York City Marathon is a mid-morning start that requires an early wake-up call due to the logistics of transporting so many people out to the start of a point-to-point race.  Just like I’ve done many times before I enjoy my peanut butter and jelly bagel with Gatorade.  Unfortunately I did not locate corn bread muffins so i go without them.  I do have plenty of other items to take with me to the starting area including Clif Bars and my silent secret; Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies.

This is the first time Becky doesn’t join me in leaving our hotel since my first leg requires a short walk to the subway where I have to hop a train that will take me to the New York Public Library.  My bus departure is scheduled for 5:30 a.m. so I intend to leave around 5:10 a.m.  However, I am moving fairly slow and don’t realize what time it is until almost 5:15 so I hurriedly run out and down to the corner where I head underground and wait for the train.  Last year in Washington D.C. the subways were extremely crowded and I’m not sure why I expected more of the same but this is totally different.  I find that there are only a handful of people at my stop waiting for the D train.  Two guys are talking to one another but I keep to myself hoping that small talk is not in my future.  When the guy from Texas finishes bending the ear of the other guy he walks over to me and attempts to talk to me about summer training and the last race he ran.  I mostly listened but didn’t really engage in too much conversation.  I’m tired, a bit worried, and I’m not the most social person at 5:30 a.m.  One piece of critical information he shares with me is that the train is supposed to arrive at 5:39.  Although I feel like I might miss my bus loading time I’m comfortable knowing I’m going to get on a bus and get taken to the starting line.

Inevitably the train arrives and takes us to the library where I estimate that we have to take about a 1/2 mile walk once the train stops before we exit the stairs onto 42nd Street.  Although there is a short wait, they keep the lines moving and within minutes I’m moved onto a comfort bus (not a school bus) and because I’m one of the first to get on I pick a second row seat (quicker exit) and settle in by the window.  A gentleman gets on and takes the seat next to me and as he sits down he says, “hola,” to which I reply, “hello.”  It’s the last we will speak to one another.  The bus ride is fairly uneventful, but traffic is a bit backed up as we approach the Verrezano-Narrows Bridge.  We cross on the lower deck so I will not see the actual part of the bridge we will run on until later.

After we arrive we exit just before the toll booth and then more walking.  By the time we enter the starting village, I go through the metal detectors, grab a couple cups of free Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and head to my assigned corral area (Blue), I probably walk another mile and a half.  As the breeze has picked up, I find a nice spot of grass tucked in by a fence and a small hedge-type bush where I lay out my heat blankets I’ve brought with me and I plug in my phone for a quick charge.  I’ve brought two small chargers with me anticipating the long period of time I will need my phone to stay juiced up.  I will throw one of the chargers away (it was a conference giveaway and I’ve got several of them).  Perhaps someone else will pick it up and find some use for it.  We already will throw away a ton of clothing into the bins they have set up for Goodwill.  If you’re not familiar with marathons and other distance races, it is common for runners to purchase clothing that we will discard at or near the starting line after it has served its purpose.  Race organizers pick up the “throwaways” and provide them to the homeless and others in need.

Just as I was getting comfortable (as comfortable as one can be laying on the ground), I felt the familiar pressure in my bladder telling me it was time to relieve myself.  Not a huge surprise after two large Gatorade’s, half a water, and two small cups of coffee.  Since I was in an earlier bus departure, the crowds are large, but nothing like they will be in another hour or so.  By the time I pack everything up, go to the bathroom, and return to my spot I have an hour and a half remaining before I’ll head to the starting line.  I remember thinking that I was glad it wasn’t raining or it would really be miserable.

After an hour or so of tossing and turning I have to relieve myself again and this time there is a line a mile long.  I figure my “rest” is over, and plan to head to the starting corral whenever it is I finally get to use the bathroom.  Eventually I do get to take my turn and head over to the Goodwill bin where I start to remove my outer layers.  It’s just about this time I hear the announcement, which has been alternating between English and at least ten other languages, that Wave 2 corrals (the one I’m in) will close in five minutes.  I begin to panic a bit and hurriedly put my things together for the run before jogging over to the corrals.  When i arrive I notice that they are extremely crowded and bottle-necked at the entrances to the corrals themselves.  As I zip around a few runners to keep moving forward toward my corral I notice an orange road cone and quickly step around it.  What I didn’t realize is that it was there most likely to cover a piece of metal that was sticking up out of the ground a few inches.  Too late, just as I see it, I literally kick it with my left big toe as hard as I’ve ever kicked anything in my life.  The pain shoots up through my shin and I yell out an expletive I’d rather not mention here.  Still, I need to get to my corral so I push forward trying to shake it out.

In my haste I move ahead to B Corral where I settle in and try to wiggle my way forward.  Just then I hear some commotion behind me and the sea parts a bit to allow about a dozen U.S. Marshals to go through.  As the last one passes I use it as an opportunity to slide in behind them and I get up to 2nd or 3rd from the entrance.  Just then I realize that I’m at the wrong corral.  My starting corral is corral C.  I note this as I see the woman who is checking bibs send a gentleman back.  The blood begins to rush to my stomach and I realize that if I don’t get into this corral I might not get to start at 10:15, which is my starting time.  As I reach the front I realize I have left a thin long sleeve shirt on which is hiding my bib.  Thankfully this provides me with an opportunity to quickly lift my shirt, showing my bib and keep moving trying to fool her.  Look like you belong there.  My plan works and I am in.  The start of the New York City Marathon is just moments away.  The only thing that remains is the half-mile walk from the starting village corrals to the starting line area at the edge of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  The sun is shining.  We stand for the national anthem and listen to the starting announcements.  As I look around all I see are helicopters with gunners hanging out the sides, a ladder company with firemen who have set themselves up near the starting line and a row of buses on either side of us that forms our starting corral.  I’ve never felt more safe at the start of a marathon, and this is the largest in the world.

I hear the cannon shot go off and we begin to move en masse toward the starting line.  The race is on.

Run on…

Coming Next: Part III; The Final Part

In the starging village.  Free coffee?  I'll take two!

In the starging village. Free coffee? I’ll take two!

My comfort accommodations near the bush that helped shield the wind.

My comfort accommodations near the bush that helped shield the wind.

Part of the long walk toward the starting line.

Part of the long walk toward the starting line.

A picture I took just before starting and sent it to Becky. Due to cell saturation, it never went through, so she didn't see it until I finished over 4 hours later.

A picture I took just before starting and sent it to Becky. Due to cell saturation, it never went through, so she didn’t see it until I finished over 4 hours later.

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Finally in the starting corral. That group in the center are the U.S. Marshals

Steps from the starting line between the buses that formed the starting corral.

Steps from the starting line between the buses that formed the starting corral.