Every year since I’ve lived in NYC, I’ve cheered on marathoners running the streets of New York in the beginning of November. Every year I’ve said, I’m going to run it one day. This year, I did! And, as I had posted on Facebook after the race, two words sum up the experience – awesome and tiring!
The New York Marathon is one big block party. The media buzz all around New York propels and enhances the excitement of the city. Every year various world-class runners and celebrities mix in with ordinary runners. Everyone remembers the Chilean miner who ran the marathon last year. This year the big news was that Apolo Ohno was running the marathon. With this kind of attention and publicity, it’s no surprise that marathon day is the one day every year that New Yorkers come out in the thousands to cheer on runners of all ages, ethnicities, class level, etc.
The three months of training prior to the race, were not easy. The foresight, research, organizational and planning skills PR practitioners use in their jobs were put to good use. I researched various training schedules, chose the one that worked for me and plotted out my running schedule for the next three months. When I completed a run, I’d check it off the schedule. Sometimes I’d have to rearrange my workouts on a weekly basis to fit them in with other commitments. Often, I would leave work on a Thursday or Friday and run anywhere from 13-20 miles around Manhattan and/or home to Brooklyn; many weeks saw me awake at 6am three or four days during the week for a four- to six-mile run; or I’d have to make sure there was time on a vacation to complete my miles for the week.
Sunday, November 6 was race day, and I was excited and nervous. I hadn’t slept well the night before and had set two alarm clocks just to make sure I was up at 5am and didn’t miss the ferry. Despite trying to remain quiet and not wake my parents and sister, who had flown in from California for the occasion, my Dad woke up, kept me company while I got ready and walked me out the door. I was glad for the distraction. Nerves set in again as it seemed like forever for the train to come. Once I got to the ferry station, excitement took over.
It was complete organized chaos - from boarding the ferry until I got to the starting line. For having to deal with 44,000 runners, the New York Road Runners did an amazing job making sure everyone was where they needed to be and when they needed to be there.
The crowds are what make the marathon spectacular. The entire 26.2 mile route had tons of supporters with signs, both funny and inspirational. Spectators cheered everyone on – whether they knew you or not. If your name was on your shirt, they’d shout for you. If you were wearing a shirt with the Italian flag they’d shout “Go Italy.” Worst case, they’d just shout and holler like banshees. When a runner they knew came by, groups would go crazy! The energy from the crowd kept you going and when you saw someone you knew, it feels as though you could sprout wings in your chest and fly away. There were little kids giving out high fives. Every mile had a different band, DJ, choir group, elementary school concert band or some sort of music blaring. Some spectators took it upon themselves to blast music to help runners along. Others handed out Gu, bananas and paper towels, in addition to the volunteers passing out water, Gatorade and wet sponges. There were people in costumes – both runners and spectators alike. I think the spectators were having as much fun if not more than the runners. I couldn’t stop smiling for the first 13 miles.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely hit the wall - at about mile 20 - but the crowds keep you going and make you want to finish, as do the other runners. At no point are you alone, and even though I didn’t know anyone else running, there was a certain camaraderie. Finishing was amazing. You realize you’ve just run 26.2 miles through the closed-off streets of Manhattan in front of two million spectators and the exhaustion and pain settle in next to the euphoria.
When asked if I’d run another marathon, my answer is two-fold: I’d definitely run the NYC marathon again and I might do a different one, but only if I have someone to train and run it with. It was my sister’s first time watching the marathon in person and she loved it so much that she’s trying to convince me to run one with her, so we’ll see…