In continuation of an eventful autumn, just 4 weeks after collecting my third World Major star at the Chicago Marathon, it was time for another adventure. Once again I made my way across the Atlantic, but this time headed to the Big Apple, New York City!
As it was my first visit to the city, I flew in on the Wednesday before the race to give myself a good few days for sightseeing. For two days – I packed in as much as I could, the marathon expo, Central Park, epic views from the top of the Rockefellar Center and two incredible guided food tasting tours of Greenwich Village and Chinatown. I have to admit, racking up a huge number of steps per day is not amazing pre-marathon prep, but I couldn’t miss my one opportunity to see everything! It was really noticeable how much of the city was instantly recognizable from movies and TV shows. One morning, I turned a corner to find myself right outside the Ghostbusters firestation! (I loved those movies!) That same afternoon, my stroll back from Greenwich village took me right past the Friends apartment, and up to Carrie Bradshaw’s front steps – where they were actually filming a new episode of the Sex and The City spin-off!
Saturday was time for a little indulgence. As a keen parkrun tourist, I always try to visit the local run whenever I am away. The US has a handful of parkrun venues, none close enough to visit on my trip to Chicago, but this trip to NYC presented another opportunity to add the American flag to my parkrun results page. Delaware and Raritan canal parkrun sits over in New Jersey, a short journey away from the city, although slightly awkward to reach by public transport. Luckily for me, an enterprising parkrun tourist had arranged a hire coach to transport 56 of us directly from Times square straight to the parkrun, making the journey completely stress-free. The run itself was beautiful, out-and-back along the peaceful canal, lined in glorious red and yellow autumnal trees. There was only one slight issue, the morning was already sunny, warm and very humid. Not normally an issue of course, but I was very mindful that we had a marathon to run the next day, and this 5km already felt harder than usual! In fact, for the previous few days, everyone talked about how unseasonably hot the weather was for November – ideal for sightseeing, but for running 42.2km? I was starting to get worried!
Before I knew it, Sunday had rolled around – it was race day! The start of the race was over on Staten Island, which meant an early start to head down to the race village. A short subway ride brought me down to the southernmost tip of Manhattan, where runners were congregating en masse to board the Staten Island ferry. I had been saving up this most iconic of New York sights for this very moment, the sun rising as we sailed gently past the Statue of Liberty. After the ferry came a much less relaxing experience, an absolutely mad scramble for shuttle buses which took nearly two hours! I really hope this part of the morning is improved on for next year as it was total chaos. Having finally boarded a shuttle bus, we were driven the short distance to the starting area with barely any time to lose. I quickly dropped off my warm layers and made my way straight into the starting pen. The national anthem was sung, a huge cannon blasted, and the voice of Frank Sinatra came over the loudspeakers..’Start spreading the news….’ We were off!
The first two miles took us over the Verazzano bridge, a long sweeping uphill for the first mile, helicopters circling overhead and an incredible view of the city off to the side. We swept down to the mainland, already in the second of New York’s five boroughs, Brooklyn. After the long bridge it was fantastic to be back among the crowds lining the sides of the roads, and I settled in to a rhythm as the miles started to pass by. However, by six miles, I was already starting to worry. The sun was beating down hard and with 90% humidity in the air, I was already feeling the strain much more than at this point in Chicago. Just then, an alert from the race organisers flashed up on my watch “WARNING: Due to high temperatures we are changing the event status from GREEN to YELLOW. Please consider slowing down”. I put all thoughts of a fast time aside at that point, this was going to be all about getting round happily, in one piece, and enjoying the sights. I made sure to visit every water station, taking on electrolytes, and allowed myself a short walking break every km.
The journey up through Brooklyn and Queens seemed to take up the bulk of the midsection of the race. Spectators were out in force now, and every single person who cheered and shouted out my name gave me that little extra boost. Mile 15-16 presented for me the most significant challenge of the race, the Queensboro Bridge. Suddenly, the crowds disappeared and we found ourselves plunged into the eerie silence and darkness of the covered bridge. NYC really means business when it comes to it’s bridges, and this was no exception. The climb to the top was a solid kilometre, sapping yet more of the dwindling energy reserves in my legs. I emerged, blinking into the sunlight, with ten gruelling miles to go.
The final portion of the race encompassed a quick tour through the Bronx before returning, thankfully over a much smaller bridge this time, back to Manhatten. The end was finally in sight! Crowds were lining the side of the road several deep as we plodded ever onwards, finally reaching the turn into Central Park. This last section was possibly my favourite despite feeling utterly exhausted by this point. The final couple of miles wound up and down along the tree-lined path, spectators screaming with excitement as the red leaves of autumn fell gently over us. The final turn came into sight, followed by the finish line. Everything was a bit of a blur as volunteers wrapped the runners up in finishers robes and placed medals over our weary heads.
I’m so grateful to have had the chance to run such an iconic race, with 48,000 finishers it was truly a day to remember. This was by far the toughest of my 4 marathon majors, the inclines and heat testing every ounce of my mental and physical strength to get round. Thank you to everyone who helped with my training, and sent messages on the day to keep me going!
So what next? Watch this space! And let me know which of the marathon majors was your favourute?