Endless Runners, Perfect Weather, New Champions, Missing Cheers, and my Best Attempt @ the TCS New York City Marathon this year!

Ready, set, go…

Four times brings the charm. Who knew! Yep. Here I am once more, my fourth time, recapping the New York City Marathon. Thankfully, it’s my last! Back in 2014 when I had then decided that I would run this course until I was comfortable with the results, I never dreamed it would take four attempts. Well here we are five years later, and I’ve finally decided to call it quits and it’s hardly because I’ve finally run a “good” race. That in and of itself is arguable and only a small part of my decision to make this my last NYC marathon. What is closer to the truth is that I’m over fighting this race: the course, my body, and the change in weather, and the fact that over the years each time I stood in Staten Island toeing the startline, I have been somewhat incapacitated with everything from a sprain ankle to the flu. I’ve finally had enough and so I’m quitting while I’m ahead. It helps me feel better that I met my goal of finishing under 3 hours and 40 minutes though just barely. Many of my friends point out that this year I’ve had to deal with just a cold and cough so things are progressing..the cheek!..and point to this being my best time even so; therefore I couldn’t be serious. I am! For the foreseeable future, I will be leaving well enough alone and spreading my adventurous wings elsewhere. That being said, I have enjoyed the running challenge that this wonderfully diverse city has handed me. Many will agree that there is nothing straight forward or easy about the NYC Marathon. Fun tangential fact: many New Yorkers will also agree that there’s nothing straight forward or easy about living in NY either. LOL. In fact, of the eleven other courses I’ve run around the country, this course remains the most challenging outside of a Ragnar event I did in Cape Cod two years ago. The attraction for this race for many runners, I believe, is its location and famed one million strong spectators.

On to Marathon Village we go

This year was better than most as far as the weather was concerned. It began at 5:30 am with a 40 minute ride to the start in Staten Island via the midtown bus option, my preferred mode of transport now that I’ve had a go at the various options. We got off the busses to the usual flow of runners – hundreds of us – making our way to the security check point and through to marathon village. Windy and Staten Island is all the same with the water around us so you can appreciate that 7 am was no picnic but more like a refugee zone  with everyone staking out a bit of sunshine, covering – a rare sight- or a break from the wind behind a tarp, or under a blanket, or blankets, or covered up in just about any and everything warm you could legally bring into the area, right there in the middle of everything and everyone.

the masses cloak and dagger style

We were all layered up to our eyes and reaching out to the free buffet of coffee, tea, hot water, hot cocoa, and bagels courtesy the super amazing folks of Dunkin Donuts. No donuts though. I know! In any event we had lots to eat and hydrate us until start time, which in my case came soon enough as I was in the first wave and carded to start at 9:45 am.

they say it’s therapeutic

It helped some when I ran into some runners from my running group and we sorta hung out; got to pet the therapy dogs, visited the bathroom, took a couple pics, and then it was time to head to our assigned corrals. Apparently time flies when you’re hopping to keep the blood flowing.

Into the corrals we flowed and there were lines everywhere for the bathrooms, which I decided I definitely had to have a go at once more before the race started. But things were moving along nicely, though albeit too orderly – did I really have to stand in one line and wait my turn? I mean, come on! Cooling my heels in this cold? I had a race to run! Fine, so did everyone. And that’s how chill took on two very different meanings. Pretty soon it was our turn and we were moving and headed towards the Verrazano bridge and the start.

the bridge

It just never gets old on the top looking out: runners are divided into two groups when headed towards the bridge, some go under while others get the top – my preferred view – to ensure a smoother and safer start given the large number.

giving us the send off

On the bridge we can see the helicopters (NYPD and news) and cameras, the elite runners starting out, race officials and other VIP personnel. More importantly, we have an amazing view of the water as we run across the bridge to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s New York and into Brooklyn.

On the Verrazano Bridge

This year I stopped to snap a

on the Verrazano Bridge

few pics and strangely enough totally missed hearing Sinatra during my run across. I’m sure they started playing it eventually, Wave 1 was a big wave of runners after all.  Guess I’m just spoiled from the previous times.

selfie on the VB

Running through Brooklyn is always a huge hit. It is the most densely populated of all the boroughs in NYC and boy do they represent. Only this time I felt the crowds on Fourth Ave were a bit sparse here and there. Again, I’m just spoiled and feel confident that I’ve experienced a better showing at this race. Lafayette Ave is always a total scream show, it did not disappoint, miles 8-10 were amazing. Brooklyn remains my favorite part of the marathon course mainly because of the noisely cheering crowds and the fact that I’m usually still feeling great and running as strong as possible under whatever the prevailing circumstances are at the time. We entered the borough of Queens around mile 13 and I’m never looking forward to the advent of bridges on this rolling course much less to the mile-long Queensboro Bridge. The promise of a million spectators cheering for you on First Avenue in Manhattan is hard to beat though so that’s the head space I occupied while running those four miles in Queens. The crowds are never as large or as loud in this borough but they’re decent enough and hugely appreciated by all. Up till then, I’d been doing a good job of staying wide of the fuel stations so as not to get bogged down by runners in the rush to grab a drink. My strategy was to hit every other station and stick to the outer end. It worked to keep a steady momentum and to avoid any slip ups. Those volunteers though, were pulling double duty with their smiling, cheering, while serving us. Truly the best and the backbone of an event such as this.

Queensboro bridge is memorable because of its quiet – no spectators here – and the laboring breath of runners as we dig deep on its ascent. One miles feels more like two and I suppose everyone was glad when they finally began its descent to First Ave and the crowds, it has always been a welcome sight and sound to runners as we enter the borough of Manhattan. Only this time it wasn’t party as usual, the crowds appeared pushed back somewhat as you came off the bridge and the sea of spectators that are usually right there waiting weren’t. The question came up with some runners behind me, who appeared to be visitors, as they wondered aloud about the famed cheer crowd at this location. I offered that they should give it a minute and they would be sure to get that promised standing ovation, thinking that maybe the push back of the crowd meant that the cheers were imminent, except that never quite happened. For as I made my way under the bridge and onto first avenue while the crowds were there, for the most part anyway, they were not nearly as deafening as they’re so famous for. In fact, as my run slowly progressed up the avenue the crowds were downright thin in some areas and almost quiet in others. I thought about this for a few seconds then realized that that which I thought would be helpful at this point was not going to happen. I needed a distraction there and then, my feet were numb from my bad choice in shoes and my knees were beginning to hurt like hell. Support wasn’t coming on the waves of the crowd that day and so I did the only thing I could think of – I video-called my sister in Trinidad and allowed her chatter (which I couldn’t hear a lick of LOL) and excitement (no sense in not showing her what I was a part of) to push me up First Ave and all the way over the Willis Avenue Bridge and into the Bronx.

In the past when I had run through this area I had always been aware that Manhattan wasn’t far away; race day was no different. Six miles to go and I realized that it was pretty neat that I was actually going for another finish at this race that had plagued me in my inability to run it well and finish strong. At that point I started focusing on keeping a consistent pace and giving the fuel stations a wider berth. I also refused to look at my clock anymore from then, it was not helpful and I just couldn’t deal with another disappointment just then.

We were in Harlem and closing down on Fifth Avenue – my least favorite part of the race – mainly because it just wouldn’t quit and by then I was so ready to be done already. In hindsight, I have never really enjoyed this part of the race because of my get-to-the-finish-mindset. I’ve never taken the time to appreciate the hundreds of spectators lining the roadway screaming their hearts out with encouragement, maybe if I had been able to tap into that it would have inspired a more positive response at that point in the race. In any event, we eventually came to Engineer’s Gate entrance to Central Park and I’ll tell you right now, it felt amazing to be home. Yes, Central Park is my running home, so I was now on home turf and slowly closing in. With the help of the crowds and the familiarity of the course, I was able to pick up the pace a bit going down Cat Hill, and it lasted untill we turned off to head out to Central Park South. Then it was back to plodding away for the final mile, though I did try somewhat successfully, to focus on the spectators on this final leg and was ecstatic to find myself sooner that I expected back in the park with 800 meters to go. On the final run up, I was able to locate and touch the Trinidad and Tobago flag – as I have always done – and sprinted to the finish line to make it there in 3:39:41. Another one in the books and an apple for my efforts. While I’m not at all certain that was my best effort, it certainly was the best result I’ve had on this course. As to my best effort, I’m hardly itching to find out. 😜

I can still walk!

                          🍎🏅💐

Running Dreams: The TCS New York City Marathon

Source: getty images

Only those who dare to dream long enough and work hard enough will ever have a true shot at something grand enough to make believing worthwhile.

Last Sunday over 50,000 runners lived that dream at the TCS New York City Marathon. For some it was their first, while for others it may be their only or their last. Still, there are those who do this regularly, and for such as these, it never gets old. Regardless, I’m almost certain it was a defining moment for most, if not all, of them. I mean it was pretty defining with an American woman winning in the women’s category for the first time in forty years. Congratulations to Shalane Flannigan! For each runner though, their victory was just as important and valid. While many of us can talk a good talk, it takes so much more to run a marathon, half marathon or any endurance race that requires months of training. It takes grit, passion, determination, fortitude, sacrifice, and vision. No one gets up one day and decides to run a marathon tomorrow, it requires months of planning and preparation and all of this for one day, one race – a moment in time – and a medal, or so it seems.

In fact, many runners will dispute the notion of running for “just a medal.” For them, their sacrifices of time, effort, energy, pain etc., is worth the immeasurable feelings of pride, passion and purpose they experience every single time. Take all of that, times a hundred, and what you have is the resulting glory that is running and finishing the TCS New York City Marathon. It has the largest field size, the biggest spectator size, and the most volunteers compared to any other marathon around the world. And if that isn’t enough to entice your competitive and inspiring spirit, then the fact that it’s run as the most diverse and patriotic, yet inclusive, melting pot of humanity in the largest street party in one of the most renowned cities of the world ought to surely secure this momentous achievement high up on your bucket list.

The truth is while a lot of this sounds really grand, the average runner, the one who runs an average of 25-35 miles per week, is the one, forget the fanfare of running New York, who sees running a marathon or completing an endurance race as an opportunity to let the sport speak to their sense of determination, commitment, and tenacity. It’s a statement to anyone who’s listening that, ” Hey, I’m stronger, tougher and so much more able than you think!”

In a world gone crazy with all the violent acts being visited on citizens almost daily, we had that here in New York just days before the race, there is an indelible need to have an impact, to make our own positive mark and inspire others to do the same. In the face of evil, adversity and turmoil, nothing says “F you” like the communal spirit that is the marathon. And so crossing the finish line and getting that medal whether in New York, Bejing, London, or any other city, here in the United States or around the world, allows us to not only fulfill a dream, but it is our determined effort to face down life’s adversity and own the moment we deserve. Meanwhile, we get to wear the crown of our victory forever and will take all the bragging rights that goes along with it. #BADASSWARRIOR

Source: eBay

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