Thursday, October 30, 2008

New York vs. MCM

Martin, over at Running Ramblings, mentioned on one of his recent shows that he would be interested in what I thought about the New York City Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. Here are my thoughts:

The New York City Marathon expo had a lot more to offer than the MCM expo. The first thing I noticed about the MCM expo is lack of "official" MCM products. There was a decent selection of Men's and Women's running shirts, shorts, jackets, socks etc.... but not much beyond that. At the NYCM expo, I remember purchasing a teddy bear for my daughter and a bell for my grandmother (she has a bell collection). I also remember seeing snowglobes, books, shot cups, etc.... The only non-running items I saw at the MCM expo were pint glasses and coffee mugs. There were also running "celebrities" at the NYCM walking around and at various booths. For example, Bart Yasso, from Runner's World, was hanging out the RW booth. At MCM he was only at the "expert booth" at scheduled times.

"Official" T-Shirt:
The thing I like about the NYCM shirt is that it was a long sleeved tech shirt. I run in it quite often during the fall months. The MCM official shirt is a non-running mock turtle neck. I definitely can see myself wearing it on a Sunday afternoon with a pair of jeans. But part of me thinks that a tech shirt should be given out at all marathon expos.

Number of Participants:
NYCM is much bigger than MCM. NYCM has about 35K+ plus finishers whereas MCM had only 18K+ finishers this year. Aside from the first few miles, I did not feel as crowded in DC as I did in New York. I was defintely able to settle into a good pace at MCM. Granted, NYCM was my first marathon and I didn't know as much.

Start/Runner's Village:
I loved the fact that I wasn't stuck at the MCM runner's village for 3 hours before the race. There were people walking off the Metro at 7:00 - 7:15 for an 8:00 start in DC. In NY, all runners must be at Fort Wasdworth, Staten Island by 7:00 a.m. for a 10:00 a.m. start. That's a long time to be sitting out in the cold before a race. With that said, the NYCM race organizers did a good trying to make the atmosphere in Staten Island festive for the participants by supplying live music.

The start of NYCM was absolutely dreadful. It took me at least 30 minutes, maybe a little more, to cross the start line after the gun went off. At MCM, I crossed the start line within 2 - 3 minutes.

I'm no expert but from what I've been told, NYCM is a tougher course than MCM. The first mile of NYCM is uphill on the Verrazano Bridge. The other 4 bridges, 1st and 5th Aves. are tough as well. The were 2 hills early on at MCM and the cruel uphill finish at the end. Other than that it was mostly flat. However, there were certain parts of the MCM course that did not have much to offer visually. MCM made up for it with the miles on the National Mall. Yes, running through NYC's diverse neighborhoods is cool but I have pictures of me running on the Mall with both the Capitol and Washington Monuments behind me. The NYCM course doesn't take you past any landmarks.

Crowd Support:
NYCM wins this hands down. There was not one part of the course where the crowd was not 5 or 6 deep. New Yorkers embrace the marathon and come out to party. There were many parts of the MCM I felt I was running in a small town 5K or 10K where there were only a handful of people cheering the runners on. Even on the Mall, where I expected tons of people, the crowd support was sparse.

Finishing Area & Finisher's Medal:
The finisher's chute at NYCM was terrible. Shortly after crossing the finish line , things came a complete stop. There's nothing worse than having to stand still right after running a marathon. I don't remember how long I waited to get my heat sheet, medal, food bag, and my clear plastic bag from the UPS truck but it must have been a good 30 to 40 minutes. I didn't bother to wait on line for the finishers photo because there was nothing special about it. All it was a photo with the typical New York Road Runners backdrop. At the time, I thought the NYCM finisher's medal was nice. It will always be special since it was my first marathon.

I thought the MCM's finisher's chute was pretty efficient for a big marathon. Things didn't come to a complete stop after crossing the finish line. I immediately recieved my heat sheet, water, Powerade, and food bag. My only complaint about the food bag is that there was no bagel in the bag as advertised on their website. Right after that a U.S. Marine awarded me my finisher's medal, which is much bigger, heavier, and nicer than NYCM's. Unlike NY, I waited for the finisher's photo at MCM. I barely had to wait to have my picture taken in front of the Iwo Jima memorial. One more thing, there was no wait for chip returns at MCM because a disposable tag was used.

Final Thoughts:
Despite the crowds before, during, and after NYCM, it is still a race that every marathoner should run once. You probably won't PR at NYCM but it's one big party for 26.2 miles.

While MCM disappointed in crowd support, it certainly made up for it with the course and the Marines. Lastly, MCM is a race you can race to acheive a PR, I did!

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