Thursday, November 11, 2010

New York City Marathon: The View From 86th & 1st

The New York City Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart. For those of you that don't know, the 2007 New York City Marathon was my first marathon. Immediately after finishing my first 26.2, I knew I had become addicted.I knew that I would want to run another marathon (I've run 3 marathons since NYCM 2007). For quite a while, I was not the biggest fan of New York City. It was a place I come to work and couldn't wait to go home to New Jersey. September 11, 2001 changed that. We all know what happened that day. The way the City came together that day and in the aftermath of the worst acts of terror on American soil made an everlasting impression on me. I appreciate the City in ways that I didn't think possible The 2007 New York City Marathon solidified that feeling. The volunteers, the crowds, and my fellow runners reminded me why NYC is the greatest city in the world. 

This past Sunday was no different. I had trouble sleeping. I woke up a number times throughout the night afraid that I was going to miss my alarm. My body thought it had to run a marathon that morning when in reality all it had to run was 1:15 in HR zone 2 with 3 minute surges every 20 minutes. I had some extra pep in my stride. I ran 8.87 in 1:15:47 for an 8:33 average pace. One of the best runs I've had in a while.

I got into the City around 10:00, about an hour after the elite women started their race. 1st Avenue was quiet and peaceful and few spectators lined the sidewalks. A few minutes later the lead wheelchair racers are flying down 1st Avenue. The few spectators that were there cheered them on and screamed words of encouragement. I saw youngish gentleman with 2 prosthetic legs fall. With the help of guides, he picked himself up, brushed himself off and continued his 26.2 mile tour of New York City. Everyone cheered and clapped and urged him to keep going.  Disabled athletes are inspiring. They do not let their disability get in the way of doing what they love.

After the wheelchair racers came through, a few people around me asked me if the elite women came through yet. "Not yet, but soon" I replied. Then we saw it, the police escort, the lead car, and the lead pack. I spotted Shalane Flanagan comfortably tucked in the pack. I would later find out that she would take 2nd in her debut marathon. Last year's winner, Derartu Tulu was not in the pack. She ran by a few minutes after the leaders. It was not her day.

Then it was time to wait again. More spectators filled 1st Avenue. They were anticipating the elite men. They were expecting to see world record holder Halie Gebrselassie and  last year's New York City Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi at the front of the pack going stride for stride. I was shocked when I didn't Geb or Meb in the lead pack. I saw Meb and Ritz running together about 30 - 40 seconds behind the leaders but where was Geb? I learned from an iPad holding spectator next to me that he dropped out of the race at mile 16, which is just before entering Manhattan from Queens. Meb would finish 6th and Ritz 8th.

Then it got fun. First the local elites started trickling down 1st Avenue. I saw Brad and Kate, coaches from Wednesday night speed at Paragon Sports. The first of my friends that I saw was Dr. Lam. New York was his victory lap and homecoming after breaking 3:00 in Chicago a few weeks ago. He stopped to give me a high five and ran on. I had so many friends running the race that I knew I wasn't going to see all of them. Turns out I didn't see any of them after Lam. Not Elyssa, not Amy, Carlos, Joey, Erika, Sharon, Maria. Where was everyone? I realized that, because of the wave start, not everyone started at 10:00. I had to leave at 12:30 which meant they probably haven't hit Manhattan yet. Before I left, I managed to spot Bobby Flay. The only thing that differentiated him from the other 45,000 runners was the word "Bobby" on his bib instead of a number. Bobby would finish in 4:01:XX.

Even though I didn't see as many friends as I would have liked, it was still an amazing day. I had so much fun watching from the side. Spectating at any marathon is fun. If you haven't watched a marathon from the side, I highly suggest you do.

Congratulations to all of the finishers!

Did you think I wouldn't take any pictures?
I was standing next to a group supporting runners from Austria

The calm before the storm 1st Ave. at 10:00 am
Wheelchair Racers

Here's the aforementioned disabled runner who would fall, get up, and keep going
Lead women's race car. Just north of mile 18

Elite Women
Lead Car for the Elite Men. I was a few blocks south of mile 18
Meb and Ritz
2004 New York Marathon winner Hendrik Ramaala
Local Elites
Runners in Central Park. 2 miles to go

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