New York Marathon
Sunday, 3rd November 2019
Race Report by Dave Moir
It’s just a flesh wound.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a race report, but I just felt after this incredible experience, I really had to.
I flew out early, so spent best part of a week sight-seeing with my wife Emma and children Hope and Jake (all TBH members), and probably did more walking about than is sensible before a marathon, but it was well worth the effort.
We did however get a little held up in US customs by some guy who was arguing about bringing some mangoes into the country. The customs officials weren’t having any of it, so he eventually had to give them up (or return to Ethiopia on the next flight), so he used his discretion and handed the illegal fruit over.
After a lot of navigating around the City to see as many iconic landmarks as we could, race day came around quite quickly. I set my alarm for a very early start (4:15am) and booked a taxi for 4:45, in order to get to the Staten Island ferry by 5:30 as per the race organisers instructions.
So there I was, waiting outside the door at 4:45, and at 5:00am I decided to try to either make alternative arrangements or ring the taxi company. After failing to flag down a rather aggressive looking local gentleman, who may have assumed the panic stricken weirdo in paint splatted clothing (the organiser like people to not take a bag, but pick a poncho up at the end, so anything you wear to keep you warm before-hand, you throw away – hence my dishevelled appearance due to my decorating clothes that I wasn’t bothered about chucking) was trying to pinch his car. I then decided option two may be safer, so rang the taxi company.
Ringing the company in a complete flap, I was reliably informed, that in the US, the clocks also go back an hour this time of the year, and as it was last night it was now only 4:00am, and my taxi would be with me as agreed in ¾ of an hour. It gave me time to get my second cup of Yorkshire tea (took my own box of bags) and calm down a little.
At 4:40, my driver Dewey (or Doowee as they say in the New York) turned up, and he entertained me with his various theories on runners, and how he was expecting me to win, what with me being a professional and all. We did manage to agree that in the top 5000 would be OK out of the 53,500 that were running, so we parted ways with that agreement in place.
I got to the Staten Island ferry (which is a free ferry service all year round) at about 5:25 and made the 5:30 one that I thought I had to be booked on. We were then picked up at the other end and bussed to Fort Wadsworth, the whole trip taking a lot less than 90 minutes. I was in wave 1, which set off at 9:40 so had a lot of time to kill. After a free bagel, a banana and several more cups of Yorkshire (took my own bags), I headed to the therapy dogs area, and met a lovely five year old yellow Lab called Bob, who seemed very pleased with all the attention he was getting. We should try to set one of those up at the bridges race, but probably look for slightly calmer dogs than my yellow lab to sooth nerves.
Finally at about 9:10 we were called into our pens. I handed my throw away clothes into the recycling bins, feeling obliged to apologise for the state of them, as they were largely going to be recycled in some way. We were then let out onto the start line at the end of the bridge.
I had a chat with a couple of brits on the start line, one guy from Swansea kept me company pretty much for the first half of the race. After a rousing version of the “star spangled banner” from a lady on a microphone, we were set off on our way. It was quickly apparent that some US runners behave in the same way as their UK counterparts, and state highly unrealistic times on their entry, just to get into the front pen. After a bit of weaving in and out of the folk running 12 minute miles (that was reminiscent of the Blaydon start), we managed to hit the first mile mark a little slower than hoped, but as it was the worst hill on the course, I thought that was OK.
The first half of the course was in Brooklyn and what struck me the most was the amazing amount of noise and support that the crowds all the way along the route were providing. There were bands set up and playing at staggeringly regular intervals, which also added to the atmosphere. My family had made it to the 8 mile mark, and I only just managed to hear them shouting as I went passed.
Apparently our friend from the airport was leading at this point, but Mr Tola faded to fourth, citing the lack of mangoes in his diet for the week leading upto the race being his reason for not winning.
There were a lot of signs offering encouragement in one form or another. Some personal favourites were (and I’ve changed some of the swears for our younger readers) :-
“Don’t muck it up, Buttercup”
“Stop reading the signs, and get on with the running”
We then headed into Queens for a couple of miles, before heading onto Long Island across a covered bridge. At this point, my Garmin lost it’s satellite for about a quarter of a mile, and all of a sudden, my mile split was way down (but actually OK considering it was for 1.25 miles). Luckily I realised what had happened when I hit the next mile marker and my Garmin was down by about quarter of a mile on the distance. We then headed into Manhattan for the first time, and at 18 miles my family had managed to pop up again, but I didn’t hear or see them at all at this point as they were on the other side of the road, and it was still quite noisy.
Over another bridge and we were into the Bronx. One enthusiastic spectator was telling everyone to get out the Bronx and get back to Manhattan, and a mile down the road, so we did, over the final bridge. I started struggling a bit at his point and mile 23 was a slow uphill struggle that really seemed to finish me off. My pace dropped right off, and the last 2 miles were a real struggle. My family were also somewhere at this point, but again I didn’t hear them over all the noise (and general misery).
I was a little slower than I was hoping for overall, but this was a little hillier than I was expecting, so I was happy enough with 3:00:19 (fairly sure I could make up 20 seconds from somewhere!!) and coming in 1594, I had also stuck to my agreement with Doowee.
I was given a light weight plastic coverall and a goody bag, followed by my official race poncho further on down the road. It probably took me 15 minutes or so to walk out the park, and I got to the agreed rendezvous spot at Verdi Square to meet the family at 1:15pm. They took a little longer than expected, as a lot of Central Park was shut and some sections of the underground were off, so after 2 hours of surviving in my poncho, I was reclaimed and able to put some dry clothes on.
I had several offers of help during that time, which I was really grateful for as plan B was always for me to ring somehow, and passers-by were kind enough to let me use their phones.
It also seems to be customary for everyone to congratulate you afterwards, which I thought was a really nice touch.
This is probably my favourite of the 21 marathons I have done, and can’t recommend it highly enough. It was brilliantly organised, incredibly well supported and the whole trip was everything you would expect to see and do in this amazing city.
(Dave’s time is a new MV50 club record – DD)