I didn’t sleep well the night before the race, waking up multiple times throughout the night. When my alarm finally went off, I didn’t feel my best – and that was compounded by the fact that my upper back/neck was super tight. Clearly I had been stressing out a lot more than I thought if it was enough to aggravate my old muscle injury! Fortunately, one night of stressing wasn’t enough to put me into agonizing pain, and I was able to do some stretching and self-massage in order to ease it and be good to go. Even better, I knew that running 26.2 miles in such a fun race would probably solve it completely!
I double checked the temperatures one more time before getting dressed, but the forecast still said high of only 49 degrees Fahrenheit. I tried not to hesitate as I then went with the tights and long sleeved top I had laid out the night before. This was the same weather I had the week before , just with some additional wind this time around. There was no way I ought to shed any layers! Instead, I got dressed just as planned, turning on some “pump me up” music as I did so. Last week, after Niagara Falls Marathon, I ended up with Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” stuck in my head while I contemplated how close I was to my 100th marathon… and that was going to be my song of the day to get ready for the race! I was definitely dancing as I got dressed, and the music was making me so excited for the race.
Adam and I headed out of my apartment just before 6am; we were taking a bus from midtown to the start, and it was supposed to leave at 6:30am. Although I had been concerned, we actually didn’t have any trouble at all finding a cab, and we shared it with a (very cute) male neighbor who was heading the same way. Once our cab dropped us off, we found ourselves in a sea of different buses – all seemingly headed for the start, but which one was ours? While at first we had volunteers that just looked at the stickers on our bibs and said “nope, not this bus!”, we eventually found the right one and loaded ourselves on.
Right around the time we found the bus, I got a text from Marika, the journalism student who was going to be following/filming me for the day. We had planned to do a quick interview before I actually took the bus to the start, and with 25 minutes before the buses were scheduled to depart, it seemed as good a time as any! Marika asked me about the special preparation I had done the night before, and how I felt about the race itself, and then we filmed some silent footage of me tying my shoes and adjusting my outfit. It reminded me a lot of when I filmed the JetBlue video a few years ago, and they took b-roll of me playing with my hair and adjusting my hands in my lap. I could get used to randomly filming things like this 😉
As we neared 6:30am, though, Adam called to warn me that our bus had completely filled and it looked like we might be leaving soon. Afraid I might miss my ride, we wrapped up the filming and I jumped back on the bus… only to wait… and wait…. and wait. It seemed that all the buses were traveling in a convoy to the start, so even though our bus was ready, we wouldn’t be going just yet. While we waited, Marika climbed on the bus and filmed me sitting there ready to go, which alternately totally embarrassed me, cracked me up, and somehow made me feel proud. I had a lot of conflicting emotions going on with the start of my 100th marathon so close at hand!
Finally, though, we were on our way to the start. I tried to point out landmarks to Adam as we cruised through the streets of Manhattan, and then we hopped on the FDR and headed all the way to the southern tip of the island before taking the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel out of the island. Once in Brooklyn, we then stayed on the I-278 highway that would lead us to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. We were going to get to drive right over the bridge that we’d be running at the start of the race! I had done that once before, when I paced Justin in the 2010 New York City Marathon, and I was psyched to get to do it again. It’s neat to get a little preview of one of the most iconic parts of the course! It also gave us both a really good sense of just how much of an uphill climb we’d have – which is to say, not much since it’s the very first mile and you’re flying high on adrenaline.
The buses dropped us off well past the start/Athlete’s Village, and we joined the long line of marathoners waiting to walk through the tollbooth lanes, which the police had cordoned off to use as inspection points. Inspection for what, you may ask? Well, official instructions had told us that no bags other than our clear plastic gear check bags would be allowed in – but what they failed to mention was that heat sheets (from previous races) were totally verboten as well. Unfortunately, my Hartford Marathon heat sheet was almost my entire plan for staying warm before the race! I tried to argue briefly with a policeman or two (“but Adam’s sweatshirt is way bulkier than my silly little heat sheet that I’ll even shake out for you! Think what he could be hiding!”), but could see pretty quickly that they weren’t budging. Bummer! I finally surrendered it to join the growing pile of confiscated items, and Adam and I just tried to walk as quickly as we could through the start village so that we wouldn’t have to be outside long.
My old boss Rob, with whom I ran my first half marathon and whose 2007 New York City Marathon performance was what inspired me to try long distance in the first place, had generously provided us with access to a tent before the start – and it was so fantastic to have someplace warm to wait. But the best part of all was that they had HOT COFFEE inside. I hadn’t had caffeinated coffee in over a month, and I was so excited to finally down some! Adam took a picture of the momentous occasion.
Since Adam was in wave #1, he had to leave for the start pretty quickly – and he texted me once he got there to let me know that apparently he was literally right behind the elites. So cool! I knew I was going to be starting thousands and thousands of people back from that, though, which meant that I had time to snarf down some scones (ah, the breakfast of champions), hit the bathroom several dozen times (apparently still nervous!), and chat up those around me. One thing that was especially awesome was when my friend Yolanda found me! Yolanda is a fellow Marathon Maniac, but she also has the distinction of breaking the world record for most marathons completed in a calendar year (106). That’s more marathons in one year than I have yet done in my lifetime! Yolanda is amazingly inspiring and so incredibly friendly – I was thrilled to get to run into her at the start 🙂
After all my socializing, though, I looked around the tent and saw that I was the only one left with a Wave 2 bib on – everyone else was Wave 3. Since I wasn’t checking a bag, I had held out as long as I could, but now it was definitely time for me to head to my corral. The volunteer in our tent warned me that I had probably missed it and would need to start with Wave 3 instead, but I decided to at least make a run for it and see if I could still sneak in to Wave 2.
Leaving the tent and heading for the Blue corrals, I ran into two familiar faces – my friends Beth and Brittany, both of whom were running NYCM as their very first marathon. I was so ridiculously excited to get to see them and wish them luck on their big day! I knew both of them would do an amazing job, and I was so happy that they would soon experience the magical feeling of crossing a marathon finish line. They had both trained hard, and I knew they were going to love it!
I had to weave through a lot of the Athlete’s Village before I finally found the blue corrals, and I worried that I had definitely missed the Wave 2 start at this point. However, when I found my designated corral (each corral held 1,000 people – crazy!), it was actually just fine for me to enter at that point – so apparently I had timed it just right. Hooray! Since the corral was so packed with people, it also wasn’t nearly as cold as the spread-out Athlete’s Village, and I didn’t really mind the loss of my heat sheet. Instead, I was wearing the lightweight jacket I had gotten at the Niagara Falls Marathon finish chute, which I planned to toss at the start.
Speaking of tossing clothing – while waiting in our corrals, I spied a volunteer who was standing next to one of the biggest piles of clothes I had ever seen. Everyone was getting rid of their extras! The pile of outerwear and sweatshirts was so big, in fact, that the volunteer standing next to it was telling everyone not to toss their clothes there, and to wait till later on in the chute. But clearly, no one was listening.
Finally, our corral of people started slowly shuffling forward , and we funneled into the start of the race. There were buses to either side of us, and the start line (way) ahead. We were almost there! I befriended some women near me and asked them to take my picture – I was almost there!
Before our wave officially began, we were heralded with an unusual song choice – America the Beautiful instead of the Star Spangled Banner. It was sung beautifully, but I hadn’t realized that we wouldn’t be hearing the National Anthem. However, as soon as that was done and the cannon was fired, we did hear the NYC Marathon’s most iconic song of all – Frank Sinatra’s recording of “New York, New York.” Being as far back as we were in the wave, the people around me were nowhere near running just yet, so instead, we all sang along out loud in unison (or at least tried to; in my case, I was singing in unison when I wasn’t sniffling because I was tearing up like a baby at the magic of it all). The singing made for the most amazing sense of camaraderie in those final few seconds before we each embarked on our 26.2 mile personal journey through all the boroughs. “If we can make it here, we can make it anywhere” – and I was more than ready to make it here. 100th marathon, here I come!