TCS NYC Marathon

Race report by Stu Smith

 

The Event TCS New York City Marathon
Overall Score (out of a possible 35) Adds up to 26 but despite a few short comings in the round I would give it top marks 35
PB Potential 2.5 – Even the elite runners are slower round this course
Atmosphere 5.0 – Similar to London
Organisation 5.0
Scenery 4.0 – The five Boroughs, views from some of the Bridges are fabulous.
Value for Money 3.5 – £300 entry – This doesn’t include flights, accommodation, spending money and taking the family.
Beginner Friendliness 5.0 – That’s if a Marathon is ever friendly, high score due to the event being one of the Big Six and the atmosphere.
Club Support & Social 1.0 – Too far to travel, but a big Geordie voice from the crowd did shout ‘Gan On’ on Blackhill at one point.
In Short Fantastic, Amazing, Awesome, Tough Route, get it on the ‘Bucket’ list.

Bit of Background

I entered the ballot for this race after a bottle of Rioja and somehow forgot to tell Jules. Not really a recommended approach to race entry but sometimes needs must. I got in from work the day I got the email saying I had been successful wondering how to break the news but thankfully she had already seen the entry fee on the credit card statement so Job done. An interesting conversation followed and we were all going to New York.

This race has always been on my list since my second marathon in Edinburgh and I really couldn’t believe I was actually going to run or in my case shuffle after struggling a little for the last twelve month. Third time lucky in the ballot still can’t believe it.

Getting to the Start

Getting to the start was the only thing about this experience that made me really nervous. There are two ways to get to the start, one is to get the ferry across to Staten Island and then a bus to the start village or the option I went for which was the official bus transport from the Public Library which means an early start.

The alarm went off at 4am but wasn’t really needed. Following a strong cup of coffee and some porridge and a quick kit check I was out onto the streets of Manhattan with a walk of around 25 minutes.

The only things moving were the homeless in the shadows and the steam that really does come out of the ground. As I got closer to the Library there were more people around mostly fellow runners and the NYPD were everywhere. My bus time was 6am. Following the security check they were just loading the buses as people turned up so this meant a longer wait in the start village but I didn’t mind that, I would be there with no more nerves, so pleased I got to the Library early.

The bus journey passed quickly with the main topic of conversation being ultra running which was a little surprising and it was really interesting hearing about some of the races in the USA and having ticked that box and with the intent to do a much longer one in the future it interested me even more. If anyone is interested in doing this race I recommend this transport option but get there early as the later buses took much longer than the 40 minutes it took me.

I had around a three hour wait at the start village before I entered my start pen, the free coffee, doughnuts and warm hat helped as did the second layer of clothes I took to keep warm as it was cold also chatting to the other runners made the time pass relatively quickly. Soon it was time to go, I chequed my bag, chucked my additional clothes into the charity bin and I was in the pen for 9am with a 9:50 start time. The start pens contained loads of toilets which is the first time I have seen this and an extremely good idea.

We soon moved forward onto the start area which is the Varrazano Narrows Bridge. I found myself next to a couple of Middleborough and Cleveland harriers who gave our Parkrun a big thumbs up and I’m bound to bump into Mark again, probably on the Yorkshire Moors. The American National Anthem was played and we knew it was nearly time to go.

The gun went, loads of NYPD helicopters flew overhead, Frank Sinatra was belting out New York New York from the sound system and we were off.

The Run

The TCS New York City Marathon course runs through all five of New York City’s boroughs: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan’s iconic Central Park and isn’t flat I saw parts of NYC that a tourist probably wouldn’t normally see.

The race starts on the very edge of the Varrazano Narrows Bridge and with the sound of Sinatra in our ears we were off and over the suspension bridge and into the first neighbourhood of Brooklyn. As we moved further into the borough the noise and intensity of the crowds grew and grew and I was moving along pretty steady and feeling good.

You pass through Brooklyn and the three starts come together at around 8 miles, then into Queens which is an experience I will never forget, the long stretches of road, the Crowds, Bands, Gospel Choirs and at one point a sound system playing Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind and all the runners in unison were singing along ‘Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can do, now your in New York’, this nearly brought a tear to the eye as the emotion of running the event was definitely getting to me.

The route then goes from Greenpoint over the Pulaski Bridge and into Long Island City then onto the Queensboro Bridge at around 15 miles. The Queensboro Bridge joins Queens with Manhattan and is the longest bridge spanning the East River. It also has a pretty steep long ascent which pretty much drained me for the rest of the run and seemed to go on forever before the quick clatter down the other side. That hurt reminded me of the hills of Gibside even if the surroundings were very different and the fact the Fruitbowl would have already finished. It had also started to rain and it was a bit blowy.

The route then goes up 1st Avenue which isn’t short and goes from 59th street to 125th street and across the Willis Avenue Bridge which takes you into the Bronx. Once again the streets were lined with people and bands and again another bridge which takes you back into Manhattan. This is around 21 miles and you then run down 5th Avenue where I heard a Geordie voice shout ‘Gan On’ Blackhill which was really nice and wondered if it was someone with the Saltwell Harriers crew who I had met on a training run on the Waskwerly way around 6 weeks earlier. By this time I was walking the length of the water stations as weariness was beginning to kick in. The route then goes into central park which defo isn’t flat as I discovered when I walked the finishing part of the run the following day and the run finished in the park.

Great feeling crossing the line thinking I want a bit more of this; I want to complete the Six Stars! Next stop hopefully Berlin.

Summary

I hope this gives you a small insight into what was an excellent event and an amazing experience and I can’t recommend it highly enough and for me just slightly better than London which was also a tremendous race. I will also always be grateful to some you, who are to blame, or is that to thank, for my love of 26.2 miles. I finished in 4:26:55. The run wasn’t about times or checking the Garmin for pace every few minutes it was about absorbing one of the World’s Greatest Races and I certainly managed that. Looking forward to running again with the NEMC over the coming months even if the races are at the other end of the scale they are for me, always enjoyable, and its been a while.

One last thing, congratulations to Rachel Edmunds who also completed the race, cracking effort and to my friends Brian and Jill Ford who also completed the run and forgive me for the grammatical errors I’m still buzzing. Ha’Way the Bounders !!