How can a marathon like no other be described? …
Running a marathon is always a big event in a runner’s life and for those around him/her.
From the moment, you choose which one to run, register, qualify or win the draw, choose a training plan, allot time to follow it, and dodge the unexpected nuances that somehow show up along 12, 14, 16 or 18 training weeks, until you reach the 2 or 3 days prior to the race, the final arrangements and traveling to your destination.
Everything is surrounded with excitement, fear, or perhaps you will be simultaneously excited, doubtful and happy.
Whether your 1st or your 50th marathon the excitement never goes away. No marathon is alike, even if you run the same year after year, that’s what makes them so wonderful.
TCS New York marathon is part of the Abbott World Marathon Series and with its 51,000 participants is regarded as the world’s biggest.
New York Road Runners Club superb organization and great follow up on runners is just amazing and begins the very day you qualify or enter the General Draw.
In 2016 I had the chance to race in their 40th anniversary.
13 is regarded as a magical number, upon who you ask it can be considered a lucky or a bad luck number, without a doubt my best marathon to this date has been New York, my 13th.
Obtaining a number for this marathon is no easy task.There are 5 ways to do it:
Running a qualifying time, which is at a higher standard than Boston’s. raising money for a Charity,
Winning a spot in the Sweepstakes (US legal residents only) or General Drawing or buying your entry through an authorized travel agency paying a hefty overprice.
Below you will find the time qualifying standards.
The 5th way is by entering their 9+1 guaranteed entry option.
Which requires you to participate in 9 NYRR (New York Road Runners Club) races and volunteer for at least one of them during the previous year.
I won a spot in the General Drawing on my 3rd try.
You must consider that it is also one of the most expensive marathons, 11 USD to enter the Drawing, plus 347 USD once you are assigned an entry spot (255 US residents). Nonetheless, afterwards you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth.
From the moment, you are registered the follow up that NYRR provides is nothing but perfect.
The Welcome email, the follow up emails you receive through the different stages towards race day and the readily available participant is top notch.
The marathon’s Facebook page as well as NYRR’s are readily available with relevant information, but that’s not all, for 16 weeks prior to the event, they have weekly live sessions with expert coaches that include Q & A sessions. An hour a week where you can listen to great coaches and runners give training advice and tips and clarify any doubt you might have.
After 40 years of gathering statistics on their marathons, they have one of the best training plans based on New York’s route and race profile. If you don’t already have a trainer, I fully recommend buying their training plan as an excellent professional choice, since it can easily be adapted to your own times, experience level and monthly mileage achieved related to the number of weeks you’ve been training.
3 weeks before the event, you can download the App that allows you to follow runners, estimate your final time based on historical data from past NYCM runners, it also has interactive games and you assigned Wave, corral number and starting time, Expo participants and all the info you might need.
Having participated in over 150 races, from 5ks to marathons, I can assure you that it is one of the biggest expos I’ve ever seen. The biggest sport brands show up, footwear brands launch NYCM special edition shoes, you’ll find many cool and creative designs to take home as souvenirs, most of them in footwear and if it turns out that the brand sponsoring the marathon is not the same as the one you usually wear you can choose from at least four other.
This time Asics was the sponsor but Brooks, Saucony, Alta and Skechers also launched commemorative designs.
There is a huge wall with the names of each and every runner and thousands of places within the expo where you can take the perfect picture to remember the event.
The Expo begins the previous Wednesday, that day and the next are calm days to visit, while on Friday and Saturday you might have to wait in line for hours to get in, pick your racing kit, or at the cash register.
It is virtually impossible to walk among so many people.
A WEEKEND OF CELEBRATION
The last Friday before the marathon an opening ceremony takes place in Central Park where there are flag bearers from every participant country and it feels like a mini Olympics opening ceremony. It is very exciting to see your country flag and listen to the crowd cheer as it passes by.
On Saturday, the 5k takes place. Over the last years many marathons have added a shakeout run on the previous day for runners as well as the people accompanying them so they can also experience firsthand the weekend’s excitement.
The 5k route takes you through Manhattan, running past Grand Central Station, along 5th Avenue and Central Park is a unique thrill.
The 5k shares the same finish line with the marathon which allows you to measure up the last mile as you approach the finish line.
On Saturday afternoon, the carbo dinner takes place which is a party of its own where you have the chance to meet runners from all over the world and everyone is on the best mood to meet and get to know people. It is definitely a carefully planned weekend to embed great memories on each and every participant.
The main difference of this marathon is the start and finish line logistics, being the world’s biggest marathon with 51,000 participants it is one of the more sophisticated there is. Starting in STATEN ISLAND requires you to be prepared at least 5 hours before the start.
I was staying in Manhattan, so my options were either to take the bus or the ferry to Staten Island, a choice you must make through a website six months in advance. Following the suggestions from friends that had previously ran the marathon, I opted to ride the ferry and then board the bus that takes you to the start line.
Manhattan is well known among other things for heavy traffic and I was told that the easiest and less stressful way was to take the subway and take the ferry, so I did instead of riding the bus which takes between 3 or 4 hours depending on traffic.
The whole ride is awesome, the party begins the moment you leave your hotel and head for the Subway, any time you go out the street is flooded with runners and you can’t go wrong with the subway, either following other runners or asking the police you’ll be certain not to get lost and that you’ll reach the ferry terminal without any incident.
Upon reaching the terminal, Ferries depart every 15 minutes and watching the sunrise from the boat with a view of Manhattan Island and the Statue of Liberty leaves you speechless and emotional.
Expect long waits and long lines which never stop moving, but due to the amount of runners there is no way around it.
Upon arrival to Staten Island you board a bus that takes you to the runner’s villages, green, blue or orange and from there you go into your corral to wait for the start time.
This marathon for me, was not about a PR, but just to live the experience of running the world’s biggest marathon that takes place in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan and glamorous cities.
So, I took it easy, regularly they ask you to be there at least two to three hours before your start time and I arrived just as my corral was starting so I just started two corrals or letters later (around 8 minutes over my time).
That decision saved me a long wait outdoors, my starting time was 10:15, I left my hotel at 6:30, took the 7:15 ferry. Most people depart 5 or 6 hours ahead of their start time.
I don’t recommend doing that if you get anxious, easily stressed or if it is your first marathon.
I did it because I wanted to wait as little time as possible in the villages and I didn’t care to start with a later corral.
Each starting shot makes me feel the same excitement and gratitude for being able to experience that moment. I don’t think that will ever change.
Some, like the first one have been very emotional and loaded with fear, some very relaxing, and some others when I’m running for a PR are totally different, focused, reviewing my times and race strategy. Repeating myself mantras over and over again and waiting only for the starting shot and pressing my Garmin’s button without paying attention to anything else.
This time I submerged myself in other people’s experiences. Selfies, videos, hugs, good luck kisses, last minute stretching, excitement and everybody’s respect upon hearing the US national anthem.
When the gun goes off the next thing you know, you are listening to Frank Sinatra’s incredible voice beginning to sing NEW YORK, NEW YORK, and seconds later you can lift your head for your eyes to meet with an amazing view of the Verrazano Bridge.
I had a lump in my throat as I couldn’t believe the view before my eyes.
I was on Wave 2 and the amount of people ahead of me was overwhelming, upon turning left and as you advance on the bridge with a strong wind blowing that can easily blow any cap off, you get your first glance at the city and no words can describe the view’s greatness.
I can’t think of any other city marathon where you can find a view that leaves you speechless.
New York is one of my favorite cities and I have been there at least 10 times, it can be cold and impersonal as any of the world’s big cities but once a year on marathon day, EVERYONE, and I write that with capital letters, every New Yorker puts its day on hold to cheer on 51,000 runners.
As soon as you cross the bridge you encounter the first cheers and from then on there it’s hard to find a place without people cheering on the runners. The streets are full with flags from all over the world, with people of all races and nationalities, some running and some cheering in support. Offering you candy, water, beer, laughs or words of support.
2 million spectators to be exact. You have the chance to run 26.2 miles looking at two million people smile and cheer, where else can you experience that?
The famous sound explosion upon entering Manhattan’s 1st Avenue it’s by itself a unique experience. And endless buzz that stays with you along the hardest and most spectacular part of the route.
I have run Chicago’s marathon 3 times and I kind of knew what to expect regarding the ambience, but nothing prepared me to feel the energy and excitement that you can breathe along 26.2 miles. Even the most focused or shy runners get pumped to interact as they encounter so much excitement.
Many runners consider NY as the hardest route among the six majors, Boston included. I’ve still 3 to run but just by looking at race profiles you can see that NYCM Is tougher than Tokyo, London or Chicago where world records have been broken.
It’s important to take this into account when training for this race.
Despite that the route is hard and beautiful, filled with music, shouting, cheering and continuous excitement. If you like to run with headphones here you will find them worthless, you won’t miss them, guaranteed.
There are two options to finish your marathon.
Once you have registered, six months ahead you must choose transportation and starting time and arrival time and transportation, you also chose to take your runner’s bag or to take nothing and receive a poncho.
Getting a poncho was enough motivation for me not to take my runner’s bag and that’s what I did.
After crossing the finish line, you must keep going for a few meters to receive your final package and then your medal and walk almost a mile more to get your poncho, it sounds easy, but once you stop running that seems to take forever, sweaty, tired and November’s cold starts to get to wreak havoc on you.
Choosing to take your runner’s bag will add approximately 2 miles to your route, so it’s important to think carefully which option suits us best.
From that point you can either walk to your hotel if it is nearby, take the Subway or Uber and as you can imagine Manhattan traffic is collapsed, closed streets, runners finishing, spectators, and whole volunteer shifts going back home.
Be prepared for a 28-mile day and a two hour commute back to your hotel if it is not nearby the finish line. Very hard.
The following day finisher merchandise is available at Central Park’s marathon Pavilion, where you can get your medal engraved, and if you finished in less than 5 hours, more or less the printing deadline for Monday’s newspaper your name will be published in the New York Times special edition. This year the cutoff time was 5 hours 15 minutes.
On Monday, you’ll feel like a Rockstar while wearing your medal on the street and being congratulated by locals and fellow runners, the whole city is focused on being great hosts for this one of a kind event.
It is definitely worth every dollar. One of most incredible experiences I have lived up to this day. I will rank it on my Top ten list of dream marathons you should race at least once in your life.
It’s an incredible experience, the route makes you humble and watching two million people gives you hope that there’s always more good people and things than bad.
Regardless of time posted, NYCM will leave its mark on your heart.
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