The New York Marathon, my fifth Major and my 16th marathon. I had no real goals, no expectations… I felt strangely relaxed but excited. I knew it would be hard-work (marathons are never easy) and I knew the course would be tough. But I was fit, healthy, well fed and ready to go.Out of the girls, Cortney, Elaine, Emma, Steph and I were running, while Charlie and Anna would be supporting from the sidelines cheering us on. We decided that, even though we had different start times and ferry times, to all get an Uber together and just go to the start together as that would be far more fun than on our own.So the Uber picked us up at 6am and we headed to Staten Island Ferry. Most of the girls had already eaten breakfast/snack but Emma and I had taken ours with us. I like to have my porridge about 2-1.5 hours before the start and as I wasn’t starting until 9.50am I decided to wait. Even if this did mean my porridge would be a little bit like concrete by the time I’d get to eat it…As cheesy as it sounded we played Taylor Swift ‘Welcome to New York’ in the Uber and danced along together. It was the song of the trip and helped calm our nerves and make us laugh. Then we hopped out of the car and headed to the ferry.The place was teaming with runners! Not that you could really tell – everyone looked like a homeless person or someone from the 80’s with what they were wearing. Over-sized jumpers, old-school coats, ponchos, dressing gowns. It was all going on. I had one of Charlie’s old tops and my mum’s old jumper on. It was nice to smell my mum at this point – I know that sounds a bit weird, but it was comforting.We waited for the next ferry then got on with hundreds of other runners. It was buzzing.We then enjoyed a 20 minute journey, with beautiful views of the sky-line and the Statue of Liberty. It was fantastic. The atmosphere on the boat was one of excitement and nerves.Then from the ferry we waited to use the loos in the ferry terminal (might as well use a proper loo where you can!) and then got into a seemingly never ending and non-moving queue for the buses. The queue took forever. At 8ish I decided to eat my porridge. It was still a little warm but not the best. Needs must though!Eventually we got onto the bus, being assured it was just a 10 minute journey. Steph and I were happy to stand as the seats were all taken. Had we have known we would be standing for a long time we might not have been so willing. The bus took far longer than it should have. At least 30 minutes! At this point I was a little bit worried. It was coming up to 9am now. Fears of hanging around the race village for hours on end in the cold very much disappeared.
As we got off the bus (FINALLY) we were then searched by police (who were super friendly). Security was a high priority here.Steph and I then hightailed it to our start areas as we were now under an hour away from the start (the other girls were starting a bit later). We waited in a loo queue and then, as we were in separate colour corrals, parted ways.I was now solo. Unfortunately when I got to my corral I was told it was closed. I was too late! I’d have to wait until the next wave… I felt a little bit annoyed because it wasn’t my fault. I probably wouldn’t have queued for the loo had I known I would miss my wave but ehhh it was chip timed so it wasn’t catastrophic.Though it did mean that when my wave opened I was almost front of the queue, and was able to jump in a loo at supersonic speed for a final Psychological Safety Wee and somehow managed to shuffle all the way to the front of the wave. I tossed my two jumpers into the pile for charity and felt chilly but not too cold.After hearing Wave 1 set off, we were then let out to the actual start area just before the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge (the first bridge, of three I believe). I’d read in a few recaps that going over the bridge was a better route than being under the bridge (horror stories of people peeing above) so I was a bit disappointed to see where my corral was going was under… until I spotted a small gap in the barriers which I squeezed through to allow me to go to the “upper” route. Sneaky sneaky.We waited in the now glorious cold sunshine and I felt happy. A very lively and happy photographer was jumping around the place shouting (nicely I may add) at different people “show me your bib – I got you!” before turning to someone else. When he snapped my photo he shouted “ohh yeaaah I got Anna’s digits! Everyone, I got Anna’s digits!” and everyone around cheered and laughed. It was less creepy than it sounds I assure you. It made me laugh and relaxed my tension of JUST WANTING TO START.
Then the canon BOOMED (terrifying me as it shook the entire ground) and we were off! As I was fairly near the front and the other wave before us was long gone I was strangely seeing a very empty long road ahead of me, sparsely dotted with super fast runners streaming ahead. It was so bizarre. Such a huge marathon and to have that view was crazy.More and more people zoomed past me (steady, Anna, steady) and the uphill climb of the bridge began. But I was loving it. The views! The clear blue sky, the New York skyline in the distance, the glittering water, the excitement around me – it was electric. I had a huge cheesy grin plastered on my face and distinctly remember thinking “this is fantastic! Even if I crash and burn later, this marathon is FANTASTIC”. That moment alone would make everything worth it.The first two miles flew by as we went up the bridge and then back down. Mile one was 8.23 and mile two 7.26 but I wasn’t really sure what to think. I felt very strong and relaxed. It felt very natural and easy (of course it would, it’s the first two miles…).
As we got off the bridge we headed into Brooklyn. There were lots of people hanging out of windows, standing outside their houses and cheering from the sidelines.
I felt buzzed. Absolutely loving life and like I’d taken this special drug called The New York Marathon. I waved, I cheered, I smiled. I people-watched other runners and saw so many different nationalities. I saw a Polish woman (she was wearing white and red with Polska written on her back) get greeted by another Polish runner whom (from the way she reacted) she clearly didn’t know but they seemed to chatter on until she headed off. It was great to see.I became aware that I needed a wee. I decided to promise myself I’d have a wee around mile 15 (at the next available loo). I knew I wasn’t desperate but I knew it was going to annoy me and become a preoccupation in my mind.
I noticed someone’s sign on the sideline say “Go to your happy place” and I smiled and thought “this is it. THIS is my happy place”. I know that’s beyond cheesy but I just felt so bloody fantastic. I was running far faster than I’d intended but I was drinking in the crowd’s enthusiasm and my mind wasn’t even thinking about running or miles.The streets at this point were relatively flat and from miles 3-8 were basically a straight line. You could see out ahead of you, but instead of this giving me anxieties of the distance to come I just found it incredible. I was aware of the danger I was in – being buzzed right at the start, getting carried away on the flat roads and going too fast. But I reassured myself it would be fine. I had more bridges to come and Central Park so it’d all even out in the end.
I got to 10 mile surprisingly quickly. My pace had now been far faster than my expectations. It felt far easier than the Goodwood Marathon where it seemed it was a bit more of a concerted effort to maintain around 8 min/miles. I saw a line of portable loos available and decided to just go for it. I was in and out in super fast time, literally 20 seconds. I’d rather take that time than spend the rest of the race smelling of my own wee (yes, people do actually wee themselves rather than going to the loo because God forbid they might miss a PB. NOT worth it to me!).The crowds were still fantastic. The signs were brilliant (“You’re running better than the Government”, “Keep going random stranger!”). There were so many. I was smiling the entire time and made sure to wave at the supporters – which in turn would encourage them to shout support to me or cheer. I loved how the New York people said my name, “Go Enna” is the only way I can type that to explain.I got to half-way and was surprised at how good I was. I had brief visions of my dad and Kyle (who were at home tracking me on the app) wondering if I was running too fast too soon. Maybe I was but I felt strong and good.
There’s a small bridge after half-way (the Pulaski Bridge) which was brief and not too tricky. Then one of the hardest parts of the race by far was mile 16 as you go over the Queensboro Bridge. I knew they’d be tough bridges but I was so glad not to have known beforehand that this bridge went on for over a mile. It was like going down a long and uphill tunnel. It was enclosed, it was quiet and it was hard hard work. My pace dropped right down. But so did everyone else’s – I wasn’t being left behind. I was still surrounded by the same people.It was a good opportunity for me to listen to my music and find motivation inside to keep going. Before this point the crowd and the sheer thrill of New York had kept me going. Now I was enclosed in a god-awful bridge away from any happy people and was feeling the struggle. That said, I did look over at the views and still couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be running in such a beautiful and awesome place.As we finally got out of the bridge we turned round the corner and suddenly the crowds were back. The roar of cheering just blew the last mile away – I was back in the game!
I’m going to leave it there because this is already ridiculously long…
Have you ever run the New York Marathon?
What is a must for you on race morning?
How early do you eat before a race?