I thought I was ready for the New York City Marathon. Turns out… I wasn’t. Actually, I think it’s more accurate to say that I didn’t achieve my goals for race day. But in retrospect, I probably had the wrong goals for this particular race.
Everyone told me not to run the New York City Marathon for a PR. I unfortunately did just that and now understand why it’s a terrible idea. I know… runners are thick headed by nature and its my own fault. Why do we always think we are the exception to the rule?
But before I get into all of that, let’s start with the positives of yesterday. After all, even though I didn’t set a personal record, it’s still a day that I’ll never forget.
All the good stuff about yesterday:
- The Support - All the emails, Facebook posts, and Twitter messages were really motivating. Waking up to these at 3:30 A.M. before heading off to Staten Island put a big smile on my face. Besides all the “electronic support” I also had an amazing race day cheering section lead by my wife Lisa. They did an amazing job and seeing them at Miles 15 and 22 was a much needed boost! Thanks again Lisa, Mike, Maggie, Danielle, Victor, and Michael. You guys rock!
- The Crowds – What else can I say besides “wow”. This was the most memorable aspect of yesterday. Complete strangers lined almost the entire 26.2 mile course and cheered liked lunatics! I had my name on my singlet and it was so uplifting to run by people yelling “GO JON!” as they gave me a high five! The crowds really were amazing, especially in Brooklyn and Queens! The noise was deafening!
- The Views- Again, what can I say? Hitting the peak of the Queensborough Bridge and having a perfect view of Manhattan was breathtaking. I will never forget the images from the Verrazzano Bridge, First Avenue, Central Park… I could go on and on.
- Helping Charities – I ran for Run to Stop M.S. Team. Our team raised over $150,000 to fund Multiple Sclerosis research. All the participating charities raised a combined $30.4 million for various great causes. All running aside… this alone makes the New York City Marathon a gigantic success.
Unfortunately it wasn’t all peaches and cream yesterday. The whole “spectacle” of the New York City Marathon is what makes it great… and terrible. 45,000 runners and 2 million spectators sounds great but comes with a massive amount of logistical issues. The know the race directors do the best they can, but some things just fall through the cracks.
Now for the bad stuff:
- Starting Time Wait- I did get my share of warnings on this one, but couldn’t image it’d be so awful. I spent almost 5 hours in the freezing cold on Staten Island. Yes tents and porta potties were setup, but there was no way to hide from the cold. I was basically an icicle at the starting line. Not an ideal “warm up” for a marathon.
- Corral System – I’m no race director, but when I put my target finishing time as 3:42 (8:30 pace) why am I starting with people who are walking? Yes walking the marathon! They say we are grouped based on estimated finishing times, but it didn’t seem that way on race day. Not even close. I spent a great deal of time and energy weaving in and out of people who shouldn’t have been in our starting group.
- “Tourist” Runners - This for me was the biggest problem.
- Super Hero’s- I couldn’t catch Captain America at Mile 17 and Gumby passed me at Mile 23. That really pissed me off. It shouldn’t, but it did. If you want to feel like your part of the circus then running NYC is for you!
- Central Park – After waiting in the freezing cold for 5 hours then running 26.2 miles in it… the last thing you want to do is walk another mile. All exits to the park were closed and we were once again corralled like cattle. My legs finally gave out from the marathon/cold/death-march and I was escorted to the medical tent to warm up. If I was just allowed to leave the park and meet my wife who had a change of clothes I would have been fine.
125 countries are represented in this marathon and that great. It really is. On Staten Island before the race it was fun to see runners draped in their countries’ flags and singing songs in their native languages. But once the race starts please just run! I cant tell you how many people stopped short to take pictures, video, update Facebook (no I’m not kidding). On the 59th Street bridge, the guy in front of me stopped short and turned around to take a picture. We smacked face to face and knocked him and most of me to the ground. My knee was killing me for the next 3 miles… but I hope you got your picture (sarcasm).
Due to all this I really could never get into a rhythm. Most marathons open up after the first few miles, but this one was jammed packed until at least Mile 19 or 20. By that time all my energy was gone from all the stopping short, weaving, collisions, etc…
Also, it seems like for a lot of participants this will be their one and only marathon. They aren’t “serious” runners and lack a lot of etiquette you’ll see at smaller races. For example, I got full cups of Gatorade dumped on my shoes three times. Mind you I was in the middle of the road when it happened. Typically runners carefully empty their cups then toss them to the side of the road.
Look, I know that these “bad” aspects I’m talking about are also what makes the race great. People come from all over the world for the spectacle of it all. They enjoy the circus like environment and return home with hundreds of pictures running with Gumby. I’m sure that’s why people told me not to run it for a PR and just enjoy the event. And that’s why in retrospect, I probably had the wrong goals to begin with.
I won’t lie though. I was extremely disappointed with my performance (4:25:31) and felt as though all that training was for nothing. This morning, in my head, I quit running altogether for about an hour. I was convinced I’ll never have what it takes and should just give up. Fortunately that was short lived and I am now picking my next event to prove the exact opposite.
The New York City Marathon was an “experience”. One that I’ll never forget. If I do decide to run it again some day I will be sure to relax and appreciate it for what it is… and isn’t.