If you asked me last year if I would ever run NYC again, I would have said “no F’n way!”. Last year’s weather was brutal, and I was so humbled and defeated that I never wanted to run another marathon again. It’s funny how our mind forgets about pain and suffering. I have always compared marathons to giving birth. If we don’t forget the pain, no one would ever have that second baby OR run their next marathon.
This year’s weather was predicted to be perfect! It was the first in 8 weekends that NYC had no rain. Even though there was no rain, I still anticipated a cold wait in Staten Island. I had gone to Goodwill and bought jackets and sweatpants. We packed with extra blankets, handwarmers, hats and gloves to be sure we’d be warm.
I pulled out my marathon checklist to make sure that we had everything on the list. Mental note: I added duct tape and magic markers to put my name on my shirt! (Thanks Colleen)
Kim and I packed up all our race gear and headed to the train station on Friday morning. When we arrived at the hotel I looked around and said, “did you guys renovate?” I recalled the 2nd floor where the coffeemaker and microwave were and the stairs where Kim slid down the handrails post marathon last year. The guy looked at me like I was nuts. He said, there were never any stairs here. I realized I booked the wrong hotel. The one I meant to book was next door. This hotel was kind of a dump for a Marriott.
We dropped our bags and headed off to the Expo and then to Tracksmith to get our Hare A.C. club race package. Kim’s subway app wasn’t working so I plugged in the address on my Maps app, and we headed to Brooklyn. When we got off, I looked around and said to Kim, I wouldn’t want to be walking here alone, as we were in a really sketchy area. We walked what seemed forever and finally arrived. We got our Tracksmith “NYC” bag and hat, Kim told them that we just walked a couple of miles to get there from the subway. The woman said, “There is a subway 2 blocks from here!”. Lessons learned, don’t trust Google Maps! By the time we got back to Manhattan we were starving. It was close to 4 PM and we had dinner reservations for 7 PM so we went to a restaurant to split something light. As soon as we ordered our food, Henryk asked if we wanted to meet him at 4:45 to watch the Parade of Nations in Central Park followed by fireworks. Kim said, “we can make it Jeanne”. We got our food, ate, and took off to our hotel to check in and change. From there we decided to walk to Central Park rather than take 2 subways to save time. We took off powerwalking. I had on a jacket and gloves. By the time we arrived I had no gloves, my jacket was off, and I was drenched in sweat. We found Henryk and sat in the grandstands and watched the parade of nations. It was spectacular. Slowly I started to cool down. First the jacket went on followed by my gloves and then I started shivering. Henryk said, “Jeanne are you cold?” and I said, “no, I am FREEZING”. We waited for the United States to be announced, they were the last and final country to end the ceremony followed by an amazing firework finally. They had just started the fireworks when out of nowhere a woman police officer ran by chasing a dog that got spooked. That dog was moving! We all stood there hoping she’d catch the dog, but he was gone. It was so sad!
Our dinner reservations were at an authentic Italian restaurant called Trattoria Dell'Arte. The food was amazing! After we ate, Kim said “Fernanda and Dave want us to meet them at their rooftop bar”. I asked, “How far is it from the restaurant?” and Kim said, “It’s not far”, so we powerwalked there. By the time we got home we had walked a total of 10 miles for the day. With that said, we decided to sleep in the next morning and skip the shakeout run.
Saturday morning we went to the CMAK brunch in Chealsea at The Garden Room at the Standard Highline. It was in a charming neighborhood. When we were getting ready to cross the street to get to the entrance, I looked up and said “Kim, look, it’s John Williams”. Kim looked around looking for John. I said, “Kim, look up there” where there was on a billboard for the name of the business John Williams, Veal. We walked in and met up with John, Kevin and Rebecca, Chase’s mom. We took photos of John in front of the John Williams business after as we felt it was a sign from Chase for John to be there. If you are not familiar with CMAK, click here to learn more about this amazing charity and how it benefits so many children giving them the gift to run a triathlon which was Chase’s dream. He was only 7 years old when the tragedy of Sandy Hook occurred. He would have been 18 years old on Halloween. Rebecca, his mom has kept his spirit alive with her non-profit. The charity raised $83K so far this year through the NYC Marathon. They gave Kim and I shirts to wear at the race. We were so honored! I hadn’t picked my race shirt yet, so I felt it was meant to be.
We left the brunch and walked with John and his wife Joanne on the highline to the expo. I highly recommend walking the highline as it was so beautiful.
We had our pre-marathon meal at Arno’s. We ate there last year, and the Italian food is incredible. I had made 2 reservations for 4 people each on Open Table. If I selected 8 people, there were no tables left. When we arrived, I told the host “I have 2 reservations, but one went from 4 to 5 people and the 4-person reservation went from 4 to 2 people”. He gave me a blank stare and said, “how many people do you need to sit together”? I told him there were 7 all together and he just put us all at one table. I guess I’m pretty good at confusing people.
We got back to the hotel and went right to bed getting ready for our 4 am wake up. Thank God we got to turn the clocks back on Saturday night because we needed the extra sleep. I had the craziest dreams that Kim was hiding my shoes and Glide, and I missed the marathon. Then after I woke up and fell back asleep the dreams continued with me trying to move crates of cows up a fight of stairs. When the alarm went off I was ready to get up and stop dreaming.
We met Colleen at 5:30 am and walked to Bryant Park to get our bus. The streets were already lined up around the block with runners. Thankfully, we only waited about ½ hour. Our bus was the first in line to go. Finally, we took off to our destination. I looked up and noticed the driver took a right where other buses were going a different way. Kim noticed too and said, “He’s going the wrong way”. Instantly, I panicked. My initial thoughts were “OMG, we are being highjacked and the driver is going to kill us and plummet off the Brooklyn Bridge into the Hudson River”. The driver must have figured out he was going the wrong way when all the buses were on the other side of the highway going in the opposite direction from us. He turned around for a 2nd time and we were back on track. Then he put on his signal light and was taking the exit off the highway. Kim said he’s going the wrong way again! Again, I panicked with my crazy thoughts. I looked at Colleen who apparently doesn’t think like me who said out loud “the longer we get to sit on this warm bus with our own bathroom the better”. Then the bus driver stopped and started to back up out onto the highway from the exit. WTF! MORE anxiety set in with fear we would be rear ended. I looked around to see if anyone else was scared only to see Colleen smiling and chatting with the dude next to her. Once we were back out on the highway, we finally headed the right way.
We got to Staten Island and headed for the corrals. I had to use the bathroom, so we got in line to wait. Our line was moving slower than the rest. Colleen said, “those 2 port-o-lets have been red (in use) for a long time”. I commented, “They must have brought a magazine in there to read, or they are playing Wordle”. Finally, the guy in front of us said “You’re putting a lot of pressure on me for when I get into the next bathroom”. We started laughing with him. Then when it was his turn as soon as he closed the door, I yelled “We’re timing you!”.
We got our Dunkin Donut hats that I stuffed in my belt hoping to carry it for the next 26.2 miles and then sat down to wait for our wave. Angie and John met up with us and we took some photos of us in our crazy throw away clothes. Finally, it was time for our wave. We hugged and said our goodbyes and headed to the corrals hoping for the best. You just never know how your race will turn out until you start running a few miles.
Our blue corral was in a different location than previous years. The cannon seemed to go off before we got to the start and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” was already playing. I have to say, it’s a pretty cool way to start a marathon. We took off running up the Verrazano Bridge trying not to over run the first mile. The crowds seemed bigger this year than previous years. The miles also seemed to fly by. I remember talking to a woman around mile 10 that said, “is it just me or did those 1st 10 miles go by in a blink”. We all agreed and hoped those next 16 would be that easy. Kaitlin and Jef said that they would be at mile 11.5 and I was ready to get rid of my arm warmers and the Dunkin Donut hat. It got warm quickly. I spotted a woman that looked like Kaitlin. Her hair was down and beautiful. Then I realized it WAS her. I was looking for the running Kaithlyn who always has her hair up in a ponytail. Kim and Colleen ran past them, as I was yelling “Kaitlin” they turned back almost getting trampled. I gave her my hat and arm warmers, hugged her and Jef and took off running.
I knew that mile 15-16 was the Queensboro Bridge that has been tough in the past. We approached the bridge and started the ascent. I put myself in a steady slower pace by singing the Ant Song that got me to the top. I was chatting with a woman from Connecticut that ran Hartford. She started to move ahead of us when Colleen noticed she was losing a large straw in her pocket. I yelled to her “hey, young girl from CT, you’re losing your straw”! She turned and thanked us. As we began to get closer to the bottom of the bridge I said to Colleen, “do you hear the roar of the crowds?”. This is one of the most memorable and magical parts of this marathon. It’s almost like the scream tunnel in Boston. That sound. That roar. That crowd. It was getting louder and louder, and we approached until we were off the bridge and saw the “Welcome to Manhatten” sign. I loved this part.
You always hear people say, “Nothing new on race-day”. I decided to try Maurten gels this marathon. I had been taking scratch chews the past few years and by the end of Chicago, I said to Kim, “I never want to eat another chew for the rest of my life”. I tried a Maurten gel during my 10-mile training run and my tummy seemed fine. I took one at mile 13 and felt amazing. I had taken Spring before I started running so I knew I had a good base. Then I took another a caffeinated one at mile 17. Then it hit me. “Kim, I have to go to the bathroom now!” I ran off the course and ducked into a port-o-let. As soon as I squatted my quads locked up. Then when I finished, I noticed there was no toilet paper. I looked around and ripped the cardboard roll and used that. I know, TMI, but it did work. I ran out as fast as I could to try to catch Kim. My legs, my lungs, and my heart rate were screaming. Finally, I spotted that number 8 on the back of the singlet. I finally settled back into a comfortable pace and started to look for our Highland Lake friends, Huy & Catherine Lam. They were there last year on the course cheering for us. They said they would be at 85 /86th street. We spotted the family, and the 3 little ones had those mini confetti cannons shooting confetti as soon as they saw us. Catherine and Huy jumped into a photo with us, and we headed back out running.
The streets seemed to narrow in sections so that we had no choice but to slow down. You couldn’t go fast if you wanted to. I welcomed these slower sections to give my legs a break. Water stops were like “Survival of the fittest” as people would almost knock you over to grab water or Gatorade. It was insane.
The next people we were going to look for were Rebecca and Kevin from the CMAK foundation. They were supposed to be at mile 21-22. We took a couple of turns off the next bridge and I spotted Rebecca. I ran over and gave her the biggest hug. Let me tell you the energy that came off of her gave me goosebumps. I got a jolt of energy that kept me going for a few miles. I told Kim after the marathon that we need to let Rebecca know that she needs to be at mile 24 too to get me up 5th Ave which is a constant uphill until you get to Central Park!!
We were finally in Central Park and the crowds were relentlessly yelling “Jeanne”! I swear that this kept me going when I had nothing left in my tank. We weaved our way out of Central Park onto 59th street in front of the Park Lane Hotel where we stayed when we got married. That made me smile. I knew that I had walked from there to Tavern on the Green so many times that it wasn’t far. I saw the 800 meters to go sign by Columbus Circle, then the 400 meters to go. I remember the night of the Parade of the Nations seeing the 400-meter sign knowing that the grandstands would be next, the finish line was so close. Finally, there it was! The finish. Kim put his hand out for me to grab which seemed like eternity because I had to speed up. I grabbed his hand and ran through the finish making sure that I was smiling and not looking at my watch like I did in Chicago.
I stopped my watch and noticed that I met my goal of running under 4 hours. I qualified for Boston as well as the NYC marathon. It makes me happy knowing that I won’t have to get up at 3:30 am to drive to NYC to complete the 9+1 races to get into NYC for 2024. Yes, I will run it again. Not because I love the course, it’s because I love the experience. The NYC marathon is like none other. It WILL move you. It will break your heart, but if you run it you WILL want to have that same NYC experience again. See you next year.