Only a week from running the Tussey Mountainback 50 mile, where I had placed 2nd place in the USA road championship, I would be testing my recovery efforts and limits at running a fast marathon in arguably one of the greatest cities in the world, New York City.
Running this race had been a dream of mine from an early age. Living only about 50 miles from the heart of New York City, I have run many races growing up in and around the NYC area. From the cross country trails of Van Cortlandt Park, to Icahn Stadium to the Armory Track and Field Center, to even in Central Park during the marathon as part of a high school pre-marathon 2.5 mile invitational. My roots have been very much on NYC and the marathon.
I came into this race without high expectations. I really wanted to run under 2 hours and 40 minutes given that my body was still sore and tight from the hills of the Tussey Mountainback. If I was feeling good, then anything around my PR of 2:31 would be excellent.
Recovery was going better than expected as I did have some leg soreness (fatigue) that resided on race day but I did recover better than I had hoped for. I attribute a lot of that to good sleep, hydration with my Nathan Big Shot bottle and good moving recovery. I usually run how my body feels with no pace in mind just to flush out my muscles so that they can recover faster.
I headed out of work and sprinted in to the packet pick-up and made it just in time.
It was so much fun to get to experience the NYC marathon as a participant. While working at Nathan, I had the chance to work the NYC marathon expo 3 times and I had a blast getting to check out all of the booths and to really walk the floor and see the other vendor booths I was not able to visit before.
Ashlee and I had the opportunity of staying in an awesome Air BNB (that she booked and planned out) and had some amazing tapas food and drinks for dinner the night before the race. It was the true NYC marathon pre-race style. She was also nice enough to take the subway with me from Washington Heights to Battery Park, where I would take the Ferry to Staten Island. I highly recommend this option for 1st time NYC marathon runners. I saw this because the 30 minute ferry ride is a surreal experience knowing the history of NYC with so many immigrants that came to its ports on ships to begin their new lives as Americans. I almost felt like I was re-living the experience of our past ancestors through a more modern lens. It was so cool to see the Statue of Liberty and the harbor as the sun was just coming up.
After going through the security checks, then the waiting begins. I had my throw-away sweats and went with the warm blanket option (they rock) and hung around freezing my buns off. It was going to be a perfect day to marathon with sunshine and 40’s up to the low 50’s for the race but the morning in Staten Island as FREEZING! I spent most of my few hours here in the fetal position just trying to stay warm. The race does a great job to provide bagels and other food and drinks (the hot water was clutch) as you count down the minutes. Being in corral A, I was lucky to be with the first 1000 fastest runners of the event- split between both sides of the bridge.
It was great to be called into my corral with only 30 minutes before we would start. It was here that we jogged and created a little warm-up circle. It was here I ran into John Kelly, the most recent Barkley’s Marathon finisher and La Sportiva athlete who I raced with at Lookout Mountain in 2015. We caught up and really it was awesome to get to see a familiar face. John was funny looking for different clothes he could temporarily borrow in the donation bins as it was still cold and especially so with just being in a singlet and shorts. It was reminiscent of his Barkley’s Marathon finish where he found a plastic bag and orange inmate beanie and used it to stay warm in the final hours before his finish. We cracked a few jokes about it all as we prepared to head out to the start. We would plan on running the race together as much as possible and just enjoy the day. We soon had to ditch our clothes and head out to the start. We funneled through what seemed like thousands of runners but it was only 500 hundred or so as we tried working our way through the crowd to get closer to runners of similar finish time goals. We did not get as far up as we needed but was close with many 2:45-2:50 marathons and felt that was good enough. The waiting before the race is pretty cool, seeing the fighter jets fly by for the National Anthem and just feeling the buzz and energy of the pre-race.
As the cannon sounded, we were off! It was sheer wild running as we darted through all the runners as we looked to get into a better position. Running on the Goethals bridge in Staten Island was so surreal as the only other times I have been on it, was driving in a car. Here we were all running on normally a busy bridge crossing, some 50+ thousand runners all gradually making our journey to Central Park. As we darted along the runners, we tried our best to surge along and find some good running room. Once we were almost off the bridge, John Kelly had to stop and re-tie his shoe and said he would be right back up. I then continued the right side of the road so it would be easier to spot me and off I went through the crowd of runners. Once into Brooklyn, I was hooked on the environment of the city with everyone screaming for you and the live music and excitement of the day. I split some fast miles through here as I surged ahead looking to connect with runners that might be running around the same overall pace and effort. I am hard-wired to pursue the chase of other runners as I honed in on each one. I was passing many that looked to be running 6 minute pace, and so I kept leap-frogging ahead. These miles through Brooklyn are fun with some open city sections, some nice rolling neighborhood sections and so much wild and fanatic crowd support.
It was up until mile 8, where I felt I had caught runners in the 5:40-5:50 range which is where I wanted to be. I kept putting on the pressure sometimes splitting a 5:30 mile here and there and just took in the sights.
The New York City Marathon is a big party of runners running through the streets. It is something I chuckled about to myself while running how incredible this feat was. Here we are, 50,000 strong all running through New York City and then we have even more people watching you run, screaming for you to run well. I have never experienced anything like this before to this magnitude.
I ran with my Nathan Exodraw handheld and was able to keep perfectly hydrated throughout the first 13.1 stretch. Couple that hydration with two Boom Raspberry gels and I was feeling strong. I had a moment where I might run close to my PR today with the way that my body was responding and how I was navigating the course. The hills of New York City did not bother me at all and I really enjoyed the design of the course.
My split around the half-way was right near 74/75 minutes so I was on pace for a 2:30 marathon. I pushed the next uphill climb through the Queensboro Bridge, where the next few miles there are no spectators, just runners and a few volunteers at an aid station. All you can hear in the bridge tunnel is the quiet stammering of footsteps and breathing of the runners. I ran really strong through here as I heard that the mile 16 section is called the “Wall of Sound” up 1st avenue where Ashlee and My Father would be and knew I would get a great boost from this!
The “Wall of Sound” was unbelievable! As you come down the ramp of the bridge and turn right onto 1st Avenue, the noise level of people cheering and the movements of all the spectators was a full sensory overload. All I could think about was how amazing all this was. And of course I pushed the pace through here. By this point, I had linked up with runners that were in my wheel-house in terms of a low 2:30 finish time. I jockeyed back and forth with a few runners as I kept my foot on the gas. At this point, I had taken both gels and drank almost all of my Nathan Exodraw handheld. I resorted to trying to grab the cups of Gatorade and spilled most of it onto myself so it really did not function well for me.
The next 2 bridges I did slow a little to save some for Central Park and focus on conserving as much energy as I could. The Bronx was a fun section with spectators being the most creative with how they made their race signs and had some swagger as you ran by. I could not help but smile at them as they really helped make the pain of running a marathon seem not so bad.
By the last bridge into Manhattan from the Bronx, my hips and legs were starting to lock-up from the fatigue that was in me from the Tussey Mountainback race.
By the time I hit mile 22, my wheels started to fall off, and thus began my slow demise in my pace. I slowed from running 5:50 flat miles to now low 6 minute miles then 6:20, then 6:45 then soon to be the 7’s. I really wanted to enjoy Central Park, but I was in such a hurt locker, I just wanted to cross that line. I now soon had all the runners I had passed in the miles earlier start to blow right by me. Even John Kelly blew by me with about a mile and a half to go. As much as I wanted to speed up, my legs did not want any part of it. I maintained forward progress until I hit the final sprint into the finish and pushed with all I had left. I finished 144th overall and a time of 2:37:13. A 6 minute mile flat average considering the Tussey Mountainback run of 7:20 average mile pace with all of the hills, I would say not bad in a week’s time. I far surpassed my goal and expectations of how I would do and am hungry to see what I could do at this event if I trained specifically for it. Perhaps in the next few years.
Official Results: See 144th place Overall
I had the chance to talk with John Kelly who had me in his sights throughout the race and was able to run a PR for him which is awesome.
We each received our goody bags and I went with the poncho option (that thing is amazing) and then we parted ways as I headed to meet up with my family.
I was depleted but on such a high from this race experience. The amount of crowd support, and sharing so many miles with so many great runners from all over the world was simply a pure treat and honor to get to do.
I found my wife Ashlee, my Father and our friend Desandra and we all went out for some delicious brunch to celebrate the day.
This was a run that will change my life forever. It has given me so much gratitude for what I do and why I do it each and every day and will continue to run my little heart out to hopefully inspire others to follow in my footsteps. Whatever goals you set forth for yourself, just keep plugging away. It is not talent that breeds success, but rather hard work.
Thank you to everyone associated with this amazing event! From NYRR to the many New Yorkers who cheer on the runners and represent their neighborhoods well, to all of the fellow runners out on the course, Thank You!
Thank you to my brand sponsors for your continued support!
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