I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and the start to your work went went smoothly. I’m now back home from my weekend in New York City and ready to share with you my experience.
I ran the NYC Marathon with Team Up! with Autism Speaks, my second event with them after Chicago in October. I arrived to the area late Thursday evening and stayed with a close friend in New Jersey for the weekend. On Friday morning we hopped on the NJ Transit and headed into the the city for the race expo.
We arrived at the Javits Convention Center and headed straight to packet pick-up.
There was absolutely no line and I walked right up to receive my bib – 7870.
After receiving my race bib we headed further into the expo starting with the race merchandise section. This area was absolutely huge and crowded as ever. I tried to take a picture capturing the scale of merchandise but my photo does not do it justice.
I decided against buying anything here for two reasons – I preordered what I wanted and the checkout line took over an hour!! We continued making our way around the expo, stopping at booths, taking pictures and even talking with Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World. We spent about three hours exploring the expo before we left and took a subway to Central Park to visit the finish line.
Central Park was a fury of activity with crews and volunteers preparing fencing around the finish line, completing the finish line area, setting up medical tents, grandstands and hauling the supplies and gear needed on race day. Add to that the visitors to the park and the NYC Marathon Pavilion located near the finish line and it was pretty crowded. The pavilion included race merchandise, photo opportunities, and a stage with guest speakers and video presentations.
After a while we found our way back to the subway and headed to Times Square and the Hard Rock Cafe for the Team Up! charity dinner. Dinner was delicious and served up with inspirational stories and speeches from runners from all walks of life. I met one person, Chris Beck, in Chicago last month as he continues to run all six Abbott World Marathon Majors in one year for Team Up! and enjoyed getting to catch up again before this race. I would encourage you all to follow him on his journey – Instagram and Twitter @IRunForOwen.
My day was almost over but first I made a pit-stop at Junior’s to pick up a slice of cheesecake for the wife. On Saturday I did absolutely nothing. I mean that in the most literal since of the world as my Garmin only registered 2,600 steps for the whole day. I spent most of the day on the couch with my feet up while I hydrated and watched television. I made sure to get my gear ready for the next morning and I was in bed early.
4:00 a.m. comes early no matter how much sleep you get, but luckily I was excited for the race so getting up was not an issue. After getting ready and eating a simple meal, we loaded up and headed to Meadowlands Stadium to catch the participant bus that would take me to the starting village on Staten Island. I arrived and loaded onto the first bus leaving and was on my way to the starting line.
As my first New York City Marathon experience, I thought the villages were well organized, well staffed with volunteers and believe it or not had plenty of porta-potties. The lines, at least where I was, were short with under a five minute wait. I wasn’t thinking ahead about blogging but I managed to remember to take a few pictures. My corral, Wave 1 – C, opened at 9:00 a.m. and I was one of the first through and right at the front.
After entering the corral, I decided I was warm enough to remove my extra layers and as soon as I did something amazing happened. Individuals noticed the Team Up! shirt I was wearing and would come up and introduce themselves and share with me that their child has autism. They would wish me luck, some snapped a photo with me and then would go back to readying themselves. One gentleman in particular, running his 10th New York City Marathon, talked with me until the cannons signaled the start of the race. It was honor to meet each and every one of you.
The cannons blasting early in the morning signaled the race was underway. I crossed the start line 1:10 after the elite men, and that millisecond in time was the closest I’ll ever be to an elite!! The race, as always, was a blur.
For three hours plus I took in the sights of the five burroughs, listened to the roar of spectators, the awesome music being played on the course, dodged spectators crossing the course with strollers (seriously people?) and struggled with the painful realities of running a marathon.
One of the best runners in history, Emil Zatopek would say: “if you want to run a race, run the mile, but if you want to experience something, run a marathon.” Experiences cannot be explained in a short blog. They must be lived. The New York City Marathon is truly a once in a lifetime experience and I encourage everyone to live it themselves.
Unfortunately the race was not my best. I struggled with the difficult course and my legs were zapped of energy; possibly the byproduct of Chicago 20 days earlier. I struggled after mile 18 and it tested my mental and physical strength. Getting a text from my wife towards the end helped get me across the finish line. I finished in 3:28:39. It wasn’t the race I wanted, but it was the race I was blessed with.
I struggled with what to say about my race while writing this post, and then I found words very fitting. Written by Elizabeth Maiuolo, Development Director for Team Up! Autism Speaks in New York, she said, “The marathon is not about running a fast time, the marathon is about survival, it’s about showing up and measuring up to the challenge, it’s about the fight of the human spirit. It is tough, but you showed you are tougher. A marathon is a daunting task every day, no matter if it’s your first or your 10th, it is always hard. That is why the achievement is so special.”
She’s right. Some of the most inspiring stories are not mine or the winners; I’m inspired by those who couldn’t finish, but gave everything they had. I’m inspired by those who finished hours after the crowds had gone home and the streets grew dark. I’m inspired by those who helped others reach the finish line, sacrificing their personal goals for the collective.
New York was not a goal at the start of the year, I hadn’t even attempted entry. A profound chance of luck allowed me the opportunity to experience the world’s largest marathon. It truly is a wonderful, challenging race deserving of the World Marathon Major title. I’m grateful to Team Up! for the opportunities this year and look forward to races with them in the future.