Marathon Mike, Race Reviews

2019 TCS New York City Marathon Race Review

Date: Sunday, November 4th, 2019

Distance: 26.2 Miles

Location: New York, NY

Time: 4:40:02

Well if you couldn’t tell by the title of this blog and the accompanying information, I finished the marathon! Though I think it would be hilarious to write a race review for a race I dropped out of, unfortunately for my perverse sense of humor that is not the case. It seems almost to minimize the event to have my entire experience documented in one simple review but I don’t feel like breaking it down into parts so one blog is all this is getting.

I think for the sake of cohesiveness and readability I am going to do this whole thing chronologically. That would mean starting with the race expo. I went to the expo the day before the race, meaning that on a day I wasn’t already in the city I lugged my ass to the Javits Center, which to you might seem like a minor complaint but I really don’t like having to go somewhere to pick up something to go do something else. Whatever.

The expo was surprisingly both organized and awesome. Walking in all the volunteers are applauding and cheering you and stuff. Really a cool way to make an entrance. You go to the booth that corresponds with your number and pick up your bib. If you have any questions, which due to lack of preparation I had several, there is a whole set up of race support. With bib in hand you go get your shirt, which I of course have a terrible picture of for the purposes of showing the full experience. They tell you to not fuck up picking the size of your shirt since they will not exchange it, this is not true they will if you complain enough. They have a whole shirt try-on area to make sure you don’t screw up this decision. They ran out of women’s mediums, which as a man doesn’t impact me at all but it almost screwed over my girlfriend. As I mentioned if you go full Karen you can get anything done. If feet are your thing my girlfriend’s toes are in the bottom of this picture. Sorry babe.

Hard to tell from the picture but that shirt is a long sleeve. Okay moving on. The expo itself was huge, first you go through their New Balance sponsored store, where they have a masssssive amount of gear to spend all your money on. I got a workout shirt, a finisher hoodie, a quarter zip and credit card debt. Worth it. After spending your hard earned money you go through to the expo part. It was all these different booths with their sponosers and other things. If you have ever been to any expo it was pretty much the same thing, but for runners. They had all kinds of backdrops to take pictures at, a million booths promoting massagers (please Hypervolt send me one of those little pieces of heaven, no free ads though) gels, bars and other consumables, and for some reason mattresses. The Honey Stinger booth gave out samples of their waffles and I had a million. I really actually had a great time at this thing and not just because I got to massage myself. That sounded weird.

That was all on Saturday. Saturday night we ate a nice delicious and nutritious meal which for me meant a giant cheeseburger and some mac-and-cheese bites. Got all my stuff together, which included a full sweatsuit, hat, and gloves that I planned on donating at the race start as well as what I was bringing. I brought two packets of Biofreeze to rub on the ol’ knees, not that I really needed it more that I had them lying around so why not. I brought two gel packets, some hand warmers, my Bose Soundsports, my Garmin Forerunner 235, my Birddogs shorts, race belt and my Mizuno Waverider 22’s. No free ads of course. With that all laid out and ready to go it was on to the event.

So for anyone not familiar with the marathon you run through all five boroughs. The race starts in Staten Island, a little shit hole that hangs off of Brooklyn, where their is a massive pre-race town they basically set up. Living in Hoboken it was like a 35-minute Uber to the start. Only time living in Hoboken made getting to a NYRR race easy. Apparently the transportation they provide would have taken way longer. O well not my problem.

Depending on your group, their are villages set up that correspond to your color. These villages are huge and contain all kinds of amenities, which is good because regardless of what mode of transportation you take, you are going to be waiting around for 4ish hours before the start of the race. Yes that is for real. They close the bridges at 7am so you are forced to go super early. To make up for this, they have booths that offer Dunkin’ coffee, Honey Stinger waffles and gels, bananas, bagels and for some odd reason therapy dogs. Also 50 million porta potties that all manage to have a line.

People did different things while they waited like read, talk, stretch, try to capture the perfect Instagram picture, but what everyone unequivocally did was freeze. Not that it was terrible out, actually the weather was perfect. It started out high 40’s and moved into the low 50’s during the race with absolutely no wind. Easily the luckiest weather situation one could imagine. It was more that you were just waiting around while the sun wasn’t up, which is chilling regardless of what you wear. That is why they recommend you buy a bunch of throw away layers, and encourage this by having donation bins all over the place to get rid of the clothes as it gets closer to race time.

About 30 minutes out they tell you to make your way to your corral, which once again I was surprised by just how organize this was. They kind of move you into this walled up pens, a little prisionish but whatever, and you wait it out until you start walking. It was here that I finally shed my layers, keeping just the Dunkin’ hat and gloves on. There are more porta potties in the corrals in case you panic that you never got the chance to go.

My wave started at 10:10am, so around 10ish you start walking to the beginning of the Verrazano Bridge. Different groups are on different parts of the bridge, but either way there are a billion people all around. The announcer did a great job of pumping up the crowd. I thought I would be more nervous at this point, but I was actually so jacked up that I was doing that thing that would-be-athletes do before intramural games and was like pumping myself up. I was really excited at this point, I am sure I could go into a whole “wow my whole journey led me to this point thing” but that is fucking corny. But for real though I did spend some time getting ready for this, you can see in the previous 16 blogs about training for it if you really care too.

So some, I think Frank Sinatra, song about New York played and the race began. I think I am going to break up this review by borough, so without further ado, the actual race!

STATEN ISLAND (Miles 0 to 1ish)

So you are in Staten Island for a total of like 10 minutes. You literally just run across the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn. Starting a race on a massive incline has the advantage of tiring you out right from the get-go and making you really work without proper ally warming up. They don’t call this an easy marathon. After the 2 seconds, 2 seconds too many in my opinion, you are in Staten Island, its on to Brooklyn. Also I don’t have any pictures of anything borough specific after this one, so enjoy. Every week I posted as the feature image to my training blogs an overview of the runners on the bridge, this time I am posting a picture of my actually on it.

BROOKLYN (Miles 2 to 13)

At this point I had just run down the bridge and was feeling pretty damn good. Brooklyn was amazing, the energy was great with live music every mile or so and people packed along the streets cheering on the runners. I was so enjoying it that I didn’t even throw on my music until mile 9. Brooklyn is also flat, which made it an easy enough section. There were all kinds of signs, my favorite was one that said “Don’t Trust the Fart,” because I am immature. Also for real don’t trust it. At this point of the race we were cruising, Nathalie (that is my girlfriend in case that wasn’t obvious) and I were keeping a solid pace, we were doing a good job of spacing out hydration, and feeling overall solid. The crowd was just so lively and vivacious that it was hard to feel pumped. The areas of Brooklyn you run through are really pretty, so it is an enjoyable way to look at things. Right before the halfway point we stopped real quick to pee, and then got on another bridge to enter Queens.

QUEENS (Miles 13 to 16)

A quick popover in Queens to see a bunch of parking lots and factories made this part of the run pretty forgettable. After the bridge our pace started to drop a little bit, but it never got out of hand. Queens had some places with good energy, but it was not really a pretty area so I wasn’t terribly entertained. But of course at the end of Queens is the dreaded Queensboro Bridge, which might be the most unfair obstacle to throw into a marathon ever. SO the Queensboro Bridge fucking sucks, you are in the bottom part of it so there is no sun, it is a steady incline for what feels like at least 5 miles but is actually 1, and at the end it is a steep decline that doesn’t even feel like a break because you have to bend your legs in order to avoid them snapping. I repeat, fuck that bridge. On to Manhattan.

MANHATTAN PART 1 (Miles 16 to 20ish)

This part of the race takes you all the way up First Avenue, which is a cool enough street, if devoid of anything that really stand out to look at. At this point of the race we started to fall off a steady pace a little more. That dreaded 18th mile wall never really smacked me in the face, fortunately seeing a bunch of family and friends helped out a lot here. Around mile 16 I started to feel great, the idea of only having single digit miles to go I think mentally made this whole thing seem doable. I honestly felt fantastic at this point, that changed later on but whatever switch got flipped, it stayed flipped up until like mile 24. We started to hydrate a little more frequently, about ever 2 miles or so. I had also had 2 gel packets at this point (they gave packets out at miles 11 and 18). Another bridge, another borough.

BRONX (Miles 20ish to 22ish)

The Bronx stunk. Not like actually, well a little, but it just was ugly. This could have been because it felt like a tease until the final part of the race, but also there really wasn’t much to look at. There were still a ton of people, and the energy was solid, I just didn’t like this part of the race. Fortunately it was back to Manhattan.

MANHATTAN PART 2 (Miles 22ish to 26.2)

So the last part of the race is quite the interesting little adventure. From an actual running stand-point, mile 23 is basically a giant hill, which is something you always want at the end of a race. You travel down 5th Avenue until you do a quick popover into Central Park, where you go downhill for about another mile or so until it flattens out until the end. This part of the race is brutal, at that point I was starting to lose my little feeling of elation and the constant smacking of the concrete was starting to take its toll. At mile 24 I felt my outer right calf starting to tighten. This lead to my right quad tightening, and it became hard to bend my leg. I was forced to kind of high step it every quarter mile or so for a bit in order to keep the leg from tightening up completely. There was like a good 30 seconds where I wondered what would happen if the thing locked up on me and I couldn’t run, but then I thought there was no way I was stopping at this point so it didn’t matter.

I attribute this to a few things, the first is obvious exhaustion. I had been running for 4+ hours at this point and my body was feeling it. Next was that for the second half of the race, we had taken much more water breaks, as well as gave quick hugs and high fives to people who came to see us. This kind of stop-and-go style led to lactic acid build up. It’s not like we walked at any point, it was more that the change of pace and grabbing water and shit disrupts the run. We were running slower, at the pace we were going it was not the most optimal running motion for me or Nat. The last thing is that it was a god damn marathon and shit hurts. If I ran the whole thing without any type of pain or exhaustion than it wouldn’t be a challenge. Eat shit haters.

Going up and hill and down a hill, the TCS New York City Marathon finish line was finally in sight. The crowd for the second part of Manhattan, and really the whole race, was absolutely going nuts. It was crazy motivational and inspiring and while I don’t really ever feel moved by that kind of stuff, I honestly was blown away by the crowd. New York may be a cesspool of grime and filth and the worst kind of people, but it is still the best place on earth and nothing shows that more then being cheered on by millions of people. The people in Central Park were cheering their hearts out, and it actually did help push us too the end.

Sure enough we crossed the finish line, so ending our adventure. Well not really, they make you walk another mile as a sick, sadistic way to torture you before you are allowed to exit the park. If you selected a post-race poncho you got out of the park a little earlier. I did not. For real though I am not even kidding you actually have to walk a mile out of the park. It takes 45ish minutes and is absolutely horrible. They do give you a post-race bag with an apple some snacks and some drinks. I guess that is cool.

So to wrap up this monster blog, I have a few last thoughts on the race. This is going to be super sappy so if that is not your thing stop reading. You probably have already.

First off a humongous thank you to everyone who came out to support me. Seeing my family and friends during and after the race was something that helped push me to achieve a life long dream and I will forever be thankful. I feel truly blessed to have such great people in my life who are willing to freeze their asses off just to see me for two seconds and cheer me on.

Thank you to everyone who supported me throughout this whole process. So many of you reached out during and after the race and it meant a lot. Nobody, I repeat nobody, wants to hear someone talk about running and training for a marathon, yet my family and friends were always willing to put up with me blabbing on and on about pace, mile splits, tempo runs and all other running related things. They also listened to me complain about how much time this was taking up, how I had to get up early all the time to get in a run, and how I was constantly sore and exhausted, with nothing but patience and understanding. I apologize for whining and promise I will continue to.

But I could not possibly end this blog without talking about my girlfriend Nathalie. About two years ago, Nathalie set this whole thing in motion based on me mentioning that it was a life goal to run a marathon. She carefully researched how exactly to get into the marathon and got me a NYRR membership so that I could begin the journey. She decided to embark on the journey with me and we began the process of the making the dream happen.

She was with me grinding out the 9+1, meticulously planning our runs, making sure we signed up at the right times, and constantly getting on my case about planning things better. Without her I would never have been able to sign up, get too, and meet the prerequisites to even get into this.

This year we began training for the marathon, and throughout the process she continued to encourage me to push myself in order to put myself in the best position to succeed. Her tireless efforts in her own training were inspiring. She worked her fucking ass off and it showed. She facilitated rearranging our social lives to accommodate our training schedules, she was there every time I needed to bitch about being too exhausted, and her incredible toughness and resiliency motivated me to keep working. She is a warrior.

This was one of the best experiences of my life and I could not be happier to have experienced it with her. We had an absolute blast, and through all the tough times, the fights, the whining, the pain, we always kept the goal in mind and when we both crossed the finish line it was incredible. I am so beyond proud of her and grateful we got to do this together. Thank you Nat. I love you.

While that would have been the perfect place to end this, I want to say that this is not it for me, I will continue to post about training and running and events. I am not positive what comes next, but when I do know I will be sure to write extensively, perhaps to extensively, about it. Thank you all for reading along. O yea here is what the medal looks like.