It is Sunday, 3rd if November. We have the pleasure of enjoying a homemade bowl of oatmeal prepared by my mom. It's topped with some fresh berries infused with honey. As it's already 7am I decide agains taking Subway and tell the guys (Peter Nielsen and Peter Taub) that we are going to take a cab to South Ferry terminal. Keep it simple. From 30th street and 1st Ave it's easy to go down FDR and reach the south tip of manhattan. In spite of the manic feeling that something could go wrong: Done.
We get there well in time to stock with some water and Gatorade. Big herds of people just cramming their self against each other as they huddle on the boat.
The ferry takes off at 7.50....It's a chilly Marathon morning as we are watching Manhattan disappear behind us. We approach Staten Island on the ferry. We are getting one step closer to a mountain of a work-out spread along the 5 boroughs of the great City of New York. The tension on the ferry is palpable but there is also a feeling of unity, we are literally all "in the same boat". Everybody seems to have a slightly different way of getting in the zone but for sure it's an excited rather the nervous tension. I'm sure some of us, including myself are asking ourselves "what exactly did you get yourself into?" I brush the thoughts aside and focus on positives and preparations like hydration for instance. Oh, and the toilet breaks. After all, gotta make sure there is no need for 'number two' on the run.
We disembark on Staten Island and are taken aback by the chilly winds it welcomes us with. My friend Peter Taub is clearly underdressed and hiding from the wind behind the crowds as we make our way to the next form of transportation. The busses. They will take us to the last security checks near Verrazano Bridge. They pack the busses so full we are left with the standing positions on the isle. There is a big pack of Argentinian runners that are sitting on both sides of the isles. They are prepared, wearing big white overalls and nutrition belts etc. luckily the bus ride is not long...we get off to get screened by NYPD.
We then whisk ourselves towards starting corrals and and once again line up for toilets to make sure... We then do the final fist pumps and head towards our individual starting waves.
I'm in the Green Wave number 2. Slated to start at 10.05 am
I made it just in time to the corrall. It was within a chicken wire fence that was prepared for our batch. I start doing some warm-ups and final stretches. We are about 15 min away... It's still a bit nippy and windy. In anticipation for the bridge I make sure I'm warmed up. I had prepared with a hoodie and windbreaker pants that are shortly to be thrown into the piles of other clothing to be recycled. I put on my arm sleeves and write my name on them with a marker I found on the ground. We hear the first bang. It's the official start. Our group is next. Everyone starts cheering at people up on the bridge and they cheer back.
Our turn, the starting area is cleared for our wave. Bang! The gun goes off againI hear the voice of Frank Sinatra, they are playing "New York, New York! " Everyone is singing along.... One of the things remains from the song as a message "If you can make it here you make make it anywhere"
I step over the starting line and enable timekeeping for my gps enabled heart-rate monitor/stopwatch. It's on!
The atmosphere on the bridge is crowded but steady. It's so strange to run on the Verrazano bridge and look at Manhattan in the distance... I snap a picture, one the few I took along the way.
I noticed the pace guy named David who is carrying the 4.00 hour sign. I catch up to the pack following this guy as if he had the answer to our absolution. He has created a steady following. For now, he is the alpha male.
We get off the bridge and approach the first cheering neighborhoods of Brooklyn. More music follows us en route and it's all very uplifting. My feet feel light and it's getting sunny the windy chills from Verrrazano bridge are a distant memory
The first water break is at 3 miles but I decide I'm still good.
We are now about 5+ miles into the race and I think to myself "just four more of these" ...does it work?
"-Forget it, I'll make it work", I tell myself.
I also literally feel about the best I've felt in a while. I guess my training and preparation wasn't that bad after all. I did a 18 mile run around Manhattan two weeks ago and tapered off since. Good, I think. I stay with "Dave" the 4hour pace guy. We hurry along more BK and I feel great. The pace is fast but manageable. Around 8 miles I start swinging by the water stations for replenishments. About 10 miles in it I am actually surprised how good I feel. The crowds on the streets and the adrenaline has done a favorable job for this sensation. I warn myself to just stick to the game plan. I vision the 4hour sign aka "Balloon" as my umbilical cord and there is no way I was letting the cord snap until I was due. I was the mother and a child as the RUNNER within myself. I was in charge. I was responsible.
We reach the half way mark around the area on a bridge where Brooklyn turns into Queens. Dave and the pack are on pace. Dave yells: is everyone ok? We nod and grunt and some say yes or just scream wooooo to acknowledge.
We hurry along LIC and get closer to another famous obstacle: The Queensboro Bridge. I get excited. I've crossed it numerous times by car or bike but not running. Yet. I'm good on hills anyway. All the stair training and hills... I don't let it intimidate me. I just look forward to the coasting as we would soon reach the tipping point to down towards Manhattan and it's millions of people cheering for us. I think we pass 16mile mark on bridge near exit to streets... Turn to 59th street then shortly make a left to 1st Ave. the long climb towards Bronx starts. At 18miles we are handed a special Gatorade Endurance Formula. It's pretty sweet I don't have the time to look what flavor it was. I trust the technology and research behind it and pray that it doesn't upset my tummy. I down it. Someone next to me says -"yuck!"
We take Willis Ave Bridge into Bronx. We approach the critical 20-mile mark which is famous for people hitting "The Wall" all the hard training and discipline culminates to this moment.
I'm with Dave, steadily. I speed up to the water-stop on the way and fill my little Poland Spring bottle. It enables me to take little sips of water at a time. At the Gatorade stops I just open my mouth wide and try to take as much as I can and then slowly swallow it.
The volunteers pass us small pieces of bananas which are also very welcome.
I am silently praying for us to get back into Manhattan soon.
I run along, my knees are a little tender but nothing too alarming. My Asics shoes have done a great job with shock absorption on the way. My energy is good, my body temperature is close to ideal considering. I've managed to keep my heart rate between 146 and 162 the while race depending on hill or flat. I'm fully aware now that I think I can reach my goal which is the sub-4hour and possible break my PR 3'59'13 from 15 years ago on Dublin Marathon. But I stay humble. And with Dave in sight.
We finally cross back into Manhattan I think around 21miles or 22. The music for the loudspeakers play James Brown "I feel good" and I am filled with positive emotions and feel the goosebumps on my skin. It comforts me...
We then hit 5th Ave for the final long straight and approach Central Park. The dream is within grasp. The child within me is about to be re-awaken. We reach the park. Coming from uptown it'll be more downhill now which is nice.
I check myself for energy and think: "It's time to say goodbye to Dave" I thank him for his services and pick up the pace...
The last three miles I must have passed a 1000 people. I was booking it. Still had juice but it was close enough I didn't feel threatened to just give it some extra push... The sensation of being close to finish line overwhelmed the pain.
I get out of the park at 59th street and run along it. I hear someone saying -"that guy is in the zone!" I grin internally and feel like the eyes to my soul are smiling. I'm flying.
26miles, Two hundred yards to go... I am raising my hands in the air. As I approach the finish line I'm Screaming "under 4 baby! Yeah!"
Within the finish line it hits me. I bend over and grab my knees from collapsing. I'm huddled over and I feel the stream of tears running down my face. More so up my face cos I'm bent over. My whole8 body shakes in joy and tears. I get up and put my hands in the air one more time.
I'm over the moon...
3'56 ... nuff said.