Monday, November 05, 2007

2007 New York City Marathon

Sunday I ran in the biggest marathon of all time, the ING New York City marathon. A record 98,000 people applied to the open lottery system and 35,000 were accepted – including me. Along with charity and guaranteed entry runners a total of 38,676 completed the race which is the largest marathon anywhere, ever.
It also attracts many celebrities and world class runners like Lance Armstrong (214th place)
Katie Holmes, and Paula Radcliffe. The Empire State building even changed it's lights to orange and blue for ING.
This year the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials were held on Saturday in Central Park. The big story there was that one of the 150 runners attempting to make the team collapsed and died at mile 6.
I’ve been looking forward to this run for a long time since it would be my 3rd marathon and my 2nd “World Marathon Major.” I trained harder than ever this year, controlled my diet extremely well over the last 5 weeks, and had a goal of less than 4 hours.

The marathon follows a course through all 5 major boroughs of New York City. We started on Staten Island and ran across the Verazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn. From Brooklyn we ran to Queens and then across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. The course runs along 1st Avenue in Manhattan, takes a 1 mile loop into the Bronx, and then ends in Central Park. The course was much harder and hillier than I anticipated. The worst two hills were the two big bridges. They each had steep climbs of nearly a mile.

Since the marathon starts at the relatively remote location of Staten Island it was a big logistical issue of getting 40,000 people there by race time. I woke up at 5:00 am, drove to north Manhattan, took the subway downtown, took the Ferry to Staten Island, and then took a bus to the starting line, arriving at 8:00.

The race officially started at 10:10 but it took me a full 31 minutes to reach the starting line. There was construction on part of the bridge this year so race officials made us go out in “waves” which added to the long wait before getting to the start line. The run over the Verazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn was excellent as we had a great view of the New York skyline. My goal at the beginning of the run was to not start out too fast and hold pace around 9:00/mile. This was pretty easy for the first 8 miles and I was feeling good.

Mile 1 – 9:15 (uphill)
Mile 2 – 8:19 (downhill)
Mile 3 – 9:05
Mile 4 – 9:05
Mile 5 – 9:05
Mile 6 – 9:01
Mile 7 – 9:06
Mile 8 – 9:18

My problems started after mile 8. In the first 8 miles participants are split up and run 3 different routes. At mile 8 we all came together. But, since my group had the construction issue we all crossed the starting line MUCH later than comparable runners in the other 2 groups. So the people we merged with were running at a 5:30 hour marathon pace compared to my group at 4:00-4:15. This is a huge difference in speed and since 2/3 of the runners were going much slower than me I spent the next 8 miles dodging through them. The course was too narrow most of the time and I struggled in passing the slower runners. I was constantly slowing down, speeding up, changing direction, and running along the curb. It was frustrating and also took away some of my energy.

Mile 9 – 9:24
Mile 10 – 8:59
Mile 11 – 9:29
Mile 12 – 9:37
Mile 13 – 9:07
Mile 14 – 9:17
Mile 15 – 9:29

I knew I wasn’t going to get 4 hours on my way up the Queensboro bridge at mile 15. I had just dropped off pace and the hill was brutal. Coming into Manhattan at mile 16 the course finally opened up as 1st avenue is very wide but my thoughts had shifted to the pain starting in my legs.

Mile 16 – 10:01 (uphill)
Mile 17 – 9:13 (downhill)
Mile 18 – 9:35
I kept running and was happy to see my cheering section at mile 18. Little did they know that it would take me a LONG time to reach them again at their next spot near mile 23.

Mile 19 – 10:15
Mile 20 – 10:46

I hit the wall HARD after mile 20 when I was in the Bronx. My body was shutting down despite my will power to keep running. I began walking but that hurt more than running so eventually I stopped to stretch. I repeated this vicious cycle for the next 4 miles, each mile getting progressively worse. Running hurt and was nearly impossible, walking hurt more, and stretching didn’t get me any closer to the finish line. My mile times looked like this:

Mile 21 – 11:49
Mile 22 – 12:38
Mile 23 – 14:50
Mile 24 – 19:44 (are you serious? This is slower than walking!)

I finally reached Erin, Cindy, Ron and Mara at mile 23 and Erin walked with me for awhile when I was at my worst.
My adrenaline kicked in for the last 2 miles and I was able to run the rest of the way. It was amazing, my pain basically went away and I was able to enjoy the final stretch through Central Park.

Mile 25 – 10:50
Mile 26 – 10:19

The finish line was heavenly. I was relieved to finally finish after the toughest run of my life. My final time was 4:29:36, good for 21,067th place. Not the time I had hoped for but I’m still very proud of completing it.

I stuck with my Michigan Wolverine theme again this year and was encouraged by the thousands of spectators with a plethora of cheers like “Go Michigan!” “Go Blue” “Go Big Blue” “Go Chad Henne” “Beat ohio state” and “Go Wolverines.” It was amazing how many Michigan supporters there were in New York. The best was when a couple sang the entire Hail to the Victors fight song as I passed them.
The course itself was really cool. I love NY City so it was really fun running through it and the spectators were very encouraging. I was also very happy to have Erin, Cindy, Ron, and Mara there to experience it with me.

Besides merging with slow runners after 8 miles my other big complaint about this marathon was the finisher area. They forced all of us to exit central park via a narrow road. It turned into a major bottleneck with no means of escape. I was forced to stand in this line for over 30 minutes of pure misery. There was no where to go and no way to move but my legs hurt too bad to stand, so I basically crawled along with the crowd until we finally got to the edge of the park.

People come from all over to run this marathon including all 50 states and over 100 countries. For some interesting statistics:

So, I've completed another marathon. My goal of 4 hours remains elusive for the moment. From mile 20 on I told myself there was NO WAY I was going to do this again in Las Vegas on December 2 (my original plan). 90 minutes later I changed my mind.
After finally getting out of Central Park we took the subway back to our van and drove 12 hours home. I pulled myself into bed at 5:00 am after a heck of a 24 hour span. Five hours later I was sitting at my desk working - never a dull moment.


Blogger Rob Holleman said...

Nice work Randall. Did you eat anything during your race? Maybe you are just running out of fuel. Sounds like fun regardless. I might have to try one again soon so I can feel the misery. I would have liked to see you crawling on the ground. Were you the only one doing this?

9:57 AM  
Blogger Jason and Melissa said...

So this one was a lot like Chicago. I agree with Rob, you must be hydrating wrong or something.
Still, 3 hour weekend training runs all summer, death-like agony for the last six miles, feeling like an 80-yr-old for the next day...are you trying to prove something, or do you just enjoy pain?

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Sharon C said...

Good job! I ran also, and it was my first marathon. I was totally unprepared for how steep the bridge approaches were - the uphill on the
Queensborough seemed to go on for about a week! Nonetheless, I am proud of my time of 4:53:27 and will always feel like I accomplished something really special by running the NYCM. I found that I was drinking ALOT more than I usually do during long runs and I think it helped alot, so maybe your other responders are right - you perhaps weren't hydrating enough. Anyway, congratulations!

1:07 PM  

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