2013 ING NYC Marathon Recap.

The NYC Marathon was all that I expected and more.  I had heard about the crowds and the noise level and the massive amounts of runners but you really can’t prepare for that unless you have experienced it.  2 Millions plus spectators who are loud and cheering for you like you are Derek Jeter.  Every recreational athlete should get to experience that at some point in their lives.

Race Day:

My alarm went off at 3:45 a.m. but I shot awake at 3:30.  I was quite anxious for the day to begin.  Every meticulous detail was pre-planned from what I was going to eat to how I was going to put on my layered clothes to prepare for the waiting outside at Fort Wadsworth.  Shower; Check.  Water; Check. Body Glide; Check. I got my cup of coffee and had my oatmeal and hit the road to meet my ride to Met Life Stadium. Getting to Met Life was a breeze at 4:45 in the morning.  There were hundreds of buses lined up ready to roll.  As we got on the bus I expected a fairly short drive but instead it took us an hour and a half.  The traffic getting near the Verrazano bridge was stand still.  It was tough sitting down for that long but we were going to have to wait around anyway so I reasoned that it was better on a warm bus than out in the cold.  When we got there the security presence was heavy.  Metal Detectors and wands were used. Bib numbers had to be shown to anyone who asked and several people asked.  Sleeping bags and even garbage bags which people planned on using to keep warm or to sit on were confiscated.  When we actually got to Fort Wadsworth.  The atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation.  They provided coffee, water, gatorade, and bagels.  I decided to have a bagel around 8:30 because it had now been 3 hours since I ate my oatmeal.  There were people everywhere.  I didn’t know at the time but they later announced a record number of runners.  Over 50,000 would line up to attempt this year’s NYC Marathon.  Most just sitting down, trying to rest as much as possible.  Many waiting in the lines for the bathroom no doubt a combination of drinking water, sitting out in the cold, and just nervous energy.  There were people from so many other countries wearing their county’s colors proudly.  I noticed France, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Spain, Canada, and Germany just to name a few.

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I tried seeking out people who had run NYC before to get some tips on how to manage the day.  The Ford Wadsworth part of the day was like Christmas Eve as a kid.  You just know something amazing is about to happen and you can feel it in the air.  Finally at 9:00 they called wave 2 to the corals.

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Once inside the corrals the nerves started to come.  Last minute bathroom breaks because we were less than an hour from starting the world’s greatest race.  Now was also the time to shed the layers of clothes I had on over my race outfit.  It was a cold day and the wind was harsh at times but to be honest I am not sure if I noticed at the time.  I kept my hat and gloves on for the first part of the race only to shed them around mile 5.  As we made our way towards the base of the Verazano for the first time I really got a sense of how massive this was.  TV Cameras were everywhere and there was a stage set up where Mayor Bloomberg had just wished all of the runners good luck.  Someone sang God Bless America and did a great job but I have no idea who. Then before I knew it The cannon fired and Frank Sinatra Sang New York New York.

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The first mile was up hill to the crest of the Verazano Bridge.  You really couldn’t open up too much because the see of people around you.  On the sides of the bridge two NYPD choppers hovered what seemed like 15 feet away.  Everywhere you looked left, right, front, or back there were runners.  It somehow worked.  They start you based on your predicted finishing time so most of the people round you should run at around the same pace as you.  When you look at the overhead shots of the bridge you think you would feel claustrophobic but that really wasn’t the case.

Brooklyn was my favorite part of the race.  Everyone talked about First Ave but Brooklyn was unique in so many ways.  The energy was super high and the people were enthusiastic throughout. Each section had it’s own flavor and made the long trek through Brooklyn lots of fun.  There were DJ’s and bands and MC’s keeping the crowd going.  One of the best tips I received was to write my name somewhere on my body because other runners and people along the route would shout out, “Keep going Joe” , or “nice job Joe.”  Some of my favorite signs that people had were the girl with a Friday Night Lights Jersey holding the sign that said Clear Eyes Full Hearts, the popular catch phrase from the TV show.  Another guy had a sign that said Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.  Run now, Beer Later was another one that I liked seeing.  Brooklyn for me was the highlight of the race.   It was still early enough where I felt good and I was cruising on adrenaline.  The only downside was the strong winds mostly in my face which at the time I didn’t pay attention to but the combination of my adrenaline and the winds would maybe come back to haunt me later on.

The second half of the race started as you crossed the Queensboro Bridge onto First Ave in Manhattan.   The Queensboro was quiet and the first half was uphill until you crested and then started down onto the street.  When I made the left onto First Ave you could see all of the people lining the streets.  It was not quite as loud as I was told it would be but certainly First Ave had the most spectators.  They were holding signs and ringing cow bells and just cheering for their family and friends and even people they don’t know.  The marathon is a day where all the good it seems comes out in people.  Yes their are the elite runners with their tiny bodies running superhuman times.  To me the marathon is about the 99% of the runners who go into the day knowing they have no chance of winning.

Around Mile 18 is when things started to go down hill for me.  I started to feel a slight twinge in my hamstrings.  I knew if I continued to stride like I wanted to I might cramp up.  I have never felt that in my hamstrings while running.  Usually it was my calves or my hip but this was real.  I made a conscious effort to slow myself down and decrease my stride in order to not blow out my hamstring.  The shorter strides make for more ground time and more force being pounded into your legs.  By mile 20 it was over for me.   I was shot.  I had hit the wall.  This was not my first marathon but I had never felt anything like this.  I struggled slowly from 20-23.  I hardly even remember going through the Bronx and up into Harlem.  By the time we crossed back into Manhattan and into Central Park I felt as if I was going to die.  Every part of my legs were failing me.  My calves, my hips, my quads had seemed to take over for my previously ailing hamstrings.  Miles 23-26.2 were a slow crawl at best.  I even walked.  I walked and ran back and forth through Central park.  Each time I stopped I wanted to cry because I could see 3:45 slipping away but more than I just wanted it to be done.  The marathon had beat me.  My previous marathons I didn’t walk at all.  Now I was walking through water stops and even in between.  People were passing me left and write.  Having Joe written on my shirt helped me in the beginning but now I didn’t want people to know my name.  Other runners were trying to encourage me.  “Almost there Joe”.  Spectators were trying to help me but it was of no use.  I just could not make myself run.

The goal was 3:45.  8 minutes and 35 seconds a mile.  I can do that.  Maybe go 8:15 because I would slow down later on but still doable.  But something inside of me just says go as fast as you can. Looking back I am not sure if it was the wind in my face or my too fast pace but I crashed and I crashed hard. My first 10 miles were about a 7:40 pace.  I just didn’t trust myself and my training to slow down.  For some reasons I always have in the back of my mind that no matter how slow I go in the beginning I will still hit that wall later on so why not go fast now.  I should know better than that.  For someone reason I just can’t seem to make myself do it.

MILE TIME CHANGE AVG PACE
1
8:51 8’51″/mi
2
16:40 - 1:02 (11%) 7’49″/mi
3
24:36 + 0:07 (-2%) 7’56″/mi
4
32:11 - 0:21 (4%) 7’35″/mi
5
39:42 - 0:04 (0%) 7’31″/mi
6
*Fastest
47:05 - 0:08 (1%) 7’23″/mi
7
54:41 + 0:13 (-3%) 7’36″/mi
8
1:02:26 + 0:09 (-2%) 7’45″/mi
9
1:10:17 + 0:06 (-2%) 7’51″/mi
10
1:18:12 + 0:04 (-1%) 7’55″/mi
11
1:26:23 + 0:16 (-4%) 8’11″/mi
12
1:34:24 - 0:10 (2%) 8’01″/mi
13
1:42:35 + 0:10 (-3%) 8’11″/mi
14
1:51:03 + 0:17 (-4%) 8’28″/mi
15
1:59:27 - 0:04 (0%) 8’24″/mi
16
2:09:35 + 1:44 (-21%) 10’08″/mi
17
2:17:16 - 2:27 (24%) 7’41″/mi
18
2:25:53 + 0:56 (-13%) 8’37″/mi
19
2:34:44 + 0:14 (-3%) 8’51″/mi
20
2:43:59 + 0:24 (-5%) 9’15″/mi
21
2:53:07 - 0:07 (1%) 9’08″/mi
22
3:02:46 + 0:31 (-6%) 9’39″/mi
23
3:13:01 + 0:36 (-7%) 10’15″/mi
24
3:24:58 + 1:42 (-17%) 11’57″/mi
25
3:36:04 - 0:51 (7%) 11’06″/mi
26
3:47:25 + 0:15 (-3%) 11’21″/mi

Those last three miles were the most painful thing I have ever done in my life.  Not just physically but emotionally I was beaten.  I wish I could say I picked it up and crossed the finish line feeling great but I limped across that finish line.  Yes, in the video I put my hands up but to be honest I was just happy it was over.  I was shocked to see that I actually had PR’d.  I had beaten my previous best marathon by more than 2 minutes.  I said that I was done with marathons after this one and at the finishing line I was sticking to that for sure.  It was pure torture.  It wasn’t until today when I read a NY Times article that I was able to get some perspective on the whole thing.  They interviewed a guy by the name of Greg Cass. He is a very good but sub elite runner.

“That is both the gift and the curse of the marathon,” Cass said. “When you finally get it right, it’s the product of 30 variables that you have maybe 50 percent control of. When you get it wrong, you try to analyze all 30 of those variables. It’s nearly impossible to figure out exactly what went wrong and how to make it better next time. But that’s the goal. To take a look at what happened and go back to the drawing board. And, if it’s in the cards, to give it another go.”

If you told me 5 years ago that I would have run 3 marathons I would have never believed you.  That is the magic of the NYC Marathon.  99% of the people running have no chance of winning. It is only you against yourself and everyone wins.  Just by starting the race and doing the training and having the courage to finish was I able to see myself do something so amazing.  Am I really done with marathons?  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just chasing something that will never happen which is the perfect race.  I am definitely not running one next year. I want to tackle some shorter races and try to get faster.  Maybe I will do some obstacle races because those seem like a lot of fun.  I want to throw myself into CrossFit a little more and see where that leads me.  I plan to get on that as soon as I can walk again.  One thing is for sure that for the rest of my life I can tell people that I ran the NYC Marathon.

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About Joe Lopez C.S.C.S

I grew up playing sports my whole life. I played football, basketball, and baseball in High School. I was so busy playing that I never learned how to work out and eat properly. I played baseball in college but without the year-round fitness that came from the other sports I started gaining weight. When my college baseball career was over I weighed 285 lbs. I decided to make a change. I lost 85 pounds in two years. I can show you how. I have been a certified personal trainer for six years. I helped countless people find their success stories. My style of training comes from an athletic background added to my own personal experience of weight loss and fitness.

Posted on November 5, 2013, in about me, fitness, running and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Congratsm, and cheers to being so honest about the race. I’ve only done halves, but I do hope to tackle that full distance at some point…

  2. Trails and Ultras

    This sounds like an incredible day :) I think you’re right to take a break from marathons and take some time to re-discover what your objectives are. I agree that it’s so easy to get caught up with always chasing PRs: I found before that I was losing sight of why I really wanted to run. I don’t want to find myself picking races I’m not so interested in purely because I know I can get a great time, and rejecting the races I want to do because I know I won’t PR. Soneone once said to me ‘do you want to race for PRs or adventure? You can’t choose both.’ It made me think a lot about what I wanted to achieve from running :)

  3. Congrats on a good finish. A PR at a very crowded race is particularly difficult and you did a sub-4hour!

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