This morning my dad, my sister and I ran the New York Marathon, it was an incredible experience.
Because my dad and sister were staying at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and I was staying at Times Square, I first had to jog over there in the very early hours of the morning. The bus left at 5:45 from their hotel, so I left my hotel at 5 AM to make sure I would be on time. It was dark and almost freezing in the city, and the only people you saw were runners on their way to buses to the start at Staten Island.
The ride to the start was less than 30 minutes, so at 6:15 we entered the start area of the marathon. It was so cold that the grass was still frozen white at certain areas, but there was no place to sit inside. There were a few open tents, but the temperature there was just as low as outside. Because the start was only at 9:40 (and for Sonja only at 10:40) we decided to make the best of it, wear plastic overcoats over our running clothes and try to stay warm with free coffee and tea.
The atmosphere was very nice despite the cold and despite the long wait, but I was glad when we could enter our starting corral at 8:20 AM. My dad and I were in the same starting corral, so we had some energy food and drinks together and then took off all the additional clothing. You could put that in bags and pick it up after the race, but if you left it in the starting corral it would be giving to charity, so that’s what we did. Now somebody will receive some nice long running pants and a Tommy Hilfiger sweater.
We were almost at the back of the starting corral, but we did not mind too much because we did not plan to run a fast race. We just wanted to finish in a decent time, I hoped to finish between 3:40 and 3:50. My dad and I would run together, just like we did in the Macau marathon a couple of years ago.
After the start we went onto the Verrazano bridge right away, a nice climb to start the run. I enjoyed the view from there over the water with the Manhattan and New Jersey skyline in the background. After the Verrazano we ran through Brooklyn for quite some time. It was very busy along the streets in Brooklyn, thousands and thousands of spectators and bands everywhere. It was really cool to hear them cheer for you and it helped to motivate you to run even faster.
Our speed was quite good and for the first 25 kilometers we were running at a schedule of about 3:36. I felt great and could have run faster, but there were just too many people to be able to run at a faster pace. My dad hurt his achilles tendon at 15 km, but he only admit that to me 10 km later when I noticed that he was in pain. Things suddenly got worse at 30 km, when I suddenly heard him call my name behind me. I looked around and saw that he could hardly walk anymore, let alone run. He told me to continue on my own, which I was very reluctant to do. But looking at the way he walked I realized he would probably have to give up the race, so I then decided to run the remaining 12 kilometers alone.
Those were also the hardest kilometers, but not as hard as in previous marathons. I felt good during the whole run, there was not one moment that I wanted to stop or wanted to walk. My legs hurt of course, but in previous marathons I had a much harder time. One key difference is that I trained hard for this marathon, much harder than previous ones. Another big difference is that I drank Gatorade and water at almost every drink stop, and that I had energy gels to eat when I started to feel hungry.
The last part of the race was the nicest. Coming back from the Bronx to Manhattan and then turning into 5th Avenue through Harlem was a great part of the race. You know it is just another 6-7 kilometers and the crowds were 5 rows thick. Great bands along both sides made these kilometers (always the hardest of the race) much easier.
At 90th Street we turned into Central Park for the final stretch. Two more hills (and of course 2 more downhills), then a right at the Plaza Hotel onto Central Park South to Columbus Circle. From there we turned right into Central Park again and then the finish came in sight. I sped up the last 500 meters, I felt like I could have run much longer if I had needed to. My final time (net): 3:42:33. I am quite happy with that, I could have ran a couple of minutes faster if I had wanted to, but for me it was more about the experience than about the result.
One reason why I lost some time is because I tweeted several times during the race, not an easy thing to to do with a touchscreen keyboard! I also took about 50 pictures (although some of them were not sharp because of moving during running) with my iPhone, and I posted several on Facebook as well. I love Social Media!
After crossing the finish line I called Grace, who told me that my dad had actually started running again (she could see our progress online) and he came in only 9 minutes after me! I felt bad that I had not waited for him, I should have known that he never gives up. But at 30 km he looked so bad, that I could not imagine him even walking the rest of the course. But he did! However, it came at a price, because after the finish line the medical people immediately took him aside and checked him up. He could not walk anymore because of the severe pain, but after medical treatment he managed to get out of the park on his own and then into a taxi to the Waldorf-Astoria. From there he called me to tell his story. Dad, I am very proud of you and I hope you will recover soon.
My sister Sonja ran her first marathon and she did a great job as well. Her final finishing time was 4:51, well within her target of 5 hours. Excellent Sonja, especially considering the fact that you did not walk a single meter during the race. A good start of your marathon career!
I loved the New York Marathon and can imagine to run this one again. The atmosphere is amazing and the course very nice. However, the huge running crowd made it less enjoyable because you can’t really run your own speed. Even after 21 kilometers there were still too many people around you to run without thinking. So it’s not a marathon to run fast times, but it’s a marathon to enjoy. And that’s what I did today!