Soaking it all in – my observations leading up to the NY Marathon

Recapping the New York Marathon is no easy task and doing it almost two months after the race just ups the difficulty level.  While so many things are still ingrained in my memory, other little and more subtle things, that I promised I would remember forever, have already slipped my mind.  This will teach me never to wait this long again to do my marathon recap.  Well, that is after I do my recap for the MedCity Marathon I ran in May.  Yikes… that one may be a short one!

The 2013 ING New York City Marathon was one that will go down in the history books.  It was the first marathon after the infamous 2012 cancellation due to Superstorm Sandy.  Last year I felt so much animosity as a marathoner that I was anxious to see how the city would embrace us this year and if the good people of New York were willing to let bygones by bygones.  Well, I can honestly say, New Yorkers did not let me down.  Manhattan and surrounding boroughs and all that call those cities home embraced us and showed us support, enthusiasm, energy and love.

The Saturday prior to the race, had a lot of activity that got me pretty jazzed, not all of it was noticeable and you had to pay attention to what was going on to realize, this was no ordinary Saturday.

General observations I don’t want to forget:

  • An uplifted spirit.  Marathoners walking around joking and laughing.  Fellow marathoners were easy to spot because they were the only ones walking the streets of NY in running shoes.  (Don’t get me going on this… I’m not sure why runners ALWAYS wear their running shoes.  Football players don’t walk around in their cleats when they aren’t playing.  Don’t runners want to get out of their running shoes and throw on a cute pair of heels!?!?  Or am I the only one who would rather wear a cute pair of stilettos when I’m walking the streets of NY?!?!)
  • Marathon Sunday Signage.  Seeing public safety signs hanging on light poles alerting the public about road closures and no parking due to the marathon.
  • Holding my head high. Spotting marathon banners on Staten Island and not feeling the need to hide, but instead holding my head high knowing we were welcomed back to Staten Island by the locals who were appreciative of the help we provided in 2012.
  • Bag drop on steroids. A convoy of 30-50 UPS trucks in route to their bag drop destination complete with a police escort nonetheless.  You don’t normally see that type of attention given to the bag drop. And believe it or not, it actually gave me chills seeing it.
  • Positivity.  Reading, hearing and seeing in the news and media the talk about Sunday’s marathon without having any negativity go along with the news stories. This may seem like a small and trivial item to observe but it was one I was very much aware of while it was going on.
  • Safe and secure. Attending the Pasta Party and seeing the massive amount of security ensuring our safety.  And while there was a ton of security, it never affected the atmosphere or my enjoyment.  The security was respectful yet authoritative and the various check points were well-organized and all lines moved along pretty quickly.
  • Officials at the ready.  Walking into the massive tents that were home to the Pasta Party and seeing Mary Wittenburg, Race Director, being interviewed by the media and all the other news media in attendance made it seem larger than life.
  • What a welcome.  When we entered the second tent where the pasta dinner was being hosted and having half a dozen volunteers standing there to greet us with cheers and clapping made me speechless.  We hadn’t done anything yet to deserve cheers but yet it made me feel so special.
  • Minor celebrity.  As we were walking away from the pasta line with a full load of carbs stacked high on our plates Brian was stopped by Channel 6 News and was interviewed for the local newscast.  That was cool.  Brian made the NY news!  Again, it just made us realize that this was something larger than us and Brian just getting interviewed was surreal and yet somehow seemed about right.
  • It’s a parrtay. This meal wasn’t just an ordinary pasta dinner, no it was much more.  It was a pasta party.  And that was thanks to the INCREDIBLE volunteers.  The volunteers had fun and that in turn allowed us to have fun.  There was music playing, people dancing, lots of laughing and picture-taking.  It really was a party.  I had to remember that I had a marathon to run the next day because if I didn’t I was dangerously close to grabbing a few more beers and getting up and joining the dancers.
  • Parlez-vous anglais?  The hotel we stayed in was located in Times Square and we picked it because of its proximity to the finish line.  And we weren’t the only ones who thought this hotel was a good find.  The hotel was filled with fellow runners and oddly enough most of the other runners were from France.  I’m not exactly sure why it had such a high contingency of French folks, but it was still fun to be around other runners.  Even though I couldn’t chat with them in the elevator or lobby because none of them were speaking English.
  • Wake up call.  Out my hotel window I could see one of the bus stops where runners were gathering to hop on a bus to be taken to the start of the race.  It was quite exciting to see runners walking around in the darkness loading into the buses. And the best part was that I had just gotten up and had a lot of time before I had to leave the hotel and catch my transportation, so being in the comfort of my jammies peering out the window seeing other runners getting ready to go, was a great way to wake up.
  • “You must stay hydrated.” Because our hotel had so many marathoners staying with them, they did a great job making us feel special or at least the concierge made me feel special.  When I left the hotel early Sunday morning to do my mile warm up, the sweet concierge saw me leaving and thinking I was already leaving for the race, gave me a goodie bag full of things perfect for a pre or post race snack.  An energy drink, water and a protein bar were in the bag, free of charge.  Even though I tried to explain to the sweet man that I wasn’t leaving and I was simply going out for a one mile warm up, he insisted that I still needed to stay hydrated.  So I took the water with me and I promised to come back for the rest of the items in the bag after I was done running.  It was so simple and so nice and yet it made a HUGE impact on me. Sweet!
  • Race Day!  As tradition, I declared it “race day” on social media and posted a photo of the Boston and NY wrist bands that Brian and I were going to wear.  Having friends and family interact with the post, bright and early in Wisconsin time, before I even left the hotel gave me a warm fuzzy knowing how many people were wishing us well and routing for us.
  • Race Day – times two.  And speaking of family, having Jolene also declare it “race day”, in her true high-pitched fashion is as standard and traditional of a start to any big race to me, as the National Anthem is to others.  It just isn’t a race without the “race day” declaration.
  • Get me to the terminal on time.  I was worried about catching a cab and the possibility of running into bad traffic on our way to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.  But thankfully we had nothing to worry about.  We were able to catch a cab right away and traffic was not a problem.  We got to the Ferry Terminal with enough time to stand in line for the bathroom and then was able to board the ferry with only a short wait.
  • Sponge Marla Square Pants.  Once on the Ferry, I was trying to be the biggest sponge I could.  “Soaking” had become Brian and my catch phrase while in New York because we wanted to make sure we were both “soaking” it all in.  Neither of us wanted to miss anything or forget what we were experiencing.  I tried so hard to make a mental note of everything.  The ferry gave us a lot to soak in, such as: some of the throw away outfits were purely outstanding.  From the adult footsie pajamas to the really nice North Face jacket, the outfits were as eclectic as the people.
  • Give me your tired. Your poor.  The ferry also took us on a nice trip near the Statue of Liberty.  We had taken the Ferry to and from Staten Island a half a dozen times in the past and we had  never gotten that close to the Statue before.  I am not sure if it was an intentional swing on over to Lady Liberty but what ever the reason, it gave everyone on the ferry chills.  And I know this by the way everyone was scrambling for a photo opportunity.
  • What an escort. As I was looking out at the horizon and taking in the view from the ferry I noticed we had an armed coast guard escort.  It was both reassuring and scary at the same time.  It’s just something you don’t see often.  But once I got over the first shock of seeing an armed guard shadowing us, I couldn’t help but think… “this is truly bad ass!”.
  • Chatting with strangers. Once we got to Staten Island, we still had to board another bus to get to the real starting area.  Since I wasn’t in a hurry to go out in the cold I decided to stand in the extremely long bathroom line .  Extremely long.  While in line I chatted with three women.  One was originally from Brooklyn but now lives in New Mexico and the other two were from Australia.  This was the first marathon for all three of them.  When they found out it was my 6th marathon, they were in “awe” and called me a veteran.  This type of reaction still takes me aback.  I just don’t see myself that way because I just feel I am “winging it” and making it up as I go along.
  • Smooth sailing. As we left the terminal to find our way to our next mode of transportation – the buses – that were to take us to Fort Wadsworth, the start of the marathon I couldn’t help but again, stand in awe of the sheer magnitude of the logistics of this marathon.  There were about 10 buses in the distance that were shuttling runners from the terminal to the start.  And when those 10 buses were full of anxious runners, they would leave  and another 10 took their place.  It was smooth, it was organized, it was logistically dead-on.  This organizational fluidity helped keep the runners calm.  I’ve been in lines for buses where runners are panicked because they don’t know when to expect the next bus, feel they will be late, or won’t find a seat and in general make the people so anxious it ruins a bit of their morning.  This was not the case.  Everything was so well-organized that I always knew were to go, what to do and what to expect.  As a member of the Operations Team for a local marathon that serves about 12,000 people between 3 different events I know how much work it takes to make a great event.  And having such a well run and organized race for 50,000 runners is incredible!!  Kudos to NYRR and everyone who works on the NY Marathon… job well done.
  • Fort Wadsworth. After a short ride to the Fort Wadsworth, we got off the bus and found ourselves standing in another security line.  There were metal detectors, dogs, wands and very large “anti terrorism” men who were searching everyone before we could actually make our way into the runners only area.  The security line, just like everything else went smoothly and was well-organized and the police officers were so polite.  The gentleman who searched me asked me how I was feeling and wished me luck.  When Brian asked him how he was doing he responded that he had been there since 1am and was tired and cold but yet still wished Brian good luck too.  Never once did any volunteer, police officer, Operations Team member or anyone else associated with the marathon ever come across rude.  We could all learn a lesson from these folks.  They never made it about them and always made the runners feel special.

And with that, Brian and I have just entered the starting village.  It’s really happening.  I am so close to running the NY Marathon.  I am anxious.  I am nervous.  I am happy.  I am soaking it all in.  Just another hour or so before we have to get into our starting corral and we’ll be off.  Whew…. it’s getting closer.

Until next time, when I finish up my 2013 ING New York Marathon Recap….

Gotta Run.

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