So I ran and finished the New York Marathon, finally. I did it in a glacially slow 5:15. Less than three hours slower than Paula Radcliffe! In fact I came 37,207th in the New York Marathon. But was only 3,834th in my age group!
So, here is how it happened:
Of course I woke up very early on the day and was ready to go 4.5 hours before my start time of 10.20. Here is a picture of me being ready very early:
I then walked down Broadway to catch the Staten Island Ferry to the start. I got there an hour early for my allocated ferry. There were lots and lots of people dressed in running gear and looking excited, scared and determined.
I was able to get on an earlier ferry and headed off towards Staten Island and the start. Here is a Staten Island Ferry:
Imagine if you had to go out to sea to get to Stevenage and you will have an idea of going to Staten Island.
We were hearded off the ferry and on to buses which drove us through a grey drizzly suburb to Fort Wadsworth and “The Start”. At Fort Wadsworth there were lots of runners queueing for toilets and lying on plastic bags and pieces of cardboard and there was a loudspeaker system blasting out repeating announcements in five languages. It was quite cold and I was pretty nervous and there was still a couple of hours until my start time so I drank too much tea and lay on a bin liner on the grass:
Finally it was my turn to be coralled into the start. So I squeezed through a gate with a few hundred other runners who were allocated Blue Start, Wave 3 , Corral D. After standing in Corral D for a while we were walked slowly along through some parked trucks until suddenly we were crossing the start line and all started running over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
And it was fantastic and exciting and really hard to stop myself running off much too fast. And for the first ten miles it was absolutely great. Lots of people lining the route cheering and shouting and encouraging the runners. I need the toilet a lot (all that tea at Fort Wadsworth) and had to stop and use the portaloos several times, which of course slowed me down (I ‘m sure I would have done the race in under five hours if I hadn’t had to queue for the loos so much – ha ha).
There were lots of people with banners and flags with phrases like “Run Jim Run” or “Run Stacey Run” or “Run Tony Run”. Hmmmmm. Coincidence? Or had they all stolen that clever format from me? No. Actually they probably all thought it up themselves, didn’t they.
My favourite spectator banners were “Wow! You’re running the New York Marathon!” Which was at about 14 miles when I was finding it quite a struggle and I thought that was funny and it cheered me up. It helped to remind me that I wanted to do this flipping run for a very long time, and finally I was.
My other favourite was a man holding up a piece of tatty brown cardboard torn from a box with one badly handwritten word on it: “Kung”. I have no idea what it means. This was in one of the more industrial areas of Queens I think and was therefore another welcome boost of amusement.
Several runners had messages on their vests. One was, alarmingly, “Heart Attack Survivor!” So I thought I should have written “Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome Survivor!” on mine. It would have looked good I think.
The bit of the marathon between 11 and 20 miles was quite tough. It was great to see my wife, Helen and son, Stan and his friend, Lucas at about 15 miles. But after that there is a really long stretch up through Manhattan to The Bronx. And I gotto 102nd Street and remembered the song, “Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack and realised that I still had 8 blocks to go before I got to that and then would have to go through Harlem before getting to The Bronx – the song is about 110th Street being the southern border of Harlem.
In order to avoid the Nestle manufactured energy gels which were given out on the course, I brought along another brand. They were quite frankly the nastiest, most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. But having acclimatsed my stomach to these monstrous sachets of gloop on my long training runs, I was able to keep them down and feel some kind of psychological benefit at least. I believe they gave me some extra energy to keep me going. (Well they have absolutely nothing else going for them, so they must at least give you an energy boost.)
Eventually I got to 20 miles which was the furthest I had run in one go before and strangely that was very encouraging and I thought, “Great, this is all new territory and I can do it!” I had prepared myself for the last six to be really hard, but actually they were better than the previous 10 miles. So the last six miles were good fun again.
Along the way I often seemed to be just behind people with their name in big letters on their shirts. So the crowd would shout “Go Kirsten”, or “Go, Steve”, or “Go Moose!”. But when people did shout “Go Allan!” it was a good feeling and it was nice to be able to smile back at them. One such incident at about 23 miles was, I am sure, with Steven Spielberg. He said to me, “Go Allan. You’re doing a great job”. But I suppose I might have been halucinating, what with it being 23 miles and nearly five hours of running. But, then why would I imagine Steven Spielberg of all people?
And then with 200m to go I saw Helen again and it was brilliant to see her and I was able to run to the end with a big smile on my face!
Sadly all the official pictures of me taken on the marathon are absolutely hideous. Every single one could have the caption, “Fat bloke staggers round New York Marathon looking like he is about to vomit”. So instead, here is an artist’s impression of what I thought I looked like crossing the finish line:
And then suddenly I was in a queue to pick up my bag as thousands of runners were funneled into a very narrow fenced in path. But felt great to have finally finally done it.
I would recommend the New York Marathon for anyone, especially if, like me, it is probably the only marathon you ever run. It is a great city and the marathon shows it off well.
And that’s it. I ran a marathon. I ran the New York Marathon. I have banished the demons of last year’s health crisis. I have enjoyed the training and blogging.
So thanks to all who have supported and encouraged and sponsored me (it is still not too late to sponsor me – click here to donate). It was great as I trudged the 26.2 miles (actually my Garmin GPS thing said I ran 26.59 miles in all!) to think about all the support I have had while I have been training and writing this blog. It really did help get me round.
I would especially like to say thank you to my long suffering family who have had to put up with me going on about running this marathon for years and then have me absent while I do hours and hours of training runs and then drone on about them and then write about it and insist that they read about what I have already bored them to distraction with anyway. So thank you Stan, Delilah and Mathilda and especially Helen for all your support and love.
New York Marathon:
finally, the run is run.
Thanks all for reading.