It was a gloriously sunny day, cool (55 degrees) with no wind: the perfect weather for running 26.2 miles
. I had my plan (to run with the 4:00 hour pacer that I'd signed up with) and I stuck to it as we wended our way through New York City
. I drank my fluids, and sucked my energy gels, and miraculously I never felt any pain or hit any wall. The only time when I experienced any feeling of doubt was when I entered Central Park at 90th Street at mile 23.5, on time for a 4:00 hour marathon, and a little voice inside me said: "Well, Martin, you've run a good race. If you make it in 4:01 or 4:02 or even 4:05, it's OK. That's good for a first-timer." But then another voice said: "Are you kidding? I haven't run all this way, and kept pace, not to make it within 4:00 hours."
So, is the NYC Marathon all it's cracked up to be? Well, you certainly get a feeling of all of the incredible neighborhoods of the place. You come over the Verrazano Narrows bridge
(a stunningly beautiful piece of architecture from close-up) from Staten Island to Brooklyn and arrive in Bay Ridge
. My image of Bay Ridge was of a fairly homogenous white working class neighborhood; but all the world was there that day, and everyone was cheering, high- and low-fiving us as we went along, and the bands were playing all sorts of music. After about three miles in total, we turned onto Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, and ran along that long, straight street from Bay Ridge to Sunset Park, to the interstitial zone between Gowanus and Park Slope, where white yuppies like me live. Crowds along the route cheering us on. We turned right outside the Brooklyn Academy of Music
and ran along Lafayette Avenue through the gentrifying neighborhood of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill and then turned left on Bedford Avenue.
took us through the Hasidic community of south Williamsburg, whose denizens seemed mystified at seeing us ("Is there some kind of race on, today?"), and a couple of whom shielded their eyes against the unseemly displays of (female) flesh. Within a few blocks, this enclave opened out into hipster Williamsburg
, where the crowd pressed in on either side, hanging from the fire escapes, leaning out of the windows, and sitting on the stoops. We ran into the industrial zone of Greenpoint before crossing over the Pulaski bridge into Long Island City in Queens, where it was as if we'd entered a village (the nuns ringing the handbells outside the church), with little houses and winding streets. We dodged and turned before we arrived at the Queensborough Bridge (we were now at the 15 mile mark) and ran into Manhattan.
I was disappointed by the run down First Avenue, since I'd been told to expect a wall of noise. However, by the time I arrived (admittedly about two hours into the race, and you try cheering for two hours non-stop), the crowd were quite quiet. We ran all the way down First Avenue into Harlem and then crossed the Willis Avenue bridge into the Bronx, which announced its presence with a hip-hop band and Gospel choirs. We turned west and left the Bronx almost as soon as we'd arrived by crossing the Madison Avenue bridge into Spanish Harlem, which likewise announced its presence with music: in this case Samba. We ran down Manhattan Avenue and nearing mile 23 began the ascent up Fifth Avenue by Central Park.
We turned into Central Park at 90th Street and Fifth Avenue. It was then I asked the question of myself, and got my answer. I kicked and ran faster up and down the hills of the Central Park loop until we emerged from it at the Plaza Hotel and 59th Street and turned west along Central Park South. "1/2 mile to go," said the sign as we crossed Sixth Avenue, and then 400 yards as we turned the corner at Columbus Circle and headed back into the Park. Three hundred yards became two hundred, became one hundred. By this time I was racing against the clock: 3:56, 3:57. I had to get there in under 4:00 hours. I felt good, strong, as I pumped my arms and lengthened my stride once again. I crested the hill, and saw the finish line and looked at my watch: 3:58. I was going to do it. I sped over the finish line, and lifted my arms. I'd done it, and in a time of 3:58:16. It's true, I wasn't the Martin who won the male race (it was Martin Lel from Kenya), and I wasn't the English person who won the women's (that was Paula Radcliffe). And I wasn't even in the top 10,000. I was 11,105th . . . out of 38,676 finishers (there were 39,805 entrants). But I'd done it nonetheless.
I felt amazingly good: no soreness or stiffness other than the normal kind you get when you've run a long way on tarmac and concrete. I didn't feel dehydrated or hungry, mainly because I'd drunk and eaten enough beforehand, and throughout, never to feel depleted. I'd spent a lot of time swerving to avoid people going slower than I, but while it was annoying at the time I guess it's unavoidable when thousands upon thousands of human bodies are on the move. The most important thing was that I'd met my goal, and now Albie the goat
and Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary
were going to get just a little bit more money, because I'd decided not to listen to the voice of reasonableness, and go for the goal instead.
As it turned out, there were two Martin Rowes running yesterday: both middle-aged and both from England, although I was registered in the U.S. Well, frankly, there's only room for one Martin Rowe in the New York City marathon, and I'm pleased to report, gentle reader, that the arriviste Martin Rowe slunk in at 6 hours 36 minutes. I can't afford to get too big for my britches, however, since the winner in my age group (40 to 44) completed the marathon in 2 hours 24 minutes. I also saw that Ginette Bedard, whom I'd just pipped at the post in an 18-mile race a few weeks ago, and in a chat later extolled the glories of challenging yourself and not anybody else, beat me by five minutes and won her age-group time. Ginette is 74 years old.
Let me take this opportunity to thank everyone who donated to Woodstock, and said such kind things in your comments section. Together, minus the matching donor, you gave nearly $6,500, and you now have a chance to make that extra pledge, since I completed the run in under 4 hours! Also, thanks so much to the folks who turned out to cheer me on: including those whom I didn't see and those who looked in vain for me amidst the welter of humanity trundling past. Your positive energy pushed me on!
It's too early to tell whether I'll run it again next year, although I was intrigued to see that the person who placed 9,999th—one Daphne Moench from New York—ran a 3:55:01 marathon, a mere 3 minutes 15 seconds faster than me. Hmm. It would be nice to be in the top 10,000. . . .