Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Finally we heard an announcement that the corals for the 3rd wave has opened. We trooped down to the starting gates. It was chaotic. We just followed the flow of runners. Vicky, Dingdong and I were in different corals so after a few minutes of shuffling together we said goodbye and wished each other luck.
At the starting pen, I was lucky enough to be standing with a halfPinoy, Kim. We chatted while shuffling to the starting line. It helped to keep me distracted. This is New York. My big race! I was heading towards the starting line and I wasn’t nervous. I was still in denial.
When we stepped on the on ramp of the Verrazano Bridge, as per tradition they started playing “New York, New York”. I checked again the 4:30 and 4:45 pace bracelets I was wearning, closed my eyes and said a little prayer. Finally, I looked up and whispered, “Hello New York, Goodbye Singapore”.
This is my redemption race. When I filled out my visa application, I said I will be racing at the New York Marathon. I did not say I will be running or joining New York Marathon. I said RACING and I meant it.
BANANASPLITS : Km 0 – 5 : Zoom!
Km1 – 6:45 | Km2- 5:51 | Km3 – 5:38 | Km4 – 5:42 | Km5 – 5:42
We hit the Verrazano Bridge to the tune of “New York, New York”. I hopped and skipped to the starting line. Finally, I was psyched about the race.
I just went with the flow and followed the footsteps of the runners in front of me. Going up Verrazano was steep but nothing like MKH. I didn’t want to be overconfident but I knew that my Sierra Madre runs would finally pay off.
The bridge as expected was windy and cold. I still had my fleece jacket on and I was glad I didn’t throw them away yet. Most of the runners threw away their jacket before we entered the bridge. It was so cold and windy I had to pull up the hood to give me extra protection.
They said that our wave had 14,000 runners. It was crowded and a tight squeeze! I needed a strategy to weave my way through the runners. I picked and tailed a runner wearing a red adidas tech shirt – let’s call him Stu. He was weaving aggressively between runners and keeping a good pace. I stayed with him and was able to negotiate the crowd at the bridge with ease. The only problem with Stu is that he prefers to stay on the side of the bridge. It meant more wind. Brrrrr. I just kept thinking, I can run faster if it’s cold. Less effort if it’s cold.
As we headed down the bridge, I took off the fleece jacket. It was still cold, I think, but I have warmed up enough and the temperature just turned from chilly to just perfect.
I stayed with Stu up to the Km5. I never overtook him so I don’t know his bib number. I had to finally drop out because he started running at 5:30ish when we hit the flats. I was on race mode but I did not want to run out of gas.
The cheering started the moment we hit the foot of the Verrazano bridge and it never stopped. We had people lining up the streets and cheering all the way to Mile 26.2. It was amazing!
In a lot of areas, specially in Brooklyn, performers had set up on the side walk and play their musical instruments. There were also numerous bands and church choirs performing. I only recognised a song or two but each performer powered me on and kept me running strong.
BANANASPLITS : Km 6 – 10 : Pacing-Pacing lang
Km6 – 5:56 | Km7- 6:13 | Km8 – 6:21 | Km9 – 6:09 | Km10 – 6:14
After I dropped out of pace with Stu, I still maintained an average pace of 6:09ish. I knew that this was still too fast but I just kept telling myself that if I slow down my muscles would get cold and it would be hard to get back on pace.
At around km6, I caught up with 2 runners wearning Timex pace bibs for 4:30. Alison was running her first marathon and aiming for a 4:30 finish to get into the New York Times. Steve was running his 2nd marathon and was hoping to improve his previous 4:38 finish. We decided to run together. We knew we were running a little faster than our target pace but we all agreed that its okay to bank a few minutes just in case we slow down towards the end.
We would check our time against the mile markers and pace bracelets we were all wearing and then check our average pace on our Garmins.
I knew that I was still doing fine even if our pace is a bit fast. We were still able to exchange stories comfortably.
My family (Kuya Lito, Ate Ann and nephews Joel and Eric) will be cheering for me a little before Km10 which is somewhere along Fourth Ave and 25th St. I felt an extra boost as we neared 25th. I needed to run strong and make my family proud.
BANANASPLITS : Km11 – 24 : Tuned in to the groove and vibe of New York
Km11 – 6:16 | Km12- 6:17 | Km13 – 6:24 | Km14 – 6:31 | Km15 – 6:06 | Km16 – 6:13 | Km17- 6:15 | Km18 – 6:14 | Km19 – 6:16 | Km20 – 6:26 | Km21 – 6:16 | Km22- 6:17 | Km23 – 6:24 | Km24 – 6:31
Km 11-24 was all in Brooklyn. I seem to remember uphills and downhills but nothing too threatening about this segment of the race.
Most of the time I had my eyes turned towards the sidelines. I was busy looking at all the people cheering on the sidelines, the posters and all the performers.
The marathon route took us to narrower streets and each area we passed was beautiful. Brick house with stoops. Trees with leaves turning golden yellow, red and brown. People waving different flags.
This segment of the race showed the cultural diversity of New York.
I was too busy enjoying the festive atmosphere that my dreaded Km15 passed without a hitch. At Km 16 I took my second Gu. I was sticking close to my nutrition plan of taking Gu every 8km. I really hoped that this will help stave off the hunger. I also made sure that I don’t drink too much water. I stuck to drinking a mouthful every 5kms. I have practiced this at QCIM and it worked for me. It was sufficient.
At Km20, my family was again on hand to cheer for me. They were subway hopping and could meet me at our designated areas because they had a copy of the pace bracelet I was wearing. Seeing the Philippine flag and T2 banner gave me an extra boost.
I also saw another Pinoy flag before we went up the bridge. I yelled, “Pilipinas!” and they cheered for me. Sadly, that was the last Pinoy flag I saw apart from the one carried by my family. I envied the French and Mexican runners in my cluster. They had a lot of cheerers.
BANANASPLITS : Km25 : 13:11 : Ngek!
This is the Queensboro Bridge. I don’t know exactly why my time was 13:11 at this km. Maybe because I lost reception was we were running on the lower level of the bridge.
I know I never walked in this km. I shuffled a bit though. This was one of the most difficult part of the race for me. It was narrow. It was cramped. It was hard to weave your way around. And it was a long bridge.
BANANASPLITS : Km26 – 3o : Cruisin’
Km26 – 6:17 | Km27- 6:28 | Km28 – 5:39 | Km29 – 6:17 | Km30 – 6:36
After we got off the bridge, we entered First Ave. in Manhattan. This was long, straight and flat. There were a lot of cheerers on both sides of the streets also. I was excited to get to Mile17 as Philippine Star reported that Pinoys would be manning the aid station here. Not much excitement from the Pinoys here. I suppose it was hard for them to spot us.
I was amazed that I was able to maintain my pace. I was beginning to tire but I knew I could keep on pushing.
This is where I caught up with Zofia Turosz again. I didn’t know her name then, she was just the strong lady runner with Polska written at the back of her shirt. I first saw her somewhere before km10. I underestimated her and sprinted to overtakeher. After a less than a km she already caught up with me. I gave up trying to overtake her and ran my own pace. You see, I thought, I could take her on. Zofia is 71. Good thing, I ate the pie earlier otherwise I would have eaten a lot of dust. (Note: She finished the race 4:46:58. When I grow up, I want to run like Zofia!)
BANANASPLITS : Km31 – 35 : Uh-oh!
Km31 – 7:11 | Km32- 7:05 | Km33 – 7:19 | Km34 – 7:05 | Km35 – 7:06
Maybe I pushed too hard, maybe I was getting tired. Not sure. When I hit Km31, a side stitch started. Nooooo! I slowed down a bit. I checked my average pace and calculated. I could still hit the 4:30 – 4:45 target. It would be tight but I could still hit it even if I slowed down a bit. I slacked off a bit and focused on my breathing.
I have been running on pace so far and it would be heart breaking to drop the ball with 12kms to go. This was not TheWall. This was just a speed bump. Inhale. Exhale. I kept on running and shuffling.
I knew that this was not the time to come part.
BANANASPLITS : Km36 – 40 : Be not afraid
Km36 – 6:49 | Km37- 7:38 | Km38 – 7:00 | Km39 – 6:42 | Km40 – 6:50
After taking it slow for the last 5km, I decided to pick up the speed. My average pace was still good. I could still make it. And then when I hit Km37, the side stitch returned with a vengeance. I finally took a walk break. I kept repeating to myself, “Be not afraid.” This is a mind game for me now. I have never ran this long and on pace before. I started doubting if I could keep it up til the finish line.
I flashed back to the last 12km of Smart Subic International Marathon. It was dark and the runner beside me was fading away. She was dehydrated and her calf was killing her. It was dark and we couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us. But still she ran. Fast and strong. I started picking up the pace. Next I was transported back to a long run with a crazy coach who wouldn’t let go and leave me. He is urging me to take shorter steps and quicker strides. And then equally runcrazy officemate is whispering beside me, you can still run on pace even if you are tired. I have seen you do it. And so I pushed.
I was zonking out but I continued to push! If these people believe that I have it in me to finish strong, I just need to be brave and believe that I have it in me to complete this race on pace.
BANANASPLITS : Km41- 42 : Not a walk in the park
Km41 – 6:12 | Km42- 7:19
When we entered the park, the runners beside me hit the gas and sped away. I started marking runners and chasing after them again. The last 2kms rolled and I just smiled everytime we hit an incline and kept on running.
I was on my way to finish the 40th New York Marathon. Redemption was 2kms away.
Official time: 4:37:51.
Hello New York! Goodbye Singapore!
I’m pleased to report that T2 rocked at the ING NYC Marathon!