Louise - 'Jo, would you ever do a marathon'
Jo - 'No, it's too far'
Louise - 'me neither, I mean if i did one, it would have to be massive, like New York'
Jo - 'owwww, now that would be good'
Louise - 'shall we do New York?'
Jo - 'yeah ok then'
So there or there abouts is how it happened... 18 months later we find ourselves boarding our flight to New York.
Race week NYC. The marathon flags are out, the atmosphere is intense. You can spot the runners a mile off dressed in marathon merchandise and running shoes. Even the plane was filled with runners I myself was sitting next to A lovely group of 4 'will run for wine' runners from Surrey.
New Yorkers goes all out for the marathon, with restaurants and bars offering discounts to runners with bib numbers and medals and volenteering with the race and expo.
The expo was buzzing. This was held in the Jacob Javits centre on manhattens west side. Over the 3 days it was open, it would see all 52,000 runners come through to collect their race packs with their numbers and goodie bags. Including a technical t-shirt and some headphones. The expo had all the official merchandise and stands from all the big brands Asics, Brookes, Power Gel and The North Face. The smaller stands were equally as impressive for example the FDNY (Fire Department) and the NYPD had stands and running clubs involved. In short, a runners dream shop.
Jo and I, picked up our numbers on the Saturday. Sat in the cab, heading back in the pouring down rain we said to each other 'I can't believe its tommorow'. We got to the apartment later that evening and checked the weather report for race day. Rumour had it, that is was to be very cold and gale force winds and they were right. We could only laugh and say 'surely it can be as bad as great south run last year'. After this we set out into the night for our pre-race carbathon.
I was on the 8.15 Staten island ferry, so dressed in my hedgie get up, which was then covered by a flattering ensemble of my friends old maternity/painting jogging bottoms and couple of old jumpers ready to be chucked at the start line. I was ready. At 7.30 I walked out the apartment, hailed a cab and I was on my way.
The ferry port was buzzing, packed full with runners eating bananas and energy bars and drinking electrolytes. On the ferry I was talking to other runners, one who was also doing their first marathon from Brooklyn (who proved as a very good tour guide also) and another slightly more seasoned marathoner from Charlotte but who now lives in Germany.
On Staten island, it was freezing, you could feel the 29mph winds picking up. We joined the mass crowd exiting the port area and we all bottle necked down to the main road. On the main road there were 8 coaches being filled up by runners, once filled runners where asked to walk right down to the first coach. The 8 coaches left and 8 more instantly arrived. It was so well organised.
The coaches then took us near to the start line and then we walked up to the starting areas. These areas were split into 3 colours and within in them seperate 'corrals' to start in. The 3 different colours all took a slightly different route for the first 3miles to avoid overcrowding. Once in your 'pen' you then strip off your outside layers and wait there slowly turning into Ice as you walk slowly to the start. At the start line we were greeted by the usual spokesperson to get you pumped and ready he was then followed by a lady singing the American national anthem and the gun sounded. We were off. And the sound of Frank Sinatra singing 'New York, New York' filled the bridge.
The 1st mile was over the Verrazano bridge, taking us from Staten Island to Brooklyn. The bridge its self was magnificent and I found my self having to stop and take a photo. Although not too steep, it was incredibly windy. Reports had said the bridge were to greet us with 70mph winds and I don't think they were far off. Luckily the winds came in sideways, although It didn't do much for my hair whipping me in the face, it could of been tougher if it was headwinds.
One part of Brooklyn really sticks in my memory was at a point when the crowds were more quiet, there was a small local lady and I have no idea what she was saying but was was screaming in Spanish at the top of her voice. Some reason this gave me a boost and something to smile about for a while. Brooklyn was massive, about 11-12 long, within it where different communties. We ran past a church who had the gospel singers out doing their thing in the streets and there was the less crowded Jewish quarter they earily quiet until we came across their band.
At mile 12-13 we entered queens via a fairly steep bridge connecting the two. It was the the top of this bridge I got my fisrt good look at the manhatten skyline. The Emipre State Building looked tall and iconic. So another quick photo stop had to be done. On the other side of the bridge we were greet by people yelling 'welcome to Queens'. At mile 15 we crossed the Queensboro bridge. This was the bridge that took us onto manhatten. The bridge was very quiet, the only sound that could be heard was trainers hitting the floor and the sound of people breathing. There were no spectators allowed on the bridges. On the bridge another photo op. This time the city was closer and only a runfie would do.
Mile 16. Landing on manhatten. Loud really doesn't justify the noise. The crowds are 3-4 people deep right up until about 18-19 miles. All screaming and cheering. In the next two miles I would see some friends who live in New York and my family this really encouraged me and motivated me on. Mile 18 and I was feeling pretty good and quite strong and kept on plodding on up through Harlem and over the next bridge at the Bronx. The sounds of rappers and hip hop filled these streets. It was in the Bronx the race organisers started handing out fruit and by this they meant a little section of banana. I could help but think of all the cartoons when seeing hundreds of banana skins on the floor. This is just what u need get within 10k of the end and slip on a damn banana peel. Luckily I remained upright. Mile 21 back on manhatten. Having been having trouble with my knee for months, it decided to make a friendly race day appearance. I tryed to keep running but the pain felt as though my knee could snap, so I took a couple of mins out by the side to really stretch it out so I could power on through to the end. By this point I was really stating to tire and the knee pain was getting me down a bit, I was grateful of the heavy crowds forming again as we got closer to central park.
The finish line was in view, two big grandstand stood either side, roaring with noise. I didn't notice much as I only had the finish in sight. Crossed the line, stopped the Garmin, 'new quickest half' 'new quickest marathon'. 'YES! I've done it!' Next thing to do, locate medal and place round neck. Check! Grabbed a foil blanket and headed for the exit. although I was slowly moving I was just pleased I was moving. Was starting to get chilly though. it took 30 mins to fully exit the finish area. We where given About 20mins after finishing a (what felt like life saving) fleece lined poncho. I called my friend so I can arrange to meet her and Jo.
'I haven't found Jo'... My first thought were oh God where the hell is she? did she finish? is she ok? By this point it would of been two hours since she crossed the line. She must be freezing. Called family to get them to head straight back to the apartment in case she went there. Walking down the exit I heard a 'LOUISE' and there she was. Don't think anyone has ever been quiet so happy to see me. So snuggled together in our bright blue ponchos we head out the exit, met some others, hailed a cab back to the apartment and celebrated.
This was all together a well organised run race. The people of New York really made it. The signs that they held up the whole way round kept me very amused. particular favourites were 'beer 20 miles this way' 'hurry up, Ryan Gosling is only 2mins ahead' and '26.2 because 26.3 would be crazy' I could only think they clearly haven't met Teirnan!
It was cold, windy and fantastic. Would I do another? Hmmm, I'm not sure. Would I recommend New York? Definitely. Would I make sure Jo ran with a phone, money and an 'if lost please return to...' Sign? 100%.