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I [Heart] the New York City Marathon

There is nothing easy about the New York City Marathon.

So why do I love it so much?

It’s hard even getting INTO the NYCM. Last year, a record 105,000+ people entered the lottery to secure one of 15,000 bib numbers. The other 35,000 numbers go to international runners, charity runners and other “guaranteed” entrants—sponsors, affiliates and oh, right, the professional runners. Those people. The ones who might actually win.

When I first ran it, in 1989, I filled out a paper application, wrote a check, put a stamp on an envelope and took it to the post office. Which I realize sounds as quaint and improbable as riding a horse and buggy. Nearly 25,000 people ran it; less than 5,000 were women. We got cotton T-shirts, which I still love.

And with more than 50,000 participants, every part of running it is a logistical challenge. I left my house at 5:30 on the morning of the marathon to get to the staging area on Staten Island, and sit for a couple of hours waiting for my start and didn’t get home until 5:30—that’s a 12-hour day for four+ hours of running through the five boros of NYC (that is, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan).

AND the course itself is hard! Not that any marathon is “easy,” but NYC has so many hilly rises and dips in the second half that I’ve never managed a “negative split”—that is, to run the second half faster than the first. This year, I ran the second half only 4 minutes slower than the first half, which felt like a minor victory.

If this doesn’t sound like a fantastic way to cover 26.2 miles, I do understand. The NYCM is not for everyone.

So, wait, WHY do I love it so much?

If you live in the greater NYC metro region (I’m in NJ), NYC is THE marathon.

People (non-runner division) ask, “Are you running THE marathon?”

If you’re running a different one—say Philadelphia—the non-runners say, with perhaps a little pity, “Oh. How long is THAT marathon?”

And then there are the famous spectators. When you cross from Queens to Manhattan on the 59th Street bridge and hit First Avenue around mile 16, you run into a tunnel of sound so loud, it’s the closest you’ll ever get to feeling like Taylor Swift making her entrance to a sold-out crowd at MetLife Stadium.

Nearly 2 million spectators line the course, and this year it was more packed than ever, I think because the weather was perfect for them—55 degrees and bright sunny sun. (Sun and 55 is not “perfect” for runners, despite what the TV announcers told you, especially for those of us who start late and run slow.) The spectators pushed in so far that at times it was like running through the Tour de France. Allez allez allez!

 

Daughter Nina spotted me near the 23 mile mark. Hooray!

 

The subway makes it easy for spectators to see their runners in a few spots. My people—boyfriend Rick and daughter Nina—came to mile 8 in Brooklyn, and miles 17 and 23 in Manhattan. It’s such a charge to find YOUR people in the great screaming sea of spectators. Thank you, Rick and Nina!

And then there are all the different people running the race—young and old, slim and not so, multi-marathoners and first-timers. I chatted at the start line with a woman from South Africa. With all due respect to the elite marathoners, the “real” runners are just as interesting (if not more so) to me. The runners in the “streaker” club wore bibs on their backs with the number of NYCMs completed—I saw a man with 47 on his back! 47! That’s almost back to the very first NYCM! (1970)

Honestly, the NYCM is as exciting to watch as it is to run.

 

Holy quadriceps! Last year's NYCM champion Shalane Flanagan at the start of last Sunday's race.

 

Around the 20-mile mark, I heard people say that Mary Keitany won. It was her fourth NYC win, and her time of 2:22:48 was only 17 seconds off the course record, which would’ve earned her a nice $50K bonus. (Dang!) Last year’s super champ, Shalane Flanagan, came in third. (Some men won the men’s race, I’m pretty sure, but they’re not my problem.)

Next year, 2019, will be 30 years since I ran my first NYCM. (Wait, how did THAT happen?) I hope I can get in, because I think that would be a pretty cool way to circle back to the beginning of my marathon adventures.

HOW ABOUT YOU? WOULD YOU LOVE TO RUN THE NEW YORK CITY MARATHON OR WOULD YOU RATHER JUST WATCH?

IF YOU HAVE RUN IT, WHAT DID YOU LOVE (OR LOATHE)?

21 responses to “I [Heart] the New York City Marathon

  1. I just completed my first marathon on the 11th at the Las Vegas rock and roll marathon. I would love to be able to run the New York marathon. I have definitely caught that’s running bug and can hardly wait to run more. I‘m currently looking at race schedules and trying to plan out 2019.

  2. I must be the odd one out. I ran this year and did not really enjoy it. The logistics, the number of runners and getting hit or run over getting to water stations, the long walk at the end … I don’t know I guess big marathons aren’t my thing. I feel like it was so crowded I didn’t even get to experience to course, I was so focused on not running into the person in front of me. I’m glad so many people enjoy it though! I feel a little weird that I didn’t like it.

  3. I ran this year too, also in Wave 3. This was my second go at it. First time was in 2013. I have never run any other marathons so have nothing to compare to. What I love most is the encouragement of the crowd. Put your name on your shirt and you will hear people yell it like fans at rock concert! And the music! You get the flavor of every neighborhood from the different music being played. What I loathe: bottlenecks where you get stuck behind people walking six abreast, or worse getting literally elbowed by faster runners. I love the energy of this race but it is too crowded!

  4. I ran NYC in 1995. It was not hard to get in but I think it was about when they started using a lottery. It was a really cold day and windy. I remember the crowds and thinking I never knew Central Park had so many hills. I am glad that i had the chance to experience NYC before it got so hard to enter. Sometimes being an older runner is a good thing.

  5. Yes. This is my favorite marathon. Others are great but for me this is the marathon. Of course, I grew up near the finish line in NYC so I’m totally biased. I now live in Miami so I don’t run it every year because it is a bit of a production to get in. I ran it in 2012 and had a great weather day and a wonderful experience. I too [heart] this race. Even though it’s MASSIVE you can still tell that the people who run it are motivated to create a great experience for the runners and it shows.

  6. I ran it last year and absolutely loved it!!! I want to run it again and will keep trying to win that lottery every year!! I loved the course, the spectators (my husband saw me at approx. mile 8, 14, 17 and 23 – he is a super fan!!), the atmosphere, everything!!

  7. I ran in 2016, as a lucky lottery winner. No better way to celebrate turning 50! It had been over 25 years since my last marathon (LA in 1991). NYC was the very best ever! I smiled the entire 26.2 miles and just soaked everything about it. When I finished I had some joyful tears as I found out I a qualified for Boston.. I would do this again in a heartbeat !!

  8. My friends and I all entered the lottery years ago and only two of us got in. I was lucky enough to do all the training runs with the pressure of completing the marathon. Spectating that year was like nothing I had ever experienced. I felt like I was in Europe. So many different languages and stories. It’s an amazing experience and the run would be great but big crowds aren’t my favorite any longer.

  9. My family and friends all applied for the lottery in 2002. Only my friend Marcy and I got in. At the same time I got in I started dating my now-husband and everyone around me talked me out of running the marathon. What was a I thinking?!? Well, I was thinking a possible future husband was more important than a race. And he was! But I would still love to run NYCM!

  10. I love reading all these responses! Erica–I loved seeing the “guaranteed for life” 15+ marathoners along the course. That’s SO cool! Cherylann–what an awesome marathon history you have! Lauren B–excellent suggestion to read Liz Robbins’s Race Like No Other!

  11. This bad. You are tempting me. I can qualify by my Brooklyn half finish time but I have NEVER run one. Not sure I can or want to commit to the training.

    But if I do run one, it should be NYC. I am a New Yorker, right? And will I ever have the opportunity again??

    Please talk me out of it!!

  12. I ran my first marathon in 1978 in Phoenix. At that time that was a HUGE marathon with a few thousand runners and about 200 females I think- if that. San Francisco has been my largest attended marathon and then I gravitated to trail running with a couple dozen people here and there and that was my preference. I still don’t like the big crowds at IM events, but I like triathlon so I do them ever couple of years. Honestly I prefer the hometown 5ks with about 200 runners-reminds me of the “good old days”. Letting models and chefs and everybody and their brother into a marathon has cheapened and marketed the running thing to where I don’t even recognize it anymore.

  13. I’m a 15+ runner (guaranteed for life). I just ran my 19th NYC Marathon since 1996. It’s my favorite marathon. We moved to Chicago in 2006 and I use it as a sort of homecoming to see friends and family. The energy this year was the best ever. That crowd! I love how the city embraces every single runner. It’s easy to feel like a winner when you come on to 1st Ave to the screaming masses. There’s nothing like it!

  14. We’ve entered the lottery the last three years and my husband and I will do so again for 2019. 🙂 We’ve run Chicago and Marine Corps-love the big races and all of the energy around them. NYC Marathon is on our list of must do marathons for sure!!

  15. Oh, and Meb won in 2013, too – it made my year to run it just awesome! When I met Meb in person a couple of years later, I loved being able to tell him that I ran with him the year he won! (ha ha ha)

  16. NYC is magical! There’s just something about it. I was supposed to run 2012, but hurricane Sandy changed our plans so I took the marathon’s offer to allow entry to 2013 and ran it then. 2013 was also 6 months after the Boston bombing, so it was a really special race. I actually didn’t think the course was tough; I think I had read so much about it being hard I expected the worst. The sights kept me going. We had a strong headwind that day, but it didn’t even matter. I had read “A Race Like No Other” by Liz Robbins prior to the race and would recommend that book to anyone that plans to run it. Thanks to the book, I knew what special things to look for along the course, which made it even more memorable. It’s a great race!

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