Archive for the 'passport to race' Category

Passport to Race: Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon 2009

My bib from this year's race

My bib from this year's race

Your Name: Kelly Fenton

Name of Race: Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Place: VA Beach

Tourist or Local? Tourist

Distance: Half Marathon – 13.1 miles

Date you raced: Sunday, Sept. 6, 2009

Number of times you’ve run this race: 9 – every year since this race started!

Number of runners in race: 15792 finishers

Describe/rate the:

–       Start

I should start off saying that I love this race and have been running it every year since its inception in 2001.  Each year the running field has grown and this year in particular I was extremely frustrated with the start.  Unlike years past, there were no volunteers monitoring the entrances to the corrals (at least not when I entered which was a good 10 or 15 minutes after the official start thanks to a long port-a-potty line).  Because of the lack of monitors, people who should have been in the back corrals were mixed in with my corral.  Now, I’m not a super fast runner by any means- I was put into the 18th corral, but I did intend to run this race competitively (with my myself of course!) and was extremely frustrated by the MOBS of walkers that cluttered the road for a good 3 miles.  Other than that, the start is well intentioned by staggering the start of each corral by 2 minutes.  There is also a good vibe and a large space to wonder around before the starting gun with food, drink, and the ubiquitous port-a-potty lines.

–       Food/drink on course

This year the course served Cytomax which I wasn’t too excited about as I prefer good ol’ Gatorade, but it actually wasn’t too bad.  There were plenty of stops and some of them even had ice in the water!  This year they gave out GU which I declined in favor of my beloved Powerbar Gel.

–       Port-a-potties

There’s plenty of port-a-potties at the start, but the lines are, as always, super long so jump in early!

–       Course (Hilly? Flat?)

The course, which changed last year, is not bad- very flat with 2 slight inclines to accommodate a bridge you cross twice.  The road goes down to a 2-laner when it enters Camp Pendleton and it gets quite crowded!  But my main complaint would be the lack of shade.  When the sky is clear, as it was this year, the sun beats right down on you zapping every ounce of energy you have! I definitely run this race slower thanks to the hot, direct sunlight.  Other than that though, there are lots of fun spectators and the promised rock bands and cheerleaders.  My favorite spot this year was right before the return into town where Jamaican themed spectators cheered, gave out water, and had 2 hoses cooling us down.

–       Finish

The last mile is on the board walk and while it seems to take for-EVER to spot that magical “13” sign, the breeze off the ocean is great and the excitement of the impending finish is unavoidable!  Even better is after crossing the finish.  This is one of the best and well organized finishes.  Immediately after crossing the line, volunteers hand you an opened cold water (can’t tell you how nice it is to have that top off the bottle!).  Next comes a cold, wet towel, which feels AMAZING.  Now that we no longer have chips that need removing, we are free to keep walking as volunteers are staggered handing out Cytomax, bananas, popsicles, a bag of more food, and of course the finisher’s medal.  What I love about this finish is that there is no back-up of lingering finishers as the runners are forced to continue to walk in order to get through and out to meet their friends.  There is no confusion or line to get the food, and a bag is included so you don’t have to juggle everything.  Eventually you make your way out of the finish line where you can head to the beach, the beer tent, and the family reunion site identifiable by large letter signs.  Very clear, very easy, which is very appreciated after 13.1 miles of exhaustion!

–       Staff

Very friendly and lots of them!

Recommended pre/post-race restaurant:

I have actually never been to a VA Beach restaurant for this race weekend as I always stay at a good friend’s house where she prepares the most amazing dinner and lunch for all the runners.  However, I’m sure there are lots of great places to dine- if you know of one, leave it in the comments! 🙂

Local tourist attractions (running or non-running related):

If you’re gonna make a weekend out of this race, the beach and Atlantic Ave. are the obvious places to hang out!  I might also recommend the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center as well as Mount Trashmore, a landfill that was remade into a park!

Personal anecdotes:

There are too many anecdotes to mention in a single race report!  But I can say the reason I love this race is because it is the one guaranteed time a year that I know I will see my best friend, college roommate, and Races in Places co-founder JuliaHart.  We have been running this race since its debut in 2001 and have vowed to run it every year until the race closes, which hopefully will never happen!

Your Name:

Name of Race:

Place:

Tourist or Local?

Distance:

Date you raced:

Number of times you’ve run this race:

Number of runners in race:

Describe/rate the:

Start

Food/drink on course

Port-a-potties

Course (Hilly? Flat?)

Finish

Staff

Other aspects?

Recommended pre-race restaurant:

Recommended post-race restaurant:

Local tourist attractions (running or non-running related):

Personal anecdotes:

Other things to know about this race:

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Passport to Race: The 2009 Boston Marathon

Cathy running the 2007 Richmond Marathon

Cathy running the 2007 Richmond Marathon

Your Name: Cathy Polishuk

Name of Race: Boston Marathon

Place: Boston

Tourist or Local? Definitely a tourist. I’ve never been to Boston which made driving downtown with closed roads difficult. Note for anyone who decides to drive into the city for packet pick-up – bring a map!!

Distance: marathon

Date you raced: 4/20/09

Number of times you’ve run this race: First time!

Number of runners in race: 28 thousand and change – I’m not sure how many started, but about 22 thousand finished

Describe:

I met 30 of my fellow Richmond runners at 7:30AM on Monday after getting lost on the way to meet them. The directions from MapQuest were terrible! So of course, I started off the morning with tears imagining that I would miss the race because I did not have a contingency plan for getting to the start. My boyfriend and I stopped for directions… The first lady Mike asked did not speak English. I then made him cross the road to ask a man that was running towards us who refused to help us. I was upset and imaging that all Bostonians were like this man but was soon proven wrong after we met someone who gave us great directions in addition to all the wonderful people along the marathon route.

I boarded the bus and we made it to Hopkington State Park where we walked up to the runners village and dropped our bags. We did not get there early enough to get the free B.A.A. gloves they were giving out, but we did take lots of pictures. The photographers were amazing! I made the mistake of not bringing any throw away clothes, so I hung around in my running gear for a couple hours – note to self: Bring old clothes to wear – they donate them after you throw them away.

I was in Wave 2 (of 2) and from there they put you in corrals of 1,000 people each. They started us at 10:30 which is the latest race I’ve started by more than 2 hours. This late start time will play a role in some lessons I learned later in the day…The beginning of the course was a nice easy downhill and the spectators were great. I was feeling positive and excited to finally be running Boston. Within the first 8 miles, I saw a girl cop a squat for the first time in my life. I’ve heard about it, but never seen it. Right there on the side of the road! Then we approached Wellesley and the boys slowly made their way to the right side of the road where the girls would be. And you may have heard rumors about those girls and I think they are all true. Yes, you can literally hear them from a mile away. Yes, a ton of them had “Kiss Me” signs and yes, it was a truly amazing feeling to run through all that noise. It gave me a taste of what it feels like to be a super star athlete. I have to admit I got a little teary. That’s embarassing…

The next portion of the race is a blur of screaming faces yelling out my name (which I had written on my shirt – smart move:) ). Then came the Newton Hills – a series of “rolling” hills that precede Heartbreak. First of all, I wasn’t exactly sure where Heartbreak was (another smart move on my part in retrospect) because I kept thinking, “was that Heartbreak? That wasn’t so bad.” And then I knew when I hit it. I barely made it up that road. But up ahead I saw a man walking and then the crowd began chanting, “run, run, run, run” until he did and I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to walk!

I was still feeling great – even smiling and high fiving little kids. I passed a guy who yelled out, “Go Cathy – you’re not even sweating”. He jinxed me. Remember that late start – well the only meal I had eaten that day was around 6:30AM and we were running through lunch time. All the Gatorade and gels on a relatively empty stomach did not go over so well. At 23, I started feeling sick, but I was surrounded by people. So, I started walking until I felt better, then ran until I felt sick, etc. This went on until 25 when we went under an overpass. Open grass! For the first time ever during a race, I got sick. But then, amazingly, I felt great. Puke and rally! I ran into downtown Boston with a smile on my face and crossed the line in 3:54:46. Certainly not my best time, but still an accomplishment.

After turning in my chip, I received my beautiful finisher’s medal, a much needed mylar blanket and a bag of food – very smart – how many times have you had to try to carry a bagel, a banana, powerade and whatever else you can get your hands on? It’s not easy. The bag was a miracle.

My recommendations for those who will run Boston:

Bring throw away clothes and a rain poncho

Keep eating as close to the race as you can get

Wear sunscreen (seriously – don’t forget)

Train on those hills and don’t be too scared of Heartbreak – the crowd will pull you up it

Soak up the noise of the fans and high five a few kids

Enjoy!

____________

Cathy runs and dances in Richmond, VA.  This was her first Boston Marathon, but third sixth marathon.

Passport to Race: 2009 Godparent 5k, Lynchburg, VA

godfather-5k

Runner: Bob Huntington (above in green hat)

Age: 86

Home:  Lynchburg, VA

Summer Home: Van Buren Point, NY

Race: Godparent Home 5k (raised over $5,000 for Maternity Home and Adoption Agency)

Race Location: Lynchburg, VA

Race Date: April 18, 2009

Number of Racers: 300 runners

Describe your race experience: Beautiful weather- 55 degrees! Friendly race.  Ran with daughter Kathy, granddaughters Leigh and Kelly, and friend Andraya.  Course starts at the Old Kemper Street Train Station.  First mile and a half was all downgrade, so moved right along at a good pace. Passed numerous walkers.  The entire race is on the scenic Blackwater Creek Trail.  You run under bridges, train tressles and through a tunnel about an eighth of a mile long.  My favorite part was “hooting” like a steam whistle as I ran through! The second half was more challenging- all uphill! Finished strong with a 50:29 time.

Next race: Cameron 5k, August 8, 2009, Dunkirk, NY

_____

Robert Huntington is a patriarch of sorts of Races In Places.  Inspiring numerous runners within his family and beyond, a perfect race day is a day you get to run with Bob!

Passport to Race: Cooper River Bridge Run

by thekimrunner
cooper bridge

Your Name: Kim Jessup

Name of Race: Cooper River Bridge Run

Place: Charleston, SC

Tourist or Local? tourist

Distance: 10K

Date you raced: 4-4-09

Number of times you’ve run this race: 5

Number of runners in race: 31,430 finishers

Describe/rate the:

–   Start The start is incredible.  Over 30,000 runners hanging around in Mt. Pleasant excited to run. It’s pretty much crazy with runners everywhere and most streets closed. The Bridge closes at 7:00, so they shuttle people over from downtown Charleston in school buses and boats.  We were blessed with gorgeous weather this year, temps in the 50’s and no rain.

–   Food/drink on course 6 water stops, no food until the finish.  Once upon a time, on the descent of the Bridge, there were people passing out Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Not a good idea.

–   Port-a-potties lots… of course with 30,000 people you still had to wait in line

–   Course (Hilly? Flat?) This race is flat for the first 3 miles, then you hit the 4% grade up the Ravenel Bridge from mile 3-4 before descending back into flat downtown Charleston .

–   Finish Excellent!  You run into downtown with spectators everywhere cheering you on.  After finishing, you walk about a block to the finish festival area.  The Finish line festival is fantastic.  Major sponsor Bi-Lo grocery brings out tractor trailer trucks full of fruit, muffins, and bagels.  This year featured Smart Water. Several local restaurants had booths set up selling food.  There was music and other entertainment.  The race finishes in the heart of historic downtown Charleston, and all the restaurants, shops, and bars are open for runners.

–   Staff This is a very well organized and executed event.  The staff and volunteers are amazing!

–   Other aspects? This race is great!  It is a lot of fun, but probably not the best race if you are gunning for a great race time. It is very crowded, and even with corralled starts, you inevitably end up behind a group of walkers in the sub-hour group.  The Bridge is quite steep and gets the best of a lot of people.  This year the race organizers did enforce the no baby jogger policy, which was nice.  This is a race that the Cities of Charleston and Mt. Pleasant really embrace.  It does bring in a lot of money for their communities, but it brings a lot of hassle too. Fortunately Charleston is one of the friendliest and best mannered cities in America. Their hospitality shines throughout the weekend

Recommended pre-race restaurant: You can’t go wrong with pizza and a beer from Mellow Mushroom on King Street in downtown.

Recommended post-race restaurant: Charleston is full of fabulous eats.  My husband and I were there for our anniversary and enjoyed a fabulous dinner experience at Tristan.

Immediately post race, I would advise the Mellow Mushroom again.

We spent the day at one of our favorite bars, Burns Alley, which is rumored to have great food as well.

Local tourist attractions (running or non-running related):

Charleston is a beautiful historic southern city with tons of options for fun things to do.  A carriage ride through one of the historic districts is always nice.

http://www.classiccarriage.com/

http://www.carriagetour.com/splash.asp

http://www.oldsouthcarriagetours.com/

http://www.cpcc.com/

You could also take the boat to visit Ft. Sumter or the U.S.S Yorktown at Patriot’s Point.

http://www.nps.gov/fosu/

http://www.patriotspoint.org/

The South Carolina Aquarium is really neat.

http://www.scaquarium.org/

If you haven’t had enough activity, there is a fabulous bike/pedestrian path over the bridge.  Charleston County has done an exceptional job making Charleston a bike friendly town.  You can pretty much ride your bike anywhere.

http://www.coastalcyclists.org/

There are also several beaches close by.  My personal favorite is Folly Beach.  It’s a kind of eclectic surf beach with small bars and restaurants, lots of old cottages.  You can drive to the north end, park, and walk out to see the Morris Island Lighthouse.

http://www.follybeach.com/

http://www.savethelight.org/

The Ravenel Bridge itself is pretty interesting.

http://www.cooperriverbridge.org/

Personal anecdotes: This race is just a lot of fun for me. When I first started running, it was one of the first races I ran, definitely the first big race.  Throughout the years I have run it with friends and my bridge running experiences have cemented some of my strongest friendships.  My husband and I ran the Burn the Bridges Run held by the Charleston Running Club shortly before the old bridges were torn down.  We were married on Bridge Run day in 2008.  When I sent out Save the Dates, I actually had several phone calls asking, “You know that’s Cooper River Bridge Run?”

Other things to know about this race:  There were supposed to be trucks checking gear at the start for transport to the finish.  I saw a lot of people running with bags, so I don’t know if there was a glitch in this process.  Hotels are expensive in Charleston and Mt. Pleasant.  This is a big weekend at the peak of Charleston  flower season.  It’s worth it.  We stayed in Mt. Pleasant and walked to the start. It was a $10 cab ride downtown.

A neat site with info on how to navigate around Charleston

http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/charleston-city-guide1.htm

For more info on running in Charleston: Charleston Running Club

Great place to buy running gear: Try Sports

chickfila-kim


Passport to Race: Shamrock Marathon, VA Beach

by Pat Early

shamrock-marathon-2The 2007 Grandmas Marathon was supposed to be my first marathon. But an injury with 4 weeks to go prevented me from running the marathon and it knocked me out of running all together for the better part of a year. I was finally healthy again and the 2009 Shamrock was going to be my debut marathon.

The weather was pretty much perfect, in the 30’s with basically no wind, which is very unusual for Shamrock. B and I met D and did a 10 minute warm up a little after 7am and came back to the hotel room to stretch before the race. We were on the start line with about 5 minutes to spare. B said hi to W who was racing after finishing 2nd in the National Marathon the day before. We were on the second row from the front so when the gun sounded. D and I tucked in behind B and we tried to take it easy letting all the people starting too fast go by. D and I had a goal of 2.56.50 (6.45 pace) and B was there to pace us. Despite trying to take it easy we went through the first mile in 6.37, a little fast but not terrible. We purposely slowed down for the next few miles going through 2 at 6.52 and 3 at 6.51. As we crossed Rudee Inlet we tried to settle in around 6.45 pace. We hit 4 in 6.41 and 5 in 6.46. As we were nearing the turn around between 5 and 6 the leaders were passing us heading the opposite direction. The guy in first looked uncomfortable and Wardian was cruising in second place. One of the guys near the front was wearing head phones. As we passed B yells at him and threatens to catch him and rip them off his head. After the turn around we click mile 6 at 7.10 and immediately pick it up. It was still fairly crowded at this point. Miles 7, 8, 9 went by fast in 6.41, 6.36, 6.36. We were starting to pass some of the people that had passed us the first mile and the crowd was starting to thin out. Around mile 8 some guy in a Final Kick jersey slides in behind us. B looks at him and says “Are you on the team or are you just wearing the jersey?” and the guy replies “Final Kick for life.” He only lasted for about a mile. Between 9 and 10 we see the pace car marking the end of the racers going the other way and shortly after we notice a guy running with a Wii control, including nun chuck. Did the Wii Fit come out with a new game? We hit mile 10 in 6.42 and 11 in 6.46. I had been taking a little water at every stop and took my first gel at the water stop after 12. I knew we would see my fiancée and family around mile 13 and all three of us decided we didn’t need our gloves anymore. We came through 13 in 6.38 and could see M up ahead trying to take a picture. As we approached we all tossed our sweat drenched gloves at her and I could tell from her expression she wasn’t expecting them. We had hit the ½ way point in 1.28.27, 2 seconds off pace and no one felt like they were work too hard.

This was it 13.1 miles to go it wasn’t going to be easy but we were in shape and the weather was perfect. I thought to myself No Excuses! As we headed towards Fort Story we could see some of the half marathoners nearing the finish. Mile 14 was 6.42 and 15 was 6.35. B was in front and we were cruising. As we approached the water stop near mile 16 I could tell my bladder was pretty full. I’ve never had to stop a race to use to bathroom and I hoped today would bring an end to that streak. Mile 16 was 6.34 as we merged onto Shore Drive and we purposely tried to slow down a little. Over the next few miles we passed three people and were gaining on a handful more. There were now 3 or 4 guys that running with us and we were the only pack in sight. As we rolled through miles 17 in 6.37, 18 in 6.37, and 19 in 6.37 Bert talked to the new additions to the group and D and I led the pack. Every quarter mile or so one of D or I would start to pick it up and the other would immediately say take it easy. We came through mile 20 in 6.41 and I took ½ of second (and last) gel. I seriously considered stopping to use the bathroom at this point but decided it wasn’t worth breaking up the solid group we had.

I felt fine between miles 20 and 21 but tried to drop back in the pack and conserve energy. By now B was back in front leading. After about a quarter mile I couldn’t handle being in the back and moved back up to the front on B’s shoulder. D was right there with us and pretty much all talking had stopped. Mile 21 was 6.43 and mile 22 was 6.53. I was still with the pack but in the back. This is the first time I remember feeling uncomfortable and needing to use the bathroom was definitely a factor. B noticed I was dropping off and immediately slowed letting the pack pass and yelling up to D to go for the team. I remember looking at my watch to see had hit mile 23 in 7.03. The pack had gapped us and from what I could see D was still leading. Somewhere around this time B started trying to motivate me. At first it was “Don’t look at your watch just keep your eyes on me, you can do this”. Mile 24 was 7.14 and the motivation had progressed to “ You F#$@ing @#$#$, I didn’t come down here to run over 3 hours”. For the next two miles I feel sorry for any kids that my of overheard B’s attempts to keep me motivated. I remember thinking about how much I hated B and that I should tell him to shut the hell up, but I didn’t want to waste the energy. Mile 25 was 7.31, which I didn’t know at the time since I was only focused on keeping up with B. During the last couple of miles B realized that everyone was cheering for him since his name was on his number and he was in front of me. From that point on he yelled at everyone to cheer for me as he pointed at me.

As we turned on the boardwalk there was less than a half mile to go and you could see the finish line. At this point my legs felt like concrete pylons anchored to the ocean floor. I knew I was going to be close to 3 hours but didn’t know how close. I remember hearing someone say I wasn’t going to make it if I didn’t pick it up. I tried to glance at my watch but couldn’t read it. At mile 26 I caught a glimpse of my family wearing the Team Early shirts M had made the night before. I crossed the finish line in 2.59.04. Success! My debut marathon in under 3 hours and I had qualified. Boston 2010 awaits. 

Passport to Race: Ukrops 10k

Ukrops 10K Start

by Dean Christesen

March 28, 2009
RICHMOND, VA – Thirty-two thousand people ran on Richmond’s most scenic street on Saturday for the 10th annual Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K.  The sky over Richmond was overcast, the air chilly, but unlike last year’s race, the rain never came.  With 37 different waves–the last beginning over 90 minutes after the first–the race is just as friendly for walkers as it is runners.  So many racers and an estimated 50,000 spectators help make this race a notable one, and a definite must-run for Virginians.

The course begins on Richmond’s Broad St., just near Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center, staying on Broad only briefly before crossing over to Monument Ave.  Runners pass all of the monuments that embellish the street: J.E.B. Stuart, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson (you may recall Richmond was once the capital of the confederacy), and the oddballs Matthew Maury and Arthur Ashe.  Along with these six monuments, Monument Ave. is known for its large and expensive homes, its wide grassy median with its beautiful greenery, and its use as a major thoroughfare in Richmond’s uptown neighborhoods.  After three miles on Monument Ave., running through the Fan and Museum Districts and nearly reaching Willow Lawn, the course makes a U-turn, sending the runners the opposite way down the now familiar avenue.  For about two miles, runners experience what they saw on the outbound from a new perspective.  Once passing J.E.B. Stuart’s monument for the second time, with about one mile to finish, the scene is new.  Runners re-enter the VCU campus from a different street, passing the various eccentric administration buildings and sprinting to the finish at the entrance to Monroe Park.

Dean ChristensenUnlike courses that wind through a city, providing new things to see and a variety of terrain and elevations, the Monument Ave. 10K’s course is almost literally a down-and-back route.  The excitement of seeing the same thing twice is comparable to that of a loop course: nearly nothing changes on the inbound 5K except the runner’s energy level and the new sights of the final fragment of a mile.  The course is fairly flat; there are absolutely no extreme pitches or hills, but the outbound does have an almost-negligible incline.  However, the course is not what Sports Backers–the organization that runs the race–claims makes the race so exciting.  Instead, it’s the sheer amount of people that participate, whether running, volunteering, or cheering.  Like any great race, a sense of community is prevalent throughout.  A “Dress-Up-and-Run” competition encourages people to dress up in costumes for cash prizes.  Group themes enter a category of their own, spawning some outright ridiculous sights.  This year, I spotted Indiana Jones with a massive boulder made from cloth following closely behind, as well as Willy Wonka with two orange-faced oompa-loompas (if Wonka had a bigger entourage, I’m sure they would have been contenders for the prize).  The Dash for the Cash allows a random registered racer (usually a mere mortal like the rest of us) to have a head start and attempt to finish before the first elite athlete does, and creates even more excitement surrounding the race.  This year, like last year, the woman with the 2.7 mile headstart finished before the race’s winner, Tilahun Regassa, to win the cash prize.

The race prides itself with having thirty five bands and performers along the route.  But one major criticism of the race that I have is the level of musicianship that the event organizers allow.  This seems like a strange topic on which to critique a race, but consider this: people who run or workout with an mp3 player carefully select each song to make a mix that satisfies their need to be energized, motivated, and sufficiently pumped to push their body to its limits.  Each perceptive sense is extremely vulnerable under conditions like a race.  As much as a runner doesn’t want to smell cigarette smoke or car exhaust while running, some people also do not want to be attacked with the unattractive sounds of less-than-desirable bands.  Thirty five bands playing trance music would have been more exciting (and without a doubt more energizing) than what I was forced to hear as I ran by.

Sixty-six runners make up the 100K Club, reserved for the runners who have participated in all ten years of the event.  This year was only my second time running the race, but as it has become such a Richmond staple, so has it become an annual essential.

Dean Christesen is a student and musician in Richmond, VA where he is the Assistant Director of Jazz at WRIR, Richmond Independent Radio and creator of RVAjazz.  Check out his blog, The Artist’s Rightful Place.

For more information on the Ukrops 10k, visit their official website:

http://www.sportsbackers.org/events/10k/10k.htm

For more information on Richmond, VA, click here:

http://www.richmond.com/

if you would like to review a recent race, or contribute in any other way to this blog, please email: racesinplaces@gmail.com

Passport to Race: ING NYC Marathon

by D0nnaTr0y

New York City.

For many artists and intellectuals, the Holy Grail of Cities.

For many runners, NYC’s marathon is no different. Especially to back-of-the-packers like myself who will only see Boston as a spectator or bandit.

For Races in Places, the ING NYC Marathon was not just a Holy Grail, it was our Nemesis. One that has finally been conquered.

We have been trying to run this race for 4 years now. After many mishaps and failed lotteries, 2008 was our year. With much excitement and anticipation we prepared for the race, logging mile after mile and planning with precision the details of our long awaited NYC race weekend. Unfortunately, research of the logistics of the race went undone and we suffered the worse for it.

I realized with this race that I have fallen into a complete state of trust in race directors. I assume everything will be taken care of and I will be entertained for those unaccounted hours between arriving at and starting the race. With races so trendy and big these days, they tend to be spectacles within themselves with bands, fund-raising, even weddings before and after the race. It is quite easy to arrive and be herded around cattle style until the very end when you finally meet, tired but triumphant, with your family and friends. It has gotten to the point that everything is so organized and clearly marked, you really don’t have to think about anything other than your pace, and even then you can opt to just follow a pacer.

While I found the ING NYC Marathon to follow suit, there were some noticeable holes in it’s organization both in the start and finish of the race. Holes that wouldn’t have been a big deal had I done some race research or even used my brain ahead of time.

Fortune seemed in our favor as race morning followed the end of daylight time, granting us an extra hour of sleep. That combined with the late start of the marathon made this race seem immediately more casual and sleep friendly than so many races with start times of 7 AM (or 5 AM in Honolulu). But after a brief discussion with the transportation people at the expo, we were told we were required to take the 6 AM ferry to Staten Island.

That seemed incredibly early considering we were part of the third start wave and weren’t designated to cross the start line until 10:20. Plus, as the Staten Island Ferry is a free service, it didn’t seem necessary for us to ride at a specified time (it wasn’t as if we had to take one of the buses that had a limited number of seats and small window of time to get onto the island before the roads would close). But we complied with the request and drowsily awoke at 4:00 AM in order to get dressed, eat and make our way to the 1 train in order to get to South Ferry in time for the 6 AM ferry ride.

This was fine; our excitement kept us awake for the hour and half commute to the starting area. But our enthusiasm was quickly extinguished as we found ourselves at 7 AM hydrated, fed, and raring to go with more than 3 hours before our start time. I had already been to the bathroom twice but there weren’t even any port-a-potty lines to pass the time in as is my usual pre-race ritual.

And it was cold. COLD. Lower 40s and windy. Thank goodness for the sun that was slowly rising. We had thought ourselves ahead of the game for bringing throw-away sweatshirts so that we would not have to check a bag. But this was certainly folly as my capri-length running pants were no match against the chill and my hands and ears craved gloves and a hat.

We certainly felt foolish as we huddled together on the cold pavement with our luke warm Dunkin‘ Donuts coffee staring at those who were the wiser in heavy coats, pants, even sleeping bags. Idle and bored, I mused on the race hubris that allowed me to believe that after running 5 marathons (NYC was my 6th) I “knew how things worked” and did not put 2 and 2 together that a 6 AM ferry and a 10:20 start time would result in a lot of dead time in between. How foolish of me to not consider that when the weather read 39 degrees as I walked out the door that morning, that I might possibly be cold for all that downtime.

I guess I had assumed it would be taken care of. I’m not sure what I expected but sitting there shivering at 8 AM, I would have given anything for a heat lamp, a tent, and an amateur band covering “Brown Eyed Girl” to help pass the time. I was, however, impressed by the free breakfast of bagels, PowerBars, and coffee or tea. Chalk one up for the race organizers for the food, but minus 10 for no gentle reminder of the downtime and cold to be expected while waiting to run. Though of course, had I exercised some brainpower, I could have come to that conclusion myself.

After many grumbles and walks around the green start to regain feeling in my feet, the announcement finally came that the green start corrals were open. The announcements at the race were pretty cool. They were loud, clear, and in many, many languages.

J and I trudged our way through the crowds to the start passing a stage (was there live music that we missed?) along the way. We prematurely shed our throw-away sweatshirts, which we regretted as soon as we stepped foot on the Verrazano Bridge. The bridge was another unexpected disappointment; while the blue and orange starts ran on top of the bridge, the green starters were forced onto the lower part of the bridge, which was drafty, cold, and completely non picturesque. However, I was so grateful to finally be running that I didn’t care. A mile and some change later we descended the bridge into Bay Bridge, Brooklyn, warmed-up and excited to finally be running the marathon.

The NYC Marathon would be more appropriately titled the Brooklyn and Other Boroughs Marathon; literally half of the course cuts through Brooklyn, and the fans seemed to know it. The first 13 miles by far had the most spectators and cheering spots out of the entire race. The course also passed through vastly different neighborhoods giving out-of-towners a pretty good cross section of the city, including the more suburban Bay Ridge, the grittier Sunset Park, trendy Park Slope and hipster Williamsburg. My favorite part was the mile or so on Lafayette Avenue between beautiful Boerum Hill and Clinton Hill.

We entered Queens in mile 13 and I was starting to feel the dreaded marathon fatigue. There were many spirited spectators in Long Island before we crossed the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan.

Once on 1st Avenue, the energy increased by the sheer number of people that could crowd the sidewalks. Police had to guard the taped off street and the road widened allowing more breathing room. Personally, I was a bit defeated noticing that we were arriving on 59th Street, but had to travel above 125th Street before we could cross into the Bronx. But with the loud, supportive cheering and unending water stops, the blocks flew by and we were soon crossing into the Bronx.

Just like Queens, we were only in the Bronx for about a mile before we we curved back around and headed back into Manhattan, passing through Harlem to get to the park.

Again my lack of research snuck up on me. Throughout my training I had it in my mind that we would run south through Harlem and into Central Park from 110th Street in order to run up the big hill that sits at the top of the park next to Lasker Rink. I then assumed the rest of the race would follow the big loop through the park before ending at Tavern on the Green.

While I was happy not to face a big hill at that point in the race, I was disappointed not to be in the park. But at 90th Street, just one block shy of the famous Guggenheim Museum, my desires were granted as we entered the park and were able to bask in the beauty of New York City in the fall.

The course twisted and turned back out of the park where we returned to 59th Street and approached Columbus Circle before finally heading back into the park and up a slight hill to the finish line.

We gratefully crossed the finish line with the clock over 45 minutes off our chip time, tears in our eyes, muscles praying that this was not just another 1 minute walk break. The entire course was well marked, and the last few miles heavily guarded against non-runners intruding upon the finishers, so I was quite surprised when upon crossing the finish line I had to dodge men with cameras and other random people who cut across the way of the finishers. Any runner knows that when you cross the finish line it is important not to stop right away, but with all the people in the way, I was jerked side to side as if in Times Square on a weekend. Finally I made my way to the volunteers passing out heat blankets and medals, where I had to interrupt a conversation in order to ask for my medal. Tired, hungry and delirious, I was then unsure of where to go next. The road was no longer taped off and in many of NYRR’s races the finisher’s food is further down in the park.

I eventually found the volunteers who where giving out bags full of water, gatorade and food. This was great, but I then found myself again in an inescapable herd of people. Forced to pass by the baggage trucks (guess not checking a bag was not going to save me time in getting out of the crowd), we were then herded about a half a mile through the park before we were able to exit at 77th Street. Half a mile is not at all a long distance to marathoners, except for when you have just finished a marathon! Having to walk that unending distance before finally being able to cross Central Park West and sit down on a bench was almost as much torture as having to wait 3 hours in the cold before being able to run!

While the start and finish of the race lacked the finesse of other races, particularly the Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon at Virginia Beach who has it’s finish down to a convenient science, I found this race to be overall well planned and enjoyable. The course is for the most part flat and affords the runner many different views of the city. There’s plenty of entertainment along the way from school bands, to rock bands, to rappers, to cute old men playing accordion. The hydration stops were plentiful and they served Gatorade which is my preferred running drink. The weather was great, and the runners were polite.

I am happy to have finally run my current home town’s marathon and while I have never repeated a marathon, I have already entertained thoughts of doing this one again now that I have an insider’s knowledge of the ING NYC Marathon.

Do you have a race you’d like to review? Email us at racesinplaces@gmail.com

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