New York Marathon

Best Laid Plans for NYC Marathon……

Running the New York Marathon has been on my bucket list for years. So it was pretty exciting to be amongst the 50,000 starters at this year’s event, made even more special with my daughter Tayla lining up next to me for what would be her first ever marathon.

I had heard it was like going to a street party, running through the five New York boroughs of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Manhattan. Biggest marathon in the world. Thousands of fans lining the streets with cheering, bands, signs. Finishing in Central Park. What could be better?

It was a pretty good description as it turns out. Except everything was much bigger, brighter and louder than I could have envisaged. Who knew they had more cow bells in New York than they do at a Waikato rugby match. The signs were entertaining: ‘If Trump can run, so can you’. Now that’s inspiration!

The 2022 event was the first full-scale running of the marathon since 2019. I was booked and ready to go in 2020 but Covid cancelled that so I had to settle for the virtual marathon on the Hauraki Rail Trail (not quite the same?!) In 2021 our borders were closed so there was no chance of making the 50th event. 2022 – this was the year…

Training had been a breeze, everything had gone to plan, we were at the peak of fitness, confidence was high….. yeah right!

Roll back 6 weeks and that was somewhat true – training was going well, we completed the Rotorua half marathon together and we were feeling pretty good. But as we know, sometimes injury strikes at inconvenient times and challenges us to the core. So it was pretty ‘inconvenient’ when both myself and Tayla developed injury soon after the half marathon, leaving us both unable to run for more than 10 minutes without pain. What are the chances of sharing our injury woes!

I’ve been running for years, doing it my own way, just plodding along, ticking off a few marathons here and there. But now I was in a situation where I knew we needed to do more running, more training to get our mileage up and hit our peak. Yet I also knew that if we continued to run, neither of us would even make the start line. And we weren’t going to New York to be spectators!

Enter Ray. He was recommended by a friend who said she was sure he would be able to help us manage our way through injury. She was right. Ray reassured us that it was okay to bike our way to the start line. We replaced our running largely with biking and I took comfort in knowing that someone else was taking charge of the training plan and if he said we would make the finish line, then all we had to do was follow the plan, and believe.

I gave myself a 2% chance of finishing (sorry Ray!). And if I had gone out with the intention of running this marathon the same as I had my previous 10 marathons then I know I wouldn’t have got to the finish line. Instead, Ray told us to stick with a run for 6 minutes, walk for 1 minute regime. This went absolutely against my ‘run til you can’t, then just keep running’ philosophy. With injury zones strapped and well prepped following expert physio/massage therapy, we went out and did as instructed, breezing our way through the 26-mile event, smiling and generally having fun. Caught up in the experience, we stopped for photos, videos, took in all the drink stations at a carefree pace and had a blast. It was way hotter than expected and we had the added bonus of a few sprinklers to cool us down, but with the downside of water shortages at some of the drink stations mid-course. Luckily they remedied that and we were well taken care of at aid stations thereafter.

We didn’t break records with our time, but we had a good 10,000 people behind us so we were still well and truly in the high-atmosphere zone. Tayla doubled her furthest run, going from a half marathon distance to a marathon distance, and we still had legs (albeit a little stiff) to stroll the shops in New York the day after.

My biggest tip for anyone contemplating it: don’t be put off by the stories of the huge wait at the start line. While we all had to be across by the starting zones just after 7am so they could close the roads behind the traffic, our wave didn’t start until 11.30am which is something we would never be exposed to in New Zealand. But there was plenty of room to sit and watch the world go around, soaking up the pre-race atmosphere and providing ample time to top up with food, water, and a few extra visits to the porta-loos in preparation.

Another myth is that the course is flat. It’s not! We were pretty stoked to see a sign ‘Last Damn Bridge’. The standout bridge for us was the Queensboro – at 1.1km long, it meant we had a lovely descent of 550metres, but only after the ascent of equal distance. Fun!

I can’t find the words to describe the feeling of being part of this amazing event. It was an absolute highlight and I have so much gratitude that we were able to not only get to the start line, but to run with enjoyment to the end. When else would you get to run across multi-lane bridges and down streets like First Avenue and Fifth Avenue through the city that never sleeps. It’s a bucket list essential, and was well worth the wait.

– Julie Sweeney

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