The bus arrived at the start ‘village’ thirty minutes later, and once through security I found myself with about three hours to kill before the start of the race. It was cold, and while I’d brought layers of clothing, I wished I’d brought a blanket to sit on and something to read.
I hadn’t been sure how to pace the marathon; I’d been targeting 3:10 at the start of my training, but then become distracted by shorter races and not followed my training as I should have.
Now stood at the start of the marathon, I thought perhaps it was a good sign that I’d ended up next to Charlie, and if I stuck with him, perhaps 3:10 was still achievable.
The race started and everyone raced across Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. There was the usual congestion in the first mile, and I struggled to weave through people who should have perhaps started a little further back.
The first few miles were along the freeway and the pack spaced out a little. Then we entered Brooklyn and I was struck by the depth of the crowds and the noise which was all around me.
I have run in big half marathon events in the UK, but nothing that compares with the enthusiasm of the Americans and their love of placards.
My race was going well, I passed the half way mark well ahead of the 3:10 pace which I’d started at and I felt great. Then at about fifteen miles I reached a bridge and as the crowds disappeared and the climb went on, I started to notice people pass me.
I wasn’t worried at first, ‘let them burn themselves out on the bridge’ I thought, but once I came off the bridge people were still overtaking me, and I knew that my lack of longer training runs was the problem. Today wasn’t going to be my day.
At about 18 miles the 3:10 pace pack passed me, and Charlie encouraged me to join them, I struggled along for a mile before slowly dropping back.
The crowds were still fantastic as I passed through Manhattan, the Bronx and then Manhattan again their shouts of encouragement constantly pushed me forwards.
By mile 23, I was slowing further and hoping that nobody at home was watching the live feed of my progress, which the race conveniently provided (they were), when I heard a familiar accent alongside me.
It was a fellow Northerner who introduced himself having seen my running club name on my back. We ran the last three miles together, with him encouraging me all the way.
With a mile left to go, I told him not to slow down for me, but he said that it wouldn’t make much difference and that we’d finish together. This was hugely appreciated, and we completed the race in 3 hours 23 minutes.
I got my medal and a goody bag and treked towards the exit of the park. Every single person working for the marathon said well done and I felt like a winner despite my disappointment with my performance.
The New York City Marathon is an incredible race with an unbeatable atmosphere and I’d recommend it to anybody.
Jim has been running since he represented his local running club aged 13. Thirty years later he is still finding new ways to stay ahead of the pack in from 5k races through to Ultra Marathons. He started Running Unlimited to share his knowledge of the sport and to keep a record of what’s worked and what hasn’t.