Seamus Muldowney completed the New York Marathon in aid of our special hospital and here is his insight into this spectacular marathon for all you first timers!
1. An early start!
Don’t be alarmed when I tell you that you will be up and at 5.00am on Marathon day! The hotel is buzzing with nervous runners scurrying for their porridge, so that they are ready to board the bus to the start-line at 6am. Then you realise you are not dreaming when you see all the ‘marathoners’ dressed in old woolly clothes?! Ah… then I remember I was warned about the long wait in the cold on Staten Island!
2. What’s going on?
Everyone is starting an amazing adventure in their lives. For some they are ticking their ‘bucket’ list, others nervously wondering what lies ahead, hoping that they have trained hard enough. For me, I just wanted to see New York by taking the ultimate road trip through all the boroughs. I wanted to run the marathon, while half a million spectators view my 17 stone, cave-man like body, smoothly drift along the route slowly, very slowly.
As the bus made its 50 minute drive to Staten Island, one relieving thought was that the bus had a toilet. Yes the various warriors aged from early twenties to mid-sixties had more than one thing in common; they hydrated a little too much and the flushing sound from the back of the bus was commonplace.
4. The Build-Up
On arrival there is a big security presence. The New York marathon is a massive event and security is high priority. When you pull in, the row of NYPD officers randomly checking athletes’ bags, is visible to all. Smile and accept this – most officers are very pleasant and generally curious where you’re from. The Irish accent always sparks interest from our American friends. The realisation for all the old wooly clothes soon hits as the sharp cold 4 degree air wakens everyone.
You will know what zone you have to go to by the colour on your race number. We all started in different areas and different times depending on what time you have estimated, mine being 4:30. You will think you have hours to kill but the time flies by. There is music, coffee, bagels, bananas and lots of nervous chatting to keep you entertained!
5. The Team
Like a bunch of lifelong friends (that only met on Thursday), we got everyone to their respective start in order of their start time. As start times go every 20 minutes or so – stop and look around. The island has turned into an abandoned clothes market. I am waiting for Mrs Brown and her friends to wheel in with wheelbarrows and pick all the clothes up. My advice; stay warm whatever it takes.
6. The Start Line
Now it is your turn to start. As you line up a wave of emotion comes over you – you’ve made it – this is it. The American national anthem is played and the Irish can’t help a quick version of ‘ole ole’ before the gun goes off.
7. And they’re off!
The clearing after the Staten Island Bridge brings you into the various Boroughs and you get a feel for the atmosphere of each area you pass. The people of this great city line the roads and roar you on. Write your name on your top and hear thousands cheer you around the 26.2mile course!
As you tick in the miles everyone gets something from New York. If it’s not the people cheering you on, the various bands playing as you run along to their beat or the view of the sky scrapers. If family or friends that have travelled to cheer you on always look for a good spot to meet. The start of 1st Avenue is good. Get close to the bridge exit as the runners turn from the bridge onto 1st Avenue, at the 16 mile mark. I met my wife there and she encouraged me by saying Pamela Anderson has just gone up the road. I did my fastest mile at that point!
8. The Wall!?
Getting to the end of 1st Avenue brings you to the Bronx. You hit the 20 mile mark. Welcome to the rough part of the marathon. I decided to stop and walk for a half a mile. At the time a good idea until I tried to start and run again. I remember the expression ‘kick start a combine’ commonly used by Irish people to describe the period I tried to start running again. Eventually I got going. All marathon runners remember the feeling of the last few miles as your speed slows. My 9:30 pace drifted to 11:10 pace and every mile marker looked further away. I have had that debate over a few pints with other lady runners that this period of the race is harder than child birth. Some agreed with me actually one lady told me she cried the last 3 miles.
I hate to break it to you but New York marathon finish is very very hard and hilly, but it is also spectacular. I have never seen so many people in my life and running through central park, aware of what I am about to achieve is truly the most amazing feeling (even if my legs are about to fall off)!
9. A feeling of pride
I crossed the line and stopped. I looked at the time 4:28 a PB. I was filled with emotion and cried inside with joy. I had kept my promise to those that sponsored me and had completed something amazing. I had nothing left. I looked around and saw all those people around me sharing this experience. I was standing in the middle of the greatest city in the world and I now had to celebrate. Accept your medal with pride – you are a champion!
The experience is over but never to be forgotten. This was my experience of the day; I wonder what yours would be like on the 2nd November 2015?