Health and Wellness

ING New York City Marathon 2011: Race Recap Part 2

Verrazano Narrows Bridge: miles 1-2

In about a minute I was over the start line and on my way for a 26.2 mile run to Central Park. I had anticipated a delay of 5 to 10 minutes to actually get to the start line so I was pretty pleased with my placement and how briskly we were herded from the library to the start of the race.

Like any race I was managing an initial surge of adrenaline and ready to run. Since the race starts with an uphill I felt like this was a good way to control my pace. My race goal pace was 7:38 minutes per mile and if I was feeling good to increase the pace later in the race.

I warmed up quickly on the climb up the bridge. Lots of runners around me were tossing their hats and gloves over the side of the bridge and into New York Harbor. I couldn’t bring myself to toss my blaze orange Fleet Farm winter hat and gloves into the river and I didn’t want to drop them on the road and risk someone else tripping over them. My consideration for others led me to wearing the hat and gloves much longer than I should have.

I felt good going up the bridge and was psyched when a helicopter hovered next to us taking photos as we crested the peak of the bridge. FDNY Fire Boats were in the harbor spraying all of their water streams high into the sky.

There was no wind, it was cool and sunny, and I felt great.

With gravity on my side I ran down the bridge towards Brooklyn. My second mile was way too fast, sub 7 minutes, but much of it was downhill. I passed lots of runners that were peeing off the side of the bridge and still debating when and where to ditch my winter hat and gloves. As we exited the bridge I was thinking of three things – 1) need a port-a-potty, 2) get rid of hat and gloves, and 3) slow down. Perhaps if all I had to think about was slowing down I could have managed that better.

After a couple of turns and onto the first big straight away I spied the first bank of port-a-potties. My strategy in race pee strategy is two-fold – go as early as possible to avoid lines later and there is no sense carrying around excess fluid. Get rid of it when you can. I was in and out of the port-a-potty in less than a minute and back on the road. Not long after (probably close to the 3 mile mark) I finally ditched my hat and gloves, but by that time I was well aware that I had waited too long and was warmer than I wanted and had sweated more than I should have. After ditching my hat I was surprised how sweat soaked my head and face were.

Mile 1-2: 7:54, 6:58 (mile 2 is all downhill, but still too fast) Note the per mile times are the splits from my watch. I simply hit the lap button at every mile marker. 

Brooklyn: miles 3-13

The crowds were amazing. The course route was lined with people wildly screaming. Lots of runners write their names on their shirts so the crowd will yell out the person’s name. For the first 18 miles I was usually within close proximity of “Meg” so I fed off the cheers for her.

Recognizing that I was sweating more than I thought I would on a cool day I took Gatorade early and often. The first cup I got was nearly three-quarters full which is too much to drink out of while running. To best drink while running I like a cup half full or less and then I pinch the top of the cup together to more easily drink while moving. This works pretty well but also means I take sips rather than gulps.

The Orange wave was running on the left side of the road. Blue and green waves were on the right side of the road. A few runners crossed back and forth for reasons not clear to me. Our side of the road had the official course “blue line” which I tried to run near. No sense running extra distance. At about the 8 mile mark the waves combine into a single roadway.

As the early miles went by I was still running to fast. I was having a hard time slowing down even as I consciously tried to ease back and even picked out groups of runners that I wanted to see a gap build between me and them.

In the early part of the race is when I saw my favorite sign of the day. It read, “We are the 99% that don’t run for fun.” I am quite pleased to be in the 1% that run for fun.

After the wave combination the roadway narrowed and the size of the crowded quadrupled. The noise was spine tingling. I am sure this added to my surging energy and overly ambitious pace. I was slowing down a little at this point, closer to my goal pace, but not enough. I continued to regularly take fluids and at about mile 8 slurped my first Gu gel packet. For the next 6 miles I actually felt like I was over-heating and even considered taking my shirt off for a few miles. I was running in the full sun and there was either no wind or a gentle tail wind.

In the Williamsburg neighborhood we had a several block stretch where Hsadic Jewish men in their long black coats and black hats kept dashing across the course. There were so many of them making the dash it almost seemed intentional. I nearly wiped out one older man that was doing a slow dash. It was one of the odder moments on the course.

Miles 3-13: 7:27, 8:47, 6:37 (this was a watch mishap), 7:15, 7:16, 7:33, 7:37, 7:23, 7:33, 7:37, 7:23, 7:33, 7:28, 7:31

For the New York City Marathon I was fortunate to have the support of the Talon Rescue Racing Team. Please check out their race team page and become a fan of their Facebook page. Once I have my official brightroom race photos I will post some pictures of me in my Talon Rescue race team jersey.

TRECK - trauma shear alternative

Queens: miles 14-16

At about the halfway marker I became aware of the Queensboro Bridge in the distance. I had studied the race profile, watched videos, and talked to lots of people that had run INGNYCM but I guess I never fully appreciated how hilly the course is. There were very few flat spots and much more gentle climbing and descending than I am used too. There were a few quiet spots in Queens as we went through some industrial areas. Just before the bridge I ate another Gu gel.

The climb up the Queensboro Bridge was one of my favorite parts of the course. It was shaded and there was a gentle breeze from the south. I felt like this was a much needed cool down. There are also no spectators on the bridge so this was a good opportunity for me to really focus on running my pace. It seemed like we climbed most of the way across the river and then sharply descended to Manhattan. Since I don’t do much hill running I could feel the strain from the fast descent to 1st Avenue. We exited off the south side of the bridge on a sharp curve before turning north on 1st Avenue. At this point there were huge crowds, 10 or more people deep on the west side of the road.

Miles 14-16: 7:29, 7:52, 7:54

Manhattan 1st Avenue: miles 17-19

At about 16 miles I knew I was going to soon pay a price for over-running my fitness early in the race. I was thirsty, hungry, sweating hard, and had worsening pain in my thighs. My wife and her cousin were in the crowd on 1st Avenue soon after the bridge but I never saw them. They saw me and screamed but their voices were lost in the roar of the crowd.

At mile 18 I took the Power Gel and a short while later was thrilled to have a wet sponge to cool off my head. I was running without a hat or sunglasses. I don’t know if a visor or running hat would have helped me feel cooler or not. I didn’t douse myself with a cup of water because sometimes a wet shirt and shorts is too uncomfortable to run in and the benefit doesn’t match the general discomfort.

1st Avenue seemed to be a gentle uphill all the way to the bridge into the Bronx. I knew judgment time was coming but not sure when. As we crossed the bridge into the Bronx I slowed my pace and then did a bit of walking as we came up to mile 20. With just 10km left I was doing the math in my head and trying to determine what was my likely finishing time. I was pretty sure my 3:25 goal was quickly slipping away, but still had hope of a new PR (which would have been less than 3:26).

Miles 17-19: 7:42, 7:40, 8:18 (first walking)

Bronx: Miles 20-21

Just before mile 21 and the bridge out of the Bronx my left hamstring seized into a tight knot. Fortunately I was near the side of the road and was able to lunge to a sign post before I fell over. I was able to stretch my leg on a low jersey barrier while contemplating my fate. I decided at this point I could either get punky about not meeting my race goal or just put one foot in front of the other and painfully and slowly make my way to the finish while soaking up the amazing atmosphere. I decided it was time to really enjoy this amazing experience, keep getting Gatorade and chow some bananas. I was paying the price for running too fast, overheating by running with a stocking cap for too long, and being low on fluids and electrolytes.

Miles 20-21: 8:12, 9:41 (the hamstring incident)

Manhattan: Miles 22-25

The route crosses back into Manhattan on 5th Avenue and runs south to Central Pack. Inexplicably after seemingly running uphill and north on 1st Avenue and we were now running south and uphill on 5th Avenue. The crowds continued to increase and cheer runners wildly. I was doing my best to run as much as I could and counting down the miles to the finish.

The course turns off of 5th Avenue and into Central Park where it is even hillier. At this point hundreds of people were passing me as I painfully trudged forward running as fast as my hamstring would allow. In my head I was calculating my rapidly lengthening finishing time.

The route leaves Central Park and runs east on the south end of Central Park. This last mile is lined with thousands of spectators. I trudged along soaking it all in and watching the other runners that were doing so well. Just before re-entering Central Park near Columbus Circle another runner about half a step behind me fell hard. I glanced back to see her face down and motionless with a crowd of other runners and medical volunteers growing around her. I never heard if she we OK.

Miles 22-25: 8:51, 9:09, 9:59, 9:51 (these splits are pretty depressing)

Central Park and the Finish: Mile 26, 26.2

As I turned into the park my hamstring seized again. I took a couple of hop steps and a medical volunteer looked me in the eye and bluntly said, “Get Moving!” So I did, continuing my jogging hobble. A lot of runners continued by me as with the ideal conditions I am sure people that better controlled their pace were running well and strong at the finish. I wished I still had some gas.

Less than half a mile is run after in the park after re-entering. There were three finish line chutes … of course at the top of a hill. I ran through the left side chute and began the runner exiting process.

Just after crossing the finish line. Elation!

Mile 26: 9:54 (thankfully I avoided a 10 minute mile mishap)

2011 Finisher Medal!

My official finish time was 3:32:07 (pace 8:06/mile)

  • Data from my official race results page
  • Place 5934 of 47,438
  • Gender Place 5,045
  • Age Place 1,184 of 5,863
  • 5 KM 23:08 (pace 7:27/mile)
  • 10 KM 46:38 (pace 7:30/mile)
  • 15 KM 1:09:53 (pace 7:30/mile)
  • 20 KM 1:33:09 (pace 7:30/mile)
  • 13.1 mile 1:38:18 (pace 7:30/mile)
  • 25 KM 1:57:10 (pace 7:33/mile)
  • 30 KM 2:21:42 (pace 7:36/mile)
  • 35 KM 2:49:07 (pace 7:47/mile)
  • 40 KM 3:18:42 (pace 8:00/mile)

Remarkably I only was 8 seconds ahead of my goal pace at the half marathon mark, but keep in mind this included a 1 minute port-a-potty break and a blistering sub 7 minute mile coming off the Verrazano Narrows bridge. It was mile 18 to the finish that the story really changed for me.

Picture at the Finish Line on Monday morning.

Finish Line

It seemed like every 25 feet there was a volunteer with a megaphone telling us to keep moving so I did. Medal. Foil blanket wrap. Food and fluid recovery bag. Long walk to the gear pick-up. I would guess it was at least a mile until I found the UPS truck with my clothing bag. By then I was really cold. A day of temperature extremes for sure.

I quickly added some layers and chatted with some other runners and began the long walk back to the hotel. My family re-unification plans didn’t work out so I hoped for the best and found my wife back at the hotel. From the finish line to my hotel was probably two miles of walking and nearly two hours of travel time.

We shared a couple of stories about the race and spectating and decided we needed to capitalize on the fact that we were in New York City. We ended a long and amazing day with a Cuban dinner and the Broadway show Mama Mia.

Big Dinner at Little Havana


Waiting for Mama Mia

By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.