After the hell that was the 59th Street Bridge, it was a relief to finally be in Manhattan.  I had heard that towards the end of the Bridge, the runners could hear the cheering crowds on 1st Avenue and I can agree that this is true.  For me, more than the random cheering crowds, I was looking forward to seeing my family.  My husband and dragged 3 young children into NYC for the sole purpose of cheering for me for a few precious moments on 1st Avenue.  I continued my run/walk intervals and stayed to the left so I could find them near the 17 mile mark.

Not that I have a reputation or anything, but my husband did mention to me before the race that it would be nice if I paused my race for more than 5 seconds when I reached me family.  I knew that my 5:15 time goal was out the window anyway so I tried to spend some time with Tom and the kids.  Nathaniel and Jessica had formed their own high-5 zone (the cute signs they made for me had long been forgotten before I appeared).  Zachary was riding up and down the sidewalk and casually strolled over to say hello.  Darn kid probably cost me at least 30 seconds off my finish time!!!! (Joking.  Really!) I got some hugs and kisses and encouragement.  And the last lollipop  Tom had left.  And then they sent me on my way.

For another mile or so on 1st Avenue, the crowds were great.  There was a Poland Springs Zone set up with sponge.  There were a few bands.  And then as we headed further North, the crowds got lighter.  The noise was less.  And I finally gave in and turned on my iPod. Around the time I got a few funny and encouraging text messages from a running friend but my phone battery and my energy levels were both too low to reply.  We finally reached the next bridge of the race – the Willis Avenue Bridge.  And mile marker #20.

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We had finally reached the 5th a final Borough – The Bronx.

The pre-race information claimed that the crowds in the Bronx were fairly sparse and this is one of the less interesting parts of the race.  And Mile 20 is a notorious spot to hit the Wall.  While I had been fighting demons for miles, I hadn’t really hit a wall.  While the crowds in the Bronx weren’t as numerous as on 1st Avenue, there were people.  More importantly, I have spent more than 15 years of my adult life living and/or working in the Bronx.  This is MY Borough and MY people.  Unlike most runners I feel a very strong connection to the Bronx and loved being able to run through it.  It’s also possible that turning my iPod on helped my mood here, too.  Take your pick.

Our stay in the Bronx was short and we were soon on our final bridge of the race – the Madison Avenue Bridge – back into Manhattan.  We started the long journey down 5th Avenue towards Central Park.  This part was made significantly longer by the 15 mph headwinds that we were facing.

Somewhere around MIle 22 I saw one of the Team for Kids coaches.  It was the same coach that gave our motivational speech on my bus to Staten Island.  I had met her at a few of the training runs and got a big hug and some encouragement.  As I continued my run/walk intervals, a spectator (who had already finished the race and was wearing a medal – damn him!) commented on how many people I was passing.  The crowds got bigger and bigger as we went South on 5th Avenue.

At mile 23 I decided to test my stomach with a GU.  I picked the salted caramel flavor because it contains extra sodium and I had stopped taking my electrolyte tabs for fear of vomiting.  I also happen to love salted caramel in general.  The gel definitely gave me some much-needed energy.  We turned into the park and I stayed to my right because I knew I had a friend at Mile 24.  The running club Front Runners New York was stationed at Mile 24.  Amongst those cheering was my friend, Beth, holding a Twinkie with my name on it.  Although I accepted the much-appreciated hug and support, I sadly declined the Twinkie in light of my ailing stomach.  Before I knew it we were running West on Central Park South (I was tired enough that it took me a few minutes to figure out what street we were on and which direction we were headed). 

There were huge crowds along Central Park South and again as we turned back into the Park near Columbus Circle.  I was trying to speed up but was fighting the strong urge to vomit every time I went too fast.  Twilight had definitely come (why oh why did daylight savings time end that morning?) but I knew I was near the end.  There is this strong urge to sprint from the Mile 26 marker but 0.2 miles is really far after you’ve run 26 miles already.  I had to keep run/walking because I wasn’t sure my stomach wouldn’t betray me.  I did manage to run across the finish line with my arms in the air.

Garmin time and official time were pretty close: 5:26:58.  I got my sub-5:30 at least.

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(I ordered digital copies of my race photos but this is the low-res, water-marked version that I have for now.  High-res copies to follow.)

After the finish I got my medal.  Although I often skip the post-race photo, there was no line and I did it.  (I think it’s cute so I’m glad I did.)  I got my post-race goody bag with drinks and snacks and a very necessary mylar.  Some nice volunteer escorted me to my charity’s tent where my checked bag was waiting.  I sat in the tent to warm up a bit and hydrate before changing into some dry clothes and walking almost a mile to meet my family for a celebratory dinner.

Marathon #3 is in the books…. (my post-mortem of the race to follow in a separate post)

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