Once over the top of the bridge, I got back into my run/walk rhythm as we made our way into Queens. Running through Queens wasn’t very memorable for me. I thought a lot about how this was the last time I’d be going over 13.1 miles for several years. It was in mile 14 that I started to tire out. Maybe that’s why Queens wasn’t so memorable. I was very happy for those who would shout out my name and encourage me to keep going. Although, by this point it was feeling like no one was shouting my name when I was running. It only seemed to happen on my walk breaks. LOL! I’d smile and wave and thank those whom I could. But, I didn’t want to run sooner than I should. There was still a lot of running to do.
Then, in mile 15, it happened. The Queensboro Bridge broke me. The climb on this bridge probably wasn’t as bad as the one on the Verrizano Bridge. But, it felt horrible. I was tired and I was done. I was ready to stop. As we went through this part of the course with no crowd support, I thought a lot about how I’d eventually tell my boy all about this race. I kept thinking…what story do I want to tell? Do I want to tell him that I gave it my all, but I quit? Or do I want to tell him how I kept going and got to the finish line? I also thought about how far I traveled to run this race and all the training I put in. It was too much to quit. So, I walked up the Queensboro Bridge. On the way down the other side, I ran a little and got back into a rhythm!
As we went down, I felt much better and got my second wind!
At the other side of the Queensboro Bridge is 1st Avenue in Manhattan! As we left the bridge behind, I wondered how much of a crowd there would be here. For those who are faster, I’ve been told this area had crowds who were so loud that you could feel it in your chest. I had heard how their energy makes your next mile or two go much faster. When you’re in the back of the pack, you don’t get that. However, we still had a pretty good crowd.
We’ve made it to Manhattan!
On 1st Avenue, I started shortening my run intervals to 20 seconds. Sometimes, I stretched them to 25 seconds. However, most of them were in that range. Although, there was a NYPD Officer whose encouragement had me cutting a walk break short by 30 seconds.
First Avenue was a bit of a long slog as we worked our way towards bridge number 4. My mile times sped up for a few miles which was super encouraging. I did not look at the street signs and think about how close I was to the finish line physically. I just kept trudging away.
Mile 19 was hard. I was slowing down and I knew it. I missed a few run intervals in this mile. However, I kept trying. Once I got to the mile 19 marker, it was pretty much like the Queensboro Bridge. I was done. I didn’t want runner food anymore. I didn’t want to run anymore. Shortly after passing the 19 mile marker, I decided I’d just walk out the last 7.2 miles. I could finish in just over 7 hours. It would be my slowest marathon. But, who cares? I was so over it. My main thought turned into making it through the Bronx and over that last bridge before being pushed up onto the sidewalks. I had no idea when they would shut down the part of the course I was on. So, I just wanted to make it over that last bridge.
Seeing the 20 mile marker was heaven! Just a 10K to go! I was still walking and feeling better.
In mile 21, going through the Bronx we came to this sign. I loved it! As you can see, there aren’t a lot of runners around me. Those that were around me were walking as well.
Then, I got to the point I really wanted to get to…the LAST BRIDGE! I made it! No one had pushed me onto the sidewalks yet. Although, as I was on this last bridge, there were some police cars that came on the bridge.
This is me in mile 22, on the last bridge. I tried to be happy. See those bright lights behind me? That’s the police car I was talking about. I was so ready for them to shoo us onto a sidewalk somewhere. But, it never happened. As I got off the bridge, I decided to see how it would feel to start running again. Guess what? It was okay! Partly wanting to stay on the streets, I found my way back to my run/walk intervals. I would run 20 seconds, walk 100 seconds. I kept doing this all the way to the start of mile 26! I couldn’t believe it! I was run/walking in mile 22! I was run/walking in mile 23! I was run/walking in mile 24! I was run/walking in mile 25! It amazed me!
The crowds continued to amaze as we entered Spanish Harlem. I knew that’s where we were because one lady kept saying, “Welcome to Spanish Harlem!” We still had crowds in mile 23! There were still people out yelling our names encouraging us to keep going.
As we got to the edge of Central Park, one lady I’ll never forget brought a smile to my face. She yelled, “You’ve got just over 3 miles to go! It’s just through Central Park! You’ve Got This! Now Go Get Your Medal!” I loved it! I think her words were worth at least 3 run intervals. Also, in mile 24, we had this person who was out with a boom box blaring some music and 5 dancers out front dancing and cheering us on. It was amazing! By this point in Chicago, the crowds were pretty much gone. Not so in New York!
As we made our way into Central Park, it was dark outside, but I was still in my run/walk intervals. I seriously couldn’t believe what I was doing. At mile 19, I thought I was out for the count. But, somehow…somewhere, the energy came back and the desire to run also. For miles 24 and 25, I thought I had a chance to beat my Chicago Marathon finish time. That’s what kept me going. I thought to myself that if I could just keep running, I could beat Chicago. By the end of mile 25, I realized that I wouldn’t do that. However, I could still beat my LA Marathon time.
By the time we came out of Central Park, with my Chicago Marathon time out of reach, I started prepping for the finish. I took off the poncho and looked for a spot to throw it away. There was no rain anymore. I also threw away my last few Bloks. Anything that would weigh me down, I wanted to get rid of. I was going to finish this race and didn’t need anything else. I finished off the Gator Aide I had brought with me, and left the park behind.
Central Park West was booming! Once I arrived, I could feel that finish line calling. There was still a line of people cheering us on along the barriers. The blunting along those barriers had been removed. But, the crowd kept cheering us on as though we were among the faster runners. The music was blaring and the lights of the city made it all so magical. The race MC’s were hyped. I was moved to tears when the race MC said, “Runners, you’ve made it to the last mile! Take in EVERY moment! This is YOUR time! This is what you’ve worked so hard for! You’re almost here!”
It was kind of a weird feeling. I was smiling from ear to ear with tears rolling down my cheeks. I thought about my wife who let me go out on all those training runs. When I had jitters about flying to NYC, she was the one that told me I had to go. I was so glad that she did. I thought of my boy and the story I was going to be able to tell him. The story of the marathon that I almost quit on twice but fought back and finished strong. I thought about how I was in the last mile of this chapter of my running life and how I would never run this long again for at least 2 years. I thought about why I started running in the first place and all my other marathons. Unlike LA and Chicago, I was going to finish this race running and blister free!
As we got to the final stretch, I started run/walking again. Although, this time, it wasn’t on any particular schedule. I wanted to make sure I could still run across that finish line. It was glorious!
I was finishing one of the grandest marathons in the entire world!
I was officially a New York City Marathon Finisher! The cool part about being in the back of the pack is that you don’t have as many people finishing with you. So, the race organizers were pretty chill about moving you down the finisher’s chute. I stopped for a few photos. This one turned out best before getting my medal.
Then, of course, I had to capture the moment I received my finishers medal. The volunteer was more than happy to be in the selfie with me.
There you go folks! The money shot I had been dreaming of for nearly 2 years!
I made my way down the long finisher’s chute until I got to the place where those that had checked bags continued forward and those (like myself) who selected the poncho option veered left. In the chute, we picked up our post-race refueling bags with some water, chocolate milk, Gator Aide, a power bar and an apple (we were in the Big Apple after all). The folks that were there to give us our poncho’s were awesome! They greeted everyone with a big smile and “Congratulations!” Then, I was wrapped in this awesome poncho that was nice and warm after the race.
Then, the walk continued. The good news? The exit was right across the street from a subway station that was the subway I needed. I wasn’t starving for food right after the race…and we didn’t exit on the right street to go up to Shake Shack. So, I went to the subway. Something really cool happened when I got down the stairs. One of the security guys motioned to me and other runners and said that the runners got to ride the subway for FREE! Even though I had my Metro Card ready. It was a nice gesture.
After arriving back at my hotel, I showered, ate some of my post-race food, and took about an hour nap. Then, it was off to celebrate at Black Tap. I don’t know why I decided to walk it out. As I looked over my directions, it seemed like I wasn’t saving much time or walking distance by taking the subway. Plus, I was okay enough to walk. Along the way Radio City Music Hall was all decked out for Christmas. It looked glorious!
Inside, Black Tap was everything I expected it to be. It was a very fun burger joint with lots of fun artwork!
The music was boomin’ and I was stoked to have finished the marathon. On both my walk to and from Black Tap, I was congratulated over and over again. The same was true once I arrived. One of the many lessons I have to give? Finishing the NYC Marathon is just like any runDisney race. Wear your medal and receive lots of congrats.
Since I didn’t get a Shake Shack burger, I got one at Black Tap. I ordered the Pizza Burger. Since I wanted to get one of their crazy shakes, I didn’t finish all of this meal (a theme to this trip). But, the food was delicious!
The burger was just the prelude to my real victory jam. I had one of their “Crazy Shakes.” Y’all, these shakes were every bit as awesome as I had read! Most of the people around me had one. They all looked AMAZING!
Side Note…On November 15th, Disney Parks and Resorts announced that Black Tap is coming to Downtown Disney Anaheim in 2018! I cannot reccommend this place enough. If you’re at Disneyland after Black Tap opens, it is a “Must Do” place to eat. You can thank me later.
After my amazing victory meal, I walked back to the hotel full, a little sore, and tired. However, I decided to grab one last pic of Radio City Music Hall with it’s Christmas decor. It was the perfect end to an amazing day! However, my celebration wasn’t over. Marathon Monday was my final day in New York City. So, this story isn’t over yet.