I always do this. I run a race and when it comes time to sign up for it again I hesitate – thinking I’d be sick of it. Then, I go running with all my friends who are like “Woo hoo, the New York City Marathon in 2022 is gonna rock!” and I get FOMO.
For those of you who aren’t psychotic runners, if you miss the sign up deadline for a race you’re pretty much not running it.
One morning I was out with BW doing an easy 6 miler and we ran into one of his pals. After they heard of our epic 2021 NYC Marathon, coming in under 3 hours, great weather, etc, they asked if I was running it this year. “I forgot to sign up, so stupid.” They then say, “I can get you a bib (legitimately); email me.”
And the next thing I knew, I was registered for the 2022 NYC Marathon. Big thanks M, drinks are on me.
Guess who got injured 3 weeks after race confirmation? Me.
For starters, I got plantar fasciitis. I think it happened from faulty shoes and constantly walking around barefoot inside the apartment. I ended up messaging all my runner friends, some of whom have run 60+ marathons and have had every type of injury you can think of. To add insult to injury, I got Covid in late August and it took me 3-4 weeks after to fully get my lungs back.
Huge thanks to my friend and fellow runner David Y. I ‘ran’ into him in the park and he heard about what I was going through. “Baker – you go fast all the time. Slow it down.” And so I did.
I basically stopped running at the end of June through July, only going out once or twice a week for slow easy runs. I was icing my foot every day all the time, stretching it, and using Powerstep foot insoles. Strangely enough, it worked and by mid August I was increasing my mileage. To my dismay, all of my running crew were way ahead of me in NYC Marathon training so I had work to do.
RIDE THE LINE
There’s a fine line between trying to up your mileage and speed and at the same time stay injury free. I ran my first 20 miler 8 weeks before race day, keeping my pace moderate. Over the next couple of weeks I was able to successfully execute 3 more 20 milers (some with my crew BW, Row, and D) and get in some speed work. I felt really fit and was pretty excited to race.
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
My friend Jenn from DC got into the marathon after 7 years of applying, so she was in town with her husband Rick (also an old friend of mine) and was very excited. We had lunch by their hotel in Times Square at Toloache for some tacos while we talked about race strategy. It was set to be very hot, so hydration was a main topic.
I spent the rest of the day relaxing and trying to stay off my feet. Emily made us an amazing rib eye steak with sweet potatoes and green beans for dinner. “But Baker – where’s the carbs? What about the pasta dinner?” Thanks for asking. I’ve found that for my last 2 marathons, this meal in particular has worked wonders. The sweet potatoes provide a ton of carbs.
I was in bed by 10.
I awoke at 5 am easily as it was really secretly 6am since we turned the clocks back. I felt supercharged and ready to fly. I’ve recently been making oatmeal with sliced apples and honey pre-running, so I made some of that to go! I also loaded my goodie bag with water, gatorade, bananas (for sharing) and lots of gels.
I jumped on the train at 72nd Street, something I’ve never done in my previous 6 New York Marathons. I normally take a cab to the ferry, but this was way better as the subway was filled with runners! My peoples!
I easily caught the 6:30am ferry and stood outside on the very front balcony. Another first, as normally it’s like 40 degrees out. But today it was 65.
IN LOCAL ELITE SUPER-SECRET BASE CAMP
The last few years I’ve gotten to start in the Local Elite corral. Upon entering, you find yourself in a smaller camp with your own set of port-o-potties, coffee, snacks and all of your local speedy friends! It was like a Central Park reunion and I was loving it. The warm weather made it even more fun as everyone was comfortable and not chattering about. I found BW, D, and Row easily and we geared up.
After the party it’s the marathon. We marched up in front of all the other corrals and took our places. We were about 30 feet from the start line and I was surrounded by not only BW, D, and Row, but many other local running friends. It was fantastic.
A little Frank Sinatra, the canon sounded, and the herd bolted off.
The bridge felt great as we were on the bottom level – out of the sun – and it was breezy. Our group held a tight 4-man position and moved steadily. Mile 1 of the race is straight up the bridge, so you need to stay cool.
The descent, on the other hand, is fast so you also need to maintain control.
As we turned onto 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, the crowds were thick, it was just Row and I together. We had lost BW and D somewhere back there and were sure we’d see them again.
WHERE BROOKLYN AT?
I have and continue to love running 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. It’s Miles 2 through 8, the crowd support is fantastic. it’s a straightaway and the first chunk of the race, so generally speaking you feel awesome. Row and I plugged along taking note of things, like the guy running barefoot and the guy in full-body Incredible Hulk paint.
MORE SALT PLEASE
At Mile 4 I was getting dizzy – like bad dizzy where my vision was jumpy. I even thought that I might have to end my race. But that early, no way I would accept defeat. After many years of running races and triathlons, one of the things you learn to do is quickly problem solve on the fly, before things turn ugly. Thankfully, D had given us all a Ziploc bag full of 5 salt pills in base camp. I knew that would help and I took one followed by some on-course Gatorade.
One mile later I was feeling fantastic and my head was clear. Row and I had been hitting our mile markers in the 6:50 range and it felt right.
I saw my cousin Morgan and her boyfriend Reed Miller Music cheering us on here as well!
DEATH STAR RUN
One of the parts of the run I hate is when you go from 4th Avenue by Barclays Center into Fort Greene on Lafayette. Here you are running on an avenue 8 lanes wide and then BOOM right turn onto Lafayette which is like 2-3 lanes across plus the crowds are all over the streets.
Right before I turned I heard this blood curdling scream from across Brooklyn “Chris Baaaaaaaaker! Goooooo!” I looked back and my buddy Trevor (in town from Miami) was standing on scaffolding cheering at me. Impressive!
THE HEAT IS ON
Did I mention it was hot and humid as fuck out? For reference, the other 6 NYCMs I’ve run, I showed up to the start in layers of winter clothes… sweatpants, hoodies, gloves and a winter hat at minimum, only to shed them moments before I started running. This year I showed up in shorts and a tank top as if it was a summer morning.
I tend to perform okay in the heat and humidity, but I definitely don’t function as fast as if it were 50 degrees. I think at Mile 10 it felt like 75 degrees plus humidity. This is where I lost Row.
I also stopped looking at the course clocks and my watch, knowing that any PR was certainly not happening. I was running the rest of the race based on best effort.
A quick PSA about the photos I DID NOT purchase. I’ve bought plenty of race photos, and sometimes you want like 3, but these guys force you to buy all because individual images are $25 bucks! C’mon.
THE PULASKI BRIDGE SUCKS
What? It does. After going through WIlliamsburg and Greenpoint, you have to cross over into Queens by way of the Pulaski Bridge. It’s the halfway mark and the bridge is more of an extended overpass with zero shade and not much to look at. I hit 13.1 around 1:31 and change.
LONG ISLAND CITY
I have a soft spot for LIC because I started my real estate career there and have spent many days touring it with clients. The crowds were awesome. I ran by my friend Emily G. here and we chatted for a hot second.
59TH STREET BRIDGE OF DARKNESS
‘Rookie Baker’ hates this part of the race because it’s cold, dark and void of spectators but my older, more experienced self enjoys it. ‘Refined Baker?’ It’s a time to get everything in check. There are no distractions in regards to cheering crowds, so you can focus your pace and breathing back to where it needs to be. It’s a bit like meditation I guess? Slow and controlled up the bridge and then relax and open it up for the descent. It’s very exciting going into mighty Manhattan and definitely a highlight of the race to look forward to. I’ve been brought to tears (happy tears) in this moment.
I ran by this guy and he was like “Hey! Baker!” It was my friend Erik who I sometimes run with on Friday mornings.
I love 1st Avenue but it’s LOUD! Like crazy loud if you’ve never experienced it. I like to stay to the right side which is less populated so I don’t get sensory overload in this crucial part of the race.
At Mile 18 I saw Emily and her parents. I couldn’t miss them; Emily had 2 huge CB balloons! I also saw Bojo, Brian, Caitlin, and BH soon after, followed by one of my running partners, Jim. My pace quickened to a 6:57 here due to all the excitement.
I also passed my friend and coworker Phil here who was pacing an Achilles runner.
RUMBLE IN THE BRONX
Miles 20-22 were my slowest of the race. The Willis Avenue Bridge going into the Bronx took a lot out of me. I was mentally getting beat up, too, and I tried hard to keep my feet moving. I was down to 1 salt pill.
Cruising up 5th Avenue I clocked my slowest mile (8:06) because I stopped to high five BW’s wife and say hi to their kids who were all out cheering. I was like “Where is he?” She said that he and D were like 10 blocks behind me. I thought for a brief second of waiting for them but realized that would make my situation worse.
After I rounded Marcus Garvey Park, my pace picked up back to the mid 7’s. I saw Jim for a second time here cheering. I remember thinking, “How did he get here so fast?” I was getting excited knowing I didn’t have too much longer to go. I also saw my friend and fellow runner Jacqueline on 5th, which gave me a boost too!
Soon after, I saw Emily and her parents on 93rd Street along with my pal Rick!
The park was gorgeous this year. The warm weather had stopped the leaves from falling and had in turn allowed them to get more vibrant. I was in pain here but nothing I hadn’t experienced before. And strangely enough it started drizzling, which was a welcome relief.
I saw my friends Anna and Danny and their kids cheering behind the Met!
The rest of the race was per usual, a bit of a blur. The last 2 miles were a 7:14 and 6:28.
I completed the race in 3:09:25 with a 7:14 pace, although it felt like I was moving slower. I got to see my friend and fellow runner Susan who was volunteering at the finish too!
I tried to wait for the guys at the finish, but volunteers tend to move you along so I had to exit.
As I exited onto 76th Street, which was completely empty, I had one of the coolest marathon experiences I can remember. This mother and her son started clapping for me and yelled “Congratulations!” I smiled and said thanks and then the son, who I learned was named Noah, said “Can I see your medal?” As I walked over toward them, I said “Sure; in fact, would you like to wear it?” He smiled huge and looked at his mom as if to see if it was okay. “He said you could, go ahead!” I gave him the medal and after inspecting it, he put it on and had his mother take a picture of him. He then looked at me and said wide eyed, “We saw someone puke!” I laughed out loud and said yea that happens.
As I walked away I turned back and yelled, “Hey Noah! I want to see you out there one day okay!” He nodded as I turned back heading toward Columbus Avenue.
As if I couldn’t be riding any higher, a cop at Columbus asked to take a picture with me (why I have no idea). Then, my friend Juan popped out of nowhere and hugged me and said to the cop, “Oh, you want a picture with the famous Chris Baker!” We laughed and I explained to the officer that I was indeed NOT famous.
I helped a few lost people cheering for their loved ones, like a good New Yorker, before heading finally to Playa Bettys.
Emily and her parents were already seated when I arrived at Playa Bettys to celebrate. It was around 12:30 and I was ready for some lunch! My friend Kiera also popped over to celebrate.
After a fantastic drawn out meal, Emily and I headed back home. We had some time before Jenn would finish and our next round of celebrating would start.
Back at Playa Bettys, this time at the bar, we waited for Jenn and Rick. She had a great race, although also felt the heat. We had a fantastic time recounting our individual experiences before calling it at like 8pm.
I’m a New Yorker and I love this fucking town. Why wouldn’t I want to run through the streets with all of my people cheering me on?!
I’m also thankful for my health. You never know what you have until you lose it and when I was sidelined this summer it was really depressing.
But here we are… put in the work and anything is possible. Running a marathon isn’t about me, it’s about you.
I see you. I believe in you.
22 down… and I’m not stopping anytime soon.