The New York City Marathon is New York’s biggest all-day block party. I think they estimate that upwards of 2 million people come out to cheer. When it was confirmed that it would take place in 2021, I wanted in.
The only caveat was that I was running the Boston Marathon 4 weeks earlier.
POST BOSTON TRAINING?
My legs were SHREDDED after the Boston Marathon. I didn’t run for 1-2 weeks after and when I did start up again, it was only for 3-4 easy miles at a time. I did run the last 9 miles of the course twice. Once was with BW, and the second time it was a week prior to the race. I met up with the Friday crew, all of whom were slated to run NYCM.
I felt rested and healed, but it was anyone’s guess on what would happen on race day pushing heavier distances.
I joined the FriYAY run crew for an easy 4 miles around the park. It was nice to not go balls-to -the-wall like we normally do at 6 am.
I hit the Expo before work to grab my bib. The experience was a bit heavy for me even though I’ve been to the Javits Center 7 times to get my NYCM Bib. This time as I entered, I flashed back to both of my COVID vaccination appointments. They were here at the Javits in April and May and the scene was very different. I felt hopeful as I was getting a vaccination, but the city was generally in a state of darkness. But instead of the Marines helping me find my vaccination station, I had fellow runners directing me to get my race gear… a total mind fuck.
I met Mike B, my team lead from The Mike Biryla Team at Triplemint, on the Upper West Side at the first of two open houses we had scheduled. After wrapping the first, we headed over to the Upper East Side for the second. Check out the views from our listing on the 37th floor!
Emily took me to a nice dinner at Vicolina, a Northern Italian restaurant on my block where I fueled up with some fusilli bolognese. This has been my pre-race go to for the last few years.
Before bed we watched the Jean Paul Jean Paul Seinfeld episode. Soak of the year!
I was awake 5 minutes before my alarm (5:30am, which was really 6:30am as we set the clocks back) and I felt great. I pumped some coffee into my veins and headed out to Jim’s place on 96th Street with my to-go coffee, bananas, Clif Bar, and Gatorade. We grabbed an Uber to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and were there in 15 minutes flat. We boarded the 6:15am ferry to the start… flawless.
I said goodbye to Jim as he entered the Orange Village and I headed toward Green. We had made it to base camp by 7:15am, which meant we had about 2 hours to do nothing. A colleague of mine from Triplemint is very involved with Team for Kids and was volunteering, so I found her and said hi. I ran into a few other running friends in the and then headed to the Local Elite tent where I spent the remainder of my time.
SUPER SECRET PLACE
It was difficult to find the Local Elite area. It was all the way towards the front of the other corrals and next to the pacer tent. It was small, but we had our own coffee, water, and bathrooms. Awesome! Seriously, like no bathroom lines.
I hung with Brad, Jim, and Myles before Race Officials opened this secret door to the start that all of us casually walked out onto. There I found Dani, Patricia, and Colin and our whole Friday Run Crew. It was sick. Like, me and all my friends were just casually hanging out AT the start line.
At 9:10 we set off for Manhattan after numerous fist bumps from everyone. It was very exciting!
The Verrazano Bridge ain’t no joke people. BW and I planned on running together again and decided to take Mile 1 easy, which is all uphill.
It was a bit chilly as the wind from the harbor was ripping across the bridge.
Looking to the left and seeing mighty Manhattan off in the distance will never get old for me; it’s so majestic.
Mile 1 – 7:43
I used my momentum from the downhill portion of the Verrazano to propel me into Brooklyn.
Mile 2 – 6:27
FOURTH AVENUE FREEZE OUT
Coming out of Mile 2 I was feeling good! Legs fresh and mind clear… I was thinking that this was going to be a good race. In general, I can tell within the first 1-2 miles of a race if I have it or if I don’t.
We picked up Tara here and she joined us for a bit. The crowds were strong as always and the vibe was amazing. I was all smiles.
THE BATHROOM PIT STOP
I had taken advantage of the bathroom situation at the Elite Tent but I think I’m going to be forever cursed with having to pee at the start of a race just because it’s all I think about.
At Mile 4 or so I said, “BW, we have a problem. I have to pee and it’s not in my head.” Evidently he did too, so we stopped at the next available station. I always count while I do this so I had a rough idea of how much time was lost. This was just under 30 seconds. Not terrible, but certainly not ideal. So we ran Mile 5 at a 5:30 pace.
We had been running at a 6:45ish pace consistently from Miles 3-8. Around Mile 9, D was cheering. He jumped on the course and gave me a totally bad-ass high five as we rocketed past! It was awesome.
Then, the annoying 3-hour pace group showed up.
ON WHAT TO NOT DO WHEN LEADING A PACE GROUP
The 3-hour pace group was like 35-40 runners deep and spanned the whole width of the course. We were behind them headed into Fort Green and it wasn’t so much of a problem until we hit an aid station. It was like 40 drunk drivers careening all over to get water. I had to jam on the breaks and move to the center of the course and was not happy.
I looked at BW and said, “I can’t be behind these guys. They are fucking my head game up.” Unfortunately, because they were taking up the entire width of the route we couldn’t get around them.
You shouldn’t just ‘surge’ in Miles 9-10 of a marathon, but we needed to pass these jokers. I saw an opening on the right and pointed in that direction and made my move. BW followed and after a steady 2-mile surge, we finally passed them. BW busted my chops a bit after but I assured him I needed them behind us for success.
Miles 9-10 – 6:40
As always Brooklyn came out swinging with their cheer game. It was deafening. It was epic.
I REPRESENT QUEENS
The Pulaski Bridge always sucked and continued to suck. It’s a boring overpass at the halfway point with zero curb appeal.
I was having an odd moment here where my energy was off and my head was getting foggy. My pace slipped here into the 6:55 range for Miles 13 and 14. I was kind of worried about my race here and was trying to think of ways to correct it. I felt the worst I would for the entire race at this moment (which at the time I wasn’t aware of).
THE DARKNESS IS DEEPENING
The 59th Street Bridge is often described as one of the more challenging points in the marathon. It’s on the lower level, so it is very dark. It is also void of spectators, so it is very easy to get in your head and fall apart.
I entered the bridge with BW on my heels and was surrounded by the 3-hour pace group. I tucked into the left side, shortened my stride and plugged along carefully. Because of the pace group, a normally quiet moment of the race was very chatty as the group leaders talked it out. I had lost BW at this point.
At the apex of the bridge, I shook out my body a bit, lengthened my stride, and picked it up. My absolute favorite moment in this race is the descent onto First Avenue. When trying to describe the noise of the cheering and the breadth of the crowds I always use a football stadium as a comparison.
BACK ON MY ISLAND
Cruising down the off-ramp and onto First Avenue I got a surge of energy and felt great again. The crowds were in full force and the volume was as loud as its ever been.
I strategically moved to the center right of the course in order to keep my pace steady and not let the energy of the crowds push me. First Avenue can be a dangerous place if you let the spectator energy inspire you to run faster than planned.
Emily was right where she said she’d be at 93rd Street cheering me on along with some friends! My focus at this point was to hold this pace through the Bronx.
Mile 17 – 6:46
Mile 18 – 6:46
Mile 19 – 6:47
Mile 20 – 6:46
THE BOOGIE DOWN
I caught up to Myles and said hi for a hot second before crossing the Willis Avenue bridge into the Bronx. Our crew (Myles included) had done a few practice runs of this part of the course so I knew it well.
Mile 21 – 6:44
FIFTH AVENUE FRENZY
As we came back into Manhattan I had still not checked my course time. I knew I was on pace for a 3-hour finish, but I wasn’t ready to start running the numbers yet for fear of panic. Also, I can’t do math at Mile 21 of a marathon. Instead, I focused on increasing my pace ever so slowly until I reached my backyard aka Central Park, where I would go into overdrive.
I saw numerous friends on Fifth Avenue as I made my way south. It was great seeing them and each one gave me a surge. My legs were pretty beat up at this point, but were nowhere near the state of pain that they were in Boston 4 weeks earlier, which I kept reminding myself of.
At 110th Street as we flanked the park, I noticed a huge number of spectators cheering us on. It was fantastic and much needed as we now had to slow climb up Fifth Avenue. I stayed on the right side of the course and picked up my pace. If I hadn’t blown up by now, I knew I wasn’t going to.
Mile 22 – 6:48
Mile 23 – 6:43
Mile 24 – 6:37
I saw Emily again right before we crested Fifth Avenue and entered the Park. She had giant silver ‘CB’ balloons so you couldn’t miss her!
THERE IS NO SPOON
Blasting into the park at Engineer’s Gate, I had loads of energy and my head was clear. My legs were trashed, though, so I had to ‘will’ them to go as fast as possible for the last 2.2 miles.
The crowds were insane here, too! As we passed by Cleopatra’s Needle I almost yelled out to the crowd at its base, “That’s the oldest man-made object in NYC!” But I needed my energy. The park seemed to be flying by.
Mile 25 – 6:32
As I passed the Mile 25 marker I decided to see what the course time was and if this was going to be as close as Boston. It read 2:51:xx… I had 8.5 minutes to get 1.2 miles. Overdrive, baby.
I was on fire and running as fast as I could. I was passing loads of other runners, some walkers by this point, and was laser-focused cruising up 59th Street towards Columbus Circle. I had a few friends text me later saying that they saw me and were cheering me on, but I had no idea at the time.
As I entered the park from Columbus Circle, I was on a mission. There was no way I was letting a sub3 in New York slip past me. Those last 400M seem to go on forever, just like Boylston Street in Boston. As I approached the Finish, arms swinging like a mad man, I actually heard them announce my friend Jay finishing just ahead of me!
Mile 26 – 6:07
THIS IS THE END
As I crossed the mats my time registered as 2:58:30, a personal best on this course by over 1 minute! I’ll take it!
I immediately saw my friend Erin from NYRR who was working at the finisher area and got a congrats and a fist bump. Next, I heard my buddy Shane yell, “Baker! Congrats!” He had finished a few minutes ahead of me and crushed it.
As I walked on after receiving my medal, I was overwhelmed with joy and had the biggest smile on my face. I even think I had a few ‘happy tears’ happen. I was on top of the world and felt a great sense of accomplishment. Sometimes these moments after a marathon are fleeting, so I tried to really feel the emotion.
I waited for BW at 72nd Street outside the park. We celebrated our victory with some high fives and then got on the subway to head home.
AFTER THE PARTY IT’S THE AFTERPARTY
I grabbed the crosstown bus home and had a quick shower before Emily and I set off around 2pm for Supply House, where the crew was meeting to celebrate.
Guess what else happens on a Sunday in November? Football. Supply House was mobbed and we couldn’t even get in, so we hopped into Heidelberg across the street which actually would turn out to be successful. It’s an old school German bar that has what I call ‘big boy’ beers in one Liter size.
One by one the crew started amassing. Everyone had amazing races. Myles, Nick, Tara (with like a 30 minute PR of 3:05 holy shit), Colin, Ben, Jay, Erik, Bojo, Brian, Maura and many more were in attendance. It was pretty awesome.
On the way home I found a credit card in the street. The next morning I was actually able to track down the owner using social media to return it to her and guess what? She ran the marathon too! It’s always fun to make runner friends.
Wow. What a day. I’ve done this a handful of times and coming back from the pandemic made this probably the most epic NYC Marathon I’ve experienced to date. And that’s what this is. It’s the marathon experience. It’s everything from the weeks of training leading up to it, the Expo, the pre race dinner, the race obviously, the friends you ran with, the emotions and the afterparty. New York City I love you. Thank you for restoring the positivity and faith in our city and ourselves that we have lost sight of these last few years.
Until the next time when we are called to Battle Stations. Baker out…