NYC Marathon – the Experience of a Lifetime (part 2)

9 Nov

Once we started running on the Verrazano Bridge, the nervousness and doubt I had been struggling with the last few days quickly gave way to excitement for what we were getting ready to experience.  

Running across the bridge with just 4 other people was one of the most surreal moments in my life.  As a native Staten Islander, I’ve driven across the Verrazano Bridge hundreds of times before, run up to and under her countless times on my morning runs, and even had the joy of running across her once before in the 2007 NYC Marathon.  But those occurrences could never have prepared me emotionally for what I felt on Sunday.  It was eerily quiet and peaceful.  There wasn’t the expected sound of thousands of  feet hitting the pavement.  There wasn’t heavy breathing from the first mile incline.  There wasn’t the usual jockeying to pass other runners in the early miles. IT WAS JUST US.  At one point, I turned around to look behind me – I had a clear view all the way back to the start line – it was truly amazing. 

When we exited the bridge in Brooklyn, I was happily greeted by my King family – my aunt and uncle, cousins, and friends!  They were waiting for me at the foot of the bridge – screaming and cheering as loud as they could!  
Once we turned onto 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, the excitement only grew. For those not familiar with the NYC Marathon route, we remained on 4th Ave until mile 8 – at which point, the 3 lanes (the marathon has 3 different start lanes) converge into one during the turn onto Lafeyette Avenue.  4th Ave was already becoming packed with spectators – some were taken by surprise that there were already people on the course, but a good number were aware of the challenge and were rooting for their borough (Drew was getting a lot of acknowledgement and cheering from his home borough!!).  

While we were running alone 4th Ave, my family remained on the double decker bus for a while where they watched the elite female start at 910.  They were then led off the buses to watch the elite males and wave 1 start. It was at this point when they were literally arms distance away from the elite males – and at one point – the top 3 finishers at the same time.  How amazing is that? 

After Wave 1’s start, my family boarded a bus and were taken across the Verrazano Bridge – WHILE runners were running!  They were on the lower level with the green start corral runners (separate side of the road) and got to see thousands of runners start their 26.2 mile journey!  The buses took them from the Verrazano Bridge and start line through Brooklyn and the Battery Tunnel to Central Park and the finish line. 

Love this picture b/c one runner is carrying the American Flag!

While the other 4 runners and I were still in Brooklyn somewhere near mile 5 or 6, we watched the elite females run by (and then the elite males – just before mile 13 and the Pulaski Bridge).  If you ever want to feel like you are running extremely slow, have a group of elites run by you.  It was amazing and mind-boggling to see these athletes sprint by us so effortlessly.  But, despite the momentary discouragement (because it seemed like we were barely moving as they passed), we got to run elbow-to-elbow with these extraordinary runners – even if it was just for a fraction of a second!

The remainder of the 13.1 miles passed quickly – I ran next to Rob Vassilarakis, the amazing runner from the Bronx, for most of it.  We both were running with our IPODs, but would occasionally say a few words to each other or share a smile at what we were experiencing. 

Other than the elite females and males that whizzed by us, we were still the only runners on the road (we had a few bike escorts – see picture below). The crowd was amazing and we were being cheered as though we were the elites or celebrities.  

After the halfway point, the five of us ran on our own to the finish.  I crossed over the Queensboro bridge into Manhattan and onto 1st Avenue alone.  By this time, some of the males from Wave 1 passing me – but for the most part, there was very few runners on 1st Ave.   

I had my own bike escort the entire second half – and even had a motorcycle (with an platform and cameraman) in front of me for the last 5 miles or so.  It was completely surreal.  There were a lot of people yelling “First Female!” when they saw me run by – I found it humorous that they thought I was the first female from Wave 1 (I can only dream to be THAT fast one day!).

While I was running the last half of the race, my family was settled into the bleachers along the finish line.  They were able to see the exciting female finish (2nd closest finish ever for the NYC Marathon) 

1st Place Female

 Firehiwot Dado – 2:23:15 (ETH)

2nd Place Female
Buzunesh Deba – 2:23:19 (ETH)

3rd Place Female
Mary Keitany – 2:23:38 (KEN)

…and the course-record finish for the males!

1st Place Male
Geoffrey Mutai – 2:05:05 (KEN)

2nd Place Male
Emmanuel Mutai – 2:06:28 (KEN)

The last few miles are a blur – I vaguely remember the crowds in Central Park, along Central Park South, and then along the finish line.  My bike escort had been giving me updates on my lead throughout the whole second half – so I knew that I had a comfortable lead with a few miles to go.  It allowed me to slow down, take it all in, and enjoy the moment without racing and trying to push myself to the finish. 

The following photos are of me approaching the finish line!

I felt the finish line experience deserved it’s own post (, so I won’t repeat what I already wrote!

While waiting for the other 4 runners to finish, I was interviewed by a few different reporters and managed to take a couple of photos with Edward Nortan and Lance Armstrong!

Part 3 (awards ceremony and post-marathon party!!) coming soon!!! 

4 Responses to “NYC Marathon – the Experience of a Lifetime (part 2)”

  1. Linda King November 9, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    I cannot fully express how much I am enjoying your entries, Michele….and, again, terrific pictures! Having the bike escort and that camera, right there in front of you while you were running, must have felt so surreal…WOW…Looking forward to your final entry…xoxox

  2. Theodora November 9, 2011 at 11:00 am #


  3. Fe-lady November 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    Congrats on your NYC marathon and thank you for your service! (Hubby is retired army!)

  4. RunBikeSurf November 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    Great blog post Michele, congrats!!!!!

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