At 9:20 we were taken up to the start line with 10,000 other runners in our wave. The atmosphere was amazing, but little did I know this was only a fraction of what lay ahead in the five boroughs.
The sky was littered with helicopters and, after a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the race was started with the sound of cannon fire.
Mile 1 to 13
The race started with a steady incline up the Verrazano Bridge. An important part of my race plan was to keep my heart rate under 160 beats per minute, which meant I had to take it slowly up the first incline.
Doug and Tracey had gone ahead of me as planned — their pace dictated that they would finish well before me. Leanne was walking and was planning to leave the course by the 8-mile mark. Due to injury she had been unable to train for the race, but wanted to soak up the atmosphere at the start.
I reached Brooklyn, the second borough, where I found the streets crowded with spectators and musicians in what I could only describe as a carnival atmosphere. It was hard to keep focus on running with all that was going on. Brooklyn certainly put on a party.
By the time I arrived at the 8-mile mark, my race plan was looking a little shaky due to the constant battle of keeping my heart rate down. I knew there were plenty of inclines on the course but had underestimated the length of them.
The other issue affecting me was cigarette smoke drifting across the course from some of the crowd. The combination of these two issues meant I had to start walking occasionally in order to keep my heart rate down.
Having to slow my pace was going to impact my time goal for the race (completing the marathon in under 6 hours) but finishing the race safely was always the main priority. Approaching the halfway point of the race I was still in good shape — my legs felt good and my breathing was under control.
Queens, like Brooklyn, was lined with people and musicians and by now I realized New York was in marathon party mode. I had run races before in which the atmosphere was fantastic, but this race had surpassed anything I had experienced before.
Mile 14 to 26
I left Queens on a high and found myself picking up the pace, but my newfound adrenaline rush was short lived as I struck up the energy to cross Queensborough Bridge. The bridge, which I had to cross to reach Manhattan, was long and uphill.
Soon after I started to cross the bridge my heart rate started to become elevated, which resulted in me having to walk the rest of the way across. Once I reached the other side and started the long stretch down First Avenue, I realized I had to make up some time. The bridge had taken its toll on my time and my target was quickly slipping away.
The run down First Ave. was sensational; this seemed the most populated part of course so far and the crowd was fantastic. People were handing out fruit and lollies to the runners, as well as singing along to the bands playing. I was able to make up some time now as it was a reasonably flat run down to The Bronx.
The Bronx signaled the 20-mile point of the marathon, and while I was excited to reach this point, I had another issue that had surfaced. Pushing the pace up had resulted in me being back on track time wise, but I now was experiencing sharp pain from my right calf muscle.