November 23, 2013

2013 ING NY Marathon Part 2 - Getting to the Start on Race Day!

If you missed Part 1 (the Expo and Marathon Eve Dinner in Central Park), click here!  I decided to separate my journey to the Start from the race recap because getting to the Start is a marathon all on it's own! :-)

Once we were back in the hotel room Saturday night, I laid out all my gear and packed plenty of snacks/fluids to take with me to the Start Village. I chose the "No Baggage" option so I would be able to exit the Finish area sooner. We were given special clear plastic bags we were allowed to pack our personal items in but that bag would not be transported to the Finish. Since Hubby was meeting me at the Finish (and I know myself well enough that I would only be focused on getting to him as soon as possible when I was done), there was no reason to check anything. Everything I brought with me would either be donated, carried with me on the course, or eaten.

Since it was going to be close to 40F that morning (and windy!!!), I wore a fitted short-sleeved shirt to keep my core warm, 2 long-sleeved shirts, shorts and an old pair of sweats I didn't mind tossing into the donation pile! I also had gloves, a hat and a BondiBand to cover my ears. For snacks and hydration, I packed water, Gatorade, and a Cliff Bar and a Balance Bar (not knowing that would be plenty of opportunities to buy food and fluids on my journey to the Start Village). I also had a hand-held water bottle and my fuel belt that I would take with me on the course itself. NYRR does not allow Hydration packs or vests on their courses since the Boston bombing earlier this year. Not to worry - there would be water stops every mile on the course after mile 3.

Okay, I'm packed and ready to go. Time for bed.

I tossed and turned, watching TV until about midnight. It was the excitement and thoughts about being a part of it all that kept me up. "I'm running the NY marathon tomorrow. I'm actually here. This is happening. I'm running the NY marathon tomorrow". Over and over and over these thoughts were running through my head. I wasn't nervous about not finishing or my time. Since this was my first NY marathon, my first time running around the city and because I'd run a 7 hour marathon with a beginner from our Galloway group just 3 weeks prior, I had to take the time pressure off of myself. My only goal for this race: Enjoy the Hell Out of Yourself.

Once I fell asleep, I was able to stay asleep for the most part. Set two alarms to go off at 5:30. Showered, dressed, kissed the hubby (while fighting back tears) and made my way to the Subway station. NYRR strongly recommends using official marathon transportation to get to the Start on Staten Island. Getting the most out of this experience was really important to me so I chose to take the Ferry from the Whitehall terminal in Manhattan. Boy was I glad I did! What a unique way to get to the Start!

The subway ride would only be 20 minutes but what a hilarious ride it turned out to be. The station I got onto the train from was only about 5 or 6 stops from the ferry terminal so there was already standing-room-only when I boarded. Within a few stops, we were packed in like sardines with more and more runners jamming themselves onto the train. I heard several jokes about needing "shovers" like they have in Japan. Haha. I'm not sure it would have helped. I've never been up close and personal with so many stranger's armpits in my life. Thank goodness everyone seemed to have taken a shower that morning!  As it turns out, only the first 5 cars can fit in the Whitehall terminal station so anyone who wasn't in the first 5 cars before we approached the terminal wouldn't be able to get out. The train operator was great about making it very clear that you needed to de-board and move up to one of the first 5 cars. I think everyone made it. Luckily, I was already in one of those cars so I didn't have to try to fit in anywhere else.

We arrive at the Whitehall terminal just before 7am. My ferry time was 7:30a. My Wave start was not until 10:55a. Plenty of time! I was elated to see the Ferry coffee shops were open and there were plenty of places to sit (and bathrooms - the line got a little crazy at one point but not too bad overall). I had a feeling I should take advantage of opportunities to sit where and whenever I could.  I grabbed a coffee, plopped myself down in a chair, ate my Cliff Bar and took in as much of the energy as I could. Security was present, but not scary or overwhelming. The ferry boarding process was easy and organized. I watched the 7am group board, then the 7:15 crowd..... my group is up next!

Boarding the Ferry.  Security presence is getting heavier now.
I knew the Ferry ride was going to be about 30 minutes but I wasn't sure what to expect when we got to Staten Island. I decided to stand so I could take pics along the way. The Statue of Liberty was visible the entire trip. We had 2 boat escorts: the police and the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard boat was the scariest because it had a huge upright machine gun on the bow.

Viewing highlights from the ferry:

Whitehall terminal

Coast Guard escort

Statue of Liberty as seen from the Ferry ride

It is much colder and very windy on Staten Island. Runners who did not have to be at the Start early were hanging out in the terminal here to keep out of the cold. Even though I'm on Staten Island now, I still have no idea where the actual Start is relative to where we are or how we're going to get there but at least I'm surrounded by other runners!  Most if not all of the smaller restaurants and delis were open. Runners were sitting anywhere there was open space it seemed.

Unloading from the Ferry. I was wondering when and where the crowds would start assembling!
This didn't last long. NYPD and Homeland Security came through and asked most everyone to stand up.
I'm starting to feel like maybe I could use the restroom before leaving here. There must be a regular bathroom....where could it be?  Oh I know. Looks for a big ass line. The line starts off looking like it's a straight shot into the restroom but no.....  first you have to pass it, then make a U-turn....then you're facing the right direction again.

Bathroom lines in the Staten Island ferry terminal
Since it was only about 8:15a at this point, I still have plenty of time to hang out and stay warm. I think I waited in line for about 45 minutes. By the time I got out, the women's line was even longer. Maybe an hour. 

Okay, on to the next step! Where the hell is this Start Village anyway?  I follow my fellow runners out the door and see another line leading to an endless line of buses. More standing. More waiting. And it's f-f-f-f-freezing!  Thank goodness I brought a mylar blanket with me. Despite the layers I had on, the gloves and the ear cover, the mylar blanket shielded me from the wind perfectly. The wait to board the buses was about 20 min. I think it was about a 20 min drive from here to the Start Village.

Line forming for the buses that take us to the Start Village. Buses are lined up along the street.

De-boarding the buses near the Start Village:
NYPD is lining the street here (everyone in dark colors on the far left)

Bag searches and metal detectors. A sign of the times in this post-Boston era. :-(

Making our way to the Start Village - finally!!

Approaching the Start Village.
As we approached the Start Village, I could see the Wave 3 runners heading out across the Verrazano bridge but I still couldn't see exactly where the Start was. There were quite a few tents set up in the Start Village so I wandered over to see what was happening there. Dunkin Donuts was handing out orange/pink beanies, maybe donuts and coffee too?  There was a bagel tent (it was 10am now so I grabbed one to eat since I was feeling a little hungry and just one hour from my start time!). I also saw tents giving out Gatorade, water, tea and coffee. 

View of the Verrazano Bridge from the Start Village

Just as I'm starting to wonder when I should head for the Orange flags (this was my Wave color), a voice comes across the very loud PA system. It's time.......

Since I wasn't exactly sure what the corrals would be like, I decided to dump the personal belongings I wasn't going to be running with which included leaving my sweats in an assumed donation pile. I make my way down a side street lined with Orange flags. The excitement and anticipation I'm feeling is almost indescribable. Don't cry Vera....Keep it together! This is it!!

Walking to the Orange wave corrals/staging area

Orange wave corral staging area.

Entrance to the Orange corrals, organized by bib number.

Once we stepped beyond this entrance, we were actually in the corral which was looking this!:

We start moving forward, make a left towards the bridge.....almost there now.

Last reminder of the course in case you've forgotten by now?!?
 There were buses scattered all over the place here. I'm assuming this was for both security and runner wave organization purposes. There is a helicopter flying overhead continuously and spotters on raised platforms.
Stepping onto the bridge now!!!! (That's the toll booth in the background. $14/car? Yikes.)
I'm still not 100% sure where the actual Start is here but all of the sudden, we swing out to the left and BAM! We made it!:

By this point, friends and family are sending me texts. I'm so overwhelmed by the whole thing and that I'm finally standing at the Start of the ING NYC Marathon, I almost don't want to the start-cannon to go off (which we were warned about several times as being loud and completely normal!) because I just want to sit in this energy for a little while longer. 

Okay runners...... last chance for gear and wardrobe adjustments. 3....2...1.....  GO!

To Be Continued in Part 3 - The Race Recap is coming soon!


Johann said...

Wow, what a journey! You need to be fit just to get to the start! The organisation looks incredible. So many people!

Vera Lordan said...

I completely agree Johann! It's amazing on so many levels, isn't it?

D. Landry said...

Very exciting! What a logistical nightmare, I had no idea you had to take a subway, ferry and bus to the start line! But it seems like they've got it running very smoothly -incredible! Looking forward to Part 3!