Frazer Alexander: Running the New York Marathon 2015

The New York (NY) Marathon had 55,000 runners this year, all completing the Marathon, and is considered the biggest running event on the planet.

This year, the male race was won by the Kenian Stanley Biwott in 2:10:34 and the first female across the line was Mary Keitany in 2:24:25. First Luxemburger was the seasoned Vincent Nothum, placed 66th in a time of 2:38:07.

NY is considered slightly more difficult than London, due to the elevation differences of the bridges and within Manhattan itself. However, NY does not compare to the Luxembourg ING Marathon when it comes to difficulty...

Between leaving Manhattan to get to the start point on Staten Island and crossing the start line took 4 hours and 20 minutes. With all the runners cooped up in Fort Wadworths, it is evident how big the NY marathon is and what a hellish organisation is conducted to allow the runners to use the streets of NY as their playground for the day.
 
The first wave left at 09:50 with the professional male runners, the local athletes, the sub elites and the hopeful runners aiming for a 3 hour mark. A first elevation comes at the start and is the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, taking the runners in to Brooklyn. Temperature on race day was a fair 15C, with clear views; crossing over the bridge one could see the skyline of Manhattan and the daunting 42 kms that lay ahead.

Anybody accustomed to road racing knows what it is like to be cheered on; but New York is in a league of its own. The American enthusiasm just shines through and, except for the first 5km, there is not one part of the course where runners are not encouraged. The onlookers are armed with bells, instruments and ‘power-up’ panels and high fives are a-plenty throughout the day. A quiet moment comes when the runners go over the Queensborough Bridge at the 25km point, using the lower level. On the upper level, one can hear the vehicles thumping by overhead. Spectators are not allowed on the bridge so, on the way down off the bridge, one can hear the roar of the crowd in Manhattan. From here on, the encouragement does not stop. The athletes run up the whole of 1st Avenue, a long straight of 5 kms, knowing full well that they will be coming down in the opposite direction only a few blocks across, in line with Central Park.

The final hill is up 5th Avenue. But again, this is New York, nothing like the geographical hilly landscape of Luxembourg. The course passes the Guggenheim and enters Central Park for the last 3 kms. The race is now nearly over, and this can be seen in most runners' faces. A lot of mental effort is needed to keep going and the onlookers get very personal and encourage anybody who looks like stopping.

The finish line is a special moment for any marathoner. 42.2 kms lie behind, emotions are high, and sometimes low and the runners will grind to a halt and become very slow in the administration area behind. There’s an option for a post-race poncho or a bag collection service. Through the poncho queue and beyond, these slow-moving and aching sports enthusiasts are wobbling about like extras in a Harry Potter movie, adorned with their poncho and hood. All the staff are congratulating the runners with ‘Good Job’ and ‘Way-da-go!’ and this just proves that NY is great and cool and hosts this awesome event year in year out. Even on the pavement afterwards, most people congratulate the runners.

Needless to say, the author did not run anything close to a PB this time round (a happy and enjoyable 3:43:03), but is planning a strong start at the ING Luxembourg Marathon in 2016.

Photo (above) by Maite Van Der Vekene; (below) by Frazer Alexander