Part 2: Running NYC Marathon

Monday, 22 November 2010  |  Bullish Insights, Favorite Posts, Race Reports

Wave 3 | Blue Corral | 10:40 a.m.

They said it was the coldest New York Marathon in 20 years.  I couldn’t agree more as I stood at the foot of the Verazanno-Narrows bridge dressed in a lowly black garbage bag shivering like a wet kitten.  My lips were dry, my skin had goosebumps all over, and my legs were as heavy as ice blocks.  But, with my husband and a thousand other giddy runners—27% of whom were running their first marathon—I felt like this bridge was the center of the world.  At this moment, time stood still and nothing mattered more than making this dream of mine come true.  As we made our way to the starting line, I told the hubby “Now it’s finally hitting me.  We’re really doing this!”

– The first and only video I took during the race. I still get goosebumps every time I watch it –


Months ago, I asked Leica Carpo, who ran NYC Marathon last year and qualified for Boston in the same race, how she managed to run fast in a race that’s best known for being, well, fun.  Her reply surprised me.  She said she did both.

Could I possibly do the same? Run at race pace while enjoying the sights, sounds, and spectators of the biggest marathon in the world?


Running on the Verazzano bridge with Frank Sinatra singing “New York New York” in the background and the forceful wind propelling us on was an experience I cannot even put into words.  I wasn’t sure what touched me the most: the breathtaking view of the city on both sides, the presence of such a large pool of runners around me, or the idea that I had finally gotten what I had wished so long for.  It was probably all of the above.

By the time we rolled down the bridge, the cold had completely dissipated from my body. I felt warm enough to remove my long-sleeved top and gloves (but I didn’t) and, more importantly, to pick up my pace.

For the first 20k—except for a toilet break at Km 9 which felt like forever due to a line—I successfully ran at my goal pace of 5:45.  I looked at my lap time bracelet and I was behind by around 2 to 3 minutes, which I instantly blamed on the toilet break.  Nice. Still, I was doing well and I was enjoying every minute.  Much like Leica, I managed to enjoy the non-stop, full-blast cheering from the crowd even as I focused on my performance.

– Pure joy –

– And I thought things couldn’t get better. Check out my “pacers” –


How could one not be moved by the cheering from the crowd?  This was, after all, the spirt of the New York Marathon.

2.6 million New Yorkers had stepped out of their homes that day and filled every empty space there was on the street to provide drinks, food, petroleum jelly, tissue, and last but not the least, cheer, for all of us runners.  And, when I say, “cheer” I mean non-stop yelling, screaming, entertainment, and one-liner morale-boosting phrases from spectators. Strangers would yell: “You’re doing great!,” “Way to go!,” or “Looking good!”  For runners who wrote their names on their shirts, positive support would even be personalized.

As we ran through each burrough of New York, crowd support would be unique expressing the culture and personality of its residents.  As I ran past a church, a choir had come out to sing. Rabbis were giving high fives.  Mexican kids handing out drinks.  Black guys pulled out their speakers and played Neo’s The Dream. There was a Filipino family that waved the Philippine flag proudly (which I later on learned was the brother of Jun of The Solemates, hah!)  Everywhere we went, there was entertainment of every kind.

Even fellow runners added to the colors of the race, I spotted Superman on the ferry and The Blues Brothers in our corral. Runners came in their group uniforms, wore notes on their backs proudly showing for whom they were dedicating their run for, or wore funny wigs and outfits. I ran alongside marathon mommies, sturdy senior runners, and foreign runners who, just like me, believed that flying a thousand miles and spending all this money to run 26.2 miles on a foreign road was worth every penny.


When I hit 21k, I suddenly felt drained of all energy.  This was a big surprise (and a frightening one at that) because, based on past marathon experiences, I usually tire out at around Km 30.  This was way too early.  I was just half way through the race!  Even worse, goal pace for 2nd half was a faster 5:35/km (as ordered via email by my coach friend Alvin) and, at Km 21, my pace had suddenly slowed to 6:59.  Not good.

I pretty much had an idea I wouldn’t hit my ambitious sub-4 target.  So, I downgraded to realistic 4:30.  Yeah, I could definitely do a 4:30.

I ran at a slower, steady pace and decided to enjoy the crowd support more.  I even made a conscious effort to smile more and draw energy from the people around me.  Perhaps this would provide me with my much needed second wind?  Not.

Things got a bit worse.  Suddenly, my inner thighs went numb.  My hips felt frozen stiff.  It wasn’t cramps and it wasn’t painful.  But, it required extra effort from me for each and every step.  Aaack!  So much for the idea of running faster in the cold.  This was definitely a myth when it came to my legs.


I had worried about Queensboro bridge the day I listened to Bobby Flay announce at the expo that this was his greatest fear.  He said it was a dark and lonely ascent, no spectators around and little runners around, and it broke him.

When I got to the bridge, it was not as daunting as I had envisioned it to be.  The tunnels and bridges of HK Marathon were far more terrifying.  The Queensboro bridge was a long uphill, but not very different from the challenging hill near IS in Bonifacio Global City.  I thought I would have to walk this, but I focused and forced myself to climb slowly but surely.

All of us runners climbed this in silence and with full concentration, but we all cheered when, as we successfully started the descent, a fellow runner yelled “It’s all downhill from here guys!  We did it!”

By the way, this was the bridge where my idol (and I’m sure yours too) Haile Gebresselasie dropped out of the race.  Sob sob.


Despite my worries, I was enjoying every minute.  It would’ve been a grave sin to complain, get angry, or even show frustration amidst a crowd of such positive and supportive spectators!  I continued to run slow and steady.  And, I was doing fine, thank you.


Soon, we made our way to First Avenue.  What greeted us was a scene straight out of a Pacquiao knock out celebration.  There was a thick crowd of spectators from start to finish.  They held banners, flags, food, drinks, and everything else they thought we would need (I got a bar, bananas, and tissue). They made each one of us—all 45,000 of us runners!—feel like we were winners.

Ironically, it was at First Avenue when I bumped into my worst enemy: ITBS.  My ITB problem, which had remained dormant for about a year now, started rearing its ugly head.  There was no sharp, sudden pain, but with every step, I could feel him threatening to lock up my knee again, just like the way it did at Km 19 in Singapore Half Marathon 2008.

– Pure pain –


The last 7 km felt like the slowest race I had ever run, if I ran at all!  Every single time I attempted to run, I would feel slight pain on my outer left knee due to the ITB pulling on it.  I walked briskly instead and watched time tic away.  Everyone was running past me.  Gone was my 4:30 finish.  I would be lucky to finish sub-5 at this rate, I thought.

As we entered Central Park, I was enamored with its beauty, but all I could think of was the finish line.  Everything was a blur when I crossed the finish line at 4 hours 57 minutes.  Behind me, a female runner was crying with joy.  Ahead of me, runners were hugging.

4:57. This was the slowest, hardest, longest, and coldest marathon of my life.  Such a slow time for a marathon I had worked so hard for.  I changed my diet, ramped up mileage, and spent a considerable amount of money to run this.  And all I got was this time.

All I got was THIS time.

ALL I got was THE time of my life.

– Still smiling –


I got my medal.  Smiled for my post-race photo.  Picked up my kit.  Trudged along with the rest of the runners in the horrifyingly slow post-marathon walk off to the exit.  Thankfully, I bumped into a fellow Pinoy runner, Mike, who was welcome company at such a momentous occasion.

I was exhausted.  I was cold.  And, I failed in my attempt.  But, I didn’t feel an ounce of disappointment.  I felt blessed to have experienced such a celebration of running and the human spirit.  I felt proud for conquering my dream.  I truly felt like a winner!


PREVIOUS POST: Part 1: Getting to the Starting Line
NEXT POST: Part 3: Post-New York Marathon

* Note: All photo courtesy of Brightroom. I’ve been trying to purchase my photos but had problems with their site. This will have to do for now.

Part 1: NYC Marathon – Getting to the Starting Line

Tuesday, 16 November 2010  |  Race Reports

Let me start my NYC Marathon story with this: how we got to the starting line.

For first-time New York visitors like us, getting to the race start was as big an adventure as the race itself.  Our race (third wave) would start at 10:40 a.m. at Verrazano bridge, but we had to be at the South Ferry Terminal by 7:30 a.m. Our lovely boutique hotel, Park 79, was conveniently located 500 meters from the finish line (Thanks Harry Tan for the great recommendation!), but we expected 45 minutes travel time by subway and added 15 minutes for possible mishaps along the way (i.e., taking the wrong train).

Hubby and I left our hotel at 6:30 a.m. with the kids sleeping soundly and under the care of his cousin.  As soon as we stepped out of the lobby, we walked as quickly as we could toward 72nd and Broadway.  I believe the speed of our steps had more to do with battling the morning chill rather than worrying about our tardiness. Boy was it cold!  I was freezing even with the following layers for my top: (1) tank top, (2) dri-fit shirt, (3) long sleeved shirt, (4) long sleeved throwaway fleece shirt, and (5) jacket.  Thanks to Jane-Jane who gave me a pair of throwaway sweatpants at the very last minute when I decided to wear shorts instead.  If it hadn’t been for those pants, my legs would’ve been as hard as plywood before the race started.


It would’ve been a simple ride to the South Ferry terminal, but with construction on the subway announced the night before, even hubby’s NY-based cousin wasn’t sure about the trains we should take.  He provided us with a new set of directions (aka kodigo) and hubby and I carried one set each, just to be sure!

As it turned out, even one of the trains we were to take was closed.  While hubby and I hopped off one train to get on another, a fellow runner stuck his head out from the train and yelled “The express train is closed. Come back in here.” Phew.

Later on, there were more than a handful of us, along with the friendly runner, who would hop in and out of trains in confusion with which train to take.  Luckily, we all made it to Chamber St. where we all boarded a free shuttle to the South Ferry.  With the long line of runners at the station, we knew we were on the right track.




We arrived at the South Ferry Terminal even before 8 a.m. The entire place was filled with runners and we all made our way to board the free ferry ride to Staten Island.





The ride was smooth and enjoyable, relaxing even.  While others stood on the deck to enjoy the view, hubby and I sat on the floor inside to keep warm and rest. We completely forgot to check out the Statue of Liberty though!



We arrived at the terminal to find open shops and delis selling bagels, bananas, coffee, and other meals for runners.  I even got to buy batteries and candies and took a bathroom break.



We then headed out to take another bus ride to the start villages. During the brief bus ride, hubby and I ate our baon bagel and bananas.  No way was I going to risk getting hungry during the race!


The bus stopped at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island where all start villages—blue, orange, and green—were located. Without the shelter of a ferry or bus, hubby and I silently made our way to the blue start village in the chilling cold, much like devout followers on a procession, along with all the other runners around us.


We arrived at the blue start village to find a party-like atmosphere with runners gathered in circles laughing or seemingly enjoying a picnic, others hamming it up for the cam, while others were busy getting there last minute preparations done.  It felt like we were in Woodstock sans the music!



Hubby and I busied ourselves trying to wear our garbage bags, which truly worked wonders in keeping us warm.  We visited the port-a-potties more than 4x each—aack, that was probably due to the cold, too!  And, I deposited my camera and post-race clothing at the UPS truck, which housed 1,000 bags per truck (so efficient!).  Before we knew it, we were being called to the corral.




It was in the corral area that runners began to discard their throwaway clothing since clothes discarded on the bridge would not be recycled.  I decided to do the same.  As soon as I removed my jacket and pants, I froze.  I couldn’t keep my teeth from chattering and my nose running.  It was good that we were walking already since any kind of movement helped to keep me warm.

It was nice to bump into Pinoy runners, Leah Caringal, Noel and company, as we made our way to the starting line.  Imagine, what were the chances of bumping into friends among 45,000 other runners?!  After a quick chat, we had to part ways as even the way to the starting line was very well organized.  This was split up into specific numbers of runners so that there would be no pushing and shoving.

Soon, we found ourselves walking past the toll booths and standing at the Verrazano bridge.  That’s when it finally hit me: I was actually going to run the NYC Marathon!  Before all this, everything seemed like a blur.  In a few more minutes, it was going to be a reality…


NYC Marathon Expo

Saturday, 6 November 2010  |  Bullish Insights

Hello from New York!

Here I am by Central Park with a race banner above my head saying “ING NYC Marathon: Where the World Comes to Run.” Runners of various nationalities are all over New York getting their running fix—whether its by running short runs before the big day around the city or shopping for merchandise at the expo.

I love how the city has gone all out to support the marathon.  Runners here are given importance and this marathon is a big deal.  As early as Friday, some roads were being closed and tents were being set up for the race on Sunday.  Weather reports mention Sunday as a “good day for a run.” And, best of all, 2 million spectators are expected to come out and cheer for all of us.


We dropped by the expo last Thursday to pick up our race packs.  We returned yesterday to purchase CEP compression shorts for me and again today to get CEP socks for the hubby and myself. The expo is packed!

We were lucky enough to spot a few running celebs. Here we are with Bart Yasso. I didn’t bother to tell him that I skipped my Yasso 800s during my training period…


…and Bobby Flay, who is aiming for a sub-4, being interviewed by David Willey, editor-in-chief of Runner’s World…


…and one of my idols, American-record holder, Deena Kastor, who’s currently pregnant and won’t be participating in the race. Behind her in the photo with his arm raised is husband, Andrew…


We also bumped into fellow Pinoy running couples, Deo and Mayda Custodio, and the Solemates, Jun and Mariel Cruz. Imagine, hubby, Deo, Mayda, and Mariel are all TBR Dream Marathon alumni!  How far they’ve come…literally and figuratively!


There was a whole lot of shopping…Asics is the official footwear of the race. But, New Balance, Mizuno, Nike, Adidas, Brooks, Newton, Saucony, and more were there…



Asics released a limited edition Asics Gel Kayano 17 for the race…Niiice!


Timex, Polar, Garmin, and Suunto were there. Garmin is offering a $25 discount on purchases of new Garmin products upon trade in of an old Forerunner!


Even Tiffany was there for NYC Marathon jewelry and memorabilia. Too bad hubby didn’t spend time here to purchase something special for someone who will be running the marathon tomorrow. Or, maybe he did but he’ll surprise her tomorrow? ehem…


Of course, there was eating…


and drinking….We tasted various kinds of Gatorade. Prime for pre-race, Perform for during the race, and Recover for post-race protein recovery. They even have low-calorie options…


There was massage and kinesio taping too…


Little Miss Bull Runner wants this when she grows up. Cinderella’s glass sneaker from the Disney Marathons. I want one too!


As we were about to leave, we bumped into Coach Rio. Good luck Coach!


We got home to open our huge race pack (or more like bag) to find loads of freebies. My favorite was the cool long-sleeved shirt. Love it!