As usual, the NYC Marathon didn’t disappoint this past Sunday with over 50,000 runners participating on a near perfect running day in the low 50s though there was no cloud cover and, at times, a decent head wind.
Frank and I decided to start together with the 3:25 pace group (7:49). I debated starting with the 3:20s but wisely recognized that my recent training cycle performance was a far better predictor of marathon performance than races from 2-3 years ago, and I really wanted to avoid another Rotterdam (i.e., didn’t want to turn the marathon into a walking tour of the boroughs). I hooked up with Frank in Wave 1, Corral E (yes, Mahurin, they do have corrals that far back …). The pre-start was perfect as it was cold enough where runners waited until the last minute to discard their throw away clothes.
The first few miles of NYC are rough with the steep Verrazano bridge climb and descent and when you start back in 3:25 land, the crowds are a bit maddening for several miles. Literally, felt like you had to run in place sometimes and weave to get ahead. I caught up with Frank and the 3:25 pacers around mile 3-4 as I had started probably 300 people behind in the corrals due to a last second pre-race pit stop. During the long 4th Avenue stretch in Brooklyn the 7:49 pace felt way too slow and I even made several failed attempts to converse with Frank, who had no part of me … it was interesting to experience role reversal with me being the one trying to chat on the run and my running partner being a mute. Frank was all business perhaps motivated by our Friday night pre-race dinner where I may have done a bit too much trash talking about my own “time spread/odds” on the race. In fact, Lorraine (his wife) ominously told me “I think you may have prodded him a little too hard”. Yes, I think I woke the sleeping giant. Memo to self: do NOT trash talk a guy with a 2:33 PR even if the PR was during the Jimmy Carter regime …
Since I’ve suffered cramps in many of my previous races and I had, what I thought were very modest race expectations, I decided to stop every 5 miles for a legitimate Senior Center like water break (though for only for 15 seconds or so) to drink a few cups of water, have a salt tablet and a Gu. Anything to avoid cramps and dehydration and figured the lost 1-2 minutes of total time really didn’t matter since I was just trying to have a good experience and a finish time that didn’t totally make me cringe when Eric announces it at track. I even enjoyed a quick porta potty pit stop at mile 10 … well, maybe didn’t quite enjoy it. The 3:25 pace was easy so it wasn’t a problem to speed up in advance of water stops and catch up after the bathroom break.
Around mile 14 or so, as we were heading towards the rough 59th street bridge, I made another attempt to interact with the steely eyed Frank, and asked how he was feeling to which he replied “it’s getting harder, earlier than it should be”. I concurred. As we descended onto 1st Ave to the deafening roar of the massive crowd (amplified by the tall buildings on both sides) I first felt my calf cramp sharply and “yelped” out loud. I feared my race was going to be done as this was all too familiar an experience, and I had 10 miles to go. I decided at that point that a DNF would definitely end my marathoning career after the Rotterdam fiasco (I had to walk the final 4 miles there with severe cramps) and accept that at 47, maybe it was time to just run 10-12 on Saturdays, and stop the madness of marathoning. The energy on 1st Avenue though is electric, and from miles 17-19 I actually sped up to something close to a recovery run pace for Susanne (maybe low 7:30s). I saw Frank pull over on 1st Avenue around mile 19 to chat with Lorraine and was envisioning a significant negative split (1:42 in first half), figuring I wouldn’t see Frank again … shortly after that, my calf cramps got a lot worse and I ran miles 20-26 at well over an 8:00 pace with some at closer to a … gasp … 9:00 pace.
One highlight was meeting up with my childhood friend’s 12 year old son who was waiting for me on the side at mile 22 (we planned that, and he ran me in to the finish line). Frank, the consummate pro, stayed with the 3:25 pacer the whole time and finished about 40 seconds under target. I managed to not walk and even sped up over the final ¼ mile to salvage a sub 3:30.
Although the time isn’t something I feel great about when I think about nearly breaking 3:00 only 4 years ago, each marathon truly is a war and finishing without walking a worthy accomplishment. For Frank, his 3:24 was his best time in a few years and gives me hope that I can somehow reverse this troubling trend from the past few years (3:04-3:09-3:13-3:29) lest I soon be struggling to keep up with the Saturday morning “caboose” group! Frank and I will both look back at the 2016 NYCM fondly. I’m just glad I’m in Chicago tonight and won’t have to hear Eric announcing my 3:29 J
Average Finishing Time: 3:26:51
Averge Per Mile Pace: 7:53.4
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