The Great Race Chase – 2016 TCS New York City Marathon

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The TCS New York City Marathon was run on Sunday November 6th. As I have written previously both my wife and I entered the lottery but while I didn’t get in, she did. I promised to be here Sherpa for the day and after lots of planning the weekend arrived.

This is not a race recap, well not in the normal sense that I write them. I have titled this entry ‘The Great Race Chase’ for a couple of reasons. First, it was better than my first attempt at a title (‘Red Fraggle Runs’) and secondly because it was in fact a great experience ‘race chasing’ during the day. So much fun.

I had booked the hotel as soon as we knew that at least one of us was running that weekend. We had arranged for the boys to stay over at their grandparents overnight. We are only about an hour away from New York City by train so we only needed to be in town for one night. The hotel I chose was right in the middle of where we needed to be. We were a couple of avenues away from the Javits Center where the expo was held and only a couple of avenues away from the New York Public Library where the bus would be taking her to the race village. Once the lottery results were announced my wife was given an option how to get to the race and also to check a bag or not. We had opted for the bus transport to the race and to not check a bag and get the famous NYC Marathon poncho.

We headed up early Saturday morning along with my wife’s NYC training partner Stephanie. Once in New York we dropped off our bags at our hotel as it was too early to check in and made our way over to the expo. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this is the biggest race I have ever attended…and I still wasn’t running it.

Heading up on the train to NYC

Heading up on the train to NYC

Made it into the City

Made it into the City

Arriving at the Javitz Center

Arriving at the Javits Center

Ready for packet pickup

Ready for packet pickup

Once inside the Javits Center race packet pickup seemed quite straightforward. There were volunteers everywhere. Depending upon what you signed up for, you got a specific check bag or disposable bag. It was color coded. Also, bibs were detailed as to what wave and transport options you had been assigned. Interestingly enough, even though I had signed up (well, signed my wife up) for a specific shirt size when registering you still got to choose your shirt size. Before the shirt pickup there were sample size shirts for both men and women so you could try on a size before you picked one up. Good idea. I don’t imagine smaller races have the volume of entrants to offer such options.

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Bib pickup by number

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Detail of corral and wave on bib

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T-shirt sizes try on

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Race day options

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A huge merchandise area…

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…but a long wait to check out

The expo itself wasn’t as big as I thought it would be. The official gear area was large but it was generally the same gear spread over many places. Also, I was worried about a specific item being sold out by the time we got to the expo so I ordered my wife a jacket online. When we got to the expo they had more colors and more sizes than shown online and despite it being the day before the race they were already selling gear at a discount. I re-bought the same jacket for my wife $40 cheaper and returned the one I had bought online for a full refund….less the shipping cost 😦 . The expo had long lines to check out but it seemed to go pretty fast. I stood in line while Shari and Stephanie shopped so they could just jump in when they were ready. We didn’t do too much damage at the expo.

Onto the rest of the expo. It was a bit smaller than I had expected a marathon major to be. Probably because the main sponsor (Asics) took up much of the space. There was a Foot Locker booth which was selling official gear at yet another discount. My wife bought another shirt which she liked and was cheaper than it had been in the official merchandise area. Deal! Also walking around the expo we bumped into our friend Zara who was there with her company, Endless Pools, who were demonstrating at the expo.

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A nice surprise at the expo.

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Checking out the course

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Shari leaving her mark

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All that’s left now is the run…

Overall we were in and out the expo quicker than we thought and so we headed back to the hotel to check in and get ready for our dinner reservation. We had a booking at an Italian restaurant near our hotel and my wife’s cousin would be joining us for dinner and also joining me in spectating the next day.

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Word on the street is that she is running a marathon tomorrow

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Drinking a ‘Manhattan’ in Manhattan

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Heading back to the hotel for an early night

Dinner was really nice and we headed back to the hotel for an early night. It was made all the better by the change from daylight savings time which gave us an extra hour in bed.

I set about 3 alarms for us both so we would wake up on time. I wasn’t racing but made sure I was up and ready as I planned to walk Shari to Bryant Park and wait until she got onto the buses. So up early it was. The buses were set to leave at 6:30am although Shari’s wave wouldn’t be starting until 10:30am.

Shari had decided to borrow a friend’s running shirt which paid tribute to a little girl (the daughter of a friend) who had tragically been killed crossing the street with her father a few weeks before. The little girl was the same age as our youngest son. Shari was running with angel wings today.

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Up early and ready to run

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Running with angel wings

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Okay…small but someone would be able to read this (although she runs fast)

We headed out to Bryant Park. The buses were leaving from the front steps of the New York Public Library and the line for the buses stretched out around the corner and across the street. We stood in line and tried to stay warm. I couldn’t believe the lines but then again this was the biggest race we had attended. This was not like our recent visit to the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon in Albany when we just arrived and got on the bus.

I stayed in line with Shari until the police officer said I couldn’t move further in line without a race bib, so I kissed Shari good luck and crossed the street until she got on the bus and headed out. Then I went back to the hotel for an early breakfast and to get ready for my first ‘race chase’ experience.

 

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Leaving the hotel just as the sun was trying to rise

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Our view of the line for the buses from across the street

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In line for the buses. We still had to cross over and snake around the side of the library.

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Finally we reached the point where I could no longer wait in line without an official bib

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And off she went to the start village

Having had breakfast and a nice warm shower I got myself ready for the day, packed up my bag which included snacks, treats, signs, battery chargers and spare clothes for Shari, got my special ‘Spot me in the crowd’ pole and headed out to meet up with Shari’s cousin Tara who was joining me out on the course.

My large backpack fully loaded and my 'Fraggle on a stick'

My large backpack fully loaded and my ‘Red Fraggle on a stick’

I had been lucky enough to get a really detailed plan from my friend Elvin (Shari, Elvin and I ran together at the New Jersey Marathon earlier in the year). Elvin has run the New York City Marathon a number of times and knew the course well. He provided me with good locations where to spectate, the directions (transit and walking) how to get to each location and the timing of point to point locations so I could plan the day. Based upon the plan I told Shari we would meet her just after mile 3.5, just after mile 8, around mile 17.5 and just after entering Central Park somewhere after mile 23. Ambitious, but I figured we would try our best hoping for at least 3 of the 4 locations on the course.

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It was a fine morning. Ideal conditions for running. Hopefully I would be dressed appropriately to spectate.

Our first stop was just after mile 3 as the runners entered Brooklyn. This was where the runners who started from the Upper and Lower decks of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge joined up with each other as they left Staten Island. The road was split into two with a line of barriers and tape along the middle. We stayed on the side of the street where we had come out of the subway and hoped we were on the correct side.

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Ready with my first sign of the day

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Tara and I patiently waiting

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She was on her way. Tracking her accross the bridge.

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Cheering on all the other runners and keeping an eye out of my running ‘Red Fraggle’

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Brad from the ‘Mickey Milers’ managed to spot me on the course. The Fraggle was working.

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And before you knew it, Shari ran up and found us.

Luckily we were on the correct side of the street and Shari spotted the ‘Fraggle on a stick’ (see…it was working) and came over to see us. She was warmed up now and gave me her gloves and arm warmers to toss into my bag (along with the bottle of Prosecco which Tara had arrived with?!?).

From there we headed quickly back to the subway and took the line up further into Brooklyn to cheer Shari again at mile 8. Wow…what a mad dash that was. I barely had time to get my ‘Fraggle’ up before she came around the corner. We had just arrived seconds before she did. We didn’t tell her how close we had been to missing her but Tara and I were amazed at our timing.

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Second stop, second sign

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Just made it into the spot before Shari came around the corner and saw us

We had some time before we would see Shari again back in Manhattan. 9 miles at Shari’s pace gave us around 90 minutes so we took a quick stop at a nearby Starbucks for some coffee and a snack before heading back on the subway and back into the city.

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A quick Fraggle selfie on the subway

We made it to the mile 17 area and took our place along the streets. It was amazingly loud with the cheers of the crowd. I cannot imagine how this tunnel of sound would be for the runners (hopefully I would get my chance to find out in 2017). I was tracking a number of other runners I knew at the same time. The official app was loading slowly on my phone so it was just wait and hope. I was carrying a pound bag of gummy bears and a pound bag of Swedish Fish in my backpack so by this stage I was handing candy out to runners. Many were pleased to see it and some came over when they saw me handing out candy to strangers. (Do not do this kids!!! A marathon is the exception I guess). I did manage to see our friend Chris run by. He was a few minutes ahead of Shari at this point (although she would pass him later on the course).

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Third stop, third sign

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Shari again spotted ‘Red Fraggle’ first and headed over to see us

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She was running well and didn’t stick around. It was a very quick meet and greet and she headed off into the distance (or to the Bronx).

From this point on we had about 50-60 minutes to make it across town to our fourth and final stop in Central Park. It was a beautiful sunny day. The runners had really lucked out. The weather had called for strong winds and they hadn’t made an appearance. Conditions for them were really great.

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An Instagram selfie as we made our way across town

We entered Central Park just around the corner from where the runners enter. It was a great spot to see everyone coming into the park. Shari later said that at mile 23 it was a perfect spot to give runners a final boost for the last 5K of the race.

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Fourth stop, final sign of the day

While we were waiting for Shari we continued to cheer on the people running by. My friend ‘Fast Eddie’ flew past us and I almost missed him had he not high-fived my sign. Soon though, Shari came into view.

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Here she is with just a 5K left. Making great time.

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This is blurry as she was so fast. No stopping this time.

As this was the last place we planned to stop we went to our arranged meeting point outside the park. Based upon what we were told, the finish line area would be too crowded to get there in time and even harder for us to be spotted (even with a Fraggle).

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Tracking Shari’s progress to the finish on the official app

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She did it and with a brand new PR of 4:26

Shari crossed the line with a new PR, about 19 minutes faster than her prior marathon PR. This was the first marathon she had run without me. I guess we know who slows her down…

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A great race chase partner. Tara was along for the whole journey.

As we headed out of the park towards our meeting point I stopped to buy some flowers and couldn’t wait to see Shari again. The street was crowded so I did what anyone else would have done…I raised my Fraggle up in the air and hoped she would find us. And she did just that. Thanks to the Fraggle.

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Reunited

Our friend Genna was volunteering at the race and was one of the first to see Shari, giving her the mylar wrap to keep her warm as she headed to receive her poncho. Genna works at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan just behind the Natural History Museum (the exit point for the marathoners from the park). She had arranged day passes for us to use so Shari could get showered and changed after the race. I had packed spare dry clothes for her and we headed over to get cleaned up.

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All cleaned up and smiles

I think we wore Tara out. She stayed with us until we left the Y and walked with us to the subway before heading off for her evening plans (a post race party a friend was hosting). We headed back towards our hotel via a stop at Ben’s delicatessen on the way for dinner.

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Hitting Times Square as we left the subway

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A very happy lady about to order a post marathon meal

After a very filling dinner, we grabbed our luggage from the hotel and headed for the train back home. Shari was still on a high as we left and chatted about her day. It was fun for both of us. As we arrived at our stop we had to cross over the tracks to the parking lot on the other side. Unfortunately the escalator was out-of-order and so we had to take the stairs. Yes, that was not the favorite part of the day.

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She still looked good climbing the stairs though

So there you have it. My first experience race chasing. Shari had a great race and a new PR. I am totally jealous. It looked like so much fun to be running this event. I would love to do this. I will be entering the 2017 lottery for sure when it opens up in early January.

Huge thanks to Tara for putting up with me all day, to Elvin for his masterful spectating plan and congratulations to all the runners…especially my ‘Red Fraggle’ herself.

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Thank you for reading.

5 thoughts on “The Great Race Chase – 2016 TCS New York City Marathon

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