On the 3rd November 2019, I took part in the New York Marathon as a sub 4 Pacer. This was the first time I have taken part in the New York marathon, which is an event I’ve been wanting to pace for many years. I’m so full of emotion writing my review of the New York Marathon, after fulfilling my dream of successfully pacing the sub 4 #funbus. This means in 2019 I paced 4 world marathon majors as the sub 4 pacer, and there wasn’t more than 4 seconds between my finish times.
Yesterday I wrote a blog about my trip in New York pre marathon, including the expo and lots of family fun. You can take a look at it HERE. If you want to look at my reviews for any other major you can find the links: London, Berlin, Chicago. New York Marathon 2019 was my 53rd marathon, and 62nd towards the 100 marathon club which includes anything marathon plus. It was my 82nd event as an official pacer, 26th as a pacer for a marathon, and 10th marathon as a sub 4 pacer in 2019.
As always I got my kit ready the night before race day in a #flatlay to make sure I had everything I need, and to avoid any panic on race morning. I had a large pizza and a relatively early night.
It was a really early start on race morning, and I left my hotel at 5 am to get to my pacer meeting point with the NYRR Pace Team on time.
Once we were all there we went into Times Square for possibly the best Pace Team photo ever. We had a coach trip to the start which took 90 minutes. It felt like a long time, but in fairness it was stress free. I’ve heard from some people that the love to go by the ferry for the full experience and amazing views. I’ve also heard that the bus when you get off the ferry is so busy. To be honest, I’m more than happy with the bus on the scenic route and no stress.
Once we arrived we had a nice small tent for the Pacers, with a few private toilets, which really helps. I had some coffee and a a bagel, then went for a walk around the race village. The main reason I went out is because Dunkin Donuts give out hats which is a nice souvenir. I didn’t have a bag drop because I opted for a poncho post race. I think it’s the best option as the poncho is amazing, but it was frustrating not having a bag drop. It meant I had to wear everything I needed with me and discard clothes at the start.
When wave 2 opened I made my way to Green F which was my start. Outside of started to get busy as the sub 4 funbus began to fill. I was the only sub 4 pacer for wave 2, whilst all the other sub 4 pacers were spread out in wave 3. I spoke with runners to calm nerves and motivate, and as the group got bigger I talked to the whole group explaining my pacing strategy. Knowledge calms nerves. I explained how we would be running between 9 – 9:05 min miles all the way, however we would be running hills on effort. So for example the first mile was a big climb, so we would run this slower and make up going down hill. This is the best way to preserve energy and if I ran the whole way on even pace I would lose everyone.
There was a bit of a panic before they let us into F they closed it and said there was a medical emergency so we made our way to E. We stayed outside E waiting for it to clear so F could then go in behind, but then there was an announcement that it was closed for wave 2 and wave e runners should come over. Obviously this was not a good start, I explained the situation to the volunteers and managed to get them to keep it open to let my group in.
Emotions were high as the cannon went off for wave two. It’s such a loud noise, and it suddenly gets real. Then Frank takes it away with New York New York, and the wave moves pretty quickly. I spent the whole time leading the way to the start telling everyone to take it all in, to embrace the New York Marathon and enjoy the experience, as after all enjoying it makes it feel easier.
Just a note here about the 3 different waves. Blue and Orange go over the bridge from Staten Island, and Green goes under. I have heard a lot that blue is the best because of the views. I have also heard that you need to be careful in Green as you will get peed on from the other waves. In my experience both our rubbish. First of all the views are identical, secondly waiting at the start the green is underneath but to the side of the upper bridge. We only go underneath as we are running, so no one is peeing there.
It is a difficult start. It is fine as we can all do a hill when fresh, but there is a real risk that you can burn a lot of energy flying up the hill. Some people raced past up the hill, but I kept my group steady. It is hard to know exactly how fast we went up because the GPS was also not working, but we got to mile 1 at around 11 miles, that’s 2 minutes down, but all part of the plan. What goes up must come down, and when we reached the top we let gravity do the work as we ran to Brooklyn.
As we approached mile 2 we were about 14 seconds behind schedule, and we were running 9 minute miles, exactly where we wanted to be, perfect start with the first big bridge out of the way. The plan was to get to 5k on time, and here we were about 5 seconds ahead of target pace. I had a really good group of runners with me, who were doing an absolutely amazing job, we ran together, sang together and together we absolutely smashed New York.
The crowds in New York are amazing, and every bit of the course is lined with spectators except for the bridges. It is also really great running through the 5 boroughs: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Manhattan. Every one of them offering a slightly different atmosphere.
I had some fun with the runners around me, and as I took videos and photos I gave someone in my group my pacing stick so I could put my phone away easier, and they loved it.
New York Marathon is one of the busiest marathons in the world, however it didn’t feel congested throughout like other big courses. The organisation of waves and the wide roads meant that we always had a lot of space.
We approached half way at the top of a bit of an incline, which is where we lose a bit of pace, but we crossed over in perfect time of 2:00:01.
Everyone did fantastic, and I was looking forward to crossing Queensboro Bridge to get to Manhattan. I was warned that mile 15 over the bridge would be hard, and it bloody was. We worked hard together and dropped to about 10 seconds behind schedule going up, but this was easily caught up going down.
I called out to all the spectators as we rounded the corner, but I must be honest, they were not as loud as I expected. In fact this is not my favourite part of the course. There were sections in Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx that were far better.
As we ran through New York Marathon the water stations were frequent. as with all the US events I’ve taken part in, the water are in cups, which is not my preference. However, the cups don’t break, and the aid stations are wide and long, and with no congestion it meant there were not any issues. I grabbed some water at every station, and encouraged everyone to do the same. Some people worry about the race strategy at water stations, and I always remind them that it’s better to stay hydrated, and I would make up a few seconds each mile which we can lose there.
Manhattan was amazing to run through, and one thing I love about the course is how straight forward it is. You run for miles and miles in the same direction. So at mile 16 we know that you run alongside Central Park, cross over a bridge, then when you cross the last bridge it’s a parallel run back, before a finish in Central Park.
The last few miles are deceptively hard. New York marathon is not the easiest course, and I could feel the hills in my quads. Despite the hills we had used them to maintain an even pace, and at most mile markers we were about 15 seconds ahead of schedule throughout. The final sections were not steep enough to reduce pace, but they were hard. I encouraged everyone around me to keep with me as we approached the end. There were a lot of people walking ahead, and I managed to get some of them moving again.
It was a fantastic finish line, with unrivalled views. I had some emotional sweaty hugs, and we enjoyed a bit of the big apple together. I am so happy to have finished an event I’ve been dreaming of for so long. To end a fantastic year of pacing marathons. 10 marathons at sub 4, 4 world majors, with finish times no more than 4 seconds apart.
My official finish time for the New York Marathon 2019 is 3:59:45.
So so happy, and I think this shows in this couple of clips. The only thing to do after the event was to celebrate. It was a long walk through the park as we collected bags or poncho. I remembered Virgils from my trip 10 years ago, so I went for a Pig Out which was a huge meat platter for two, or in my case, one.