The ING New York City Marathon is the world’s largest and most famous marathon event. The 2013 series was participated by 50,740 runners from 109 countries, a record-breaking number in the history of the marathon.
Getting into the ING NYC Marathon was not easy. I was just extremely lucky to be one of the 40,000 to win the 2012 lottery, out of 140,000 aspiring runners. Unfortunately, the 2012 race was canceled due to the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy in NYC.
In 2013, I was still qualified for a guaranteed entry. There were other options to choose from. One was to avail of the guaranteed entry through the charitable partners of New York Road Runners by pledging to raise a US$3,000 donation, guaranteed by a credit card. Falling short of this pledge would mean the balance would be automatically debited from the runner’s account. A third option required a qualifying time standard by age bracket. The cut-off time for my age bracket, 55-59 years old was 3:15, a time way beyond my personal record (PR) of 5:03.
I set my alarm at 5 AM but excitement and anxiety woke me up an hour earlier. This gave me enough time to do my morning rituals and have breakfast at 5:30. By 6 AM, I was ready for a leisurely walk to the New York Public Library, the designated pick-up point in Manhattan.
When I reached the corner of 42nd St. and 5th Avenue, I was awed at the sight of thousands of runners waiting. Despite the number, the runners were able to board the buses lined up along 5th Avenue in a zip. The boarding process was very organized and we rolled off to Staten Island in no time.
By 8 AM, we were at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, the staging area of the race. The place was very windy with a temperature below 10°C. Thousands of runners were spread all over the park, wrapped in sweatsuits, plastic sheets, Mylar foils, hoods, gloves, practically anything to keep their bodies warm. Bagels and Power Bars were continuously served. Refreshments such as Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, Gatorade drinks, and Poland Spring bottled water were overflowing. There were stage performances to entertain us as we waited for our respective start times. Hundreds of porta-lets were lined up and mind you, they were clean.
After waiting and wandering around the park for about 3 hours, our Wave was called to proceed to the starting line at the foot of Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Runners started to remove their sweatsuits and discarded them in designated places for collection by the Salvation Army. Others tossed them up in the air reminiscent of graduation cap-throwing tradition.
As we waited at the start line, God Bless America was solemnly sung, and by the end of the last note, cheering and shouting filled the air. Runners started to wish each other “Good Luck” and at the blast of the cannon, they slowly trotted while singing Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York. It was a wonderful, goose bumping experience!
The marathon route covered all five boroughs of New York City. The first 2 miles was across Verrazano Narrow Bridge to Brooklyn. The view of the New York City skyline at the top of the bridge was breathtaking which prompted some runners to stop and take pictures.
The course through Brooklyn and Queens was exciting as well as entertaining. Spectators of different nationalities welcomed the runners by blowing horns and vuvuzelas as well as clanging cowbells. Live bands with loudspeakers were playing to the tune of “Rocky”, “Chariots of Fire”, “Staying Alive”, to name a few. Some offered energy food like chocolates and fruits. Even paper towels and tissues for runny noses were at our disposal. The crowd was just amazing. I never felt such warmth and hospitality among the locals in the few times that I visited the city.
Mile 16 at the corner of 59th Street on 1st Avenue in Manhattan was the best part of the course. The enthusiasm of the crowd was truly heartwarming. Runners emerging from the Queensboro Bridge from Queens were treated to a “Hero’s Welcome”. What a great energy booster! More so, when I saw my family cheering me on and shouting my name as I passed by.
The course through Manhattan and Bronx was jam-packed on both sides of the streets with vibrant and encouraging spectators. This gave an added boost and diverted my mind away from my tired and aching legs.
With 2 miles to go, I entered Central Park, cruised its rolling and winding path until I reached East 59th Street on 5th Avenue. At this point, barely a mile to go, my mind was already set on the finish line and no amount of pain and exhaustion could stop me from completing the race.
THE FINISH LINE
Finally, after running for 4 hours, 58 minutes, and 52 seconds, I crossed the finish line with a new personal record of a Sub 5-hour. It was indeed a very memorable and rewarding moment.
The Finish Line of the New York City Marathon was a sight to see. Everyone who crossed the finish line was thrilled and jubilant, including me. It’s as if we ALL won the race. And just to illustrate how proud the marathon finishers were, they walked around New York City wearing their priceless medals on their chest. Not only during the day, but the days after. Who wouldn’t?
About the Author
The author is an Ophthalmologist by profession and belongs to Class 1975 of La Salle Green Hills. He was a member of the LSGH NCAA Track and Field Team and held the record in the 100-meter dash in 1975, which remained unbroken for 27 years.
In college, he studied at the University of the Philippines and likewise joined the UP Varsity Track & Field Team and won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash in the 1977- 78 UAAP Track & Field competition. That was the last time he set foot on the track oval to concentrate on his medical career. Thirty-five years later, he started running again. This time, it’s the Marathon.