On a cold damp morning we crossed the East River on the ferry to Staten Island. Just us and 55,000 other runners!
Our moods were swinging between total excitement at the day ahead and complete fear of the unknown. As you know, we had done all the training and had pounded the streets from Bedford to Milton Keynes and even achieved some impressive distances, but nothing prepares you for the first time.
Jules’s reaction to being in this situation is to be very quiet, just like her charity sky dive a couple of years ago. Mine is to babble on and on nervously about nothing!
Finally we reached the start line and our first big challenge – the 1.8 mile Verrazano Bridge which joins the island to Brooklyn. Get over this and the crowds would embrace us and carry us the remaining 24.4 miles we told ourselves. Well, as it was very wet and windy that was easier said that done. We were also wearing just about everything item of clothing we had in our suitcases as recommended in all of the blogs we had read.
After a couple of minutes running, you have basically stripped off all the woollen hats, gloves, jogging bottoms and extra layers you are wearing because you warm up so quickly and we added to the mountains of clothing at roadside (we were told on good authority that these are donated to the homeless, so all good)
The bridge was awful. I almost gave up after a mile as it felt like I was running at altitude and looking around at my fellow runners – a lot of them seemed to feel the same way. However, nothing prepares you for the wall of noise which greets you as you come off the bridge and run into Brooklyn. Everyone shouts your name (we had stencilled these on ready for this) and the union jacks on our backs certainly went down well with the New Yorkers.
After that it was a breeze. Every time we felt that we were flagging, we just drew on the support of the crowd and our nutrition and water intake went like a dream. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard, it was in fact very tough, but the love coming from behind the barriers actually made it my most pleasurable run in the whole 16 week programme.
Around mile 20 we hit the dreaded wall that we had been told about, but by digging in and getting to the outskirts of Central Park three miles out we scented the finish line. Jules posted a brilliant time but I was just happy with finishing. To be honest, I was enjoying myself too much to run too fast, leading singing in the crowd, enjoying the regular bands and even holding up some of the witty banners for selfies! Nothing prepares you for the experience, but the thought that complete strangers have given up their day to cheer on people they have never met was very life affirming.
We were on a high the next day, walking around Manhattan bumping into our fellow runners all wearing medals. The legs were stiff but the glow of a fantastic achievement would last a very long time.
Postscript: Jules was quoted at the finish line saying “I am in pain, that was so tough, I will never do that again.”
All I can say is watch this space, the bug may have bitten!
If you are training for a marathon and need a specialist running coach, contact Fitbiznow for personal training in Bedfordshire, North Buckinghamshire or Northamptonshire. Just call Jules now for more expert advice and support.