Race Report: New York City Marathon, 11-06-2011
Last Sunday I had the pleasure of running in the ING New York City Marathon. This was my 49th marathon and 31st state. It was also the first time I ran a marathon (or any race) in a costume. I had some trepidation coming in, as I’ve had a bit of hip pain in runs longer than 2 miles for the past month. I made a running form correction about a week before the race that really helped. Helped enough to make the 26.2 miles anyway. The race and surrounding weekend were incredibly fun, in more ways than one. In the course of running, I’ve made some great friends along the way, many of them fellow members of the group Marathon Maniacs. I’ve run with two of those friends at other races, Hideki Kinoshita (Kino) and Steven Lee. They live in the New York area and both were kind enough to keep me out of trouble for the weekend. Well mostly anyway. A few weeks before the race, Kino told me he and several of his friends were planning to run the race in superhero costumes. He asked if I wanted to partake as well. I agreed to run as Mr. Incredible.
Friday night dinner
At dinner Friday night I learned several of the costumed runners were hoping to take photos in costume the next day at the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe even shoot a video. Later in the evening, the videographer even sent a script via text. This was turning into an interesting weekend indeed.
Maniacs at finish line.
Superman and Lois Lane.
On Saturday after meeting a large group of Marathon Maniacs at the race finish line in Central Park for picture taking, we visited Chinatown for lunch. From there we went to the Brooklyn Bridge to meet up with the rest of the small group of superheroes; Superman – Steven, Thor – Kino, Iron man – Karl, Evil Tourguide – Ray, Damsel in Distress – Lisa and Concerned Citizen – Bee, Artist – Clovia for the photo shoot. The filmmaker is Leong Ying, who is working on making a marathon video for marathons run on all seven continents. (Europe, Asia and Antarctica already done). We had great fun making the video in the middle of the bridge on a busy Saturday afternoon. The pedestrians seemed to love our costumes and asked for many pictures. I’ve attached a link if you care to watch. (This is only part one as part two was to be shot on marathon day.)
Heroes and Villains.
Rudy the Rat with Superhero Sidekicks part 1:
On Saturday evening I had the privilege of attending the pre-race pasta dinner for Kino’s PANCAN fundraising team. This is a highly motivated group of folks who raised a total of $216,000 for the charity for this race. This exceeded the previous total raised a PANCAN marathon training team by over $40,000. Although I’m a Twins fan, I enjoyed meeting All Star David Robertson, a relief pitcher on the New York Yankees at the dinner.
Kino stayed over at Steven’s on Saturday night and the three of us caught a cab to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal to meet up with our fellow superheroes for the race. All of the runners getting on the ferry travel up two escalators. We waited for our friends to converge at the lobby area at the top of these escalators. All of the arriving runners walked past our gathering spot at the top of the escalators. Eventually joining Kino (Thor), Steven ( Superman) and me (Mr. Incredible), were Pascal (Captain America), Ray (Evil Tourguide) and Nancy (Bat Girl). Non-costumed friends included Gopal, Yves and Sarah. Since we were in costume, many of the runners passing by us asked to have their pictures taken with the supers. We must have posed for over 100 photo ops. One gentleman, Eric Zerkel, introduced himself as a journalist for Pavement Pieces. He interviewed Kino and me. His article can be found by clicking on this link.
We made it onto the ferry and caught up to our erstwhile videographer on board. We took the ferry to Staten Island and were then cattle herded onto buses for the slow trip to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and the starting area. On the bus trip, Bat Girl, Captain America and I decided we’d run the race together to have more fun. Superman and Steven were slated to be one wave up from us, so we went our separate ways in the starting village. Since we didn’t get off the bus until 9:30, Steve and Kino didn’t make their wave 1 start at 9:40, but did make the wave 2 start at 10:10. Nancy, Pascal and I missed wave 2, and started with wave 3 at 10:40. While waiting in the starting hold-back area, I realized I was sweating pretty heavily for standing still (temperature in the low 50’s). My costume included tights, a long sleeve shirt and a mask. Luckily my good friend Bruce has provided me with two iron-on patches with the Mr. Incredible logo, so I had both a running singlet and the long sleeve shirt with this logo. I removed and tied the long sleeve version around my waist and decided to run in the sleeveless version.
Supers Ready for Battle.
After a rousing national anthem, our wave was off at 10:44 to clear skies and forever views. We were on the upper level of the bridge, so we didn’t have to survive the infamous yellow mist on the lower level. This first bridge is approximately two miles long. The first mile is uphill and the second is downhill. The apex of the bridge is the high elevation point of the race. The density of runners was surprisingly comfortable. With close to 50,000 runners, I expected gridlock much of the way. I found it not much more crowded than other large marathons I’ve run. Since they launch runners in three waves and further split them into three colors on both the upper and lower levels of the starting bridge, it is more like six races of 8,000 runners each. The upper and lower splits come together a couple of miles down the road. We averaged around nine minutes per mile for the first two miles.
Once off the bridge, you hit the streets of Brooklyn. It isn’t until you reach Brooklyn that you realize what lies ahead. The enthusiasm of the crowds spills into your ears. Right after the first corner, I started hearing the Brooklyn accents shouting out “Yo! Go Marathoners!” It was wonderful. Bat Girl, Captain America and I tried to stay together, but the crush of runners sometimes separated us. We could always tell if we were drifting too far apart, because even when we weren’t in direct line of sight, we could hear the fans calling our superhero names nearby. Now Captain America was almost always correctly identified, but Bat Girl and I were often miscast. Captain America got the most shout-outs, and Bat Girl was next, but about 80% of hers were with the wrong name. She was called Bat Man, Cat Woman or Bat Woman. Nancy took some umbrage to these tags. For a time, we would try to shout out the correct name. After a while, we just laughed. My shout-outs were about half right, but I was called Mr. I.T. man, Iron-man among other handles. I’ve never laughed so hard while running a marathon. Often a few adults would call out the wrong name, only to be corrected by some eight-year-old kid – “Mr. Incredible!” My favorite was when running near Bat Girl, a few times someone would call us Batman and Robin. Depending on who was nearest the side of the road, one of us would high-five fans along the way. I only had one bad review and that was from a Yorkshire terrier who didn’t like my costume. A few high steps kept the ankle bites away. The kids looked thrilled when the supers came along. We rollicked through Brooklyn to the half marathon point as the race crosses a small bridge into Queens. We got into a routine of walking the water stops and then when all three of us had cleared the stop we’d resume our dash. With the water stop walks, our pace averaged just under ten minutes per mile.
The run through Queens is short and the crowds are just a little thinner, but were still excited to see us. We zigged and zagged through Queens knowing the real test was ahead. The second half of the course is hillier that the first half. We found that out first hand when we hit the Queensboro Bridge. This is the biggest climb of the marathon. Having run the race in previous years, Bat Girl suggested we walk for a few minutes on the uphill to save ourselves for later in the race. Wearing our superhero costumes, I couldn’t help but thinking of the scene from a recent Spiderman movie where he and the Green Goblin fight near this bridge. I also thought about advice I received from my Minnesota friend Leila, when she said the quiet of the bridge will be somewhat strange after all the crowd noise up till that point in the race. She said this would prove especially so once we would come off the bridge into the madness of the Manhattan streets ahead. How true. We ran some eleven-minute miles in this section.
Coming off the Queensboro Bridge was awesome. The exit from the bridge is more or less a cloverleaf and the crowd noise echoes off the walls of the bridge and local businesses. At the bottom of the exit, you turn left and are onto 1st Avenue. This is a wide street with the crowds thickening with every block. The screams and shouts are intense. By this time a few of the bars had lubricated the crowds. Once again the supers received a great New York welcome. 1st Avenue has some rolling hills and takes you north for three and a half miles where you cross another bridge into the Bronx. We averaged a little over ten-minutes per mile for this section.
While there were various bands, boom boxes and musicians all through Brooklyn, Queens and the first pass through Manhattan, they really went all out in the Bronx. A crooner from a hip-hop band changed his lyrics as we ran past. He suggested something about meeting Bat Girl in the Bat Cave later. There was a group of fans holding large purple signs saying “You’re the Sh*t!” One sign would have been funny, but twenty of them were hilarious. The drum corps really pumped up my enthusiasm through here. We ran more eleven-minute miles through the Bronx.
We made the last crossing of the East River and came into Manhattan to begin heading back south for the last five miles to the finish. For late in the race, I still felt pretty strong. Our fearsome trio of heroes got onto 5th Avenue and made our way closer to Central Park. We were getting a little less efficient at finding each other after the water stops and it cost us a bit of time. Somewhere around the twenty-two or twenty-three mile mark, Bat Girl and I got separated from Captain America. We kept slowing to wait for him to catch up to no avail. (We found out later he was behind us, but thought he had gotten ahead of us and was waiting for us to catch up to him.) After running backwards looking for the Captain for much the climb up the twenty-three mile hill, we decided to run on without him. After all he still had his shield to protect himself. Around the twenty-four mile mark, we turned into Central Park. At this time Bat Girl started cramping up. We stopped long enough for her to take a salt pill and then ran on. Aside from a water stop around the 25-mile mark, we ran strongly over the rolling hills to the finish. When attending the PANCAN dinner on Saturday night, one of the coaches advised his charity runners to try hard to not get passed by a costumed runner near the end of the race. Well Bat Girl and I passed several runners in those final miles, so I hope they didn’t feel too bad. Except for that guy dressed as Elvis. Just past twenty-five miles I realized we were closing in on him. As we got close, I said to him “We’re going to take you out Elvis. The supers are coming!” We left him in our dust. You briefly leave the south end of the park and run over to Columbus Circle before coming back into the park for the last half-mile to the finish. Bat Girl and I came in at 4:40 for the race. The last section was at just under ten minutes per mile. We both had completed our costumed marathon debuts.
We waited for Captain America without success for several minutes. A race official told us we had to clear the finish area until we told him we lost Captain America. He let us stay. Eventually we gave up and made our way toward the drop back pick up area. We saw Lisa (Damsel in Distress from the video) who was working the finishing area for the marathon. The efficiency of picking up your warm-up clothes after the race was a little lacking. It took me about 90 minutes to get my bag and make my way back to Steven’s place a half mile from the park. Luckily I had Nancy’s (Bat Girl’s) guidance to find my way out of the north end of the park and to a subway to get back to Steven’s neighborhood. Found out later that Captain America has finished eight minutes behind us and that a race official told him Mr. Incredible and Bat Girl were looking for him.
After a quick shower, I caught a subway to the Times Square area and joined some of my Minnesota Running Wild friends; Scott and Jenny, Don and Bhavna, Dave and Susan and their two lovely daughters Zoe and Grace, Wayne and his sister Laurie for dinner. Wayne’s sister Laurie lives in New York and used to work in the high-end restaurant business. She arranged this dinner for us. As the restaurant staff knew Laurie well, they went all out to take care of us. The food was served family style and was fantastic. One course after another made quick work filling us up. The combination of a raging post-marathon appetite and voluminous gourmet food is a great combination.
From dinner, I met up with my superhero sidekicks at a watering hole for a couple of beers and goodbyes. Steven served as my tour guide for a bit on Monday morning and I caught an afternoon flight back to Minnesota.
I finished the long weekend by going out for a meal with Anne, daughters Linda, Kate and their boyfriends Jayme and Chris. It was a perfect end to a wonderful weekend. My takeaways from the race included finding that running in a costume was great fun (although only for special occasions). Running with a great group of friends was even better. While I’m noticed the effects of aging over the last several years, it really did my ego some good to have 2.5 million spectators calling me incredible on Sunday.
Here are links to the Continents Marathon Videos:
Rudy the Rat Runs 2011 New York (part 2)
Bernie the Bear Runs 2011 Berlin Marathon:
Penny the Penguin Runs 2011 Antartica:
Pete the Panda Runs 2011 Great Wall: