Its up to you, New York, New York . en
There are things in life that you have to have done. For a runner this is to run a marathon. If it’s gonna be the New York City Marathon, do it at the right time. I mean, just ‘participating’, that is simply not enough. Coupled with another reason, we’re getting closer. Nadine Künzi has got it right. It is exactly on her 30th birthday that she runs her first marathon in New York, accompanied by Evelyne Müller as pacemaker. Yvonne Turi-Hodel visits an old friend, Marta Secall arrives with some friends from Madrid, Fernando Nunez meets halfway here with his family from Ecuador. That’s what makes perfect sense.
For many years I have family, friends and business relationship here and have developed an infinite love for Brooklyn. I sweeten the regular visits with participations in running events of all kinds. The focus is not necessarily on fast end times, but rather on the experiences associated with them. And they have it in themself!
The New York City Marathon is definitely one of them. The run is not a circuit, but connects from south to north all five Boroughs of New York. First all runners have to be brought to the military area Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, the first Borough. Because of the unique morning atmosphere of the skyscrapers, including the most beautiful of all, the Chrysler Building, I choose the direct bus transport from the NYC Public Library. Alternatively the Ferry solution would offer an intoxicating view back to Downtown Manhattan with a drive-by of the State of Liberty. This is already a first highlight!
After several safety checks we have to wait a long time in the huge camp, because of the close location to the Atlantic Ocean, unfortunately often in icy winds. This year it isn’t so nasty, but you do better in keeping warm, whether with a ski suit, poncho, business suit, a dressing gown or an out of fashion tracksuit. The latest weather forecast predict rising temperatures up to 18-22C, with fine rainfall starting at noon, almost tropical conditions.
Yvonne and Fernando quickly identified me, we are in the best mood and expectation, also slightly nervous. We start at the same time in the first wave from the Blue block. In the Green zone in the opposit corner Evelyne and Nadine, and in the Orange area Marta prepare themselves for the start. The waves and the fine divisions in corrals reflect the expected end times. Mostly at least, because I start with the 3:05:00 people, for me a completely unrealistically fast time. However, the half marathon runtimes at the same provider lead to this classification. I should be able to reach an end time of 3:40:00 with an optimal run.
The professionals start right in front of us, which means that we can follow the speeches of the officials and the presentations of the favorites. It’s time to get rid of the rest of the overdresses and donate them throwing into the dispenser boxes. A baritone diva is now singing the national anthem in a devotional manner, that goes through the marrow and leg and already cause chicken skin and wet eyes for the first time.
Here we go! Frank Sinatra gives the beat with ‘You always make it there, you make it anywhere – Its up to you, New York, New York, New York…’ and sends us up the ramp right at the beginning and over the 3km long Verrazano Narrow Bridge, a really proud giant. On the left, on the right, above the helicopters of the security armada and the TV stations buzz around, below a huge container ship with a muffled honking, the tugboats greet us with high red-white-blue water fountains, and far away in the haze the silhouette of Manhattan. Yvonne is already flying past me like a rocket, thanking briefly my cheering! Wow! Pure emotions.
It goes on two levels and on a total of 9 tracks across to Brooklyn, and then up the endless Fourth Avenue to Downtown Brooklyn. An ever-expanding line of colorful runners from all over the world. It seems to me that all runners brought all their fans here, thousands of people, stratified in several rows, screaming deafeningly, waving flags, holding up hand-painted cheering cardboard, and everyone knows their names. Madness; and the way to the finish is still a long one!
The fast train with the pace of 7:14 rushes past me. Wow, all trained athletes, dressed in great clothes. I think that this tight Union Jack-Triathlon jersey, where the red bars are right above the important body parts, needs a little courage. It’s just awesome to see so many people, young people as well as older ones, in such a great state of health.
In view of the huge worldwide demand, a guaranteed participation is already a first success! Only about 17% of interests of participation can be considered. Most of them have successfully participated in the lottery procedure. Others secure it through the charity program, through an international tour operator, proof of previously undercut marathon limits or like me, a half marathon, or they were invited directly. The supplier New York Road Runners knows how to market the event in the best way, but also how to organize it. More than 50’000 people from all over the world will be able to enjoy a common marathon. cheered by a fabulous 2’million spectators, with live broadcasts.
Now mostly of all run the same pace, still in a good mood and with good courage. There are even short conversations. So, despite my negation, the blonde Pamela from California, accompanied by Ken insisted that I must be the famous Paul, because only he he runs so beautiful! That filled me with pride, of course.
Music bands of all kinds line up along the entire route. They’re playing the latest and most recent charts up and down. As soon as you have adapted the running rhythm to the swing, it got replaced by the salsa, a blues band, the rapper, techno-sound, the Japanese Taiko drum troup. This is certainly exhilarating.
In Lafayette Avenue I quickly embrace my sister Nicole, soon afterwards I recognize Danni, here too a Hug on the left, a Hug on the right. A number of others are to follow. By the way, it is enormously accidentally to recognize the own name in the general screaming and yelling. The cheering boards are more likely to be successful. I became aware of ‘Go François Go!’ or ‘The Fastest Fasnacht’ or ‘Brauner Mutz’. Well, and even though Rosemary had tracked me, we missed each other.
All of a sudden the crowd of spectators goes to zero, now an almostly black dressed population is shaping the street scene, indeed, we have already reached Williamsburg! Here lives one of the three large Jewish Orthodox communities in Brooklyn. They are clearly not amused of this event, for them it is difficult to cross the street due to the dense group of runners. But just as suddenly, ear-splitting techno sound shows that the stronghold and the Wonderland of the Hipster has now been reached, the linchpin of the young creative minds. Beautiful streets refers to the Polish past. Such peculiarities can be seen in every quarter of the city, reflecting the changing history of immigrant settlements.
Greenpoint! How fast everything goes, especially when you know the way around, the nice French restaurant, Laura’s pocket shop, the Avenue with John’s Artist studio, Guy’s workshop! And the Pulaski Bridge is already announcing the end of Brooklyn. Exactly half of the 42’194 meters have now been completed and on the other side the next Borough is waiting: Queens!
It is more than astonishing how quickly the building boom is happening. I hardly recognize the quarter any more, the warehouses and workshops give way one by one to huge residential buildings. I was just here. They’re moving up a high-rise building within six months. Again a very special atmosphere there, an extremely friendly welcome is offered to us!
There’s a group overtaking now with the pace of 7:49. It’s just great, most of the runners in the front field look quite good. The sun king and his helper from Peru offer something very special, they are only dressed with a loincloth and headdress. But be careful, funny costumes are not allowed, but the two of them seem to think it really serious, Marathon is in fact not a walk in the park, it’s a sacrifice.
What now is following is a relatively steep and long lasting ramp, high up and over the Queensboro Bridge. What a beautiful steel construction, every visitor to New York should have seen it. I recommend a trip by the tramway (a gondola) to Roosevelt Island with a visit to the memorial. The great thing about the bridge is that Manhattan is waiting on the other side, the fourth Borough. We’re getting closer. But for me, I have to get through in one piece! Last year I was shot down by the runner right in front of me, head to head. And I had to break off with a concussion. Careful, keep your distance!
On the lower roofed level of the Queensboro Bridge, there is abruptly a completely calm; no spectators, no yelling, no traffic. Just silence. Running closely and in a steady sequence of steps produces a monotonous, fast and muffled pounding -… bumm, bumm, bumm …., we are now in the middle of it and hear the heartbeat of the New York City Marathon – madness!
And there is immediately a further highlight. At the end of the Queensboro Bridge, two narrow changes of direction of 180 degrees and 90 degrees are to be made on a steeply sloping road. What a deafening loud welcome while turning into First Avenue. The screaming of thousands of spectators, stratified in several rows and totally out of their minds! I’ve never seen anything like this before. Every participant knows now that all the training efforts were more than worthwhile, an adrenaline-kick like no other. A unique, fantastic experience! Travellers think that there is no other audience as crazy as this one. In general, the New Yorkers know how to make every runner feel like a hero. And they think so too!
On the big screen, the winner and his closest rival are running through the finish line in a time of 2:10:53. In comparison to Berlin, Frankfurt or Hamburg, the professionals here run about 8-10 minutes (!) and the amateur athletes just as much slower. The New York City Marathon is really demanding. More time is required because of the five higher bridges you have to cross, there are so many sharp changes of direction, the steep ramps and a slight slope, up and down.
Now follows the never-ending and completely straightened wide First Avenue. I know on the horizon the last Borough is waiting! The food service is also located on the way. I take the Blue Line.
Apart from Olympia, there is probably no other sporting event where such a high number of nationalities can be seen; recognized by the flags swinging groups at the roadside. Everyone is proud of their homeland and cheering frenetically. Don’t be modest, even the Swiss do it here.
Now up the Willis Avenue Bridge and back down to The Bronx! Wow, joy is coming! But then: Uiihhh, I feel signs of a cramp – this is not good at all. Now just relax and slow down one gear. The most northerly point has already been reached, the turning point, now via the Madison Avenue Bridge back to Manhattan!
From now on we are heading south for the first time, not on any road, but on Fifth Avenue, probably the most famous road in the world! You have to imagine that, for this occasion the most important traffic connections are closed off as self-evident can be. This requires a tremendous willingness and logistics. It is also a huge commitment of all the possible security and aid authorities, as well as 12’000 volunteers, all of them extremely friendly and always ready to help. In this extreme form I only know this from New York City.
We are now in Harlem, a district with a very varied past. It’s unbelievable how this has developed from 125th Street to a positive one. Nina, what a great job you did! And sorry Dominic, we missed at Corner 5thAv/135th!
Signs of cramping often occur in the case of salt deficiency. This is true at least for me. The stabbing pain blocks individual or whole muscle groups, so it is necessary to stretch calmly. I can’t keep to my end time limit, of course, and I find out with a smile that there is definitely no place on the podium. I remain quite relaxed from experience and feel compelled to keep the pace down.
A light tap from behind. It is Viktor, who passes by with his thumb raised and appreciatively friendly grin within a very relaxed trot, forced to zigzag overtaking. I suppose, unlike Pamela, he rated our BRC competition shirt. He had flashed this track in 2005 with a 7th place in 2:11:44.
The Central Park is now right to the right, and we are already on the Museum Mile, at the Guggenheim Museum we turn into East Drive in the park. It has a lot of people and a great atmosphere!
In the beautiful Central Park, the greenery still in the summery pile, it goes steeply downhill, along the ponds and hillside landscapes, lined by the fanatical spectators. Evil mythical creatures can be spotted on rock formations – I head for the nearest first-aid post, just as Fernando shows up, I encourage him. I beg for salt and water and go to stretch. I have no choice but to wait patiently for the redeeming effect. I have to go through it, the end time is no longer relevant anyway. I then tackle the last two kilometers in surprisingly easy trotting, up to Central Park South (59th Street) and via the Colombus Circle back to Central Park. Thank you Ivan for the video from there, unfortunately I didn’t hear your shouts, they have disappeared in the hellish roar of cheering.
Now a few more meters, flanked by grandstands on both sides, under the finish line! Wow, what a unique occasion! The giant hammer!
Yvonne has delivered a sensational race; with 3:04:26 she should have reached a leading position in her category F40 and should have run a personal best! Fernando had to fight with complications (3:46:28 – M35), I am overjoyed with my 3:48:45 (M60). Evelyne and Nadine in their first marathon were successful in 3:49:47 (M30). Marta crossed the finish line in a great manner with 4:12:40 (F40). Congratulations!
A ‘Thank you New York-New York-New York’ is in the spirit of us all.
Of course, adequate medals are awarded in New York, they are in XXL, and they are XX-deserved.
François Fasnacht, Brooklyn in November 2017