|The view from Staten Island before the race|
Starting in the third wave of a 47,000+ racing field allows you to know that you're among friends. The third wavers are mostly running enthusiasts who race to enjoy the experience, not to set land speed records. The race announcer noticed the difference immediately as we crowded together at the bottom of the Verrazano Narrows bridge. He commented that we were definitely the rowdiest group to start. There was lots of laughter, shouts of joy, singing, even dancing around with glee. We sang along with "God Bless America," even the runner beside me who spoke little English and asked me twice what the song was. She hummed along and raised her hands just as the rest of us did. There were lots of older runners, groups of women run/walking together, a husband and wife team dressed alike in running bras and skirts (yes, really), fun costumes, and joy abundant. Off we went.
I mentioned in the previous post how much I liked Brooklyn, and I just want to re-emphasize that here. It was still early enough that thousands of people lined the streets. Kids, parents, grandparents, maintenance workers, all manner of people were out, shouting for us, calling our names, high fiving us, encouraging us. Many brought signs to encourage, some for specific runners, others for general encouragement. One of my favorites was "Black toenails are sexy", held aloft by an NYPD fireman. Made me laugh. And, for those of you who are keeping count, I lost my third toenail after the race. No matter, it was worth it. Brooklyn was amazing. I would run that section of the race over again tomorrow if I could.
On into Queens, and then that wicked, wicked bridge. I won't whine about it, but it did take the wind out of my sails. I was really looking forward to rounding into Manhattan onto First Avenue, I had heard stories about the solid wall of people who would be there to give us fresh legs with their yells. Alas, I had not counted on it being so late in the race, and many of the merry makers had left their posts to get on with their days. There were still a fair number there, and that was when I realized one of the benefits to being a back of the packer. The people who were left cheering knew that we were the ones who would struggle to the finish line, and their encouragement became very personal. I had not put my name on my shirt as many racers did, because my name is not pronounced the way it is spelled and I didn't want to hear people yelling for "Jane" the entire race. (It's spelled Jayne, pronounced Janie, not a big deal, but it is my name, after all.) However, I began to wish that I had put it on my shirt, anyway. The encouragers yelled to me, some of the bands sang for me and yelled encouragement into their mikes, and made me feel like they were truly rooting for me. And, the fun thing about this race is that they really were. One guy even hugged me!
Through Manhattan, into the Bronx, then that long, seemingly endless 5k through Central Park, out onto Central Park South, then across the finish line. I've read comments posted by some of the earlier finishers that there was a lot of congestion at the chute leading away from the finish. Another advantage to being a back of the packer is that there was no congestion by the time I got there.
I share this back of the pack experience because I want anyone who has a desire to run to realize there's no shame in being there. Do I wish I was faster? Of course. But, another advantage to my race was that I remember every single step, each mile, many of the faces. It was a fantastic, bucket list experience that I wouldn't change in any way. AND, when you run at the back of the pack, there's no lines at the port-a-lets! ;)
|Central Park Monday after the race|