Posted by: mmartininycmarathon | November 11, 2009

Full Race Report!


So, it has been a little over a week since I completed the 2009 ING NYC Marathon and I still am in awe. This journey had been so long and the day was filled with so much excitement and thrills I still can’t believe it.

First before I get into the race, I want to THANK every single one of YOU and my SUPPORTERS again for sticking with me on this long training season. Without any of you, I would not have been able to do this in the first place. I know there are a few of you that have been checking in and actually reading these, even though sometimes they could be long, and I am proud to say I completed the full 26.2 with pride, dignity and heart!

My morning started out early, waking up around 4AM to get ready and had a car service reserved to pick me and another teammate Danielle up and take us into mid-town Manhattan. Already had everything laid out and forgot it was Halloween until I got to a local diner to eat a bagel before being picked up. The joint was PACKED with drunken people in costumes stumbling around waiting for the next party, I found it pretty amusing and helped lighten the mood.

MANHATTAN

Once we got into the city, we parked ourselves in the Sheraton Hotel where we found a TON of international runner boarding the ING buses ready to be shipped off to the Fort and it kinda hit both of us that this is really happening. We found a couple of chairs and chatted about training and our race day strategies. We both had like minded ideas of just finishing well.

5.45AM came and we headed out to our reserved buses and we split to find each other at the charity village about an hour later. I was assigned to Bus #13 and head coach Frank was on our bus! He helped make sure everyone had everything they needed and was accounted for. About 45 mins later we were escorted by police all the way from mid-town to Staten Island.

CHARITY VILLAGE

Marathon 014

Raphael not quite awake

The walk to exclusive TFK Baggage

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Me and Karinna ready to ROCK NYC!

Once we arrived we walked over to our Team for Kids reserved charity tent where we had our own porta-potties, food, coffee and water/gatorade. It was a brisk morning and surprisingly the tent filled up quick so I decided to sit outside and ended up meeting up with Karinna and Raphael. Other people we knew came around, sat down and we all hung out and began the wait. We all tried to stay warm (luckily I brought my gloves and hat) and kept talking and joking around to lighten the mood.

By about 8.30 or so the waves began to be called to stretch, drop off baggage and make their way to the corrals. It wasn’t until about 9.30 that our wave (wave 3) was called to go over and at that moment… it began.

WAVE 3

I ended up leaving most of my teammates and went on my own to begin my own focus on the task ahead.I also wanted to try and get as close as possible to the front as I could. I guess I thought it would be more like the road races in terms of the corrals, but I followed a pack of people and got in line. It was one HUGE group, similar to cattle being grouped together. We walked up and I did manage to get to the front and we were halted until we were told we could walk together up to the start line.

They had a bunch of volunteers that created this fence as we approached the start line and heard the PA Announcer getting us all pumped up about running the NYC MARATHON! We were at the foot of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and the thing look humongous! I wished a girl good luck and slapped her high five. I was ready and wanted to just get started.

RUNNERS, ARE YOU READY TO RUN!!!

BOOOM!!!!

Off we went as Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York played. I couldn’t believe this, I was actually running the NYC Marathon! Years of culmination and months of dedication came down to this one moment running up this huge bridge. I got to look around and see the New York Harbor and thought of all the stories and seeing Manhattan knew my family was there waiting for me. We descended down and went up a slight hill into Brooklyn then I hear….

MARK! then again…

MARK!! I looked around as if it was someone I knew but it was spectators yelling your name! This is the moment it hit me that is race was something really special and that I was going to have the TIME OF MY LIFE! Once I made a right onto 4TH Ave it just hit me even harder. There was a TON of people out cheering all of the runners on yelling their names and egging them on. I must have heard my name every 5 seconds the ENTIRE RACE! I kid you not! It was such a special feeling. I took the opportunity to slap some kids high fives but began to get into a serious groove. It was just like my training runs, after 3 miles I get into a groove and go. No different today and I knew I would make it. I had the confidence from the start and took this race relatively seriously.

14543_162900970781_828320781_2645447_4617256_nI had four people in Brooklyn that would be on the course all within 2 1/2 miles of each other starting at mile 6. The first person I saw was Elizabeth Mazzochetti at 22nd street… I go up and there she is waiting with this MARTINI sign. I LOVE IT! I ran up gave her a HUGE hug and told her THANK YOU SO MUCH. That got me SO PUMPED seeing her and it was on to search for other people on the course.

My friend Suzanne and Tom BOTH were out and I ironically was able to find them based on where they said they would be. I had to kind of come to a halt, because I went right past them with out even knowing it, but ran up to both of them, gave them a HUGE hug and told them THANK YOU! These guys were troopers getting out there and waiting for me to come by so many kudos to you you guys!

12157_536710505855_17401263_31643458_7340296_nThe final pit stop was mile 8 where CJ and Leighann would be with a sign so I knew where they were. I had come off 4TH Ave and now was going down Lafayette and they would be near Clinton-Washington (near my ala mater, Pratt). I didn’t have to look hard because there was a HUGE GO MARK sign that was SO BIG and GREEN I saw it from two blocks away! I raised my arms up in the air, flew down there, gave CJ a HUGE hug saw Leighann, gave her a HUGE hug and told them both THANK YOU and continued on.

THANK YOU ALL for coming out in Brooklyn to help me get through and make Brooklyn fly by. I had broken down the race into the small segments so my next stop would be the half way mark while in Queens.

For the rest of the way in Brooklyn I was focused and kept to the right as there seemed to be an “express” lane of sorts. The entire way, people are cheering and yelling your name. People watching, encouraging you and kids with their hands out wanting to give you a high five. At this point I was so focused that I tried to keep myself composed and on target. I remember a guy saying, your almost there you can do it, run faster! I thought, you HAVE NO IDEA how far we really have to go. We crossed over the Pulaski bridge after going through some very interesting parts of Brooklyn, seeing different crowds and people, hearing different types of music. For the entire way, everything carried you through. Now for me, I was getting warmed up so if anything all the music and cheering just kept me on track.

davidgardinerphoto (35 of 236)As we crossed the 13.1 mile marker after a LONG ascend up to the Pulaski bridge my time was 1:40 and I knew I was making incredible time. I was on track for my goal time if I could just keep everything together. We still needed to hit the Queensboro Bridge and I knew that would be a challenge to cross over. One mile more into Queens and we began our ascend up the bridge for miles 14-15-16.

We had done this final 10 miles of the course a few weeks prior so I knew what to expect. What I didn’t realize was how hard it REALLY would be at THAT point in the race. The bridge felt ALOT like the Verrazzanos except that it was darker and more like a tunnel. There was a mass of runners in and it just felt LONG. It felt like eternity for us to crest the bridge but we all kept pushing each other and as a collective whole began a fun countdown to the mile 15 marker. All you would hear would be 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1… then you cross and a few seconds later the next bunch would begin their countdown. At this point, I began to become a little tired. From what I was told later on by my mom who was tracking me, up to Mile 16 I was on pace for a 3:20 finish time and I knew from training runs at what points I had done to make sure I was still on pace. My first marker was the half-way mark and the next one would be Mile 18 where my favorite Elizabeth Maxwell would be waiting, then 21 miles.

davidgardinerphoto (43 of 236)davidgardinerphoto (47 of 236)As we made our way off the bridge and around to go up on First Ave, you could hear the people cheering and see all the spectators lined up 8-10 people deep. I remember thinking, OMG that is a TON of people. First Ave was so LARGE and just an INCREDIBLE amounts of people cheering and yelling your name. Elizabeth was on the left hand side and the way I went off the bridge I was on the right so I slowly crossed over being close to the crowds. The GO MARK cheers continued as things began getting increasingly harder for me. We were on about mile 17 at this point and my right hamstring was tightening up. I had wanted to stop before but knew that Elizabeth would be close by, I continued on to 106th street and behind some spectators hanging out into the street there she was. I didn’t have to stop as she just jumped out and started running asking how I was doing. I told her my right leg was tight but that I think I was making good time. She exclaimed I was making GREAT time and encouraged to keep moving. Elizabeth ran about 1/4 of a mile and told me she would meet me at the same spot on 5TH Ave and that I had ALOT to look forward to when I hit the Bronx and Harlem, so I used that to keep me going. Now, were at around 110th street and I knew the Bronx would be a good ways up. I had to stop to try and stretch my tight hamstring which it didn’t help much, so I just walked and kept running.

davidgardinerphoto (92 of 236)We made our way over the Willis Ave bridge which had this yellow carpet on the top since the metal was like a crate pattern. I wondered in my head as I ran on it, who came up with that idea and how much it actually helped the runners. I wanted anything to keep my mind occupied and to get back into Manhattan as fast as possible. We hit a couple of turns in the Bronx, then made our way over the Madison Ave bridge back into Manhattan with Rocky blasting from the street. This was GREAT inspiration and much needed at this point. We had hit 5TH Ave and would be interrupted by the Marcus Garvey Park then reconnect with 5TH Ave for the final stretch home. It would be basically the same route as we had done on First Ave, except the opposite direction.

After the park, Coach Sid popped up out of nowhere and gave me some words of encouragement telling me to finish the job I started. Talk about some serious inspiration. Right after, Coach Asteria came up and told me to relax, and to get water and gatorade. She also gave me two pink tablets which looked like candy and consumed them trusting whatever it was, it would help get me home.

davidgardinerphoto (134 of 236)This is the point in which things really began to get hard. The only thing I had to look forward to besides Mile 25 (where my friend Leila and Gina would be at) and the finish line, was meeting up with Elizabeth Maxwell, again. She would be at 106th and 5th Ave. I kept focusing my mind on that one spot and as I approached, she wasn’t anywhere near. I nearly lost it, and inside just said “shit” to myself. I kept thinking, NO she wouldn’t do this, she would never leave me out here if she says she is going to be there, especially after how I looked on First Ave. I made my way down past 105 and decided, OK Mark, your going to have to do this on your own. She must have gotten caught up with some stuff and I just missed her. Just as I was getting settled into doing it on my own, I look up and there she is waiting at 104!

Oh Thank God!

I knew I was in bad shape at this point. We were on Mile 22-23 and on one of the hardest part of the race, a slow uphill from 110-90th street. Elizabeth kept talking to me and at one point told me, “Mark, your doing great, just last year you were one of these spectators and now your running this. All these people are supporting you and Team for Kids”. Meanwhile, as she is saying this to me, the crowd is cheering my name, they could feel my emotional and physical fatigue. I almost lost it as she was saying this to me, knowing it was so true and going through all the months of hard training, here I was in less than 30 minutes finishing the NYC Marathon.

Those final 4 miles were the longest 4 miles of my entire life, it felt like it would be the biggest hill to climb and in the back of my mind I tried to keep the positive idea that I was going to finish this. I had to walk a couple times with Elizabeth and she kept telling me to keep walking, keep moving and that she understood how the it felt at that moment when your legs want to quit but your mind won’t allow anything but to finish. This was the pinnacle point in the race and I have the world to thank Elizabeth for being there and running the 3/4 of mile 23 to the park entrance.

As I turned into the park, I saw this HUGE South Korean flag and I ran over grabbing my South Korean flag patch and high five all of them. Before that, I had seen a woman with a South Korean flag and ran up and hugged her and took her water. It was so emotional to connect with my people and at those points in the race that would give me the strength to keep going.

I really don’t remember a huge amount in the park except just as we were running in, a girl had a sign saying,

“Quiting is NOT a FU**ing option”

I ran up slapped it as they cheered me on. My new goal was to get to Mile 25 and I remember when I saw Mile 24 I just smiling knowing 2.2 miles to go. I knew where Mile 25 was so it was a matter of tricking my mind that this was just like a training run on a Sunday afternoon. Since I knew the park, I became more relaxed and when I saw Mile 25 I started looking for Gina and Leila. Just as I was starting to look, there they were YELLING my name!

I ran up to Leila, gave her the biggest and longest hug, then grabbed Gina and said,

RUN WITH ME!

So, we ran, like old times. I thought back to when we were in Brooklyn volunteering at Mile 4 and we both ran on the course telling each other we should run the marathon together. Now one of us was really running it, the other hopeful to run the following year, but both supporting each other. I kept telling Gina how hard it was the final 4 miles and how I can’t wait to be home at the finish line. I actually had asked if she would run to 59th street, but she said OK, and turned off. She must have thought I said, OK I am going to run down to 59th street, but it was OK. I was happy she was able to run with me and that she and Leila found me.

So began the final stretch.

As I approached 59th street, I knew I had done this SO many times on my training runs, more so on the short runs from 23rd street. I knew this stretch, I knew what to expect but still didn’t make a difference on how LONG that stretch was. I had to stop at the first traffic light, just out of sheer exhaustion and the crowds got louder telling me to keep going. Men would shout out, “Lets go Mark, Ca mone bro“, women would cry out “come on Mark, you can do this”! I kept telling myself, come on Mark as I started picking up the pace.

12438_166689534897_642634897_2644303_2653744_nThe rest of the way was a blur as I clipped off the meters, seeing mile 26 as we entered the park one final time at Columbus Circle. I saw 800 meters and thought to myself, I know I am going to finish, but I want to finish strong. I used my 270 meter hill repeats as a gauge on when to kick and surge to the finish. 400 meters, 200 meters, the crowds were going CRAZY… I stayed on the left to make sure my family saw me, and I might be able to see them… once I hit around 200 meters I saw the finish line and made my move.

I picked up the pace slowly, made sure I had enough and…

JUST WENT!

I worked my way around a couple of slower runners, and got to the middle of three finishing gates, raised my arms in the air and smiled!

I DID IT!

I completed the most amazing, life changing, and unreal 26.2 miles of my entire life. I could not believe it.

As we walked over to retrieve our medals, I saw a young lady (volunteer) and she seemed very friendly. I walked up to her as she handed me my medal, I hugged her and said, “Thank you, this was my first marathon ever”. She hugged me back and said congratulations. It was the best words ever to have come out of my mouth, knowing it was real. All the hard work, all the months of preparation, all of the hope and belief became reality.

davidgardinerphoto (174 of 236)I started over to get my heat shield and I saw Jess (JHams!) and walked up to her, hugged her and congratulated her. We did it. We slowly walked back to Cherry Hill as the reality of what we had just done started to physically take its toll on us. It HURT to walk! I kept thinking about how it was SO worth everything to be part of Team for Kids and how there is NO other way to run the NYC Marathon. We had our own exclusive finishing area where I saw Michelle, hugged her and she asked me if I was OK, if I need help walking, etc. She got me a chair, my bag and ice for my feet. I took off my shoes with the help of another TFK staff member, and rested for a bit. I started to see other team members I knew who had finished and we hugged and congratulated each other. It truly was the most amazing experience of my entire life.

I met my family, Mary, Mike and my parents at the exclusive TFK friends and family reunion at the YMCA where they were ALL SMILES. I felt like crying as I hugged every single one of them. I had done it and they witnessed it. My friend Sean had come out as well, but I missed him in the stands as he missed me running to the finish. We waited around for a little while as Leila and Gina made their way over.

SDC10013My official finishing time was 3 hours 43 minutes and 30 seconds. But, in this race, time did not matter. It was the most unreal, incredible experience I ever had in my entire life and it was absolutely perfect. I couldn’t have asked for any more. From the weather being perfect, to getting to the front of the corral, to all my friends along the perfect spots on the course, my family watching me finish and the unbelievable NYC spectators, it couldn’t have been any better. As I write this I still am in awe of the whole experience. I also want to thank every single spectator along the course for supporting all of the runners.

This chapter in my life will continue and I plan on writing a separate post about my Team for Kids experience. As for another marathon, it is very highly I will run NYC again and with Team for Kids.

THANK YOU all for reading my blog and giving me so much support. I hope you have been inspired throughout the training season to go run more, start running and maybe even run a marathon!

Happy Running!

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Responses

  1. […] both were out on the NYC Marathon course during my first ever marathon with a HUGE GO MARK sign (see Full Race Report) and ever since then they debated getting back into running and doing some races. In fact they came […]

  2. […] of new challenges I would have to face and conquer including a distance I had not covered since 2009, the feeling of being under-trained and various other elements that would show their ugly […]


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