I finished the 2014 New York City Marathon with my best finishing time for the race and my second best time ever!
Philadelphia, where I got my best, is flatter and has fewer people, which makes faster times easier. New York, with its hills, crowds, and turns, never gives great finishing times—just an unparalleled running experience, with dozens of bands, hundreds of neighborhoods, and probably over a million fans. My past best time for New York came in 1995, which I was 24 years old, just over half my age today.
I’m glad to have returned to my performances of old.
Conditions: cold, windy, and gusty
The temperature while waiting for the race to start was about 42 F, with a 31 mile/hour wind, giving a wind chill of 36 F. Gusts of 50 miles/hour led the organizers to email us overnight that they ominously wouldn’t put up signs and tents to tell us where to go and shelter us around the Staten Island starting point.
The temperature rose to 47 F, but the gusts never stopped. You don’t feel so cold while running—I ran in shorts and a sleeveless top, which was enough, though didn’t make mid-40s temperatures and gusts comfortable. After I finished I couldn’t believe how cold it felt when I wasn’t generating heat from running, still around the day’s high at 2pm. No wonder the spectators bundled up so much.
Today wasn’t my coldest marathon. 1995 set the record for New York’s coldest, as this site reminds me,
This was the race  with the coldest conditions as the temperature at race time was 40 degrees and only went up a few degrees as the race went on.Â Winds gusting between 30-45 mph produced wind chills in the upper 20s.
I remember the misery that year of trying to stay warm before the race started, since if it was 40 at the start, it was colder before. But even those conditions didn’t match Philadelphia in 2007, where temperatures were below 40 F when the race began, with gusts bringing wind chills below 30. And it rained.
The New York Times has great coverage and pictures. Click the slide show on this article for great pictures (and to read the article).
Here are pictures of my race I’m happy with. Sorry they have words all over them.
Comparisons with past marathons
Anyway, here is a graph of my historical finishing times. Note the seven-year gap since my last marathon and thirteen-year gap since my last New York City marathon.
1995: Age 24, first marathon. Trained at Fermilab near Chicago, so had no hill training. They didn’t have chips to measure your detailed times, so my time was probably a few minutes faster, since with thirty-thousand runners it takes a few minutes to get to the start, and it may have been my best time.
Though many people consider youth an advantage in athleticism, I’m not sure 24-year-olds have much inherent advantages over people in their 40s. I think distance running peaks later than 24 and has a peak that lasts past my current age, though I can’t cite sources for that. If anyone can, please let me know.
1996: Age 25. My time 4:01:04 was a palindrome. Otherwise I don’t remember the race much.
1998: I competed at Nationals for Ultimate Frisbee the week before, just after a trip to Holland (where I talked someone out of mugging me at knife-point). Nationals meant three days of a lot of sprinting. No way was a week enough to recover from it.
2001: Not sure why I had such a slow time here. The race was a few months after 9/11 and my company, Submedia was having troubles. I may not have trained much for it.
2007: Age 36. Philadelphia is flat and has fewer people so I got a good time despite the weather. That run also inspired my mom to run a marathon in her sixties as a grandmother of five, never having run more than a few miles at once before. I’ve written a bunch on that before and told the story to a crowd.
2014: Age 43. While most people would consider the 18-, 18.5-, and 20-mile runs I did preparing for this race, as well as a bunch of 12-14-mile runes, significant preparation, I didn’t specifically train as much for this marathon as for past ones. Mostly I ran when I felt like it and enjoyed myself.
I credit burpees, a diet with more vegetables and legumes cooked from scratch leading to less body fat, minimalist shoes, maturity, and self-awareness to enjoy life for the improvement as much as the running training.
Incidentally, I haven’t eaten meat since 1990, so all these marathons came on a vegetarian diet. I might have had meaningful amounts of dairy in 90s, but now I only have negligible amounts.
Way more spectators and fans than my last New York City marathon, thirteen years ago. There used to be long stretches without people. Now that only happened on bridges.
Way more runners too. Though you started in a crowd, it somewhat dispersed before. Now you’re running in a crowd, dodging people the entire time.
My favorite band was at 4th Avenue and 31st Street in Brooklyn. Looked like just three guys jamming, but I liked their sound. Soon after came what looked like a Hasidic Jewish band playing metal music or really hard rock. Though not original music, I liked hearing Springsteen’s Born to Run and Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind in the Bronx.
The last six miles were much harder than the first twenty. It’s just another experience than you can get without first running twenty miles. Your legs and everything about you tell you to stop. You have to find something inside to override your emotions telling you to stop. I’m glad to say that I didn’t stop to walk. Although I drank too much water and had to use the portable toilets three times.
Barely making it to the start on time from the traffic of the buses taking us from the Staten Island ferry to the start.
Walking around the city in the metallic heat reflector and marathon poncho they give at the finish, though they hardly made up for the 47 degree temperature in shorts. Random people congratulate you, which feels great.
First Avenue in Manhattan’s huge number of spectators, ten or fifteen people deep, on the rooftops gives me chills today just thinking about it. There are a lot of incredible parts, but it’s hard to top the fans after the difficult hill and quietness of the Queensboro Bridge on my home island.
Running fast at the finish, despite the pain, knowing how much it would hurt the next day. It reminded me of competing hard in my twenties and thirties so long ago.
Writing about it now, so I can feel like I’m doing something without moving my legs, which is hard.
How I ran
I’m happy to have beaten my course record, but disappointed I didn’t finish with the 3:45 I secretly hoped for.
I started out too fast, which I’ve done before. Here are my splits, showing my pace slowing consistently over the race until I put on some speed at the end, just too little too late to catch my fastest pace. You’ll see my first three miles were at 8:19 minutes/mile (sorry the graph shows time in decimals), which was faster than my target of 8:30 minutes/mile, doubly too fast because the first mile is uphill on the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, not the time or place for fast running, with 25.2 miles to go.
As a measure of my dedication to my SIDCHAs, here is a chart of how many burpees I did after each marathon. They were hard, but not doing them would have been harder.
I thought the burpees would be the hardest part of today, but running the last few miles were, since most of them were uphill. My legs hurt bad and my whole body wanted me to stop. The last stretch up Central Park South was pretty hard. For the last two-tenths of a mile uphill from Columbus Circle to the finish, somehow I conjured up the will to run fast, passing a lot of people in that time, thinking there was no reason to save anything, the sort of thing we talked about while competing at Ultimate decades ago. Without energy to tread gingerly, I pounded the ground hard, which was jolting.
On the other hand, running in close to minimal shoes means I don’t have the back pain I used to have after running.
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