7am is early for a race start, particularly if you have to travel. Some friends from the running club were meeting at 4am to drive to Coney Island and take the subway to the start but I was staying in Brooklyn in a friend’s spare room. It was still an early start – one of the people in the car from NJ was in wave 1 and the others were in wave 2 and I was a bit worried he wouldn’t make it to the wave 1 start in time (he did but only just before the bag drop was due to close.
The official information suggested arriving by 5:10 for wave 1. It was just after 5:30 when I arrived and it was still quiet. It was warm enough, so I dropped my bag early, went through security, and then it was a long wait.
This was my first NYRR event and on the whole it was well-organized (as you’d expect) but with their volunteer program that presumably just attracts people who want to get a guaranteed marathon place, the quality of the volunteers was definitely variable. On the way to bag drop, one tried to tell us completely the wrong direction, and it was clear from being in the start area early that wave 2 people were being given the wrong information and making it through to the wave 1 start before being turned around and told that had to walk around the outside to get to that area. Some of them were annoyed because they had been specifically told to go that way and had walked quite a way before being turned around.
A large race with an enclosed start area is a tough place to get a warm up. People were running back and forth but volunteers by each entrance to the course were sending people back if they had gone past their area, so those further back had less pavement to run on, and those in areas further forward were being stopped to have their bibs checked at each of these points.
Despite being lined up by expected time, with so many runners, it was the typical situation of having to navigate through some slower runners. This was surprising particularly because I knew I was not going to be quite as fast as the time I had submitted because of recent calf issues. It was most noticeable on turns where everyone seems to slow down quite dramatically. The first half of the course had all the turns and the more scenic views (around and through the park), and then it’s straight, boring slog as you head out to Coney Island and the finish on the boardwalk. There were plenty of water/gatorade stations on the course, and very visible medical tents. I also saw one gel station, but others I know who ran didn’t even notice that.
At the finish you receive a medal and a food bag as you are moved forward quickly to clear the area. The food was not particularly inspiring – I definitely missed having a bagel or a banana but those are probably missing in such a large scale race due to the effort that would have to go into providing them for over 26000 runners.
As you headed to MCU Park for the after party you are warned to pick up your bag before entering the park. There were no lines when I arrived but it would likely have been busier later. In the park, the music kept you entertained but the food and drink options were limited (only 2 food trucks which was surprising, and beer for $8 each). It was a fairly chilly day so once the others I knew had finished, we headed out to a famed pizza place a couple of miles away before heading home.
I’m happy enough to have run this race once, but I’m unlikely to run it again. This is mostly due to the logistics of the early start, but also for that long second half down a straight, boring road.