A tale of two marathons • Part 1 New York
Dateline: 39th New York City Marathon, New York, 02 November 2008, Starters: 39,800
Brrrr! Marathon morning at Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island and New York City is cold and windy.
At 6 degrees Celsius with the wind, Trinis Alfred Patrick and John Lum Young of Trinidad and Tobago Road Runners Club are chilly to the bone but ready for the adventure that had brought them to New York City in the dead of winter.
They arrive at the starting point fortified by a relaxing evening spent with training buddies from Canada and the United States, four of whom are also running NY for the first time. As usual, a high energy pre-race pasta dinner was on the menu. Afterwards, they had strolled to the world famous Times Square where, through a pre-arranged text message facility, the thousands of marathoners coming to New York could get their faces plastered across the mammoth ASICS electronic signboard. Some in the party had signed on and a cheer went up from the group as their faces lit up the screen,. Yeah, that was cool!
Today, a record 39,800 runners representing 100 countries are at the starting point.
At 9:30 a.m. the race starts at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the largest suspension bridge in the United States, with almost a mile run to the top that yields spectacular views of New York Harbor and the Manhattan skyline in the distance.
A 0.7-mile descent and the runners are into Brooklyn, the pavements thick with over a million cheering supporters lining the 26.2-mile marathon course between the Bridge and the Central Park finish line.
Fourth Ave is a series of long inclines. Only now does the duo recognise the challenge that he New York Marathon is. Apart from bridges to overcome, there are repeated long inclines, some stretching for more than a mile.
Almost half the race is in Brooklyn through the neighbourhoods of Bayridge, Sunset Park, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Clinton Hill, Williamsburg South, Williamsburg North and Greenpoint, not perfectly flat terrain.
Just past the 13-mile mark the athletes cross the Pulaski Bridge into Queens for a couple of miles; then it is on to the Queensboro Bridge over Roosevelt Island on the East River and into Manhattan.
A sharp right brings them onto First Avenue, around mile 16, then north all the way to Willis Avenue Bridge for The Bronx. Even this late into the race with the sun shining brightly, the temperature, at 9ºC, feels no warmer than at the start. The Trinis can’t seem to get the cold out of their system at all. In an odd way, the cold propels them forward out of fear that if they stop moving they could freeze. The gloves, hat and running thermal are of no help.
Before long comes Madison Bridge and then it’s back to Manhattan. Next looms Harlem. At Marcus Garvey Square they can almost smell the finish line, defined this morning as just another 4 miles to get out of the cold.
The fans are getting louder, urging all on to the finish. Soon they are running with Central Park on the right. Into the Park and a few more hills to that world-famous finish line by Tavern on the Green.
In the end, 38,096 of the starting 39,800 cross the finish line. Among them the two Trinis, Alfred Patrick and John Lum Young of the T&T Road Runners Club, and their North American friends.
Alfred Patrick, left, and John Lum Young rest their tired muscles