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The big one, the ING New York Marathon!

I would choose to do this event again and again because of the crowd support and atmosphere alone. If you are looking for a few days away, and being able to support WTW, then go for it. I love night-time Moonwalks and I have done 8 of those, but a daytime event is something else – enjoy!!

The final challenge for the year, the big one, the ING New York Marathon!

Now I know that all the challenges set by WTW are big ones. Power walking a marathon is not a walk in the park. But going to NYC, and with the prospect of the last few miles happening in Central Park, this is one of those challenges like no other – believe me. This was the second time I have done the event and it was as awesome this time, as it was last time.

 

All the preparations had happened, and I had decided to fly out a little early to have a chance to catch up with some friends in the Big Apple. That done, I was waiting in the lobby of the Belvedere Hotel for my walking partner, Sally, to arrive with the team from the UK.

Once cases were unpacked we headed off to the convention centre where the race Expo was taking place. The queues moved quickly and picking up race numbers, bibs, timing chips and participant t-shirts was really easy. As was parting with dollars in the Expo, where a whole range of tops, gloves, hats and other race paraphernalia awaited us. After filling ourselves with samples of power bars, cheese, juice and various other fancies, we left and Sally promptly went face down after tripping up a pavement. This provided much amusement to a couple of locals when they realised we were marathoners! Thankfully, only the pride was dented,

We spent the next couple of days walking around New York in t-shirts as it was easily 20 degrees every day – not bad for November. In fact we must have covered around 16 miles each day walking the length and breadth of Manhattan. Broadway, Bleeker Street, Greenwich Village, Meatpacking district, the High Line, Battery Park, Ground Zero and Brooklyn to name a few. We even managed cocktails on a roof bar, with the sunset and the Empire State building behind us.

Saturday night, after meeting as a team and being briefed by Nina, we all set off to a delightful Italian restaurant for our pasta party. The food was excellent and the mood was buzzing and we retired for the night full of anticipation.

Thankfully, the clocks went back overnight and so the early morning alarm call wasn’t as bad as it could have been. We were all downstairs by 5.30am and ready for the short walk to the New York library. Once here, the systems were running like clockwork with coaches pulling in, loading marathoners on board and heading off on the 45 minute journey over to Staten Island. Once we were there, we realised just how tight the security was. All our bumbags were searched and we lost our foil blankets and a number of plastic covers too. Snipers could be seen on top of buildings – a stark reminder of the horrific events in Boston earlier in the year. We made camp at around 7am and then the long cold wait started. Coffee, bagels and a few renditions of the Hokey Cokey kept us amused until about 10.15 when we were called to the final pens and then the anticipation kicked in. We had some plans to try and get team photos along the route, but in reality this didn’t materialise. Most people wanted to walk at their training paces and so Sally and I set off.

We had shed several layers of old clothes (which are given to the homeless) at the start and the temperature was now around 8 degrees, We kept our hoodies and salvaged plastics on whilst we walked the long lonely two miles over the Verazanno Narrow Bridge. There are no spectators allowed on this section so it was just the sound of feet after we had been started to the rousing tune of New York, New York.

Once over into Brooklyn, the hoodies were tied around our waists, as we had committed to walking the whole event in our bras, white with a black sequinned skyline of NYC on them. And then the fun started. Over 2 million spectators lined the route and there were hydration stations and facilities at every mile. Music and cheering kept the race alive, even though we were towards the back. We smiled and smiled – in fact all of the official photos are of us grinning and waving, The most frequently heard comments were – “OMG, you guys are awesome”, “good job” and “aren’t you guys cold?” So Brooklyn passed us by with music and cute neighbourhoods, Queens was a bit flatter and then the next challenge was the Queensborough Bridge over into Manhattan, again, no spectators were allowed on the bridge, it spanned miles 15 and 16 and it was bleak. But the Manhattan skyline was fantastic with clear blue skies and then as we dropped down towards 1st Avenue and came round the corner, the wall of noise – cheering and music – deafened us. We hardly noticed the next three miles up towards the Bronx – after all, the crowds were cheering for just us – what an ego boost this event is!!

And then suddenly we were walking along 5th Avenue – and this was quite an uphill section at mile 22, which slowed us down just a little. Into the park and we really didn’t want it to stop. But then the finish line loomed in front of us and we had finished – 5 hours 36 – and still with energy bouncing around inside us. But the slow walk out of the park then started to take its toll. The roads around the area were congested and so were the pavements and it took another hour to walk back to the hotel. All ideas of a champagne bar in high heels left us. We both had baths, put flat shoes on and went around the corner to our favourite Italian, where we were welcomed with open arms and got happily merry on one glass of wine.

And that is the NYC marathon. And I would choose to do this event again and again because of the crowd support and atmosphere alone. If you are looking for a few days away, and being able to support WTW, then go for it. I love night-time Moonwalks and I have done 8 of those, but a daytime event is something else – enjoy!!

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