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New York Marathon 2023 – Karen Elliott

It’s a New York State of Mind…my 1st marathon experience

It all started with an email that dropped into my inbox in April. An invitation to run the New York Marathon and support Kids Operating room, a charity dedicated to closing the global healthcare gap and giving children access to safe and timely surgery.

Running a marathon has always been somewhere on my bucket list so I jumped at this once in a lifetime opportunity.

I decided on a plan which involved running three days a week with other days spent doing yoga, pilates and strength training. Hampstead Heath and the Royal Parks became regular running routes. My main aim was to stay injury-free through my training and apart from one knee niggle I was pleased to get to taper week in one piece.

As this was my 1st marathon and I wasn’t sure how I would feel on the day with the added challenge of jet lag and a lot of waiting around I settled on a target time of under 5 hours. Everyone had told me that the crowds and atmosphere is amazing in New York, so I really just wanted to enjoy the experience.

November certainly rolled around quickly and before I knew it was flying out of Heathrow en route to JFK. At this point there were definitely feelings of ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’!

Saturday was spent eating my way around New York as I got all the pre-race admin out of the way.

A visit to the expo to pick up my number and find my name on the wall of runners names – all 51,000 plus of them…It was then time to head over to Central Park to drop off a bag for the finish including a big handful of English jelly babies – something to look forward to at the end!

The day dawned fine and sunny which according to a few New Yorkers was the 1st dry weekend in a while! Perhaps a little warm for running a marathon but given all the waiting around which was ahead I was glad it was dry. After what seemed like not much sleep and plenty of tossing and turning it was an early 5:30am start to catch a bus to Staten Island with thousands of other people crossing over the impressive looking Verrazano-Narrows Bridge where the start line awaited.

There was certainly a lot of time for the pre-race nerves to set in as I was in the last wave to head off at 11:30. Plenty of time to eat a second breakfast and chat with my fellow runners. After shuffling on to the bridge and after a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner (the 4th time I had got to hear it…) I was finally off! As I left the sounds of Staten Island behind me it was Taylor Swift’s ‘Welcome to New York’ which helped me up the slope of the Verrazano Bridge but there were plenty of fantastic views to take in from the top of the bridge. Luckily what goes up must come down J and we were soon well on our way to Brooklyn.

The 1st half really seemed to go past in a blur and I did need to tell myself to slow down on a few occasions. It was hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the amazing crowds which had turned out in support particularly through Brooklyn. There was plenty of cheering and high fiving and some creative signs which kept a smile on my face although slightly concerned by one stating ‘due to inflation you will be running 28.9 miles today….’

Mile 15 and the Queensboro Bridge appears – a long uphill heading away from Queens with no spectators here. Definitely slowing down at this point but again amazing views from the top of the bridge as a distraction! Mile 16 - 20 brings the long slog up 1st Avenue – it is a little bit daunting to see so many runners far off in the distance, but the noise of the crowds are pretty crazy which was just as well given my headphones gave up the ghost around here.

And who knew there were so many hills in NY – mile 23 and Fifth Avenue felt pretty tough but finally I can see the last turn back into Central Park. And before I knew it the finish line is ahead and there is still a little bit left in the tank for a quick sprint through the finish line – I’ve made it! The time … 04:20:04

And would I do another one? – well in the words of Frank ‘if I can make it there, I’m going to make it anywhere, it’s up to you, New York New York… ‘


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