Getting 45,000 runners to the start line is no easy feat, which is why I boarded a bus with TNT Virtual and the New York chapter at 6 am sharp, despite my start time of 10:10. The Verrazano-Narrows bridge closes promptly at 7 am, and runners board buses as early as 5 am in order to get there on time.
At one point during the bus ride, I realized that our trip was taking longer than the driver's projected 30 minutes. When we did a wiiiiide U-turn at a stoplight somewhere in New Jersey, I felt the first flickers of panic creeping in, thinking that I'd spent 5 months of my life preparing for this moment only to have it ruined because some guy couldn't find his way-with 500 other buses, mind you-to Staten Island. Apparently I wasn't alone.
Two girls dressed identically in all black with long pigtails and black bandannas on were sitting close to the front. These 2 New Yorkers looked at each other, a look of disgust mingled with incredulity on their faces when one of them stood up and said, "Um, do you need us to like, Mapquest it or something?"
We finally made it there around 7, got off the bus, and started walking towards Fort Wadsworth where we'd spend the next 3 hours waiting. I spent some time in Charity Village in the Team in Training tent, trying to stay out of the wind and the chilly 38 degree weather.
After checking my bag at the UPS truck at 8:45 in my assigned start village, I sat some more on the orange hunting chair I'd brought with me. Then I walked to my corral around 9:15 and sat around some more. All of this sitting around was not in the least bit relaxing; I watched people sprinting to get their bags checked before the cut-off time. I watched people sprinting to their corrals before they closed. I watched people dart out of one of the 1500 port-a-potties and sprint to the start, hoping not to miss their assigned wave.
I tried to choke down the bagel and peanut butter and banana I'd brought with me, coupled with the Gatorade and CarboPro. I could hear a band playing in the distance and was vaguely aware that there were people enjoying themselves somewhere, and as much as I was trying to do the same, the waiting game was starting to wear on me.
When I finally got through the partition and into my corral, I was sandwiched elbow to elbow with the other runners as we slowly, slowly, slowly herded towards the bridge. As we crept forward, I heard the cannon blast and the start of Sinatra's "New York, New York", signaling the beginning of Wave 2 of the three waves of runners. I wanted to cry, scream, and throw up all at once, but considering there were so many people touching me, that seemed ill-advised.
I crossed the start line about 5 minutes later, just as Ryan Adams' "New York, New York" was playing, and began the mile ascent up the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, looking out over the water at the harbor ships and up in the air at the helicopters.
The New York marathon is a point to point, meaning that we start in Staten Island, head through the other four boroughs, and end in Manhattan's Central Park. Mile one was up the bridge, mile two was down and out of Staten Island and into Brooklyn, where the majority of the race is run.
I-and 45,000 people-were ready to get this party started and get on into Brooklyn. You gotta get up to get down, after all.