The NYC Half-Marathon (A Personal Tale)

Everyone remembers their first big race. For me, it was the NYC Half Marathon (13.1 miles). A friend of mine somehow roped me into signing up. Before this, I had never run an organized event of more than 10K, and had never run 13.1 miles at any time. However, I got some great training advice from my friend and I decided it was time to give it a try – at the time, I typically ran 15-20 miles per week, so in theory it should be doable. 

We meet in NYC at 7am in front of the Guggenheim Museum and make our way to the start line (we line up by number, so since I was in the 7000’s I was pretty far back). It took nearly 10 minutes to actually get to the starting line since there were so many people! But no worries, we had a microchip attached to our shoes, so regardless of the clocks on the course, I was assured my personal time would be from the starting line, not the 10 minute wait in the cattle call.

It was an absolutely stunning day – 60 degrees, sunny and gorgeous. We started in Central Park, did a loop around the park, then shot out onto 7th Ave, ran down to 42nd, over to the West Side Highway, and then south to Battery Park. My favorite part was running through the red lights on 7th Avenue – having sat through plenty of traffic jams on that street, it was fun to move without stopping (and probably moving faster than I typically do in my car on that street!)

The second best part was the live music – we ran past a Ryan Adams look-alike on 49th, an incredible blues band in front of B.B. Kings on 42nd, and a few rock bands playing Journey, The Police and other 80’s goodies down the West Side Highway, as well as DJ’s spinning records and cheering on the runners. I do not like to run with headphones on, so the music on the streets was a great source of inspiration and motivation. What is it about music that makes you want to move?

Given that this has to tie in somehow to my blog, I did start thinking about the idea of a startup being a marathon and not a sprint (yep, this is what I do instead of listening to music on my runs). I had been told to take the beginning of the marathon slow, not to get too tired too quickly, and save some energy for Mile 8 and beyond. This turned out to be great advice, as I had lots in the tank for the straightaway down West Side Highway. But I was also thinking about what other things this marathon had going for it vs. a startup:

  1. Complete strangers were cheering me on and offering encouragement – as well as my wife and daughter who got up at a ridiculously early hour to drive me into the city and hang out with my friend’s son during the race. While I do get encouragement from my wife and daughter for my business ventures, complete strangers typically have nothing to say!
  2. It was a festive atmosphere, from beginning to end. People definitely understood the “stress” we were under and took steps to ease it.
  3. There were refreshments all along the way to keep us energized. The Gatorade was really helpful, but the Power Bar liquid was disgusting. In any case, whenever I needed  a boost, there was something there to provide it for me.

I was surprised at how emotional I felt getting ready to cross the finish line – I had worked and trained hard, and completed something I had never done before, and even beat my personal goal for the event. I had planned and asked for advice from people who had gone through this before.  I also set realistic expectations that were stretches for me, but achievable. All the planning paid off, and it was an experience I will not soon forget.  

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