- My name’s Lydia Ramsey, and I’m a 26-year-old healthcare reporter for Business Insider. On Sunday, I ran the TCS New York City Marathon with my 56-year-old dad, Chris Ramsey.
- It was an overwhelming experience that was exhilarating, trying, inspiring, and exhausting.
- Here’s a play-by-play of our journey, from a 5 a.m. departure to Staten Island, to 5 p.m. post-race beers.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The first Sunday in November turned out to be a beautiful fall day.
On Sunday, about 53,000 people took to the streets to run from Staten Island to Brooklyn, to Queens, to Manhattan, to the Bronx, before finally making their way after 26.2 miles to New York’s Central Park as part of the TCS New York City Marathon. Lining the streets were roughly 1 million spectators cheering us on with high-fives and snacks.
My dad, 56, and I, 26, were there to run the race. What we found was a range of emotions and a newfound love for NYC and our fellow runners.
Going into the marathon our personal bests had been:
- Chris: 3:47, at the 2019 Chicago Marathon just three weeks before the NYC Marathon
- Lydia: 4:43, at the 2018 Chicago Marathon.
We were hoping our training regimens had paid off. Here’s what it was like to embark on the New York City Marathon for the first time.
We started our marathon weekend at the Javits Centre, where we picked up our bibs and some souvenirs. We also got another look at the marathon route, which manages to hit all five boroughs.
Our day started around 4 a.m. in a Midtown hotel, walking distance from our ride to Staten Island. Thanks to Daylight Saving Time, we benefited from an extra hour of (still-limited) sleep.
Around 5, we boarded a bus with other fellow media runners who were all setting out for Staten Island and the start of the race.
The Verrazzano Bridge that connects Staten Island to Brooklyn was scheduled to close at 7 a.m. to prep for runners, which meant we needed to cross it before then. We pulled into Fort Wadsworth, where the start villages were, around 6 a.m.
By then, the sun had just started to peek out on the horizon behind the bridge we weren’t due to cross again for another four hours.
Our start time was 10:35 a.m., which meant we had plenty of time to kill. As members of the media, we had access to a VIP tent that had coffee, bananas, breakfast pastries, and bagels. The tent quickly filled up.
We killed time reading the newspaper, checking out what the other runners were wearing (an odd assortment of sweatshirts and sweatpants meant to be given away at the start of the race when we started getting warm).
We made our way out to the starting corral around 10 a.m. We saw how other runners had camped out on the ground with sleeping bags and blankets, having arrived early as well.
At the start, runners were assigned to three different-coloured zones: blue, green, or orange. Those dictated which way we’d cross the Verrazano Bridge, either on the top level or lower level. We were assigned green, which ran on the lower level.
Our wave got its start around 10:35. We walked up to the starting line just a few minutes before. We were very excited to get started.
Before we knew it — sent off by the sound of a cannon — we were off! While crossing the bridge, we saw Marine One helicopters flying toward us carrying President Donald J. Trump (I tried to get a picture, but they were too far in the distance still).
A little over a mile in, we made it to Brooklyn, where we’d be spending the majority of our race. Here’s the sign welcoming us to the borough.
In Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighbourhood, we linked up with the runners who had taken alternate routes across the bridge. Here’s what their first mile and a half looked like. It got crowded fast.
One of the fun parts of the race was reliving all the apartments I’d lived in during my time in NYC. During mile four, we passed into Sunset Park, where I’d lived for a year.
The miles went by quickly. Here’s us after hitting the mile 7 marker in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighbourhood.
In Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill, we ran into Lydia’s husband, AJ, and their dog, Junior. Spirits were high at that point, and seeing the two of them made me run even faster.
Junior, we’re told, got to benefit from one of the best parts of marathon spectating: All the pets from fellow spectators. He didn’t want to leave after we ran by.
While running in north Brooklyn, we got really cool peeks at the Manhattan skyline. We also ran into people who had been running marathons for decades. As someone who was on her second, I was inspired.
Our time in Brooklyn came to an end around mile 13. This was our second bridge of the day, and the incline was starting to feel less welcome than it had before.
Our time in Queens was short-lived, only about a mile or so, enough time to get a selfie.
Before we knew it, we were on our third bridge of the day. The Queensboro Bridge brought us into Manhattan. We were told that the Verrazano Bridge was the highest elevation gain of the day, but by mile 15, the ascent up the Queensboro Bridge felt way more intense. The benefit: Running downhill into cheering crowds off 59th street.
The thing about marathons is that they let you see cities in new ways. For instance, we hadn’t realised before embarking on this run that Manhattan is a hilly place! We spent the first leg of our 1st Avenue journey going uphill. About halfway through, we turned downhill and got a cool view of all the runners up ahead of us.
Around mile 18, we ran into two of our fans (Lydia’s mum/Chris’s wife and Lydia’s cousin/Chris’s niece). Having just started another downhill, we were feeling good. That didn’t last long.
A little over a mile later, we made it into the Bronx, our fifth borough for the day. We’d hit miles 20 and 21 up here before coming back into Manhattan. Lydia certainly used the sign welcoming visitors into the Bronx as an excuse to stop running for a few minutes.
During the short stint in the Bronx, Lydia started falling behind and decided to let Chris carry on the rest of the way. With only a few miles to go, Chris kicked up the pace — a bit too early, in fact.
For Lydia, it was a time of reckoning. When approaching the cheering squad, I did not look too happy. Everything hurt, and when I was asked what I needed, I simply said “I just need to be done running.”
Lucky for me, there were less than three miles to go. After switching from podcasts to Lizzo at mile 25, I was ready to kick it back into gear and finish strong. And I did! I crossed the finish line at 4:41, just a few minutes faster than my last marathon.
Chris finished in 4:26 after spending most of the run with Lydia. During the last mile, he got a lot of energy from the high-fives and cheers from the crowds along Central Park South.
And just like that, we were done – Lydia with her second marathon, Chris with his fifth! Everything hurt, and Lydia was in dire need of emergency pretzels and water after the run. The bench pictured was a much-needed respite for our legs.
I had been curious what my blood sugar would do while I was out running, so I wore a continuous glucose monitor. That incredibly flat line starting around 10:30 is from while I was running. I had thought the Gatorade I had grabbed every two miles or so would send my blood sugar spiking, but it didn’t appear to make any difference.
Somehow, we joined our fellow runners on the slow crawl down to meet our families and friends.
It was crazy to see the sun setting around 4 p.m. when we had finally left Central Park. Some runners are on the course until the evening, so we were glad to be done.
As you might expect, we were in dire need of showers, so we stopped at our cousin/niece’s apartment on the Upper East Side (much closer than Lydia’s place in Brooklyn). But first, post-race beers.
Clean and fed, we sent Chris off to the airport to head back to Chicago. Medal on, of course. At the airport, Chris was greeted with more “congratulations” from other travellers and saw some other runners boarding planes home as well.
Overall, it was an incredibly fun day and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, it was so much fun to run as a pair, and it was thrilling to see so many New Yorkers come out to cheer.
Lydia: Personally, I’m looking forward to going back to spectating next year. You see so many funny outfits, and the crowds are such a blast to be a part of. When I went to watch last year, I got so choked up watching the elite women run by me. I got a bit of it during the run this year, but there were a lot of other emotions wrapped in as well. I’m feeling very grateful and privileged to have been able to train and that my legs didn’t give out on me. I think I’m tapped out on marathons for a while now.
Chris: For me, much of the fun of marathons is seeing a city up close on foot. I’ve run in other cities, and Chicago is of course a highlight, but New York was about 10 times more fun than even that. I interacted with the spectators more yesterday than I did in other races. Lydia and I were wearing our 2018 Chicago Marathon shirts and many spectators shouted “Go Chicago” encouragements as we ran past.
After the race, as we were walking and taking the subway and wearing our medals, so many New Yorkers said “Congratulations!” to us. I will remember those moments as a highlight of the marathon weekend.
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