“Did our group go with those people into Times Square or those people over there to the left?”
“Er…don’t know…to the left…?”
Ash Kumar and I turned left to try and find our English tour group after a confluence of walking groups got us disengaged from much of our own. We hustled and caught up with a lot of American accents, so we’d guessed wrong, but figured rightly that we were all heading towards the same coach pickup area on 42nd Street.
Over an hour later and the Start Village in Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island was a sea of people and portaloos/portapotties. But with ‘only’ 1,200 of the latter and 40 times as many of the former what I thought would be a leisurely couple of hours lying on the grass waiting for my corral entry, turned into a long queue for coffee, several water grabs and a bagel grab, but mainly queuing for the facilities.
In the meantime 49,000 of my newest and worst dressed friends were doing the same thing in an unsurpassed festival of sartorial dissonance. Almost all of us were wearing the extra layers that we wouldn’t be able to take with us on the race but would be collected up and distributed to homeless people in New York. Some of those folks were about to become more blessed than others… For the few runners who managed to arrive without looking like an embarrassment, Dunkin Donuts were on hand to provide the coup de grace by giving out orange-pink beanies with tassles on in weather that wasn’t quite cold enough for it. What wasn’t being given out by Dunkin Donuts was doughnuts, obviously and yet contrary to what a guide had previously told us.
We entered our corral about 25 minutes late and I immediately joined another portapotty queue, while chatting with a lady who said she “didn’t train” for this, the daftness of which was only amplified when she mentioned her job: Running Coach. 20 minutes later and while still queuing and with all my soon to be discarded warm clothes on, headphones not yet sorted out, belt not on, etc., the corrals were opened and the entire wave started to make its way between the lines of parked coaches to the start line.
I was fourth in the egress queue and two minutes later an antsy official came over to us and said we needed to go straight to the start line as they were already behind schedule and they needed to close these corrals again to let wave 3 in. “So where can we ‘go’?”. “Dunno…you can’t ‘go’ on the bridge because they’ll kick you out of the race”. So we ignored her and kept waiting while starting to shed our gear.
By the time I had ‘gone’, I literally had to run to the other end of the corrals after dumping my stuff, just in time to…stand still for another 10 minutes before the motivational speech, ‘God bless America’, the canons, and then the 10,000 of us in Wave 2 started shuffling onto the Verazzano Narrows Bridge that connects Staten Island with Brooklyn. We filled the bridge and thereby made all the dire warnings of what happens if you start too fast, completely redundant – I couldn’t have started too fast if I wanted to, and I reached the other side of the bridge completing mile 1 in 10:20 – 1:02 off my goal pace but perfectly acceptable because it meant I’d done what I thought was the biggest climb of the day at an incredibly relaxed pace.
The views across to Manhattan were misty but memorable, as was having a police helicopter either side of us at roughly our altitude to check for…whatever it is you can check for at a distance of 100 metres. A very short female runner went past me wearing a banned Camelbak (mini-rucksack with a drinking tube for holding 1-3 litres of fluids) but disappointingly she wasn’t immediately tackled by 50 police officers, which would have been worth filming. Backpacks were a newly prohibited item this year, presumably because you can carry explosives in them more easily than about your person. And in related good news, selfie sticks are also now banned – perhaps because they’re massively obnoxious and significantly more likely to get someone hurt than a Camelbak.
Over the crest of the bridge-hill and directions would clearly not be needed for the next four hours: all I could see was a sea…of people…
Only 25 miles to go.