This past weekend I ran The Great New York 100 Mile Running Expedition.
So we were off, it was cool in the morning, and when we got to The Park we ran a continuous mile to get the streak out of the way and then proceeded with walking the uphills, running down, and run-walking flats. Mary soon caught us and then quickly dropped us on a downhill and was out of sight. Oak and I stuck together, in no rush, moving at a decent pace, averaging about 12 minutes per mile even with walk breaks. Once we got to the Hudson River Pathway I started jogging easily and continuously 2-3 miles all the way to the bridge. By the time we got there, Mary was only a few meters in front of us and we hiked up the hill together.
And so it was through the rest of Manhattan, all the way to the Bronx. This early in the race most of the fast runners in later waves had caught up and having not seen many of them since before covid, we chatted a bit and got caught up.
It is also at this time that the heat is starting to bear down on us. Oak offered me an ice bandana and, while initially reluctant, I took it and holy hell that was nice to have. I think I owe my race to that ice bandana. I feel like that was the difference between clinical heat exhaustion and just a hot day. I knew to slow down and take it easy, but the sheer exposure was starting to take its toll. With all the significant course changes past us, we entered Queens and, in the hottest part of the day, dedicated every moment to being a little farther along than the last. Oak mentioned running and I said no, too hot. He immediately understood. Near LGA a neighborhood guy named Joe - a trail angel - set up a garden hose spraying heat-affected runners - and even offered ice and water to us. That guy is a hero. Shortly after dousing myself in the spray of his hose I was able to run pretty much non stop the next mile to the aid station at the World Fair Marina.
By now it was late evening and starting to cool off, and we're running the majority of the time. Due to a missed turn on their part we actually got ahead of Denise and her pacer and the pacer got news that the cutoff was delayed to 9:30pm. But it was 9:15 and the 100k line was still almost two miles away. We put in a decent effort but it didn't matter, arriving about five minutes late.
The Boardwalk at Rockaway is longer than it used to be, and we get to go farther before moving onto the street and running through the quiet neighborhood there in the middle of the night. Then we run through Riis park. The aid station here was gone. We then turn north off the barrier island over the Gil Hodges bridge into Brooklyn, then along the Belt Parkway into Sheepshead Bay. We arrived at the aid station there at 4am, it was just about to close. Also, other runners officially in the race were there! We left, no longer DFL (this didn't last - they passed us back two miles later.)
It was starting to get hot out and the approach to the Brooklyn bridge is long and exposed but I still felt well enough to run down the other side of it and go up Centre Street, where I started my leisurely stroll up Manhattan. The only thing I made sure to do here was stay on the shady side of the street, because the sun was getting brutal. As I got into the numbered streets I was checking my watch repeatedly, making sure I had enough time. I discovered in the first mile of the race that Coros watches don't report an accurate pace in city settings with large buildings, so instead I was doing a street countdown against minutes remaining. I was staying ahead of schedule, getting stopped by the occasional red light. Finally I was in Herald Square with less than 15 minutes to go. I made it across 34th street, which is a real pain to get stuck at, and was frustrated by the lights north of there. I figured I was probably still ok, but just to be sure I jogged a few blocks, catching those lights, until I was at 40th with 5 minutes to get to 42nd. I knew at this point I'd be fine no matter what, so at 10:57 I strolled into a group of nervous looking friends and acquaintances at the finish line who remarked that I "came out of nowhere" to finish. I looked at my watch - and I had a bit over two minutes to spare. Perfect.
Phil was very nice, he shook my hand and congratulated me but then said he was sorry he couldn't give me a finisher's award because I missed the 100k cutoff. I immediately told him not to worry about it, it's all good - and it's not because I don't want to be "that guy" (although I don't want that either.) Besides the fact that I have enough buckles, I also have a tremendous amount of respect for Phil and his perspective on the situation is no doubt super complex and nuanced. But from my perspective, the explicit agreement when I left the 100k aid station was that I would be going for an unofficial finish. There is no expectation that I would get any award at all. I was grateful that he waited for me, many minutes after his last official finisher came in.