Alas, I had to wait 15 minutes before entering, but it's DONE. I'm in. That's how I excited I get when it comes time to claim that guaranteed entry. It's something I and many others work so hard for during the course of a year, running at least nine scored New York Road Runners races and volunteering for another so we can get that all-important 9+1 exemption. It guarantees entry for the following year's NYC Marathon. I will always do 9+1 as long as I'm able in life.
2007 was my first marathon of any kind, the same year Paula Radcliffe won for the women. 2008 (pictured here afterwards) was my 5:13 PR, best shape of my life, and that still stands for me in a 26.2. 2012 was going to be my third, but it was canceled at the last minute due to the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy (1,000 of us wore our NYCM shirts and helped Sandy victims on Staten Island instead, after which I ran Harrisburg as the alternate). 2013 was my third, and last year I decided to run The Hamptons instead.
I think the NYCM is the most special race in the world, and I feel that if you streak them, you lose a little of that magic. That's just me. Plus, I like giving up my spot from time to time to someone who is in the lottery. So maybe every other year is what I am learning as the right formula for me. I'll always do the 9+1 just in case, and then make the decision before the claim window opens, like I did yesterday.
I wish all the best to everyone who is in the lottery. Your chances are 11.9 percent by my count, and that's better than the 9 percent I remember calculating a couple years earlier. (NYRR friends can feel free to correct my math in the comments here, if needed.) Either way, about one in every 10 lottery entrants will be drawn. I've never won a race lottery (ie London), so I'm going to do anything I can to avoid that fate, but here's to you if you entered! If you want to do it the 9+1 way as well, just join the New York Road Runners with a membership!
There's another way to get into the NYC Marathon: Join Team for Kids! That's how I ran my first one in 2007 (left, entering The Bronx) and it was a beautiful experience. You raise funds to help give kids in need an active lifestyle and a healthy youth. The perks are unbelievable. TFK helps you with your fundraising techniques, making it very easy -- you will raise more than you need. I was actually surprised to find that the people who donated most often were the people I did not expect to donate. People I barely knew within my company or circle of contacts -- it turned out that they really just appreciated having a way to do something good in their lives. THAT is how it works. And the raceday privileges for TFK runners are ridiculous; I remembered that in 2013 as I tried to huddle in the cold before the start, while TFK runners got the cushy treatment in tents and through private buses. So if you really want to run the TCS New York City Marathon, you can do it, no excuses. Speaking as an alumni, that could be the way to go even if you get the 9+1.
The NYC Marathon is five boroughs, and it's worth the magical start alone. The highest elevation is the first 2 miles, crossing the beautiful Verazzano Narrows Bridge (my 2013 pic here) into Brooklyn. In my first race, I got over the bridge and then did a forward somersault in the crowd but survived. After that it was miles of spectators wanting to give you high-fives, and the gospel choir I'll never forget. Music and iconic views everywhere you look. You'll want to run fast and lose your gameplan in the excitement, but you have to conserve in the early going. You'll need it for a subtle climb up First Avenue, always my Achilles Heel. Those First Avenue crowds are a major highlight. When you enter Central Park for the last leg, you're going DOWN Cat Hill and life was never better. Then after the run cheered by spectators on Central Park South, you re-enter the park for a 400-meter dream, and what I remember most is running that last portion in tears and looking up at the sky at my Dad, saying we did it as I crossed the finish line while somehow dancing on plantar fasciitis.
That is the New York City Marathon.
This is going to be possibly my only marathon of 2015. I am undertaking something very significant in my personal life spare time in 2015, and it has nothing to do with running or work. I'll talk about it at the end of summer. So my running focus will be simply on getting my 9+1 and training for the NYCM, making sacrifices where I can, and that's going to be it. In 2016-17, I may be back to my usual Marathon Maniacs mentality, entering another ultra, stringing 26.2s around the world.
Here's to the NYC Marathon -- and here's to 2015!