I have wanted to run the New York City Marathon before I really even started running. It has been a bucket list item since University and I have entered the ballot many times to no avail. In 2013 I started training for New York only to find out I was pregnant with our third child.
Fast forward to 2016, the NYC Marathon whilst still on my bucket list was not on my race calendar for this year. In May one of my oldest friends living in the US called to tell me she was expecting her first baby. I wanted to be there for her. We played around with timing and the second week of November worked best for her. The stars were aligning. I called the fantastic Travelling Fit crew who I raced Tokyo with on the off chance that there was still a spot and thankfully I snapped up one of the last entries. This was it. My dream race was on.
Landing on Friday night in New York City with no sleep knowing I was running the 5km dash through Central Park in the morning with my husband and the Marathon the following day, I started to realise I was probably not in my best form. I have had a tremendous year of running so I was somewhat unrealistic in my time expectations for this race.
Marathon Sunday: NYC’s Biggest Block Party
I think to give this race the justice it deserves; I need to set out some interesting facts about the world’s biggest and most popular marathon:
- 55,000 + people lined up on the streets of Staten Island with me that day
- 12,000 volunteers worked tirelessly from the early hours until the last runner crossed the line in the darkness and cold of Central Park
- Over 1 million people lined the streets and welcomed us to each of the 5 Boroughs
- 125 countries were represented that day
- The average finish time was 4:10:14
So as I entered the pre-race village after a security check I started to understand the enormity of what I was part of. With a bagel in hand and a black coffee kindly handed to me by one of the volunteers, I watched as runners from all around the world prepared themselves for a race they too have been dreaming about for many years.
And so it began, with ‘New York, New York’ blasting from loud speakers and shout outs to the many nations represented I crossed the start line to ‘welcome Australia enjoy New York City’. With tears in my eyes I began the long climb up the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at snails pace with tens of thousands of others. Coming down into Brooklyn the atmosphere was electric and as I would find with the other 4 Boroughs the people welcomed us with open arms ‘Welcome to Brooklyn’ ‘Welcome Ana’ ‘Welcome Australia’ was shouted at me from every angle. What I didn’t realise was this was how it was going to be for the next 26.2 miles and on first avenue the crowds and shouting would hit a climax.
Nicole Bunyon asked me after the race ‘what was it like?’ and I quite honestly said it was like being a Rockstar for 42 km. It is like running the finishing chute of a big marathon but for the whole race. I have never and will never experience anything like this race again. The crowds were 6 deep. People were handing out food, Vaseline, water. Every second person had a sign ‘from 1 to 10 you are a 26.2’, ‘If Donald Trump can run, you can too’ – you name it I saw it that day. It was a special race in a special city.
The course itself was tough. I hadn’t anticipated the headwinds and the elevation. The hills coming up onto the bridges were steeper than I thought and getting through the people much more difficult. My time didn’t reflect the effort it took to cross that line but I walked away with much more than a time and a medal.
As I crossed the finish line on November 6 2016 my dream run had become a reality. Dreams can and do come true but it’s not without hard work, commitment and the support of my RMA friends, family (in particular my incredible husband) and coach Jodie that help make dreams a reality.
2016 has been an incredible year of running for me and so many others in our community. I can’t wait to share the next phase in the journey with my RMA friends and see what we can achieve in race season 2017.
Ana Croger resides in Brisbane QLD, she works as a lawyer, is married, and mum to three gorgeous children.