Saturday, I ran 21.6 miles. That’s the longest I’ve ever run in my life and the longest I will run until the November 5 (you know, during the NYC marathon). For the first time this training cycle, I ran with a group.
I love the idea of joining a running group/club/team but in practice, I wasn’t sure if it would work for me. I’ve had mixed results with group runs. With other people around, I get in my head about keeping a certain pace and I end up going slower than I otherwise would just to make sure I can maintain.
There is a very popular training run in NYC where you hit three or four bridges: the Queensboro, the Pulaski, the Brooklyn and/or the Manhattan. The Queensboro (aka 59th Street Bridge) and the Pulaski are in the NYC marathon. I knew at some point during marathon training I wanted to do this run but I was a little intimidated by all of the street running. I was concerned I’d get lost or spend too much time waiting at lights and mostly, I had better, traffic-free options in Central Park and the West Side Highway.
Anyway, I saw that a running team called the NY Flyers was hosting a 20-mile “three bridge run” on Saturday, October 14. That’s three weeks before the marathon and a popular time to get your last 20 (or 20+) mile run in before you taper. For $20, non-NY Flyer members could join and receive the aid of pacers as well three hydration and nutrition stations along the route. I signed up. I’m ever grateful they let non-members into this group run.
Saturday morning, I arrived at the meeting spot (the JackRabbit in the Time Warner Building) at 7am and received a bib. Everyone was super friendly and I immediately started chatting with another runner who was also training for her first marathon.
We broke out into waves and eventually into pace groups by :30 intervals. I joined the 10-minute-mile group. I figured without a pacer I’d run closer to 9:45/mile but I’d rather be the fastest in the group then the slowest. It’s my first marathon and I’m trying to enjoy the distance challenge and not make myself crazy about speed.
We were briefed by the pacers in Columbus Circle and then set off. I’ve never run with so many people before outside of an actual race and it was kind of amazing.
We started in Central Park and ran up the east side, exiting on 72nd on the west side.
None of the roads were closed. We started running by 7:30am and so the sidewalks weren’t packed, but Manhattan is never empty. My Upper West Side neighbors were mesmerized by the hoards of people running together on the scaffolded streets.
We ran down the West Side Highway, leaving at Warren Street and making our way to the Brooklyn Bridge. A huge perk of the early wake up was the bridge was not super crowded. It’s an incredible bridge to run over because it’s not that steep and it’s structurally mesmerizing. From there we ran through Brooklyn to the Pulaski Bridge and then through Queens to the 59th Street bridge.
At three different spots volunteers were waiting with Gu, Gatorade and water. Running solo, I’ve stopped in a few bodegas mid-run to get a drink, so this was luxurious. With so many runners (500 people total and I’d estimate about 50-75 running around my pace) we had to do a full stop at the water stations, for about five minutes. I ended up leaving the group after the third station since I wanted to continue without stopping.
I mostly ran with my music on, but occasionally another runner would come along side me, pull an earbud out and we’d chat for a bit. It was easy and welcome conversation and eventually we’d both go back to our playlists.
The pacer wasn’t exactly on target. According to my watch he went considerably faster than 10-minute miles (which from Ashley’s older recap on this seems consistent with past years). But it didn’t matter. There was a 9:30 pace group in front and a 10:30 pace group behind and I was just happy to be in the long trail of runners. It took away any guess work from the run and allowed for happy distraction on the longest run of my life.
I left the group at the aid station before the 59th Street Bridge and ran the last 6 miles alone, thinking the group run had been totally worth it and absolutely served it’s purpose.
I ended the run by Tavern on the Green, marathon finish style. Now with three weeks left until November 5, let the taper begin.
If you’re looking for another group run, the NY Flyers are hosting a run this Sunday that covers the last 10 miles of the NYC marathon. Check it out here! (Not an ad at all!)