On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tracy's NYCM tips, day 2: THE BRIDGES

On Thursday, Samantha asked for advice on the bridges. Specifically, is Queensborough as bad as everyone says?

Ah, the bridges.

Let me answer your question for you, Samantha: no. It's not as bad as everyone says.

Now, since my time on the Queensborough Bridge corresponded with my decision that the race was all "lalala, this is a fun run," I decided to put the question to my sister, too, to see what she thought. She ran her PR of 3:16 at NYCM in 2008, so she'd have the first-wave, competitive perspective on it.

Here's what my sister said: "sure, uhm, which mile was that at? :)"

Then she later clarified: 

"By the time you get to the Queensborough Bridge, I think it is mile 15 so by then you are either having a great race or not.  When I ran NYC I did have a great race so I didn't think much of this bridge at all.  What I most remember about it was while actually running on it the air temperature seemed a little warmer and the atmosphere was stuffier in general. Exiting the bridge was an incredible experience, not only did you get to run down the decline but you are also greeted by thousands of spectators yelling and cheering!  It is a great feeling, they make it seem like they are cheering just for you!"

I agree with her. The thing most of us New Yorkers don't realize is that it's a totally different experience running the middle of the bridge (the car lanes, like you see in the photo of me at last year's race) than it is running the pedestrian lane that we rehearse and rehearse. I'm not going to lie and say that the incline is easier in the middle of the bridge, but I didn't feel it as acutely. It was such a different experience to suddenly be somewhere slightly enclosed (although not claustrophobically so).

Let me tell you what did suck, though: the Pulaski Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens. (This from a Chicagoan who will always love Casimir Pulaski for the gift of a day off that he gives Illinois schoolchildren every March.) On the course map this bridge looks tiny. In person, it looms before you like a very ugly ribbon in the sky high above you. You see it from a distance, you approach it slowly, and it climbs up and up and up and it sucks. 

Worst of all, you get over the bridge, and you are only halfway done with the race.

So, see? Queensborough is no big deal. Now, in honor of the 59th St. Bridge, let's all sing some Simon and Garfunkel.

Also, a correction: In exchange for bridge advice from a speedster, my sister wanted me to point out that she was a "roving spectator" for me at the Chicago Marathon in 2009. (What she means is that she ran the last 6 miles with me.) This was a feat - she had already finished the marathon herself and turned around and came back to bring me in (at my pace that year? I can't say I was running). I'm not sure that counts as spectating, though...


  1. I did not like that bridge. Maybe it is because halfway across it I heard a woman yell (at me)"Get out of the way, blind runner coming through".

  2. I have a very vivid memory from 2008 on the Queensboro Bridge that simply will not leave my brain. Someone had crapped on the roadway next to the center barriers. I didn't witness the act, but I spent the next 10 miles and 3 years wondering how that works. Every time I run that bridge, including during the '10 marathon, I am haunted by that image. You're welcome.

  3. Thanks Tracy :) Funny, I ran over the Pulaski once and I didn't think it was that bad! Ha! We'll see...

  4. I am impressed your sister was able to run a full marathon and come back to find you and run more with you.

  5. True fact: my sister ran a 50 mile race on Saturday.

  6. I hate to contradict your sister, but I think we should offer an alternate view. Fast people should listen to Mandy. Anyone finishing after 4:30 should listen to the Slowpoke Paton Corollary. Few people have spent as much time on a marathon course as I have (not by virtue of my running the most races, of course.)

    When I ran NYC in 2002, I was having a great race (for me...again, for a tourist who sightsees while running). To preserve my pace, I ran up the Queensboro Bridge. Everyone around me was walking. Everyone around me had run the marathon previously and knew what to do. I was wrong, very wrong.

    I encourage everyone to walk the bridge. Run the descent, hit First Avenue, feel like a rockstar...that is all a good plan. But do not run the bridge thinking "I can totally do this". Mandy can totally do this, but the rest of us cannot.

    On an unrelated note, I ran a half yesterday in 2:24, my fastest time in 7 years. One might expect such a performance to inspire a return to marathons. Au contraire...there is no F-ing way I'm running a marathon anytime soon. The half alone was nasty. Nasty nasty nasty.

  7. I ran NYC in 09 and didn't think the bridges were that bad. At all. The hills in Central Park are far worse!

  8. Interestingly, the bridge did indeed confirm that I was having a shitty day the year I ran it. I remember it being COMPLETELY silent until a girl screamed something like "why is it so quiet?" going up the incline. It was actually kind of creepy given that its so LOUD once you get off....

    (What HE said?)

  9. When I ran NYCM, I was NOT having a good race by that point, and I hated that bridge. I'd gone out waaaay too fast through Brooklyn and by that point, my legs were done. Going up it wasn't too bad, but coming down it every muscle in my legs locked up at once.

    I did, however, get a kick out of the sign on the bridge saying, "Only 10 miles left!" Oddly enough, it made me feel better.

    However, you're totally correct that the bridge between Brooklyn and Queens is worse. That thing was HUGE.

  10. What I remember most about the Queensborough Bridge is how eerily quiet it got, because there are no spectators and all the runners are focused on making it up the bridge. Quite a contrast to the rest of the course.