2005 New York City Marathon

November 7, 2005


Lots of nerves, excitement, a little self-induced pressure…It was 4:30AM, and I was walking out of my apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to meet my friend Gregg. He was going to be first on the tether when the marathon got underway!


We jumped into a cab and headed over to 42nd street and 6th Avenue to get on the bus that would take us out to the starting line at Staten Island. That was a long ride, probably drawn out even more by the fact that I really had to pee because I'd been drinking so much water, and there was no where to go to the bathroom. We were on school buses that moved ever so slowly across the Verazano bridge! Finally, we were in Fort Wodsworth, now only a long walk to the rest/holding area for all the 35000+ runners!


I don't recall much between getting to Staten Island, and the start of the race. I do remember finding Jack though, which was a good thing since he would be helping Gregg, Meggie (another guide), and me with the water stops. Then suddenly, we were lining up in the Orange corral, all women, the National Anthem was over, the gun went off, and Frank Sinatra's New York New York came over the loud speakers. That always gives me a chill and a thrill all at the same time! It reminds me of what an incredible place New York truly is.


The race was underway, Gregg on the tether, Meggie to my left, and Jack just behind us. The day was warm, but with every couple of sips of liquid I took in, I poured an equal amount of it over my head. I think that really helped me stay cool!


Gregg was a superb guide- he was focused and kept a steady pace for us the first half of the marathon, and was confident and smooth navigating all of the turns and the zig-zagging around and through people.


Meggie's energy was contagious as well. Every time we past a dog along the course, she would yell, "Hello Mr. Dog!", and she would greet every police officer and fireman we past too! That certainly got us some cheers! Jack, though this was his first marathon, was incredible at each water stop—thanks to him, we all stayed hydrated!

As the half way came up on us, the clock showed us at under 2 hours, 1:58 and change. We were on target to break 4 hours, with very little time to spare. We picked up Kathy Lee and Jordan Metzl, and Kathy took the tether. The toughest part of the course lay ahead of us, the quiet, long, and lonely ascent up the 59th street Bridge, and the steady climb up First Avenue.


But Kathy kept our energy and nerves under control with her calmness and steady pace. Up, and up, and up we climbed, the 59th street bridge was very long—it was quiet too as people were starting to tire. I just remember Jordan politely clearing the way for us, and just as a pocket of space would open up for us, we'd go through it, and then the pocket would close. It was somewhere along this bridge, and the quickly opening and closing pockets of space, where we lost Gregg and Jack. When I realized they were no longer with us, it was a tough moment for me—sadness, worry, and somehow a feeling of having let part of my team down. I know I couldn't keep all of us together, not with all the crowd that seemed to have gotten in the way of Gregg and Jack keeping us in sight; but this was Gregg's first marathon (and as a guide), and he had done such a magnificent job of pacing for the first half—same goes for Jack! I thought about how I couldn't have gotten to where I was at that moment, just coming off the 59th Street Bridge, if they hadn't been at the start with me. But, I had to gather my thoughts, re-focus, and finish the last 10.2 miles that lay ahead!


Thankfully, the booming sounds of bands and spectators greeted us as we came off the Bridge and headed up First Avenue! We went up the middle for a while, and then moved over to the right side of the street. Past some more dogs, more water stops, a sponge station which made things tricky for navigating as tons of sponges lay on the ground after having cooled and cleaned off tons of runners. Then, just around mile 19, I saw my family! That moment really gave me a boost, a huge burst of energy that carried me through the Bronx! My family had missed me in 2003, which really hit me hard, emotionally, as I had been looking forward to seeing them along the corse. But this year, everything would work perfectly—from my guides, to the great run, to seeing my family, and my friends along the corse—Andy shortly after the First Avenue Bridge was key as he had been coaching me since I started running, and really believed I could break 4 hours.


As we came down 5th Avenue, Jordan turned around—he was running backwards now—and asked me, "Have you ever broken 4 hours Ivonne?" I answered, "No!", and then he said, "Well this time you will! Let's do it!" And then he turned around and yelled to the crowd, "Let's hear it for Ivonne! She's gonna break 4 hours!" I have to say that when I made the famous right turn at Engineer's Gate, and I hit the park, I could feel the finish line calling me. I got my split from Meggie who was now on the tether, 3 hours, 33 minutes. We could do it—I knew the roads I was about to run, so I knew I could relax and just enjoy the last 2.2 miles home!


Past 86th street we went, past the Met, down Cat Hill, past the carousel, and out of the Park at Columbus Circle we went! Then Jordan came over to my left and grabbed my hand to make sure I wouldn't trip on the coble stones/bricks in that section. But suddenly, I felt as though I had no momentum because now I didn't have any arm motion to help me propel myself! That was a funny feeling! I was tired, too, and thinking about how far the finish line now seemed! But just as we turned back into the park, all of those feelings and thoughts vanished! We were almost there! Around some runners, some walkers and potholes we went, and then, we started to climb our last hill! I pumped my arms, my left arm was free now as Jordan moved up ahead to clear a path for us, and I could hear the announcer saying, "These runners are going to break 4 hours!" That meant me too! I began to sprint, pumping my arms as much as I could, and in a flash, we had climbed to the top of that hill, we were at Tavern On The Green crossing over the beeping mats! The clock showed 3 hours, 53 minutes, and 30 seconds!


I owe my success to my guides—Meggie Singh, Gregg Markarian, Kathleen Lee, Jack Maged, and Dr. Jordan Metzl, and to my longtime "coach" Andrew Ashwell, to Marie Wickham, and to all my friends who have run with me countless times in the mornings, evenings, through rainy days, or snowy ones. Thanks to my mom too, who met me at the finish line, for having tought me to really go for whatever I set my mind on doing!


What a thrill!


Thanks for reading.


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