My First Marathon: Dave Sawicki Runs NYC

Advanced Training Race Story

I’m writing this on Thursday evening after just coming back from my first post-marathon recovery run. On Sunday, November 5, I ran the 2017 New York City Marathon. It was my first marathon and definitely won’t be my last.

I chose NYC for my first marathon because New York is my home state, plus the NYC Marathon is a bucket list for any new runner. I got into the race with a charity entry almost two years ago but deferred in 2016 due to a foot injury. I credit my injury with making me a better runner. When I originally committed to the charity, I had only been running for six months, and the injury taught me the things I needed to do to stay on the road and made me a far better runner. Funny how things work out like that.

I used the Level 2 marathon plan through CRC Advanced Training to prepare for the race, following the prescribed workouts and training for a goal time of 4:20:00. I joined CRC Advanced Training in March 2017 and had used the plans for PRs in 5k and 10k races this year. The plans are excellent, and the competition of the AT group was great for my running as I prepared for the marathon.

I arrived in NYC three days before the race to unwind and take in the marathon expo, run in Central Park, and sightsee a bit. Race day arrived overcast and rainy, 60 degrees and humid. I took an Uber to the Staten Island Ferry, and then the race buses to Starters Village. I’m still in awe of how well the whole race was organized given the enormous size of it all. My wave started at 10:40, which meant that I would be running the top deck of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn.

The National Anthem, NYPD and Coast Guard helicopters, cannons, and off we go! The adrenaline rush was amazing: being on that bridge for the first two miles, seeing the NYC skyline and not knowing the rock-star treatment we would get when we entered Brooklyn, and it just got better. 

The first time I looked at my Garmin was almost at the 10k point and I was pacing well. The people, the cheering and the electricity of it all were carrying me every step of the way. I ran the first half well and then the bridges came…

The bridges are beautiful but silent as there are no crowds to cheer you on. All five are very steep and long, and they’re what make NYC such a tough race. The Queensboro Bridge was tough for me but coming off of it was an amazing moment, again provided by the crowds and the unbelievable noise. Miles 16-21 were not my best but Queens and the Bronx were amazing. Even though I was struggling, I couldn’t stop smiling and enjoying every moment.  

At mile 21, you prepare to turn onto 5th Avenue, which features long hills and the entrance into Central Park. The cheers from the crowds are deafening and they push-pull you the last five miles. The last miles are surreal and only get louder and more exciting. At this point, I didn’t want the race to end.

Making the turn at Columbus Circle puts you at mile 26, and then the finish. I dreamed of the finish for two years and it didn’t disappoint in any way. It was a great moment for me, being a relatively new runner at age 50, and I’m ready to do it again.

I came in a little over my goal time at 4:27:04 but I’m pleased with it as my first marathon and learned a lot of things to take into my next one. The race organization, amenities, accessibility, and the course are incredible. The 2.5 million screaming spectators and over 10,000 volunteers deserve all the credit for making all 50,000+ people feel like a champion at this race.

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