By Linda Powell
On Sunday 7th November, just 2 weeks after sustaining an injury to my lower left leg that threatened to jeopardise my chances of taking part, I successfully completed the New York Marathon.
After months of training, I couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to take part but a short test run prior to flying out reassured me to try. So, I decided to run “no matter what” and if there was pain, it would only be for around 4 hours of my life!
Having collected my race pack and number the previous Friday, I rose at 5 am on race day and caught the 7 am ferry across to Staten Island where a lovely American girl called Ana shared her blanket with me; it was freezing, around 48-50C. I was in “Green Wave Two” which was due to start at 10:10 am. However with over 45,000 runners taking part you never get off on time unless you’re at the very front.
I decided to go out with the 4-hour-pace-group. This meant following Bruce, a guy with green balloons and a badge pinned to his back. There were around 10 of us in his group, all excited and grinning nervously as the official air horn signalled the start. The sun was shining as we ran across the bridge onto the mainland with the New York skyline looking amazing, peering through the left hand side of the bridge. I thought to myself, that I was really privileged in my life to be able to take part in this race. At mile 2 we entered Brooklyn and the crowds were roaring. It was just so amazing!!!
Still in Brooklyn and at mile 8 l looked out for my brother (who lives there). As I ran down the road I saw him and his wife who gave me a big “High 5”. It’s great to see people you know along the way.
I was wearing my St Albans Striders vest with my name on it, so the crowds were calling “come on Linda” all the way. My leg had a dull ache but was holding out quite well. It was so good to be running again and the sun was out with the most beautiful blue sky. We headed towards the Pulaski Bridge passing the halfway mark—only another 13.2 miles to go! The other side of the bridge took us into Queen’s; the next mile or so is flat and then you hit the dreaded Queensborough Bridge, which is a never ending gradual incline and I felt I was starting to struggle to keep up with the group. We finally stepped off the bridge at the 16 mile mark.
As we turned the corner into First Avenue, Manhattan, we heard and saw the largest, loudest crowd on the course - it was just fabulous! I carried on with the 4-hour-pace-group. Every now and then Bruce shouted to the crowd “Let’s hear it for 4 hours” and the crowds went mad.
At 19 miles I couldn’t keep up anymore and was flagging. I just ran out of steam and felt delirious. I stopped for a large drink of water and another energy gel but I was sick of them. I started to run/walk for a while, taking pieces of bananas and an energy drink that were being handed out.
At 20 miles I entered the Bronx to loud disco music, which gave me the urge to run again.
At 21 miles I was back in Manhattan and really struggling. I kept running/walking.
At 22 miles there was a massive hill just before entering Central Park. I just had to walk.. The crowds were so encouraging saying “give me 5” and saying “you can do it Linda”. By this time I was losing the will to live!
I got to mile 25 and told myself “just run, it doesn’t matter what the time is, just finish and then you can rest forever more (no pain, no gain!)” I started to run and didn’t stop, I even got a sprint on in the last 800 metres and finally came through the finishing line in 04:18:09 - two minutes faster than my London time this year.
The next day I could hardly walk but I was so proud of myself. Finishing in under 4 hrs 30 mins meant my name and finish time were printed in the New York Times the following day.