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Sunday 1st November 2009, it's 7.30am and I'm in the drizzle queuing to get into Ford Wadsworth, on Staten Island. I have been up since 4.15am, my journey here taking in the subway, a ferry and bus, but I'm not tired, just excited and anxious to get on with it, starting the New York City Marathon, my first marathon.
After what seems like a lifetime of waiting and pushing we reach the slip road on to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and up ahead I can see the Start sign, as we fall in line with the other runners around us. This bridge is BIG and crosses the River Hudson, with Manhattan and New Jersey in the distance to the left, before it joins Brooklyn. It's an impressive way to start a race.
Nearly 10 miles of the 5-borough marathon runs through Brooklyn and it proves my race highlight. The crowd blows my mind and the bands are playing awesome music to the runners. These people are incredible and I can't stop smiling, particularly when we pass a school band playing "Gonna Fly Now" – the theme to Rocky. Oh Yes – I'm in New York baby!
At around Mile 11 I find my Mum and it's great to see a familiar face and, as I leave her, I feel full of renewed optimism. I'm feeling good. Past Mile 13 and over the Pulaski Bridge we enter the borough of Queens for what seems like a moment – in reality just over a mile. The route nips and tucks round left and right turns through Mile 14 before joining 59th Street and heading up on to the Queensboro Bridge where we start Mile 15.
As I approach Miles 21 and 22 and not much seems to be making sense, my numb footfalls don't seem to be making progress either. As we start to climb up Fifth Avenue I walk through the drinks station at Mile 23, taking on fluid, wondering where my energy is going to come from. After what seems like an eternity the sea of people turns into Central Park behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art and I know there's 3 miles until I can stop. 3 miles seems like a very long way at the moment though – Central Park is pulling me backwards.
Another drinks station appears just before Mile 25 and I down more Gatorade in the hope of instant energy. The wonderful volunteers will me on, while more runners around me are walking, looking beaten up and exhausted. About ¾ of the runners are walking at this point, giving me the impression that their exhaustion could be contagious for the weak of body and mind. I need to get ahead of this bunch before they drag me backwards and, as the route turns on to Central Park South, we head out of the park and along the gentle uphill to Columbus Circle, on the corner of Central Park South and West.
I had walked the last mile of the course yesterday, so to my relief, this part of the course is familiar as the song comes back into focus. The loud and cheesy chorus is giving me goose bumps as I run under the 26-mile marker. Not much further. Around the bend and up the final hill, in blue and orange, with the bleachers full of wonderful cheering people I can see the Finish line and I'm nearly there. I'm bringing to a close the pain, hard work and uncertainty of my first marathon.
I don't do the classic arms aloft photo finish as I cross the finish line, because I burst into tears and sob like a baby. I didn't see that coming! A marshal gives me a hug and congratulates me – somehow he seems to understand. I've finished in 4:13:21; about half an hour slower than I was heading for in September, and although I'm drained and feel terrible, I am really proud to have finished what was a tough race for me.