A new experience in New York!By DNEchris Getting up at 4 am for a 5.30 bus departure I found myself arriving 15 minutes early – but I’m still on the third bus away – others must be even more anxious than me! I’ve spent the last week gathering old clothes and a pair of old shoes – all to be abandoned at the start. I hope I’ve got enough because the weather is cool and I’ve got a long wait. 4 hours in the athletes’ village – 7C, 20mph NW wind – I’m cozy but some are only in singlets and shorts and they are turning blue. I found a large marquee – open to the elements but more sheltered than the main village. Had a little conversation, some sleep, and frequent walks around. There was a constant line for the Porta-potties even though there are supposed to be 1700 between the 3 villages! There’s plenty of good conversation at the interminable wait at the start line with an international crowd. Much of the time I was chatting with a Swedish woman whose husband was born 40 miles from my hometown in England! “Excuse me, but your shoes are untied.” – “I know – watch this!” I got some very strange looks as my shoes came off! Speeches, national anthem, cannon – go! Strange – the concrete feels warmer than the tar. I’m on the lower level which is more sheltered than the upper deck – I won that draw! The crowd thinned over the bridge and clothing is scattered all over as people warmed up. There’s no chance to control pace by breathing nasally – I’m smiling too much! Small crowds welcome us as we entered Brooklyn, but there was lots of enthusiastic cheering. On 4th Avenue though the crowds are full of energy and bands are playing every few hundred yards – every genre from the Dead to Native American Drumming. We even got some Hassidic Reggae in Williamsburg! I’m feeding off the energy of the crowd. It’s impossible not to be fully charged by their enthusiasm. The crowds thinned a little in Queensand I had a chance to chat with fellow runners – everyone was intrigued by my lack of shoes. Everyone was encouraging everyone else. Here’s the 59th Street bridge – fine surface, no crowds, more chance to chat and then into the most amazing cloud of energy ever as we entered First Avenue. Playing with the crowd, asking them to yell louder! I heard lots of comments about my lack of shoes. The crowds thinned a little in the 90s but still big groupings at the major intersections. Great energy from everyone. Now up to the Bronx, still among big crowds of runners, watching the masses on the Jumbotron – an amazing wave of people, and this was only one of 4 major groupings! I got passed here by the leader of the3:30 pace group – he said he’d been slowly gaining on me for the last 10 minutes. Wow, this roadway over the bridge is cold! A real change from the heated street coming up First Avenue! Out of the Bronx and onto 5th Avenue. 5 miles left – for sure I can finish this. Coming down to Marcus Garvey Park and there’s the cheering section from work. High fives all round – now for the long, gentle hill up to 90th street. Where’d that 3:30 guy come from again? – I didn’t think I’d passed him. Crowds gathering and growing in intensity – the energy is amazing. Took a couple of sections of orange and then some grapes from random strangers – nice to taste something other than Gu chomps! Into the park - how many times have I run this next mile and a half? The leaves are amazing colours – all turned in the last 4 days when I was working the Expo. Spectacular! Down the last hill to the Plaza and on to 59th Street, the least pleasant surface of the run but only for 300 yards, passing a few, boxed in by others, up to Columbus Circle and into the Park. I tried to sprint to the finish but it was a pretty feeble effort. Over the line, 3:34:05, where’s the beer? Got the medal, got the blanket, got a goody bag – no beer! Still the water was much more welcome! The Kiwi Strawberry Gatorade was only fit for the garbage. The apple was welcome as was the bag of pretzels – so heavily salted. Slow, one mile, walk home, appreciating the colours on the trees all the more. I have a few brief conversations with, and receive congratulations from, yet more random strangers. I’m tired but contented. Random thought - I ran a red light once and got a ticket – I ran them all day that day and got a medal! It was a great experience but I prefer running a route of my own choosing, at a time of my choice, by myself or with a small group. I don’t need to be around 50,000 of my closest friends to run for fun!