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The world's biggest marathon

by Paul Hayward
Saturday 7th January 2017
Waking up one morning with £250 deducted out of your bank account to enter a marathon may sound a little bit strange; however 2 months ago I lined up at Stanton Island with 51,393 fellow runners to take part in “the World’s biggest marathon” - the TCS New York City Marathon and I cannot stress how it was worth every penny even before I had ran the race. 
Writing that now still seems a little crazy but if you, like me, are sat down planning your race calendar for 2017 this race needs to feature. Not because it is an awesome race, and believe me it is, or because it is in a city that captures the hearts of everyone that goes in some way - but because you are signing up for something really special and this race “ isn’t just a tick in the box - it is an entire experience” (Tobias Mews, '50 Races To Run Before You Die').

NY expo

From the moment I arrived in New York City there was a buzz in the air and a feeling that I was taking part in something really special. Stuck on British time sleep wise; I was not tired and I found myself walking to the TCS NYC Marathon pavilion in Central Park to get a feel for the race. As I walked down 5th Avenue at 8am USA time, I was passed by several runners kitted out in ASICS gear all heading towards Central Park. If I, or anyone else that had the same idea as me, had any doubts where the entrance was - the hundreds (yes hundreds) of runners all running down the finish straight gave the game away. 
This is not just a marathon; it is the marathon. What other race attracts hundreds, if not thousands, of people to run to the finish three days early just to soak it all up? This sense of wonder only gets stronger the longer you spend in New York and on making the expo, and seeing everyone with their expo bags, you become part of a really special club. 

NY start

Everyone (from American people to Chinese people) wants to talk to you, to share stories how you and they made it here and what you are looking forward to. The silence only really starts on the bus at 6am from Manhattan to Staten Island as you take it all in and make your journey to the start line and “the Camp”. I can only say the Camp as, weirdly, you start in a huge refugee esq camp, albeit it has Dunkin Doughnuts coffee and free bagels before you are released and the race is on across the famous “5 Boroughs of New York City” .
You may have raced the Virgin Money London Marathon, or like me seen it on television, and been blown away by the crowds and the support - however for this marathon take that support, double it and some then you will be close to what the TCS NYC Marathon has. The support is crazy from the moment you start your journey to the finish line to the sad moment you get back on the plane home (yes the plane home). 

NY race

Be it “Yo welcome to Brooklyn” being blasted out by two MCs supported by a DJ on decks with accompanying gangsta rap as you enter Brooklyn to people in the street the day after, seeing you wearing your medal, clapping and saying “well done” - the TCS NYC Marathon has the hearts of every New Yorker and it means something to each and everyone one of them. 
When I heard the stories about this race such as “a festival of running” or “the beauty of running and its diversity at its best” I had my doubts and I thought “it is just a race”; however if I could do just one race this year with guaranteed entry - I would do this race all over again without a thought. 

NY finish

It is so much more than race; it is a moment in time that even now makes my heart skip a beat and race a little. This race is four days where you are invited to a special moment in time; that has the added bonus of a face in the mix The only fear is that once you have done it; everything else just may not compare. 
The 2017 TCS NYC Marathon ballot opens on 17 January 2017 here with £250 coming out of your account around 2 March 2017. 

About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 

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