The Bridges of NYC: Queensboro, Mile 15
The dark and quiet of the Queensboro Bridge challenges you to stay focused just as you're starting to feel the distance, then drops you into the bright, loud chaos of 1st Avenue.
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Scott Fauble, 7th in the 2018 New York City Marathon, takes us inside the mind of a marathoner up and over the 59th Street Bridge from Queens to Manhattan.
-Ok, we’re, over half way, it’s getting tough now, find your rhythm, Scott.
We turn left and start climbing up the Queensboro Bridge. My legs have lost the pop that I’d felt earlier in the race. I look back and see only empty road. Our group of seven guys has dwindled down to three. It is just my teammate Scott Smith, Ryan Vail, and me left after coming through the half marathon mark in 1:06:06 and then making our way through Queens.
-Shit, this is so steep. Keep your cadence up, stay on your toes, eyes up. Just tuck in behind these guys now.
I let Ryan take the lead of our group. He’d run New York before and I trust that he knows what he’s doing as we climb over the bridge. I definitely don’t trust myself to keep the pace honest. I’d had some tough miles after we’d left Brooklyn at 13 and can feel myself wanting to let the effort slip.
-15 mile mark coming now. Get there feeling smooth, Scott. Lean into this hill, stay with Vail. You’re fine, weather this storm. 5:14. Ok, that’s fine. It was a tough mile. You’ll get those seconds back.
The Queensboro bridge is covered, so you’re effectively running through a tunnel with the only light streaming in from the side. And, for the first time since we came off the first bridge of the course, there is no one on either side of the road. Nobody whatsoever. It is dead silent except for the sounds of our feet hitting the pavement and our breath. It is disorienting to go from the raucous, 14 mile party through Brooklyn and Queens to the almost apocalyptic silence and darkness of the bridge.
-Man, it’s so quiet. This is spooky. There’s no light in here. I feel really really alone right now. Take this chance to check in with your body now, Scott. What do you feel? Is anything wrong or can you snap out of this? Ok, nothing really feels bad. My breathing is fine, my legs are fine, just a rough patch. I can get through this.
This thing is getting really tough now. The bridge is steep and it feel like both Smith and Vail are pushing. I am at risk of getting gapped and we still have a long way to go. I’m feeling really lethargic, and we’ve lost sight of the group of other top Americans up ahead. I’m really starting to struggle as I forced myself up the bridge.
-25K, go get your bottle. Get a drink, that will help. 1:18:40. Ok, I think that’s still 2:12 pace. You’re still having a good day. Have faith in yourself, don’t get caught up in this negative feeling.
We finally crest the incline; the light is streaming in from the side of the bridge, bright and warm. It hits us at an angle as we all grab our bottles and look down the road into Manhattan.
Up ahead is the next group on the road, they’d come back into view.
“They’re definitely coming back now,” Smith says. “We’re gonna make up a lot of ground here,” Vail adds. I remain silent, trying to focus on getting my body back into a positive space. Regaining visual contact with the guys ahead helped.
-Ok, got through that hill. I’m ok. My legs feel good again. Use this downhill to get your pace back—let those legs stretch out here, shake out your arms, stay relaxed, get your rhythm back. You’re in this thing.
We leave the elite fluids section at 25K and point ourselves down the hill, slowly drifting over to the left side of the road in order to run the tangent. It is still eerily quiet but we know that the loudest part of the course is less than a half mile ahead. I can feel my morale, and the morale of the group, pick up as we lock our sights on Jared Ward and Chris Derrick, about 200 meters ahead.
-Don’t get too excited now, Scott. Stay in control. I know that you’re starting to feel it, but you still have 10 miles to go. Just let your legs go on this downhill, don’t force it. You’re having a great day, let it come to you.
Our pace quickens as we descend the second half of the bridge. We approach Manhattan with every step. There is a palpable energy between the three of us. We watch the group ahead navigate the left turn onto 1st Ave, and an enormous cheer erupts from the crowd, spurring us on even more.
-There’s the noise again, there are the crowds. Soak this in, Scott. This is super cool, you’re running the New York City Marathon. Enjoy it, use the energy, then get right back in your rhythm.
As we start to turn down the ramp that will lead us under the bridge and onto 1st Avenue I hear my friend’s voice seconds before it is swallowed up by the thousands of other voices who have come out to the 16-mile mark to cheer runners on.
“Let’s go Faubs, Let’s go Scott, you guys are crushing!!” Stephen barks at me from the right side of the road before he brings his camera back up to his face and starts snapping pictures. The road drops and coils around to the north. We exit the covered bridge and reenter the sunlight. It is almost overstimulating to go from this dark, quiet tunnel to the loudest corner on the course with the sun shining brightly in your face.
-Holy shit this is loud. Oh my god. This is crazy! Listen to this! Soak it in, but stay focused. Let’s do this, 10 miles to go, let’s crush this thing!
Scott Fauble is the co-author (with coach Ben Rosario) of Inside a Marathon, An All-Access Pass to a Top-10 Finish at NYC.