Blogger’s note: This is not my race recap of the New York City Half Marathon. That is coming in the next day or two. This is just a story I find kind of amusing after the fact that happened to me this morning, all because I wanted a cup of Dunks.
It was 5:55 in the morning. Everything was dark, except for the street lights, the store signs and the police blues. I was walking from one subway stop to another to make a transfer on my way to Prospect Park for the NYC Half Marathon when I spotted that pink and orange sign. Across the street from my next train there was a Dunkin’ Donuts. I was on my way to run 13.1 miles, up at a time when I’m usually only a few hours into sleep, and the only caffeine I had so far was a weak cup of instant coffee in my hotel room.
I took the chance that I wouldn’t miss the next train and would still make it to bag check in plenty of time before the race.
The coffee was worth it, but it caused me a couple of big headaches.
I did miss that train, by about a minute, and had to wait 25 minutes for the next one to show up. Ah crap. I was going to be cutting it super close, but I had my coffee, so I would probably be OK.
The train finally showed up, and it was overflowing with runners. I jogged to the end of the train, trying to find a spot to sneak in. I found one in the last car, but just as I tried to step in, the doors closed.
Now I was starting to panic.
I stood outside that door for 30 seconds with three other runners, each of us asking if there was a way we could get them to open for the door for us. I started playing scenarios in my head of what I would do. Call an Uber? Wait for another train? Tuck my tail between my legs and bail? I knew I could start the race in any corral, but I was worried about being able to drop off my bag, not mention use the bathroom (coffee, you know). I was wearing joggers and a hoodie over my race kit, and I wanted to stash them away, as well as my phone, ID and debit card, so I would have them after the race.
Thankfully, the door did open and we were able to board that train. It was a slow mover though, and I started to check my watch, watching valuable time tick away. My bag check was scheduled to close at 6:50 and the train didn’t leave the station until 6:35ish. We had seven stops to go.
This was not good.
I peeled off my hoodie and joggers, turned off my phone and stashed it all in my bag. I pulled out my inhaler and took a couple off puffs, and grab a couple Gu’s and some gum so I’d be ready to go.
The train stopped at our stop at 6:49 a.m. Well, I wasn’t making that bag check. Shit.
Still, I jogged about .75 miles in Prospect Park to the bag check area and was directed to the end for the “late” bag check. Phew, I thought, I don’t have to figure out a way to get this stuff to the finish line, or just ditch most of it, after all. I checked my bag, made a quick bathroom pitstop, and entered my corral about 25 minutes before the race.
Crisis adverted. Panic over.
Or so I thought.
I ran the race, not thinking twice about my near meltdown in that subway station. I was glad I had that coffee. The caffeine was worth the stress.
Or so I thought.
I finished the race and walked through Central Park toward the bag check area, where again, I was directed to the end of the line where the “late” bag check was (outside of Central Park). I think they actually called it the “error” bag check.
It was a fucking error all right.
I walked up to the group of people standing along a fence, with a few UPS trucks, a bunch of clear plastic bags, and a couple volunteers on the other side and took a spot behind the people. I figured everyone would show their bib when they got to the fence, a volunteer would grab it and everyone would move up.
Everyone just stood there with their bib numbers held over their heads and the volunteers shouted numbers in panic. The wind started to pick up, I started to get super cold, and I had no where to go. I was pinned into a group of about 200 people, getting bounced from my right, nudged from my left, and pushed into the person in front of me from behind. Some dude’s armpit was in my face for about 15 minutes before I finally left in a huff, forcing my way through the crowd to the street on the verge of a panic attack from the claustrophobia.
I walked to the end of the line, where the crowd was a lot smaller and I could snag a spot along the fence. I held my number over the fence and tried to get the attention of a volunteer. More and more volunteers were showing up, but it took them a few minutes to figure out how this whole thing worked. One extremely eager kid would pick up a bag and just start shouting the number. “2349. Anyone here 2349? Going once. Going twice.”
This was not going well.
30 minutes after entering the bag check area, my hands chapped and red from the wind, sweat crusting over on my face, legs starting to cramp because I needed to stretch, a volunteer finally walked over and handed me my bag. Crossing the finish line this morning was nothing compared to the excitement and relief I felt when I was handed that bag.
I learned a valuable lesson about big city races today. When they give you a timeline to follow for arriving at the start line, it is worth trying to abide by it. I had the best intentions, that coffee just threw things out of whack.
Just remember, don’t ever check a bag in the “late/error” bag check. It will take almost as long to get it back as it takes you to run the race.