Getting "officially in" to the New York City Marathon, when you're running for charity, is a multi-step process:
1. Apply with your charity of choice and pay the applicable application fee. The application for the Alzheimer's Association opened in mid-April with a mid-May deadline. I received notification on June 10. Some may have been accepting applications way earlier than that, but some were also accepting as late as yesterday evening. The fee was reasonable - $50 - and if my application wasn't accepted, I wouldn't have been charged. It, in turn, was applied to my fundraising account.
2. Register with the New York Road Runners and pay the registration fee. Non-charity runners would have done this all the way back in April, when they found out they'd been accepted, but charity runners received invitations to register in August. This was the kicker for me. For some reason, I'd either confused "guaranteed entry" with "paid entry" or I'd just forgotten that the $196 registration fee was going to come due eventually...but it did, and exactly at the wrong time. I received the E-mail inviting me to register, then received a call from Coach Brian (of Team R2R) informing me there was actually a deadline for this, otherwise I wouldn't be able to run the race. Ouch.
At this point, I was officially "in" - my login showed that I had been accepted and I could pull up the PDF registration card that I have to print out and show when at the expo when I go to pick up my packet. However, because NYRR assigns bib numbers in waves and because I hadn't registered the minute I got my invitation, I had to wait for it to fill in the middle section with all the info I didn't provide.
And wait...and wait...and wait. They don't actually notify you when they assign these things, so of course my OCD self had downloaded about a thousand registration cards with no bib number/wave/corral/start time info, just to see if it was there yet. Coach Brian assured and reassured me that yes, I was actually registered, they were just processing things and I should get my info soon. It's just so hard to wait when most of the people on your team are chattering on the Facebook page about their start times!
But today, I logged on on a whim and found (edited for your viewing pleasure)...
3. I've been assigned a bib number! I'm official now - for real!!!
According to the Corral Chart, this means I'll be starting at 10:10 AM in Wave 2, Corral 35. From what I've heard, Blue and Orange start on top of the Verrazano Narrows bridge and Green starts below. So I'll be in a great position to take it all in, and I'll be starting right in the middle.
So here's the dilemma. A long time ago, when I first filled out the registration form (back in November, when I was a lottery entrant), I was thinking I'd shoot for a 4 hour finish, so that's what I entered. I forgot to change that when I completed Step 2 above and paid my registration fee. Whoops.
Since then, I've adjusted my goal to a slightly more reasonable/attainable 4:15-4:30 finish. (That's 4 hours and 15-30 minutes, not 4:15-4:30 PM, for the uninitiated.) The only reason I initially chose 4:30 was because that's the cutoff time to get your name in the New York Times...and also because it would have me finishing an hour better than I finished Kansas City. I then added the 4:15 when I realized I was actually running pretty well...enough to enjoy a little more of a challenge.
To run a 4:15 marathon, I would have to average 9:43 minute miles. To run a 4:30, I would have to average 10: 17. But in all of my training runs, I've been shooting for a goal pace of 9:15-9:30 minute miles, which would put me right between a 4 hour and a 4:15 finish. Why have I been trying to run faster, you might ask? Because (a) I have a sometimes uncooperative GI tract and would like to have a little extra time to hit the bathroom as needed - in the Kansas City Marathon, this was often, (b) I want time to take pictures with family and friends along the course without being rushed, (c) I want to enjoy myself and the experience and not stress out too much, especially since I'm unfamiliar with the course and what I'm "getting myself into," and possibly (d) I'd like to actually meet - or exceed?!?! - a time goal in one of these things, for once.
The slowest pace group I can run with in Wave 2 is a 4 hour pace group - running 9:09 minute miles. But these pace groups are advertised as running at even pace...and I'm not sure that's reasonable for me. I know I'm not as strong an uphill runner but I can definitely rock the downs, so I was planning on ordering a SmartPace band (see above), which accounts for the layout of the course, and running my own race. But like any runner, I can get caught up in the excitement and the pace of the crowd and totally (accidentally) throw the plan out the window...so maybe starting slower would be a better idea. Usually I line up at the back when I race, in front of the walkers but behind people who run as quickly/slowly as I run, so I can be sure to get a good conservative start. In that case, I'd want to move back to Wave 3. But if I'm not going to run with them anyways, and my goal pace is faster than my finish time, maybe being with the faster folks isn't a bad idea, either. I could probably shoot for 4...probably. But I'm not sure I'm to the point I want to...yet.
Plus, if I move, there's a chance I'll get moved to the lower level of the bridge. I've heard both have their advantages and disadvantages, but most of the fanfare can be experienced on the top level...and maybe it's silly of me, but I don't want to miss that. The time goal, after all, is secondary. I have no problem throwing it out the window entirely on race day, if that's how I'm feeling, and just having a great time. If I finish, I'll be happy.
I still have some time to think about it, but not too much - at some point, I'm going to have to pick a pace and do some calculating so my family can know approximately when I'll be where. Decisions, decisions. I'd love your comments/thoughts on this, if you have any.
But at least I'm in. Officially.