Main photo: Muskoka Algonquin Runners at the New York City Marathon (from left) Katherine Ahokas, Chris Watson, Tony Marra, Troy Cox, Jeramie Carbonaro, Jeff Irwin, and Mark Sinnige (Lowell Grieb / @muskokaalgonquinrunners on Instagram)
Completing a marathon is no easy task—just getting to the finish line is a significant accomplishment in and of itself. All the more impressive when an athlete either surpasses a personal best or makes their way to a top-ten finish in any form.
Seven people from the local running club, Muskoka Algonquin Runners (MARs), headed to New York last weekend for the largest marathon in the world—the New York City Marathon.
Every year it attracts more than 50,000 participants from around the world—this year there were 53,508—and spectators lining the route are estimated at more than a million. The 26.2-mile (42.2km) race begins on Staten Island, traverses all five of the city’s boroughs and six bridges, and ends in Central Park. To say it’s an experience is an understatement.
Chris Watson was one of the local runners who travelled to New York for the race. It was his first time there and just his fourth marathon.
“It’s pretty overwhelming…we looked back and it’s just a sea of people [waiting for the start],” said Watson. When the cannons are fired—yes, cannons—to start the race, the runners make their way onto the first bridge, the 2.6-mile-long Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, as Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York” plays over loudspeakers. “If you look out as you’re going across that bridge, you can see the Statue of Liberty, you can see the skyline of Manhattan… Trying to balance racing a fast marathon with trying to take it in was the challenge of the day for me.”
He added that the cheering crowds, while appreciated, could be overwhelming too. “I found the bridges really helped me to kind of have a break. As great as the crowds were, [the bridges]were the only spots were it was quiet and you could collect yourself a bit. There’s one bridge, the Queensboro Bridge and it’s covered so it’s quiet…and going down the back side of the bridge you could hear the crowd. It was like a roar, it was like entering a rock stadium.”
Watson was aiming to finish the race in two hours and 40 minutes, and wasn’t sure he would quite make it so he stopped looking at his watch during the last four miles. (He came very close, finishing with an official time of 2:40:54.) By the time he reached the finish line, he was exhausted. He had taken five energy gels during the race and with a mile to go his stomach wasn’t feeling great. He threw up in the last 400 metres.
“It’s pretty hard to finish a marathon so when you do you get that feeling of satisfaction,” he said. “I think it was a pretty good day all put together.”
Watson and three of his fellow MARs runners—Katherine Ahokas, Jeramie Carbonaro and Troy Cox—placed within the top 10 among the more than 1,000 Canadian racers, and both Watson and Cox placed in the top 10 within their age groups.
Chris Watson – third among Canadian men, ninth in his age group (Men 45-49) and 233rd overall in 2:40:54
Jeramie Carbonaro – seventh among Canadian men and 267th overall in 2:42:25
Troy Cox – ninth among Canadian men, seventh in his age group (Men 50-59) and 311th overall in 2:43:32
Katherine Ahokas – third among Canadian women and 124th overall in 3:01:56
They are impressive results for a small running club, and that’s typical of Huntsville as a whole, said Watson. “I always say this town punches above its weight… There are other groups in town that are doing stuff that’s pretty neat.”
As for MARs, he said, “I’m having fun. I really enjoy training with the group, it’s a great group of people. We take running seriously but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. I think that’s the trick, just keeping it fun.”
After some time off to recover, Watson and other MARs runners will begin training for the 124th annual Boston Marathon in April 2020. He encourages anyone who has ever thought about running a marathon to give one a try. “You’d want to train for it properly… I have a lot of respect for anyone who can just finish one. You can’t fake it, you can’t mail it in. It’s a hard distance but it’s really satisfying when you complete one.”
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