It took nearly two years of preparation and two trips to the Big Apple, but a pair of Manhattan women recently finished the New York City Marathon.
Kitra Schartz and Angela Chauncey, along with another friend, were set to run the race last year when it was canceled in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“We were so excited, and we had trained so hard,” Chauncey said.
They had been watching the weather before they left. When the hurricane went through New York, they thought the race would be canceled, but it wasn’t, so they flew out.
The women had already picked up their race packets and were back in their hotel room on the Friday night before the Sunday morning race when Schartz’s husband called and said he had heard that the race was called off.
“So we turned on the news and watched,” Schartz said. “That’s how we found out. No real specific notification was provided to the participants.”
About 40,000 of the 50,000 runners coming for the marathon were in the same boat: They were already in New York with nowhere to run.
“The late cancellation was very controversial,” said Schartz, who had tried to get into the race for several years before she was successful. “It was a big deal financially for a lot of people, especially for the international runners who flew in.”
Many of the runners met in Central Park the next morning and ran together.
The marathon finish line was still set up there. Not knowing if they would be able to return, the women took photos in front of it.
“Then we flew right back home and started training again,” Chauncey said.
IT WAS almost two months later when they found out that they would be guaranteed entry for a future New York City Marathon.
In the meantime, the women had run the Dallas Marathon in December and a couple of half-marathons.
Race officials contacted the would-be participants and said they could have a refund or choose to run in 2013, 2014 or 2015.
Schartz and Chauncey decided to go for it.
Two other friends and regular training partners, Barb Wassenberg and Aimee Achilles, wanted to come along.
Wassenberg guaranteed her entry by joining a charitable organization, Team for Kids. Achilles got in through a rep for ING, the major sponsor of the race.
The foursome started training in earnest 18 weeks before the race. They woke up early to run four or five days a week with long runs on Saturdays.
The women all work, and they have 10 children among them, so it was a big time commitment.
Wassenberg said the support from their husbands made all the difference.
“It taxes your family a little bit,” Wassenberg said. “You’re gone for four, five hours at a time (for) training. But it’s so great to have such a supportive group. If somebody couldn’t make it on a Saturday, we’d get up at 4 a.m. on a Friday just to get 20 miles in.”
AT LAST, the first week of November, the women made it back to New York.
Just getting to the starting line was arduous, they said. On race day, they left their Times Square hotel room five hours before the race to get to the starting line on Staten Island.
“We had to catch the subway to catch the ferry to get to the bus, then we walked to the start,” Achilles said.
And security was especially tight after the Boston Marathon bombing in April.
As they ran over the first bridge, Schartz said, helicopters were hovering on both sides. There were scuba divers, dogs, law enforcement officers and thousands of security cameras.
“I thought the security was really great,” Chauncey said. “That was part of why it was emotional, I think. It felt like they were taking care of us.”
The race wound through all five boroughs and across four bridges. After it started, the women split up almost immediately.
“On race day, it’s every man for himself,” Wassenberg said. “A few times we’d meet up and split back off again, kind of encourage each other along the way.”
It’s too crowded to stay together anyway, she said.
“You never have more than a foot of space around you,” she said. “People are weaving in and out, passing you.”
While they had trained hard, they said completing the 26.2-mile course wasn’t easy.
“I think our training program only goes up to 20 miles,” Chauncey said. “When you actually run 26, it’s further than what you train for. Having to push through is tough.”
More than 2 million people cheered them on as they ran, offering the runners drinks and coolers full of oranges and bananas.
“It was pretty incredible, the sheer size of it,” Schartz said. “Some people we came across would say, ‘We cheered for four and a half hours.’ ”
“It’s pretty neat to see an entire city wrap its head around one event,” Wassenberg said.
WITH THE help of the crowd, all four Manhattanites crossed the finish line.
Schartz said her goal was to make it in less than four hours. She beat that mark by a few minutes.
“I exceeded what I thought I was going to do,” Schartz said. “A lot of that was the way the crowd carries you through.”
Chauncey also slipped in under the four-hour mark, followed shortly by Achilles and then Wassenberg.
The finish felt extra triumphant for Schartz and Chauncey.
“It was emotional with Kitra at the end,” Chauncey said. “We finally got to run that race. It was a lot of training over a long time, leading up to one single-day event.”
Schartz said it was great to be able to share the moment with her friends.
“It was really memorable,” she said. “It was a great experience.”
While they were in New York, the women also took time to do some shopping and see the sights.
The day fter the race, they went to see a Broadway show. When they got to the theater, they discovered that they would have to go down a few stairs to get to their seats.
“We were so sore,” Schartz said. “Clearly, we did not think that through. Honestly, I wanted to sit on cardboard and slide down the steps.”
This was the fourth marathon for Schartz and Chauncey. It was Wassenberg’s second — and her second in three weeks. (“I was a little fatigued to say the least,” she said.)
It was Achilles’ 25th marathon. Eventually, she hopes to get to 50 – but she still found the race impressive.
“I’ve done Chicago and I’ve done Disney,” she said. “The biggest before New York was Chicago at 45,000 runners. This was 51,000. It was the biggest and by far the most complicated.”
Soon the women will start thinking about their next marathons. But for now, they’re just reveling in the glory of having completed this one.
“It’s the one race I’ve always wanted to do,” Schartz said. “It feels good to check it off the list. “
Especially after waiting a whole extra year to run.