Lastly you're handed your shiny heat shield (aka the tinfoil blanket) and join the throngs heading to the reunion areas and baggage claim. The official reunion area is on Central Park West, starting a few blocks past the finish line. Because I was with Fred's Team, we were given special wristbands that allowed to use the VIP reunion area on the north side of Sheeps Meadow. Only one person per runner was allowed to be there, so Laura (my best friend and roomate) was my greeter. The crowds were so large it took almost 20 minutes to get there, and boy, I really started getting sore shuffling towards our reunion spot.
Laura was waiting for me, with a balloon and a bottle of Gatorade. Fred's Team volunteers were also there with large bags of pretzels, encouraging us to dip in, and telling all the new arrivals to get some warm clothes on. Another neat perk of Fred's Team is that our bags were brought to our reunion area. I was able to get mine quickly and get my warm things on, I was already starting to get cold.
I went a little further into the VIP area with Laura to see who was still there. Many teammates from the core group were still there, including our coach Jeff, who was there to make sure we had our warm clothes on and were OK. I heard some of my teammate's times, got a bag of inedible food from a race volunteer (really, Entenmann's bagels in NYC?) and then Laura and I headed home.
Interesting fun fact: Laura asked why everyone had white stuff all over their face, including me. That's dried-up salt from all the sweat. Wow. And ick.
The worst part about running the NYC marathon is trying to get out of Central Park at the end of the race. As you can see from the earlier pictures, the Park is a madhouse. In addition, since the race itself goes down Fifth Avenue and then up Central Park South, those roads are closed to pedestrians, and you can't cross through the race path to get to the west side. In order to get out of the Park, you go above the finish line, to the general reunion area on Central Park West. You can either figure out a way to get there on the ground or you can climb the pedestrian bridge just past the finish line. I took a look at that bridge and said, "Ain't no way." I could barely walk a normal step, let alone make it up stairs. So we attempted to get out of the Park on the "ground," finally making it to the general reunion area by Tavern on the Green. We walked south towards Columbus Circle, and there, for some ungodly reason, the police had set up barricades on the sidewalks and were making people cross back and forth and go up to Broadway and back down to CPW. It was the most annoying thing ever, and each step was agony. It took me over an hour to get from the reunion area at about W. 65th Street in the Park to my home -- on WEST 58th STREET.
Oh, dear, there's still more to tell you about 2006 before we get to 2007, but I am writing this at work and it's time to go. More anon, and this time, it will be a real anon and not an endless one.