Some Possible (And Not Possible) NYC Marathon Finishing Times

If you’re looking to murder me, I can tell you exactly where I will be on the morning of Sunday, November 4, 2018. Only downside is, you’ll have to travel to Staten Island.


All of the 2018 TCS NYC Marathon world is abuzz with the news of the announcements of start times, waves, and corrals. There will be somewhere in the vicinity of 50,000 people running this thing, so naturally, not everyone can start at the same time. There are four waves of starts, each containing several corrals of thousands of runners each. There’s a whole color system, and some colors run on the upper deck of the Verrazano and some run on the lower, and it really doesn’t matter because we all come together at some point in Brooklyn.

I’m relieved to have a 10:15 start. I believe the last wave starts at 11 and the last runners might cross the start around 11:30 or later. I’m used to running at 6:30 or 7am, so the earlier, the better. If I were an elite woman runner, I could start even earlier. Well, there’s always next year. Just need another 10 years of training crammed into one. No biggie.

I thought about composing an email to my family about what my various potential finishing times might be and what they would mean. Then I thought, why not make it a blog post? If you’re an old hand, this won’t be much new information. If you’re not, it might be fun to know.

The 26.2 mile distance is completely new to me. I know the 5K and 10K distances really well, and can probably estimate within a minute or two how long it would take me to race either, depending on the specific course, terrain, and weather. But the marathon is a different beast. I have a vague idea as to how long NYC might take me, but anything can happen. I’ve envisioned all sorts of scenarios as far as finishing times. Here are a few.

  • 8:44:21 – If it takes me 8 hours, 44 minutes and 21 seconds to finish, I will have tied with last year’s last place finisher. At least I’d make the news?
  • 7:09:44 – In 2010, Al Roker ran the NYC Marathon in 7 hours, 9 minutes and 44 seconds. I am fully confident that I will beat Al Roker.
  • 5:00:00 or over – Completing a marathon is a feat unto itself, no matter how long it takes. I don’t think it’ll take me more than 5 hours, but if it does, then it does. I’ll just have time to eat more along the way, and that’s always a plus.
  • 4:58:25 – If I finish in 4 hours, 58 minutes and 25 seconds, I will finish in the time it took Al Gore to complete the Marine Corps Marathon in 1997. He managed to slide in at just under five hours! It’s nice to think of Al Gore getting so close to something and winning.
  • 4:29:15 – A finishing time of 4 hours, 29 minutes and 15 seconds will have me equal Oprah Winfrey‘s own Marine Corps Marathon from her one and only 26.2 mile race back in 1994. I’d be just like Oprah! There are worse people to be like.
  • 4:10:00 – If I were to run the marathon at my easy pace (9:32 min/mile), this would be my finishing time, which isn’t so bad. It would mean a more relaxing, comfortable, and less sweaty race. But where’s the fun in that?
  • 4:00:01 – I’m going to be honest, I’ll be pissed if this happens.
  • 3:59:59 – I will be pleased with this result, as there’s something magical and weirdly important to me about breaking 4 hours. Although I’d like to have a little more cushion than just one second.
  • 3:56:33 – Pippa Middleton finished her first marathon (in Kenya!) in 3 hours, 56 minutes and 33 seconds. This is pretty close to what I imagine, realistically, I might be able to do. Wow, I might have something in common with a future queen’s sister who is still probably best known for a dress she wore in 2011!
  • 3:50:00 – According to the new qualifying standards just released, a finishing time of 3 hours and 50 minutes would allow me to apply to the 2020 Boston Marathon (I’ll have just missed the cutoff for 2019). Getting into Boston is very competitive, and I am not counting on being able to do it in my first marathon. But it would be cool and I might cry if it happens. This would be the minimum time for me to be able to apply, but no guarantee I’d be accepted as they take the fastest runners first.
  • 3:45:00 – With this time, I would very likely get into Boston.
  • 3:17:25 – This never-gonna-happen finishing time would likely land me in the top 1% of my age group. This is how long it took Christie Blanchard to run the race in 2017. She came in 33rd out of 3311 in the women’s 40-44 group, which means she ran faster than 99% of them.
  • 2:59:41 – This could get me into the top three women ages 40-44, as it did in 2017 for third place age group winner Renee Lane of Australia.
  • 2:45:00 – Finishing in 2 hours and 45 minutes would qualify me for the Olympic Trials. It would also raise a lot of eyebrows as people would ask, “Who the hell is that and where the hell did she come from?”
  • 2:32:09 – This was the 2017 finishing time of French runner Christelle Daunay, who came in 1st in women 40-44 (and 12th out of all 21,056 women). I cannot see myself ever coming close to being able to do this. This is not a common finishing time for women my age, but Christelle is super-human.
  • 2:26:53 – If I finish in 2 hours, 26 minutes and 53 seconds, I’ll say “Fuck yes!’ as I cross the finish, as this would tie me with 2017 winner Shalane Flanagan. If I did this based on who I am and what I’ve accomplished so far, there would be a good chance I’d be accused of doping, cutting the course, or being a robot.
  • 2:15:24 – Running this time would mean I’d beat Paula Radcliffe’s 2003 world best by one second, ensuring that my name would make headlines around the world. Assuming I accomplished this without cheating, scientists would beg to study my body and I would be inundated with sponsorship opportunities.
  • 2:01:38 – This finishing time would mean I would beat Eliud Kipchoge’s recent world record set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon by one second. This would be an insane, ridiculous, and absolutely unheard of feat. I would most likely be kidnapped by the government and placed in a holding cell, and conspiracy theorists would (rightly) accuse me of being from another planet.

One month from tomorrow, I will find out where I fall on this list. I think I can safely assume it will be somewhere between kidnapping and Al Roker.

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