I was in NYC for almost a week, so I have plenty of other fun stuff to write about as well (I was a tourist: it was awesome!)–but this one you will have to sit through first. An epic race report!!
Marathon Expo: These are held the day or two before the race, and I am never a huge fan. You may think because I’m running a marathon that I like crowds, but it just isn’t true. I flew into the city Friday night, and woke up nice and early Saturday to make my way to the convention center. Everything was massive & overwhelming, but picking up my race bib was incredibly easy–not even a line! I then ended up in an Asics portion of the expo that was bigger than any running store I’ve been to. They sponsor the race, so they had all their gear with “NYC Marathon” logos on it. I checked the marathon weather & it was 40s with extreme wind. I’m used to running in 80s with blaring sun. So I actually needed to buy some gear to make it through the cold start to the race. I chose an awesome turquoise warm looking long sleeve race jacket & ignored all the advice that says, “Never wear anything new on race day.” I was supposed to buy some running gels (basically like an energy bar in gel form), but I was too overwhelmed by the crowds and booths and noise to remember. Overall, a much easier experience than expected.
Marathon Morning: I was prepared for the adventure that was going to be “getting to the marathon.” I didn’t really sleep the night before–well, I had nightmares about being late for a race. The time changed, which helped it be not quite so early & I was out of the apartment by 7ish. I caught the subway to Staten Island Ferry, and as soon as I got onto the train–wake up call–I realized, “Oh, I am definitely running a marathon today.” Everyone was in their running shoes & “throw away clothes”–the sweats, jackets, pajamas, etc people wear and throw away as the race starts. We reached the ferry & thousands more runners joined us there. The first one leaving was full, so I waited for the second one to come. I had a nice view of the Statue of Liberty & then the skyline as I headed into Staten Island. Here, we line up for buses to take us to the start. This was the moment we all realized, “Wow, it’s really COLD and WINDY.” I waited for a bus & climbed aboard, praying this bus ride would last almost until race start–so I wouldn’t be in the cold for long. It DID, so I had time to use the bathroom & get into my “corral,”–yes, I feel like a farm animal & wait 20 minutes or so before start. It was during this time I forgot I had no gels to race with–absolutely no race nutrition for a marathon. This was laughable. I texted my running buddy Aransas who planned to see me on the course & she said she could bring some with her & meet at mile 8. I couldn’t believe how unprepared I was, but there are so many things to remember when coming to an out of town race.
Race Start: We started the run over a bridge I had never heard of–the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Fun fact: it is the longest suspension bridge in the United States–and the one that takes us out of Staten Island. We were all cheering in the beginning before trying to concentrate on just running in a straight line because the wind was so fierce. I had TWO hats on & they blew off on the bridge, never to be seen again RIP. I thought, “Oh this should be an interesting day.” My bangs were not happy.
Miles 2-4: I was so overwhelmed by everything during these first few miles–I had little time to think about how slow or fast I was running, what was ahead of me, etc. Instead, I was dealing with outfit problems. No hats, no problems. I put on my little hood. I had my cell phone in my back jacket pocket, but it was bouncing around all over the place–this was never gonna work. So I held my cell phone in my hand for 26.2 miles because I couldn’t problem-solve that one. The insides of my arms were tingling for 48 hours after the race because I was gripping the phone so tight, LOL. My ipod kept playing this Counting Crows song I didn’t remember putting on my playlist. When I tried to fast forward, the buttons weren’t working. And in Mile 3, I hear the terrible ipod voice say, “LOW BATTERY.” WHAT?!?! Music is my best friend–I charged this thing fully, what’s going on here?!?! I was terrified, so I packed up the ipod & headphones and told myself I would save it for when I really needed it. All this happened as I tried to run a regular pace, but I had to do lots of stopping just to adjust all the layers, take off the gloves, put them back on, etc. I am NOT used to running in layers.
Miles 4-8: I started to relax and enjoy the sheer number of people out to support. There was not a blank space on the sidewalk–there were that many people cheering. There were so many bands, that I thought for a second I could make it without my music. I smiled. The sun was out, making the cold feel like a perfect running temp & once we were off the bridge, the wind felt like less of an issue. I was supposed to see several friends at this point, but I wasn’t expecting the crowds or that wide of a street. I kept staring & looking, but it was stressing me out too much. I decided just to be on the look out for Aransas with the gels around Mile 8, and I would be fine. I make it to Mile 8 without seeing her. I start to worry a little, wondering if I should take all the used gels on the ground & try to squeeze enough out to give me some kind of calories. Your mind goes to dark places people!
Mile 8.1: There she is! In the midst of a huge crowd, during a narrow turn I see her–she sees me. I run over, she runs over with the gels, a quick hug, & I’m off. This is a huge boost. Heck, let’s eat a gel right now in her honor!
Mile 8-13.1: I don’t know Brooklyn or Queens that well, and that’s where I was during this time. I kept thinking I made it to Queens, and then someone would cheer about Brooklyn. Where is QUEENS? When are we getting to Manhattan? The wind would play tricks on me, pretending to go away & then blasting me around the corner. Finally, at the half-way point–Queens!
Mile 13-15: This is when it really hit me that I was running a marathon, which is terrifying/depressing/exciting all at the same time. I wondered why I just don’t do half marathons, and then I would be done already. But physically, I was still feeling fine. Yes, I wanted to be in Manhattan already, but Queens was lovely. Still loads of people, high school bands drumming, etc. I wonder how my ipod is doing. I took it out, turned it on, & all the buttons were working again! No mention of low battery. I could still barely hear the music (the supporters are that loud!), but it was a comforting feeling.
Mile 16: Queensboro Bridge. All I remember was #1) the quiet (no spectators allowed), #2) the views. Ok, and if I’m being honest, #3) the incline. But at least you know the decline was going to be on the other side. I stopped and took my only picture from the race. Even though I wasn’t running for a fast time, it’s still hard for me to be one of those runners who just stops and enjoys the views. Wasn’t I adding at least a minute or two to my time? I had a little pep talk to myself to just enjoy it. And then weeeeee, down the hill we go.
Mile 16-18: I was so happy to be in Manhattan! We run down 1st Ave, and the crowds are insane. I decided to remain in the center of the street the whole time, turning up my music & focusing on the run. Sometimes paying too much attention to signs, cheers, high-fives, etc stresses me out. Lovely atmosphere, though.
Mile 18-22: These are always the hardest miles for me. No amount of cheering helps me at this point. If anything, I want to just say “shhhh! Let me run.” This is when the people around you–your pack!–start to slow down. Some start to walk, which always looks so tempting. And we were running out of Manhattan into the Bronx—no let’s just head over to Central Park & end this thing already! I start my walk/run around Mile 19. My body feels OK, no horrible injuries or anything. I just feel tired. And someone yelling, “Only 5 more miles!” doesn’t help the way it should. 5 Miles seems like a REALLY long time. I am so happy the heat isn’t there, though, because that really sucks the energy. I do take the jacket off, and tie it around my waist. This takes me a few minutes because I’m so uncoordinated. I hate layers!! I know Justin and his mom are just ahead, but where are they!?!? I need them!!!
Mile 23: There they are!! Justin takes too many selfies & runs with me for 100 yards (this is really far for someone who claims to hate running), and my spirit is lifted. OK, it doesn’t hurt that we’re now in Central Park (my home turf–where I used to do my daily runs) & going downhill. I got this!!
Mile 23-26: I had such a fun ending to this marathon. I picked up my pace, and yes–Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” came on. I did everything embarrassing–sang out-loud, air drummed, run/dancing, whatever I could to build off the crowd’s energy. I don’t need to say again: the crowds were huge! I pretended I was on my old normal run, and it was no big deal. I did anything to just keep running, imagining up ahead the same finish where many of my favorite pro marathon runners have run so many times. I would get to run this finish!!
Mile 26-26.2: Britney Spears on the ipod, every country’s flag hanging on either side of us, stadium of crowds & there is the finish line! Hands in the air, big smile, and a feeling of group relief as I look around at the other runners finishing at the same time as me. We. Are. Done.
Mile 26.2-Mile 28: After you run for 26.2 miles, they make you walk another couple of miles–either for someone’s cruel pleasure or due to safety or something that makes sense. It never makes sense after you’ve just finished the marathon. The runners go from joy to complete silence, wanting nothing more than to SIT DOWN. We keep walking. They put a medal around your neck, they give you a sack with an apple (how did they know how much I love them!??!) and some other goods, & all the volunteers tell you how great you are. Everyone is limping, shuffling, or just walking in slow motion. Finally, at 81st Street on the Upper West Side, I was dumped back into the hustle/bustle of the city.
Post Race: It worked out perfectly that the apartment we were staying at was on 75th. YES, those six blocks felt like 10 miles & it must’ve looked it because about 10 drivers yelled, “Taxi?!” at me. But I made it home, hobbled up the stairs, and SAT DOWN. It was glorious. I cancelled any kind of group dinner. It was already around 4pm & I felt anti-social and also like I couldn’t move.
Post Race Meal: After willing myself to take a bath & put my clothes on, I went to a bar and had an amazingly wonderful hamburger, fries and a beer. More than half the bar looked like other marathon runners–wearing their medals with pride. Happiniess!!
IN Summary: I ended up finishing 10 minutes faster than my L.A. Marathon this year, mostly due to the colder temps I’m sure. Maybe I could’ve cut this a bit with ideal conditions (ie: not 20mph wind!), but again–I never worried too much about the time. And it was actually quite relaxing not to have any goals other than to enjoy myself. Anyone who has a chance to, I would highly recommend this race. It’s one of a kind. It’s completely international–people come from all over, wear their country or state on their shirts with pride & it feels like such an awesome community. The question I get asked the most is, “Why do you do that to yourself?” I’m lucky to be able to do it, first off. But I’ve always been drawn to the idea of a community–of runners and supporters. We’re all just cheering each other on. Seeing all the other runners around me is a huge part of what keeps me going. They are going through the same thing I am. We got this. The supporters stand outside in the windy cold & tell you how awesome you are–and hopefully are inspired seeing all types of people getting through these miles together. Blind runners, wheelchair athletes, older, younger, bigger, smaller. It is what I like best about the world. I do it to renew my faith in humankind. And also FOR THE MEDAL, of course!!! That being said, I feel like a nice, quiet, wooded, trail marathon after this noisy bash!