i had been planning to run the NYM for nearly two years. while the race is not Boston marathon level elitist impossible to get into, it certainly takes some planning.
i spent the summer of 2015 running NYRR races nearly every weekend to complete their ‘9+1’ program. Essentially, you complete 9 qualifying courses, and volunteer at one race and gain entry to the following years marathon. i actually think this is a great initiative of NYRR. it keeps participants active in the organization, and prepares you for the realities of racing. in 2014 when i ran my first ever race (philly rock and roll half) i was totally unprepared, i didn’t know what a corral was, i didn’t know one should eat before such a long course, and i didn’t know that starting a race with thousands of people would mean you can potentially start out way too fast. but i did learn that i loved racing. and there was no moment greater than crossing finish line and knowing that there is literally nothing in the world you can’t push yourself to do.
so race week.
i had just run the chicago marathon in october, i was really unsure how this race would pan out. i felt pretty recovered from chicago (a great race, and a great PR), but i didn’t have that total sense of confidence that i’d had earlier in the fall. my body was still recovering, ten mile runs felt like ten mile runs, rather than effortless adventures that they had been weeks ago. my longest long run between chicago and NYM was only 12 miles, this really worried me.
Thursday night I took my mom with me to the expo. it was not too busy, and we picked up my race bib, her grandstand tickets, a few new running jackets, a handful of selfies, too many samples of power bars, and we were out of there in an hour. I have to say- i think the chicago expo was better. higher energy. free beer. lots of cheering.
it was hard to process that i was really at the new york marathon expo. it is no exaggeration that i had spent most of 2015 day dreaming about this race. i spent most of last week doubling down on meditation trying to stay present and not in my head over this race. i had made that mistake with the paris marathon this past spring, and i suffered most of the race feeling that i wasn’t really there.
i went to bed at 8:30 friday night, and was up saturday morning at 6. i tested out my “new compression sleeves” (i.e.: compression socks that i cut the feet off of) and keeping all four gels in the sports bra I planned on racing in. it was a short run, 3 miles around my neighborhood. the course runs through the part of Brooklyn where i live (williamsburg, and actually, one of the best parts of the course!)…seeing the blue line on my saturday shakeout got me really nervous.
i spent most of saturday anxious, did my stomach hurt? was i hungry? is that a pain in my knee? i called a car service to arrange a cab to the staten island ferry. then i called and triple confirmed. then i texted the girl i was splitting it with and quadruple confirmed our timing. a friend of mine who is a jiu jitsu competitor was kind enough to spend the afternoon with me. he totally understands the day before nerves. we ate sushi around 5, my now favorite pre-race ritual. carbs, salt, protein. and i was in bed by 9.
it was crazy that everything i had read about was real.
there were thousands of people at the staten island ferry in piles of throw away clothes
it took all of 40 seconds to get onto a ferry, and the huge crowd really didn’t matter
it 100% didn’t matter what time you’d ‘signed up’ to take a ferry
the ferry ride was fine- i was nervous, but my traveling companion (a girl who runs with NBR) was the perfect counterpart of complete stoic ease.
once we arrived on the staten island side, we got on line for the bathroom (great decision, because everything from there on out would be a port potty).
the bus ride to the start village was longer and more nauseating than i’d hoped. but it was fine. really, everything was organized, and totally stress free. i ate oatmeal with protein powder and chia seeds on the bus (out of a ziplock, super genius), and was wired from the massive cold brew i’d had at home.
i’d been hydrating like mad at week so i spent my 1.5 hours at the start village using the port potties and staying warm.
speaking of warm- we had PERFECT marathon weather. i raced in a tank top, shorts, compression socks and sleeves. i wound up throwing away my sleeves around mile 20.
and then suddenly we were lining up at the base of the verazzano.
this is it. this is real. this is it. this is real.
and it was so beautiful
the view from the verazzano is amazing, even for this jaded New Yorker. I started out just ahead of the 4hr pacer. i knew it wasn’t a pace i’d keep up. but i was feeling good, and i wasn’t going to make myself crazy over my pace.
my goals for the race were:
A goal: 4:15
B goal: 4:30
C goal: 4:45
I had run chicago in 4:06, but i didn’t think i had that in me, especially given the hills and bridges of the NY course.
i am so lucky. talk about home field advantage- I had friends at nearly every 5k. We snaked through Brooklyn and I was feeling awesome. the crowds were great, my legs felt good, my stomach felt good. at mile 5 i saw my childhood best friend Bone, she was standing right where she said she would be with a HUGE pink sign. I was so excited to see her, but was gone in a flash. then at mile 7, my friend eric and his baby! again, it was just for a second, but it was so great. these are people that have known me since i was 14, who knew me as a smoker, a party girl, a lost person, and now a marathoner.
around miles 8/9 i got into a weird head space. we were somewhere in bed-stuy and i started worrying about my legs. nothing hurt, but it didn’t feel effortless like it had in chicago. there were hills that i wasn’t expecting. i literally prayed out loud to stay positive. you’ve worked hard for this. be here. be present. this is one day. this is four hours of your life. show up for yourself. be here.
then we hit williamsburg, and it was tremendous. i was running through my neighborhood and saw so many friends. everyone was out on the street. on both sides of the road i had friends calling my name.
right before the halfway mark heading into queens i saw one of my running buddies Jen- i tried giving her a high five and nearly tripped over two dudes in front of me “don’t fall, i took like 500 pictures of you!” she yelled, and then i was into part 2 of the marathon.
my parents and i planned that they would be one street away from the pulaski bridge. and i was really excited to see them. i got to the street and was scanning every face, but the block came and went and they weren’t there. i was actually concerned. my mom would never not show up. i even considered running back, but i didn’t want to take time so i kept moving. in preparation for the 59th street bridge, one of the biggest inclines of the course, i put my headphones on. but i soon realized i didn’t want to hear music. i wanted to be there. how many times in my life would i get to do this? i didn’t want to zone out.
i didn’t find the 59th street bridge too bad. i’ve run it a handful of times, it’s one dramatic incline, and then a nice rewarding decline. and they were right. you can hear the roar of spectators as you’re heading down. and it is fantastic.
i think this was about mile 16, and i was in my head. i’d done a training run on this portion of the course and hated it. there were a million spectators out, but it’s this long steady incline. i knew my brother and his family would be on 100th street- and i was rally excited to see them. especially after having missed my parents. i looked up onto 70th street and figured i’d see him in about 10 minutes, and i can do anything for 10 minutes.
and there they were! with a huge sign!
and i kept on, and into the bronx. as we were crossing the willis bridge i was thinking, shit, i forgot, there’s probably another bridge we cross to get back into manhattan…i hadn’t considered that…
the bronx went by with a blur, we were in and out.
i felt alright, i knew my pace had slowed, but i also knew i was well within A goal territory if i could keep steady.
i felt oddly thirsty all day. during training i drink almost no water on long runs. mostly because i hate carrying anything. but i was grabbing gaterade and water at nearly every water station.
NYM is a FULLY supported course. there is more water and fuel than anyone could need. the course also stays packed the whole time, which is pretty great, but it also means you’re pretty elbow to elbow til the end.
the only part of the course that i got negative was coming back down from the bronx. i think this was mile 20 or so…i knew i had another hour in me, but there were so many hills, and i didn’t know when the hills would end.
i saw my brother again at mile 22, and then i knew i was going to finish, and finish strong. i hadn’t stopped once, and i wasn’t going to. i was going to finish this thing. the crowd here was great. it was like they could sense that we were at a pretty breakable moment. and we just had to keep going. an acquaintance of mine dropped out at mile 24 i learned later. it’s a weird spot between miles 20-25. you’d think that being so close it would be in the bag at that point. but you kind of go to a trippy place.
i have never been more excited to get into central park. i knew this was the final push. and the crowd was great. i saw my friend ken again at mile 25. mile 25!
this was the last mile. i was about to complete the new york marathon. i checked my watch, i knew i would be somewhere around 4:17, i felt good about that. then we were out of the park and crossing 59th street. i thought of how i stood there in 2014 with my ex watching the race. thinking it would be impossible. you don’t even know how strong you are i said this aloud over and over. more people cheering my name, then we made a right, the grandstand at 59th street and colombus circle- it was empty. where are my parents!? something must have happened. someone died. i won’t celebrate this race, it’ll be the day of some crazy tragedy. oh wait, there’s another grandstand ahead. and there they were and we saw each other and i saw the finish line and it was UP ANOTHER HILL and i crossed it.
i did it. i rant two marathons a month apart. and i finished the new york marathon in under 4:20…someone put a medal around my neck and i was crying and so so happy. and so…nauseous. my body felt okay, i knew i wasn’t injured. i tried drinking some of the protein shake they handed out but couldn’t get it down.
i finally got to my parents on 62nd street and held my mom. i did it. it was hard. i don’t even know how strong i am yet. i will keep pushing.
3x marathoner in 2016.
me, freezing at the finish. it took about 3 hours for my lips to stop being purple.
here are the deets:
pre race- two banana’s, oatmeal with chia seeds and vegan protein powder, worlds biggest coffee
mid race- every five miles, one Gu (caramel flavored)
every two miles half a cup of water/half a cup of gaterade
really amazed that i didn’t run much over 26.2 miles
mile 16 was a beast for me. when i run this race again, i will go for an even split!