I was on the fence about running the New York City marathon after Chicago but I went with it.. shocker…I just couldn’t turn down a Friday evening with a best friend from college who I haven’t seen for far too long and a 26.2 block party through New York City.
I posted on Facebook about my decision (or lack there of )and received a variety of responses but one in particular stood out…”Do what makes you happy.”….Running through the streets of beautiful cities makes me happy. Traveling for races makes me happy. Connecting with friends from Instagram makes me happy. Catching up with old friends makes me happy. Running makes me happy. The smile in the picture says it all. Pure and genuine happiness and gratitude.
Over the past couple of months, I have been thinking about different goals and the directions I want to head as 2018 approaches. I wanted to run NYC as a way of closing this marathon chapter (for now) with a bucket list race.
I stayed with my friend from college on Friday night and did a Saturday morning shakeout run around Rye, New York while she went to grab us bagels and smoothies because she is the absolute best. We dropped my car off at the train station and she drove me right into the city. I hated saying goodbye because I could spend forever catching up with her and because I was not ready to tackle this giant city by myself!
The first thing I had to do at the expo was get my transportation to the start line figured out because I just assumed I could casually walk to Bryant park and jump on the bus like it was no big thing. Nope. I guess with 50,000 runners, it is more organized than that. The lady at the runner support desk was amazing and assured me that I was not the only lunatic to mess this up. She also commented on my predicted time..I think I put 3:10. I
quickly and humbly replied that I must have been in a good/confident mood when I filled that out because that was not going to happen. I mentioned that I was still recovering from Chicago. She was so excited because she is currently deciding between Chicago and NYC next fall and her goal is to get a PR so she wanted to know which course would help her get that PR so we exchanged contact info so I could report back to her. (I told her Chicago if anyone else in the same boat!)
A 4:45 wake-up for a 9:50 race is always scary because you have to figure out fueling and you have 5 lovely hours to spend with your nerves. I brought a bag and had all intentions of checking it but was running late when I arrived to the athletes village so had to ditch it on the lawn. RIP my wonderful Gap sweats, my chapstick and my $4 Erin Condren black pen…whoever ends up with my bag, please know that you have an amazing pen for grading papers and the most fashionable pair of sweatpants!
When I travel for big races, I don’t worry too much about getting to the start line because I know the second I walk out of the hotel, there are crowds of people walking in the same direction… and only on race morning is it 100% normal to fully trust strangers at 5am. Well, NYC marathon is different…know where you are going because you can’t trust strangers. People are staying ALL OVER THE CITY and taking different forms of transportation (bus, Uber, ferry) so there are not a ton of crowds walking in the same direction.
The bus line was VERY LONG…and the bus ride was even LONGER…GO TO THE BATHROOM BEFORE YOU GET ON. It is comical now thinking about all 30 of us sitting on the bus trying to keep our composure but are dying on inside because we have to pee so bad. The athletes village was within a quarter mile of us for a good 45 minutes but we couldn’t get off the bus until we were right in front of the drop off. Brutal. Now picture all 30 people sprinting off the bus… some rushing right to bag check so they could get to the bathroom sooner… and some throwing their dignity and class out the window and sprinting to any bush they could find. I won’t tell you what group I was in but if you know me well enough you don’t have to think too hard. READ: bathroom > dignity
By the time I got through bag check, it was already 8:45. I had my bagel and banana on the bus around 6:45 and was hungry again so I jogged over to the athletes village, snagged a bagel from the Dunkin Donuts booth and shoved it in my mouth as I made my way to my corral for the last call. Yes. Last call was at 9 for a 9:50 start. We sat in our corral for about 15 minutes before we had to walk to the start line. I met a ton of great women and we filled the time by creating a female barricade so we could all go to the bathroom one last time before the race went off. #girlpower #menhaveitsoeasy #thebeautyofrunning
The gun finally went off and it was time to see what the next 3 hours had in store for me. The race started off with a climb over the Verrazano Bridge. Based on all the blogs I read, a big piece of advice was to NOT go out too hard on the climb…and trust me I didn’t. I took my sweet time and just got comfortable with the pace. The first mile ticked away at 8:27. I was a bit shocked and thought to myself, I am either going to negative split the heck out of the race or I am going to rock a personal worst. Mile 2 was 7:16 and now confirmed that neither of those two options were going to happen. And that right there is pretty symbolic of how the entire race went. I would have thoughts like ‘oh no! my calf feels tight and it is still early on’ and then 10 minutes later I totally forgot about it. But of ALL the concerns I had, my left hamstring was NEVER one of them. Yup, THE HAMSTRING THAT ALMOST KEPT ME OUT OF THE RACE WAS NEVER 1 OF THE 4593 CONCERNS THAT CROSSED MY MIND OVER 26.2 MILES. I sure am happy it was never a real issue but it really makes me question my sanity!
I stayed pretty consistent around the 7:30s and felt stronger than I had anticipated. The first 10k passed by quickly and I really settled in and found a solid groove. Whenever I had moments of doubt or negative thoughts creep in, I just told myself to make it to mile 16 where my parents were located. It was the best mental strategy because rather than counting down from 26.2, I counted down from mile 16 and it was much more manageable. I hit mile 16, ran down the Queensboro Bridge, rounded the corner onto First Ave and immediately saw them. It lit me up and gave me so much energy!
The next benchmark in the race was mile 19 because I knew I had a friend cheering on the Brooklyn Bridge. She is just an Instagram friend but I knew she would be cheering her head off and her bubbly personality would be just what I needed…and sure enough, it was. I used her energy to power me through 19. The infamous mile 20 approached and this is where things always get interesting. This is where people randomly grab their cramped up leg or their face turns to pure agony rather than the usual mile 20 struggle face. After 9 marathons, you would think I’d be used to this part but I am not…it always breaks my heart even though I know they are fine and just experiencing a cramp.
I certainly wasn’t hitting the wall but my legs were getting that weird feeling like they could cramp at any point but were also still willing to grind out the final 6 miles. I had to keep reminding myself that this is where it is SUPPOSED to hurt. This where you embrace it, you keep fighting and like Deena Kastor said on a podcast I listened to the night before the race, this is where you DEFINE YOURSELF.
We headed toward Central Park at mile 23 and although the end felt so close, there were still 3 more miles. Mile 24 was definitely the most challenging mile with the gradual incline but my mental game was pretty strong because I knew my legs would hold up and I just needed to be able to fight through the pain. I crossed at 3:22:22 and although it was slower than I had anticipated, I was so happy! I got a little choked up because the day was just perfect. Strong running, perfect weather and I really embraced every moment on there.
I had about 2 seconds to celebrate by myself before I realized that I had no idea where my parents were or how far away I was from my hotel and checkout was in an hour…even after spending $50 for late checkout!
Only in NYC do you JOG back to your hotel after a marathon. City of nonstop rushing. Thankfully, the front desk gave me an extra 30 minutes so I had the luxury of taking a shower while my parents
questioned how they birthed such a messy human helped clean my room and pack my stuff.
We made it out with 15 minutes to spare and stopped for a celebratory meal and mimosa on our way to Grand Central.
\So now what…
9 marathons completed over last 3 years, 3 of the World Majors and 4 in 2017. There are so many more I would love to do but it is time to take a break from the distance. The training is the easy part. The maintenance, the recovery and the stress are the hardest parts. I am proud of my accomplishments this year but there is no doubt that I have hit a plateau. I could blame the heat in all my goal races this year but I am not going down that route. The truth is, I have become a timid and fearful runner. It may be due to the injury in the winter or the fact that the marathon is a slower and more conservative race. It is a long distance and the idea of not finishing is always a possibility. Before the marathon, I was very competitive in the half marathon distance. I would still get those pre-race nerves but was never fearful of failing. I want to go back to those those shorter distances where I trained hard but didn’t worry too much about mileage. I pushed myself in all my workouts whether is be running workouts or strength training. I wasn’t worrying/training cautiously because of a 20 miler coming up or some big long run. The 13-14 mile long runs were manageable and allowed me to be a faster and more diverse runner. Plain and simple…I didn’t worry as much and that allowed me to push myself to become stronger and faster without getting minor injuries/setbacks.
I don’t have any concrete goals for the rest of 2017 or 2018 but I do want to find that fire and speed again. To be completely honest, I think I’ve lingered around the marathon distance for so long because it is easier for me. It sounds crazy but it is true. The pain in a marathon is not nearly as painful as the pain in a 5k, 10k or half. Yes, I am aware that this probably means I am not running it properly or hard enough but I will fine tune those things later down the road. Right now, I want to have fun with my training, build strength and find some of the speed that I have lost. Having a blank schedule and training plain and no upcoming races is the most refreshing feeling at the moment!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!