Going into the marathon my emotions were all over the place. About 2 weeks b4 the race I was just so done! I missed my last long run because I just didn’t feel like going out, and missed a couple training runs leading up to the race. I was just sick of all the early morning (waking up at 4am) weekend training runs, the forcing myself to wake up at the crack of dawn to run alone in the dark during the week….I was just done. I have never read anyone’s thoughts on the pre-marathon training, and what a major toll it takes on your life both physically, emotionally, and socially! If you had an active social life prior to thinking about training for a marathon be prepared to tell it bye bye! Don’t get me wrong, you can still live and have a great time; but you just have to make the time to fit it all in. With me having two young children at home I just found balancing everything not as easy as people make it out to be. Marathon Training takes sacrifice and dedication and if you don’t have that stick to 10k’s…lol!
I woke up at 4am race morning to give myself enough time to shower, get cute, and get out the door to make a 5:30 am bus from Runners Stop. Runner’s Stop is a local running store located in Lynbrook, NY. They chartered a bus to Staten Island, and then picked up all runners not too far from the finish line in NYC. It is a very convenient service that I was glad I signed up for! Yes it was a cheese bus, yes it was uncomfortable, and yes it was the best transportation decision I made that day! When we reached Staten Island, all the charter buses that NYRR transports runners to the start in were letting people off right at marathon village. It was super early, I would say around 7am when we reached that area. So everyone who was let off was waiting around for 3-4 hours for the race to begin. My start time was 11am. It wasn’t cold like last year, maybe in the uppers 40’s at that time, so waiting around for that many hours on your feet, or on the cold ground was probably not ideal. I was glad that I did not choose that transportation option. Our bus brought us to a local McDonalds where we hung out for those few hours.
Your probably wondering why the heck we were there so early if I didn’t start running until 11am. Well the race starts on the Verrazano Bridge. This bridge is the only way to drive from Brooklyn into Staten Island. The bridge closes at a certain time (not sure what time that is) so if you are not over the bridge by that time, then your only other option is to take the Ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island. When you pick your race transportation option through NYRR there are different ferry time slots that you can choose. The ferry is actually public transportation so yes you pick a time slot, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. A lot of people figured that out and I heard the ferry was an absolute mess. It was super crowded and I read a lot of people missed their start time. I was again glad I didn’t choose that option.
I would say about 10:30 the people in Corral 4 (me!) get on the bus to head over to marathon village. The bus dropped us off at the tip of the village so I still had a ways to walk to my start corral. I think I walked about a mile in total to get there so I considered that my warm up! Walking through the village I started getting that scared excited feeling that comes with doing a big race. I had a goal time in mind (which was completely blown) so I got myself into a zone and just kept saying in my head you can do this. I put in the training (well mostly I did) I knew I had gotten faster, so I just knew I could pull it off. I went in with a plan to have a good half marathon split.
The race start was quite eventful. Picture thousands of people crowded into a small but large space (if that makes sense) on the Verazanno Bridge. By this point I split with all of my friends because we all had different start corrals. I knew I would be running the race alone, but I didn’t know it would be this lonely! Luckily everyone around me was alone as well, so we formed a stranger running little family for the time that we were on that bridge waiting to start. I read that Soprano for the Metropolitan Opera Susanna Phillips sang the national anthem, and also ran the race, but she didn’t sing it for my wave. A gentleman sang it which I cannot remember his name (sorry) but he ran the race as well.
Here are some pics while I was walking to the start.
The Race Begins
The first half of the race was pretty much went accordingly to plan….well not exactly!! My goal was to keep my pace sub 10 per mile. So anything under 10min miles I would be happy with. Well that went completely out of the window at the start of the race. There were 50,000+ people racing in total and 4 race waves, so 12,500 people starting at a time is huge! Most races don’t even have half that amount of people. So my first mile was incredibly slow and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. So after a few attempts of trying to get around people I eventually just stayed where I was and ran with the crowd. Once I was able to some what carve out my own space I figured I better make up some time and book it in mile 2, so that’s what I did! Miles 3-5 I don’t know what the heck happened! I think I was just really enjoying the race. There were people everywhere, and I mean everywhere. They were cheering, dancing, there were bands playing music, it was just really incredible and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Mile 5 I stopped to take in some nutrition. I got my stingers out of my pouch, grabbed a cup of gatorade and popped a salt pill. I walked for about a minute and took my time eating and making sure everything went down safely. Mile 6-8 I stopped for gatorade and each station and walked through each stop. I knew my goal of getting to the half way mark by 2:15 was gone, so I figured I may as well take my time. Around mile 9 I saw some friendly faces on the sidelines, it was Vernell, Kisha, and Ellen of BGR! A huge smile spread across my face because I surely did not expect to see them on the streets of Brooklyn. They snapped this pic of me, and as you can see I have a huge smile on my face. I stopped and gave them all hugs, and I was on my way. This gave me a little pep in my step and I picked up the pace slightly going into mile 10. Around mile 10 (I think?) I ran into the QuickSilver Striders Crew. I stopped gave them all hugs, Susan passed me an orange, which at the time tasted like the best thing on earth because I was starving. Chrissy gave me some mustard packs (which I didn’t end up using) and I keep booking it. Just around the corner I saw my tri coach!!! A huge grin spread across my face because she told me she’d be around Atlantic Terminal (which she was just further down.) I didn’t see her where I imagined her to be, and thought she either left, or never came out; but she was there and I was so happy! She gave me a bit of a pep talked, ran with me for a few, and I was on my way….thx Coach Jax! Mile 11 I stopped to take in more nutrition; stingers, gatorade, and salt tabs. Now I’ve taken salt tabs before, but usually I’ll take only 1 during an entire workout. During the marathon I was popping one every 55 minutes, I think this was my fatal mistake. Your probably thinking she only drinks Gatorade??….yep I only drink Gatorade. I’ve been training with the Gatorade Endurance formula all year so I’m use to it. I never take water at races because sometimes it is just down right funky tasting. My body is use to Gatorade Endurance, so that is what I stick to.
I got to the halfway mark at 2:24:53. Definitely not the 2:15 I was looking for, but I was having a great time, so worrying about the time was the last thing on my mind. The 13.1 mile marker was on the Pulaski Bridge. I knew from my 20 mile training run that this bridge was a steady incline so I decided to take a breather and walk up this hill. As you can see everyone around me was walking as well. At this point I’m just thinking 13.1 your halfway there! Miles 13-14.5 I was feeling ok, but my 15 is when the cramping set in. Never in my life have I cramped during a run. I’m attributing it to taking in more salt than I usually do. Yes I know it’s normally the opposite, but this is the only thing I changed about my normally racing routine. I know I know the saying never try anything new on race day, but stupid me did! Once I got on the 59th street bridge it was so bad that I just started walking, and not even a brisk walk, I was walking in slow motion. The pain was from my quads all the way down to my toes. At this point I see the 4:45 pacer and my heart drops. My goal time was 4:40, so I know if I am seeing this pacer I am in trouble. I’m still walking and 5 minutes later (no I’m not exaggerating) I see the 5:00 pacer and I literally wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe both pacers caught up to me and passed me! This is the one point in the race that I wanted to quit. I was just thinking all of this hard work for nothing! I was pissed and in pain so I whipped out my phone and texted my friend Allison. As you can see I was probably delirious because I was on the 59th street bridge so this had to be somewhere between mile 15 and 16. After I text her I put my phone away and kept going. Once I got to the end of the bridge I started running. At this point I decided to drink only water until the end of the race. I wanted to get some of the salt out of my system. When I got to mile 16 I knew this was the BGR water station, and there was no way I was walking through it. I mustered up as much strength as I could and ran down the hill from the 59th street bridge and the crowd was roaring. This gave me the extra boost I needed. Now I volunteered at mile 16 for the last 2 yrs so I was very familiar with the setup. When I got to the
point where the water station usually begins I was confused….there was no water…huh! Just when I resigned myself to drink water there was none. Turns out they moved the station down one block because there was a new citi bike station set up where the mile 16 water station use to begin. So I keep trekking and I see DawnMarie! I stop to give her a hug, she asks how I’m doing I tell her I’ve been cramping, and I drink some water. At this point I’m completely stopped and it feels good! Dawn snaps my pic. Then I look across and Dawn L. is over there!!! So you know I had to run across the street and say hey to my girl. Dawn had her daughter out volunteering with her, as well as some of their Jack & Jill crew….I luv when the kids give back.
About 3 weeks prior I ran these exact last 10 miles of the marathon route as practice. At that time I didn’t think it was easy, so I knew it would be extremely difficult now. As soon as I cleared the water station I started cramping again so I started walking as fast as I could which was not very fast at all, but I did the best that I could. Mile 17-19 I continually flushed my system with water. I was taking 2 cups at a time at this point. The run down 2nd Avenue was pretty flat, but I knew when I got to the Willis Avenue bridge it would not be easy. This bridge was a steady incline. I ran as much of it as I could but decided to save my legs and walk some more. Once I got to the end of the bridge I started running again. I remember coming off of the bridge, rounding the corner, and passing a community center I worked at one summer as a teenager. There was also a group giving massages on the side of the road, it was really amazing. The run through the Bronx was so short that if you blinked you missed it. I was really saddened by that since this is my home Boro, but I K.I.M. (kept it moving!)
We crossed back over the 138th street bridge and into Harlem, my second home as a teenager….if those streets could talk! The cramping begin to die down a bit, but I was still feeling it here and there. Once I got to Marcus Garvey I saw Coach Sid Young (Team for Kids – you can see him and my previous post about the marathon expo.) He put his arm around me and walked with me and gave me a much needed pep talk. He told me I was almost home, which runners hate to hear, but he was right, I only had 5 miles to go, that was a cake walk right? Coach Sid sent me on my way and I kept booking. Here comes mile 22. By this time my contacts are completely dried out, which has never happened on a run! I am seeing clouds and trying not to blink to keep my vision as clear as possible. All of a sudden I hear someone calling my name. This is not uncommon since I have my name on my leg. Then this person starts waving at me, but I’m thinking I don’t know anyone out here, then I blink and it’s Allison!!! I run over to her and Zaire and give them hugs! She asks how I’m doing…still cramping but much better. She gives me a big bag of pretzels and those pretzels looked like a steak to me at that point because I was starving. We snap a pic and I yell what are you guys doing here! I was so shocked to see them because I text her like an hour ago and although I didn’t see her reply until later when I got home I was thinking why didn’t she tell me she would be out there! I literally almost cried because I was so happy to see them. This was probably the highlight of my race. I knew my time goal was gone, physically I was having the worse race of my life, but to see a familiar face so late in the race was a real confidence booster….thank you Allison and Zaire!
Mile 22-24 I’m just trucking along and eating my pretzels. Those were the best damn pretzels ever! At that point the cramping was gone and I was just trying to make it to the finishline before dark. I was determined to have my finisher pics with daylight as my backdrop. Somewhere around mile 23-24(I think) we enter Central Park. This is the home stretch. I look at my watch and I am at 5hrs. I said to myself you better cross before 5:30, so now that was my new goal. By this point it was all a mental game so I just did my best to move as fast as I could. I get to mile 25 and couldn’t resist taking a pic.
It took me a couple tries. The sun was setting and was directly in my face. People were all around me walking/running/wogging, you name it, but I got the shot!
1.2 miles to go, I was home free. I buckled down and ran my fastest mile since mile 14. Mile 26 was 12:38. My miles 15-25 were all in the 13-14 min range. I was happy that I had something left in the tank to make it to the end in 5:27:50. Yes it wasn’t the time I had in mind by far, but I had the time of my life. The NYC Marathon is the biggest marathon in the world for a reason, and I am so happy it was my first. Finishing this marathon is right next to finishing my 70.3, and it is a day that I will never forget. So much so that even though I said I would not be doing it next year……I AM!!! Yes I will be running the 2016 NYC Marathon, and yes I am certifiable! Next year I will hopefully get my redemption.
Thanks for reading!
On November 1, 2015 I ran my very first marathon, the NYC marathon and it was epic! Before the marathon though all runners are required to visit the marathon expo to pick up their race materials. I chronicled my experience from start to finish and wanted to share my adventure with you…..Enjoy!
*my full race recap coming soon