*** WARNING – extremely long post (probably full of grammar and spelling errors). I could have broken it into separate posts but it’s done now. ***
“This is not a PR course. Go out there and take it all in and enjoy it!” I had continually heard that in all of my NYC Marathon prep, even before getting injured. So this recap is not the usual, “I had the race of my life,” or “I did way better than expected,” recap. It is an honest retelling of my NYC weekend and my emotions and experience given the cards I was dealt leading up to the race. And what an experience it was! I honestly anticipated a Chicago Marathon type atmosphere, but really wasn’t prepared for what I’d encounter. The hype, the people, the crowds and the emotions! This trip was truly a once in a lifetime destination race and even though I wasn’t able to “race” it, just running it was such a gift.
Let me start my recap from the beginning. We arrived to NYC late Friday night and my husband, family friends, parents, inlaws and sister in law were all along for the ride.
DAY BEFORE RACE
SHAKEOUT – Saturday morning I woke earlier than anticipated and though I originally had planned on going to the #WeRunSocial Shakeout Run, I had been talking to my instafriend @jennammchugh and she had invited me to join her for an 8:30 am 20 minute shakeout run (and photo fun) in Central Park. I decided because I still needed to go to the Expo and had a blogging event that afternoon that 8:30 was better for my schedule. I met up with Jenna (she was easy to spot because she looks just like her insta photos) and after a little phone scare (I thought my phone was stolen in Central Park), we embarked on an easy 20 min run (8:30/mile pace). Then, in true social media form, we proceeded to take about 30 runfies in a few different locations in the park. 🙂
EXPO TIME – Considering 51,000 people ran this race the expo at the Jacob J. Javitz center was very well run and getting my bib was a piece of cake. Dustin tagged along but I could see he instantly regretted it. There was beer and football waiting for him and expos are like a runner’s paradise. You had to have your race registration confirmation on hand or log into your NYRR account to show it to them. No one got frustrated with me and there were very few lines, save for the transportation help area. Speaking of, I ran into another instafriend, @clairerunsthere, during my time at the expo. Together we made a day-before decision to switch my transportation from the midtown bus to the Staten Island ferry and decided to share a cab the next morning and ride there together! Anyone who knows me, knows this is soooo not my personality. I love structure. I love a plan. And I love plenty of cushioning time for all important events. But I wanted to have transportation with someone and Claire even suggested trying to start the race together if we could. I was like “Sure, let’s do it!” Having transportation taken care of (or my fate sealed), Claire and I decided to snap a few expo pics with our bibs and then go through the shopping area.
I was shocked at the lines. It was truly unlike anything I’d seen and I’ve done huge races before. Chicago’s expo wasn’t this crazy and I had Dustin in tow with me, remember? I looked around the Asics area and even though most everything was marked down at least 25% (some 50%), I just didn’t have it in me to stand in the lines to pay. One runner in line had already been waiting an hour in line and still looked like she had an hour to go. It was 12 noon!!! I really didn’t NEED anything and I knew Dustin didn’t want to stick around. So I left empty handed with just my packet pickup info. I was secretly crushed inside because shopping literally is my other favorite thing to do besides running. I missed out on Garmin deals (hello, I found out the rose gold Fenix 3 was on sale), meet and greets with Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky and didn’t get to stop by the Jackrabbit merchandise area either. Insert sad face. One suggestion to those reading this who may do this race in the future and plan to shop ANYWHERE in New York is to make sure you notify your bank that you will likely be making purchases from merchants that may pop up as other areas besides NYC because of where they are based out of, so they don’t get declined.
MEET & GREET WITH MEB – Generation UCAN had contacted me the week prior to the race inviting me to be one of 15 bloggers (only 11 others showed up) in attendance at a UCAN facebook live taping and then 30 minute meet and greet with Meb. I have to say this was one of the highlights of my weekend! I’d never met Meb Keflezighi and the private room they had for us at Lifetime Sky was awesome to get intimate time with him. I loved listening to him talk about his Rio experience, his future race plans and his advice for race day considering he has run New York so many times. Not sure Meb’s advice really translated for me on race day though …
DINNER WITH INSTAFRIENDS – Following the meet and greet, I went back to my hotel to quickly change and then met up with 9 other instagrammers who had been chatting for a few weeks leading up to the race. We all wanted to meet in real life so we had a reservation for our big group at Pasta Lovers Trattoria in Time Square. I was running behind because of the Meb thing but ended up only being a few minutes late. It was awesome to meet these people in real life and see how in person personalities matched up with IG personalities! Everyone chatted about their race goals, expectations and experiences, thus far. I think they are all planning to do Chicago 2017 and meet up again. Sadly, Chicago is not on my radar.
After dinner, I headed back to our hotel (the Royalton on 44th and 6th) and got into race day preparation mode! I laid all of my race necessities out (Orange Mud visor, Injinji socks, Lululemon run stuff your bra, custom made tank my friend Maggie made for me, lululemon speed shorts, CEP calf sleeves, Asics Dynaflyte shoes, Flipbelt, Nuun tabs for the morning, race bib and pins, and my Clif bloks) and was hoping to be asleep by 9. After rolling with my Roll Recovery R8 and then getting ready for bed, it was more like 10:30 pm but it was also daylight savings so I did gain an hour and honestly slept better than I’ve ever slept before a race. Funny thing how things are different when you don’t have race jitters.
I chatted with Claire right before bed and made sure she was good to go on the cab for the morning and that we would be okay for the ferry. She said we would be and said she’d be by at 6:45 am for me to jump in the cab! Dustin crept in the room about 1:30 am but thankfully didn’t bother me.
Claire was right on time at 6:45 am. We headed to the Staten Island ferry and were dropped off by our cab driver at 7:00 am. We hit the bathrooms inside and then looked for the next departing ferry (our time on our bibs said 6:45 am and we intentionally missed it because Claire assured me it didn’t matter).
She was right, it didn’t. The lines up to the departure point were insane! We waited 15 minutes in line and caught the 7:15 am ferry. I was glad I switched from the bus to the ferry at this point because the views were amazing! The ferry ride was about a half hour and Claire and I took lots of pics before finally arriving at Staten Island.
Next up, we had to wait in more lines to get on the buses that would take us to Fort Wadsworth. I hadn’t anticipated the cluster that transportation to the race would be. The bus wait was about 20 minutes and we finally boarded our bus at 8:25 am. I was getting anxious!!! (Our wave was a 10:15 am start.
Our bus was filled with mostly people in our start wave (or later), but there were a few on our bus that had a 9:50 am start wave and because the bus ride to Fort Wadsworth took about 40 minutes, by 9:05 when we got there, a few on our bus were freaking out! Which led me to begin to freak out, too!
Claire assured me with 30 minutes to get into our wave corral we were fine! We hit the port-o-potties (and for the first time in marathon running history for me, I didn’t get gastro distress prerace. TMI, I know), snapped some more runfies, and were happy that a volunteer said I could move from blue wave 2 to Claire’s orange wave 2. We had already decided since we weren’t racing for time, we would run together. All of a sudden we looked down and it was 9:40! And we were in the wrong start area!!! My worst fears were coming true! This is my brain in that moment: “They are going to start without me!” “I knew it!” “We should have never come this late!” Claire assured me it was fine. Worst case, we’d start in wave 3. They weren’t going to let us not run. Haha, what would I have done without her!?!? She was like the yin to my yang.
Once inside orange wave 2 corral, we had 30 minutes til our wave was to start. We began walking to the start line on the upper deck and I remember looking down at my Garmin and seeing that I’d already walked 2 miles! The logistics behind getting to the start were complicated, I have to say.
5 minutes before go time, Claire and I ditched our throw away clothes and hugged each other. We had no goals except to run healthy and happy (she had just run Marine Corp a week before) and it was nice to know someone was going to run alongside me and keep me company.
My coach had messaged me the day before the race and told me to just go out and run with no expectations and hopefully be so caught up in the sights that I wouldn’t feel the pain. With that in mind, I literally had no jitters. A part of me was kind of bugged by that because it almost seemed like I didn’t care. My head was like “Do I not care?” “Can I be that way?” “Can I run this for fun?” Seriously, guys, there’s alot of inner turmoil inside this big head of mine. This race was different though in that I didn’t have the normal time pressure (I put on myself).
I was so surprised at how warm and windy it was (especially since the day before it had been 10 degrees cooler). 57 degrees at the start with 15 mph winds. Considering I was used to 85 degree plus weather for my running with wind obstacles often, the weather didn’t bother me and I was actually quite pleased.
Morning of and during
- Generation Ucan + 16 oz Nuun water
- Generation Ucan bar
- Clif Blocks 3 blocks at mile 5, mile 10, mile 15 and mile 20.
- Water every 2 miles for first 10 miles, then alternated water and gatorade every 2 miles after that.
(splits are taken from my Garmin, actually race time splits may differ).
Miles 1-2: The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge – the start immediately takes you up the bridge. There’s no flat to run before to help you gear up for the ascent. You just begin running up. Claire and I used this opportunity to snap pics (while running) and were trying to hold back on speed because it’s so easy to get caught up in the crowd. Because originally we both thought we’d be running faster, our corral had us next to the 3:50-4 hour pacers yet we knew our finish time would be slower. Claire didn’t realize what a little sperm I am at the start of races. I love to shoot out like a bat out of hell (super bad habit) and thankfully she was there to caution me that it was only going to get harder. We took in the magnificence of the bridge and the skyline of NYC and chatted. You have no idea how much you learn about a person until you run alongside them for 3+ hours.
Mile 1 9:53 (the ascent up the bridge)
Mile 2 8:37 (the descent)
Miles 3-15: Brooklyn – As soon as we hit Brooklyn, I was immediately greeted with “USA!!!” (Claire was wearing a very patriotic outfit) and “Go, Jessrunsblessed!” The fanfare was awesome and we fed into it raising our hands up and “whooping” every time we heard our names called or attention being given to us. I seriously gained a high-five game this race! It was amazing! I knew Brooklyn was a large majority of the race and settled in to what I hoped was about a 9:45 pace. I didn’t look at my watch while running with Claire because I figured (and assumed correctly) that she’d pace us. I had worn my headphones but realized quickly I didn’t need them. I can’t say it enough that the crowd support is like nothing you will ever see in another race (or at least my limited experience). At mile 5 I remember having the biggest wave of elation. I was so filled with gratitude to be running this race and was enjoying it like never before (during a marathon, anyways). At around mile 9-10 I felt the tightness in my left quad and my left hip begin barking. I tried to ignore it but knew I needed to slow down. Claire happily obliged and we kept going. Miles 11-12 was very interesting to me. This area has alot of Hasidic Jews (I thought they were Amish people in the moment) and they kept crossing the marathon course as if we weren’t even running it. Just going about their day … it was definitely odd. Late into mile 12 and into 13, we hit the Pulaski Bridge going from Brooklyn into Queens. That one wasn’t too bad and I thought, “we are halfway done!” But at mile 15, we hit the Queensboro bridge, and heard the ambulance. Someone was down and down bad and there was lots of rubbernecking (sad to say). I said a quiet prayer for the person, though I couldn’t see details and soon after my prayers turned into curse words. I think Claire said a few, too (for the bridges, not each other). For some reason, for both Claire and I, this bridge was tougher than the Verrazano-Narrows bridge. GPS also got lost on both of our watches so the splits below are likely inaccurate, though could be accounted for by our pause for pics. On the decent of that very slow bitch of a bridge, Claire and I took turns running ahead taking photos of each other and even paused for a quick runfie with the amazing bridge views. Running at this speed (SO SLOW) and stopping for a picture were both marathon firsts for me. I’ve never done that as I’m usually very time focused. On the decline, Claire asked if we could stop to stretch for a second. I said “ok,” and took the minute to stretch my quads and hips. In that moment of stopping, I realized “oh shit, I’m hurting,” and Claire said the same. But we persevered and headed onto First Avenue..
Mile 3 9:12
Mile 4 9:17
Mile 5 9:33
Mile 6 9:24
Mile 7 9:33
Mile 8 9:36
Mile 9 10:10
Mile 10 9:51
Mile 11 10:17
Mile 12 9:58
Mile 13 10:20
Mile 14 10:09
Mile 15 12:14
Mile 16-19: First Avenue – I want to mention that it was so nice having water stops every mile. I didn’t wear a hydration belt and loved that hydration (Gatorade and water) was available so frequently. But the trash. Wow. I’m a middle of the packer and couldn’t imagine how the back of the pack runners felt. I tripped countless times on cups and honestly though, can’t think of a way they could have gotten them off the course except for runners to do a better job trying to aim for trash cans. As we ran on to First Avenue, I was expecting to be wowed. Not saying I wasn’t but I’d heard so much hype about First Avenue, the sound coming off the bridge and the spectators and quite honestly it left me a little less than impressed. As we ran deeper into Queens the crowd and the roar grew and that’s what I needed at that point. I actually needed it from the moment I transcended from the Queensboro. I was hurting and for the purpose of this recap I want to be completely transparent. I never once thought about quitting or DNFing because no matter how ugly a race this was going to be, I realized the importance of finishing to my kids and to my supporters. Obviously people DNF because of intense injury and I get that but my injuries were nagging, not debilitating. As a parent it’s important for me to practice what I preach “you finish what you start,” no matter the score, the time, nor your performance. As we came into mile 18, the crowds were infectious but so were the crossers. Crossers of the street that is. I couldn’t believe how many spectators just ran through the race course to the opposite side. It was unnerving. This was also a crucial point because I lost Claire. We were hanging on together and then she just disappeared. She later said she saw some friends and went to give them a hug and a “hi,” but I didn’t notice and just kept running. I won’t say I hit a wall per say, but without her by my side I got a little lonely. I continuously scanned the crowd because I kept hearing people say my name, and I don’t know why I thought it but I kept thinking maybe my family had surprised me along the course (I knew they’d be at the finish). It’s funny because I had run up to 22 miles in training so I knew to just keep one foot in front of the other, but without someone talking to me, I just kept thinking about my left side and the dull ache for countless miles.
Mile 16 13:22
Mile 17 10:09
Mile 18 10:18
Mile 19 10:39
Mile 20-21: The Bronx – I kept looking for Claire and actually became a little teary eyed at this point. I missed having her companionship and looked down at my legs in dismay. “Why won’t you go faster?” I asked my legs but was quickly snapped out of it by onlookers cheering for me. That’s right I kept reminding myself! “I’m running the world’s largest marathon!!!” I remember doing a self assessment during mile 20 right as we were entering the Willis Avenue bridge, often nicknamed “the wall” in this marathon. My shoulders hurt like crazy (that’s new) and my abs .. omg my abs! I must have been tense or using bad form (clearly, from the pic below) because my whole upper body hurt. The next day I remember not even being able to touch my shoulders or stomach because of how sore to the touch they both were. It was about this time in the run that I also started seeing people drop. What I mean when I say that is they literally were falling down and not getting up. More ambulances and more people getting swallowed up by this race. It happened at least 3 times in between mile 20 and 22 and I was floored. I mean I knew I wasn’t running fast at all but people running in the 4:15-4:30 time group are not typically unprepared. It hit me then, that this wasn’t just a hard race for me. It was a hard race for everyone of those 51,000 runners running it, no matter how fast or slow. Because everything was tightening up on me at this point, pace (slow as it had been) was out the window and the last 10k literally became about making it to the end.
Mile 20 11:07
Mile 21 11:35
Miles 22-23: Harlem and Fifth Avenue – coming off the Madison Ave bridge into Harlem, I dug deep. I had glanced down and saw 11 something per mile on my watch and thought, “This can not be an 11 minute mile because that’s what my 7 year old daughter runs.” But it was. In that moment, an 11 min mile felt like a 8:30-9 min mile. I felt like I was booking it. Mile 23 was a slow gradual incline up Fifth Avenue and it felt like 3 miles to me (think running in quicksand). I kept waiting for a burst of energy because of my Clif bloks, but it didn’t come. Looking at race pics you would never guess. Haha, I’m such a good poser!
Mile 22 10:35
Mile 23 11:18
Miles 24-25: Central Park – As I crested Fifth Avenue, I came into Central Park. I was elated. I knew I was almost done and the park looked alive and beautiful. Right as I saw the sign by NYRR that welcomed runners to Central Park, I also saw another ambulance. A man was down and not getting up. I said another prayer for him and kept going. I looked at the faces of the spectators, full of pride and anticipation. I looked at the foliage on the trees in the park and thought about how beautiful fall in the northeast must be. It was at this time that I texted Dustin. I had done this during my first marathon at the 24 mile point to give him a heads up that I was coming so I figured I’d do the same during NYC. I thought my family would be at the finish like other races (little did I know they wouldn’t be). What’s so funny about this, is NYC is not other races. So of course, I got caught texting by race photographers!!! Ooops! 🙂 I also realized I was shuffling. Not really running. Eek! I’d better step on it and stop having my head in the clouds!
Mile 24 12:27
Mile 25 10:52
Mile 25.5-26.2: TheFinish – As I exited the park onto 59th street, I began crying again. It was almost over and a wave of emotion came over me. I heard the announcer, I saw the country flags lining the course, I saw the jumbotron that was real time playing the finishers as they crossed that finish line and knew I was a minute or so away from finishing this amazing course!!! I gave everything inside me that last 200-400 yards to the finish and in that moment laughed a little because my coach is always telling me to do strides at the end of every easy run and I heard his words in my head telling me to RUN (probably should have done more strides)! I began to really cry (think mascara smudging, double chin inducing, ugly cry). I was wrought with feelings of accomplishment, resignation and pain. My hip literally felt like a thousand needles were stabbing it and my quad strain felt like a quad tear. But it was done and the hardest (yet, most exciting) marathon I’ve done to date.
Mile 26 10:36
My family wasn’t at the finish. I began limping through the finishers chute looking for them but didn’t see them anywhere. I received a text from Dust that they were in the family reunion waiting area over at 65th and Central. I was still in the park winding my way around the finishers chute that would pop us out onto Central. I knew from friends that had run this marathon before that it could take 45 minutes or so to “get out.” I think I walked a mile or a mile and a half (at least it felt that way) as I walked the 12 blocks from 77th to 65th street. Luckily, I grabbed my finishers poncho which at this point was much needed as the clouds had come over the city about mile 24 and the sun was scarce. I was freezing!!! And hurting. And yet so happy to see my family and friends at the finish. They were so proud of me!
I have to say as much fun as it was to “run for fun,” the competitive spirit inside me was a little let down. I truly couldn’t have run any faster given my health and training to that point. But finishing this marathon 16 minutes slower than my current personal worst marathon (my first – Chosen Marathon for Adoption in 2010 in 4:18), was slightly discouraging and humbling.
I never claim to be an elite. I don’t even call myself fast because those days seem like so long ago. But I thought about my ultimate goal, to BQ, and was like “omg, will I ever get there?” I know so many people’s race recaps are filled with positivity and lessons learned. I had to really prod internally for my postmarathon reflection. I KNOW you only get out of training what you put in. Because I was met with some stumbling blocks injury wise, I couldn’t train the way I needed to, to even come close to PRing (current PR is 3;57), let alone BQing. And I knew that this race was not a huge PR race (for most) and that the inclines would likely do me in. They didn’t but, almost.
I will say when I reflect back to the experience and what it taught me, I can honestly say that marathons, whether raced or simply run, can teach you a lot about life, perseverance and your willingness to live in the moment. I don’t mean the typical metaphoric “Life is a marathon, not a sprint,” kind of comparison but more of “this is where I’m at and I appreciate it” kind of way. No matter your time – the training, actual running of and completion of a marathon is symbolic to the responsibilities you take on as an adult. Too often in life and in running we are so focused on the future (and yes, goals are good), but that forward focus mentality alienates us from the moments and presence we are currently in. Your willingness to actually live in those moments and appreciate them, good or bad, without looking for to the future constantly hoping for something better. Working, marriage and parenthood all take preparation, serious intention and full devotion. Unlike a marathon though, there’s no “I’m done with that,” in life unless you are speaking of retirement, divorce or death. But to my point, most marathoners I know, train for one marathon at a time and do what they can given their bodies’ response to the training. I realized as I thought about NYC that it was another completed marathon for me, not something to be ashamed of, and something to appreciate for what it was. I ran my 6th marathon through all 5 boroughs of New York and finished. Period. That was were I was at in that moment and I do appreciate it.
Some people have asked me what is next??? And, I don’t know. I am giving myself a full month off running and allowing my body to heal (crosstraining) and then discussing with my coach the possibilities of a 2017 marathon that I can do better at. I am trying not to treat this marathon as a stepping stone to the next. It in itself is an accomplishment and what I do next needs not to be about redemption but more of a change in strategy/refocusing of whatever goal that will be. So let’s just leave it as TBD.
Thanks for reading to the end!