Alas, blogging has gotten a way from me a bit over the last month. With the last round of long runs on top of an otherwise crazy schedule, I fell behind in blogging but luckily not in training. I am proud to say that after so many weeks of preparation, I have completed the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon.
My goals going into the marathon were:
- To finish.
- While still running.
- With a smile.
I took my coaches’ advice and did not set a time goal for my first marathon and I am glad that I didn’t because it allowed me to enjoy every minute and soak everything in without looking at the clock. I achieved every goal on my list and that means a lot more to me than my time, which by the way was 06:23:38.
Because I ran with TFK, we had our own transport to the start village so I didn’t need to worry about the Staten Island Ferry. We met up on the busses at 5:15am (which means I was up at 4:00am and on the subway by 4:30am) and we departed midtown at 5:45am. I was able to sleep for quite a bit of the drive out to Staten Island, but managed to catch the sunrise over the river - truly a beautiful sight.
We arrived in the start village and walked over to the TFK tent where I pulled up a spot of grass and munched on a bagel and drank some water while talking with my teammates. We cheered on waves 1, 2, and 3 as they exited for their starts until finally it was time for us to complete one final group stretch before heading to our corrals.
The race is barely in Staten Island, you start at the foot of the Verrazano and head immediately into Brooklyn. I was running in the orange wave on the upper deck of the bridge and it was really something else. My teammates and I decided to power walk the bridge, the steepest incline of the entire race, because going out too fast is the worst mistake you can make in any marathon, but especially in New York. The key was to bank as much energy as we could for later in the race.
Nearly half the race takes place in Brooklyn, it is a gigantic borough and also one of the more fun stretches in the race. As we turned off the bridge and started up 4th Avenue, we were greeted by a mass of cheering from spectators. We were holding a very even pace averaging between 12:10 and 12:40 per mile talking away. Time was flying by, every mile marker came as a surprise, my legs were feeling amazing as if I wasn’t even running.
We stopped once for a bathroom break, but the stop didn’t impact us at all and we picked right back up again. I spotted my first familiar faces in Williamsburg on Bedford and N 4th St. My friends Jason and Michelle were easy to spot and they snapped this picture of me that I absolutely love. After quick hugs and hellos, it was back off and running.
Just before leaving Brooklyn, Dorothy, one of my teammates, started to drop back a bit and I stayed with her. She had hurt her hip and we made a pit stop at the medical tent to get her some ice. It was hard to run with the ice packs, so we power walked it for the remainder of Brooklyn over the Pulaski Bridge into Queens.
My home borough only makes a short appearance in this race, so I wanted to make sure I absorbed all of it. Right off the bridge were more familiar faces and I got some high fives. We continued on to the Court Square area where both Dorothy and I had family waiting. Seeing my sister Annie and husband Nick was just what I needed to push myself over the upcoming 59th St Bridge. They made signs and took photos and were the best spectators all day.
Just before the bridge, I saw my good friend Amber Lea who was volunteering at one of the water stations. I am forever grateful to her and all the other volunteers at this race. True to our initial strategy, we walked the 59th St Bridge after a quick pep talk from Coach Andy at the base of the bridge. This bridge is tough. It’s isolated and for the first time in the race, there are no crowds. We saw someone at the midway point leaning over the barrier getting sick, most of the runners had slowed to a slow walk, even though I thought we were walking slowly, we were somehow passing people. I was starting to understand how important it was that we went out conservatively.
Manhattan Part 1:
As we spilled off the bridge and onto First Avenue, I was so glad to see so many people still out supporting the runners. We jogged up First Avenue and this was the first point in the race where I started to mentally question if I could do this. My longest training run was 16 miles and I was now over that. I had no idea what to expect or if my body could even handle it.
Around E 90th St, I heard a familiar voice and saw my good friend Dodji, one of the first people who got me into running. He and I used to work together and he convinced me to sign up for the 2014 Brooklyn Half, my first half marathon. During that race, I had also started to doubt myself around mile 10 (which today seems crazy) and out of nowhere, he caught up to me and we finished that race together. He did not run the marathon this year, but ran last year, and so I knew when I heard him tell me I was doing great and could do it that he was right. I was feeling far more cheerful as we approached the Bronx.
There’s only about a mile and a half of the course in the Bronx but it’s a hilly one, with two bridges. At this point, it was starting to get chilly and I was worried that slowing down would lead to getting so cold that I wouldn’t be able to warm up again. Luckily, the crowd continued to motivate us from some creative signs to amazing DJs to people handing out chips and pretzels and even a group of folks with massage sticks helping folks who had really cramped up.
Manhattan Part 2:
Before i knew it, we were back in Manhattan. It was at this point that seeing our coaches each mile became so necessary. We found Coach Asteria just as we got into Harlem where she handed us glucose tablets to keep us going and told us we were doing great. At Marcus Garvey Park we found Coach Sid who made sure we posed for photos and reminded us that this was about having fun. Shortly thereafter, my friend Rachel found me and she jogged alongside us for a bit. It was a great distraction from the pain I was starting to feel in my hips.
As we continued further into Manhattan, I saw my cousin Megan who also hopped on the course for a short stint. Again, it was a welcome distraction and by the time she had to go, we were already seeing more familiar faces. Dorothy’s niece came to say hi and one of our teammates, Karen, who was injured made her second appearance of the day. Central Park was in our sights when Coach Dave snapped some photos and power walked with us down 5th Avenue to Engineers Gate.
This was the home stretch and we knew it. The first portion was largely downhill so we were able to speed up a bit down Cat Hill where we had been running hill repeats all season. At some point once we entered the park, the sun set I was just so looking forward to the end. As we spilled out onto 59th St, there were still so many crowds. We jogged to Columbus Circle and then re-entered the park. That last half mile stretch is so hilly that my legs wanted to give up but as we passed under the 26th mile marker I kept pushing.
Dorothy and I crossed the finish line. Uninjured. Still running. With giant smiles.
We were quickly given medals and much needed heat sheets. Our TFK teammates who were not running met us and led us to our finishers area in Cherry Hill where I got my fleece lined post race poncho. I was freezing at this point and it was much needed. From there, instead of sticking around, I quickly left the park. I just wanted to meet up with Annie and Nick and talk to my parents.
On my way to meeting them at the Starbucks on W 63rd and Columbus, I left a voicemail for my mom (who was on a flight) and called my dad. I’m glad he still attempted to have a conversation with me despite the fact that I was basically crying hysterically into the phone and felt completely delirious.
When I met Annie and Nick, I threw on the long sleeved shirt they had brought me and got out of my sneakers and into some flip flops. From there, we headed to the subway and then proceeded home to order delicious, greasy celebratory hamburgers.
All in all, I consider this race a true success. I am proud of myself for accomplishing my goals and for doing it with a friend. I feel like I gave this race everything I had. I also feel like with more work, I can do even better, and that’s why I am thrilled to say that I have signed up for the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 8, 2017. I will once again be running with Team for Kids right alongside folks training for NYC 2017. But before I start to tackle that training, I am looking forward to my third United Airlines NYC Half on March 19, 2017. I have big goals for that race, and I intend to crush every single one of them.
Thank you for all your support during this wild ride. I hope that you will consider supporting my journey to Chicago in 2017 with a donation to Team for Kids.