I’m a marathoner! It’s an exciting thing to say to someone who then in turn calls you full on crazy–Unless, of course, they are also a runner. The NYC marathon was my second marathon, both overall and this year. I know I’ve been a nonexistent blogger since January, but I’ve had a lot of things happen in life. And so, nearly 11 months after my last post, I bring you: my NYC marathon journey.
My journey to the NYC marathon was a challenging one. First, I gained my entry to the marathon not by being one of the lucky lottery winners or qualifiers, but by committing to run for charity (a charity I am a local coach for, no less) months before the lottery even closed. Hurdle number 1: raise $3,000.
Let’s just discuss the art of fundraising for a minute, considering I did sign myself up to raise money for Girls on the Run. Talk about a challenge! I’m an accountant–asking people for money is something I do only when I issue a negotiated invoice, never voluntarily. I had to figure out how to raise money, lots of money! I put a lot of effort (and credit card points) into an office building bake sale and two charity cocktail evenings and that STILL wasn’t enough. But I have some pretty amazing friends and family and after Girls on the Run posted a story about my “why”, the donations flooded in and I hit my goal. I was officially going to run the marathon because of their love & support! While difficult, I can also say it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my lifetime–because as a coach, I know how the funds are allocated and how they truly impact the lives of the girls in the program. I’ve seen their faces as they cross the finish line of their own 5K each season and it has truly been life changing!
Second, there are stories after stories about how getting to the start line is harder than running an actual marathon. Two marathons in and I’ve fallen victim to running injuries both times. This injury far surpassed the first though and there was no recovering before race day, despite taking it easy for nearly six weeks leading up to the race.
Fast forward through weeks upon weeks of training and fundraising to race week.
I packed my bags; I decided I was running this race, if it meant I ended up walking half of it. (Keep this in the back of your mind as you read on.) I was prepared for rain, cold, or shine. I packed my hydration, my fuel, recovery, and even my own coffee! I took heed to the “do NOTHING different on race day” warnings.
Race day morning I woke up 5 minutes before the alarm. I met the Atlanta team on the subway at 6:40AM. At 7AM we are in line for the ferry. However, the crowds were large and we didn’t even get onto the ferry until 8AM. Then it was straight into the bathroom lines before waiting in line for the shuttle to take us to the start line. At 9:50AM the shuttle dropped us off and we’re left to hustle to our corrals before they close at 10:15AM. I will say, it’s a darn good thing I didn’t blow the girls off that morning because I thought they were crazy wanting to catch the subway FOUR hours before our wave started! Little did I know it would take as much time as it did…I get it now!
I’m finally in my corral by 10:15AM and I meet Barbara. She’s a nice lady, running her fifth marathon, and her talking to me keeps my nerves at bay. I have my “marathon plan” and I’m not going to go out too fast, no matter how many people are passing me!
The gun goes off at 10:40AM and we surge forward. The race is officially on for me! The entire first mile and a half is uphill across the Verrazano Bridge–much like the Wednesday night runs I do with West Stride…I got this! I kept a nice, steady 11:30-12:00 ish pace. I was feeling good! Miles 1-4 FLEW by. Before I even blinked I was at mile 5 and thinking to myself “I can totally do this”!
Mile 6-13…I started thinking how much I really don’t like Brooklyn. It’s so boring. I’ve been on the same road for over an hour and a half at this point; I sure could use a change of scenery! The crowd turnout is great though, and the bands/support is helping me keep going.
Mile 14 – Bridge #2, an uphill battle into Queens, though not nearly as bad at Bridge #1. Everyone hits a wall, but not everyone hits it at mile 20. For me, that wall was during Mile 15. Mile 16 was also the start of the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. Let’s talk about this beast for a minute. This is where I knew I had to walk if I had any hope of saving my knee. And so I joined the ranks of the walkers. However, this allowed me to stop for a photo op, which actually helped pull me out of my funk and helped me hurdle the wall.
I picked my feet up again on the descent as the mass of people rounded the corner onto First Ave. This is where everyone warned there would be a wall of noise. Perhaps the crowds were a bit burned out at this point, because I never even had to turn off my headphones. I was a little disappointed, if I’m being frank. (And there were A LOT of people in the crowds at this point)
Mile 17-19 was a pretty easy run along First Ave with the crowds surging me along. I was still on point with my 11 ish minute mile at this point and was feeling pretty good until about Mile 18. I felt the knee pain creep in, despite my repeated efforts encouraging my body to keep cooperating. I was fighting tears from Mile 18-19 but I was trying to stay mentally tough!
Mile 20, Bridge #4 into the Bronx – yet another hill. I actually heard a lady behind me say “I’m so over bridges at this point” and I don’t think I could’ve agreed more. However, I powered up this one and kept trucking along. The Bronx was actually one of my favorite parts of the race, despite it being a quick mile and a half. The bands were playing great music, the crowds were yelling/cheering/making noise – I guess they realized that is when most people do hit their wall! Thank you Bronx crowd!
Mile 21-23 is where things started falling apart for me. I pushed through Harlem, but as I neared Central Park, my right hip started cramping; it had been compensating for the left knee for nearly 5 miles at this point and started screaming no more. I was at 108th and 5th and I had a complete mental breakdown. I couldn’t control the tears at this point and by the time I found hubby at 103rd I was nearly inconsolable. The pain was over bearing and it’s all I could focus on. I was ready to quit. I kept sobbing on his shoulder “Tell me I can do this; tell me I can finish this!” The nice French lady standing beside him offered me a coke, and the ladies behind Joe kept encouraging me saying “You got this! It’s only 2.5 more miles. You’ll be ready to sign up for the next one before you know it!” I knew, no matter what, I had to cross that finish line; Quitting wasn’t an option at this point.
My brain was out of the game, as was my body, but at Mile 24.5, I breathed in new life as I was sobbing through Central Park. In this exact moment, I found the will to power through in my heart. I was extremely disappointed in myself for having run nearly an entire marathon only to end up walking the last 2.7 miles, but this sign was EVERYTHING. To the spectator holding them — you are my freaking hero!
Despite my head & my legs, I crossed that finish line, with a time of 5:07:29 and it was 100% heart that carried me through.
Nearly a week later, I still can’t get over the disappointment, even though I know this is a HUGE accomplishment. I’ve heard every justification and positive word that could possibly be said…maybe in a week I’ll have a happier outlook. For now, I have my medal sitting on my desk and am just fortunate to have that.
There is no runner’s high; there is no great feeling about this one. To me, it is simply done. Are these feelings normal?