Sit back and relax. This post is going to be a long one.
Mal and I eventually made it to New York City around 2:30 on Saturday afternoon. We quickly checked into our hotel room and then jumped in a cab to the marathon expo.
The expo was crazy and overwhelming (as expected), so I grabbed my number, bought a NYCM tech shirt, and got the heck out of there. I usually like wandering around race expos and checking out all of the fun running stuff, but I just wanted to relax after rushing around all morning.
Mal and I met our friends Matt and Kristen at Blue Smoke for a late lunch.
As soon as I walked in, I recognized this table:
At Blue Smoke, I drank a pint of pumpkin beer and probably six or seven glasses of water (and took just as many trips to the bathroom).
To eat, I ordered the sweet potato wedges, which came with a maple-flavored dipping sauce. (I plan to cut and roast my sweet potatoes like this from now on.)
Lunch wasn’t very big because I had plans for dinner at Ashley’s house with Theodora and her mom. Ashley’s husband, Bo, cooked us some delicious fresh pasta from Eataly with homemade sauce and chicken.
AHHHH! We are running a marathon in the morning!
The next morning, I woke up bright and early to give myself plenty of time to get ready and take a cab down to Theodora’s apartment. I ended up flagging down a cab outside of my hotel in about 10 seconds, so I arrived at Theodora’s apartment about 30 minutes before she expected me. Thankfully, she and Bailey didn’t seem to mind.
A little after 7:00, Theodora’s friend Melissa picked us up in a cab, and the three of us headed down to the Staten Island Ferry.
Arriving at the ferry was surreal. As soon as I saw the hundreds of runners pouring into the terminal, I started to get really nervous. Marathon day had officially arrived. Holy crap.
Theodora, Melissa, and I met up with Dori, Emily, and Ashley, who were also running the marathon. (Those bathrobes are super sexy, aren’t they?)
And then we boarded the ferry.
Good morning, Lady Liberty!
The ferry took us to some buses, which eventually brought us to the Athlete’s Village at the start line of the marathon.
At the Athlete’s Village, I used the Port-a-Potties a half dozen times and tried to relax. I’m usually a little nervous before races, but my stomach was a complete mess before this one. Plus, the fact that Aunt Flow decided to visit on marathon morning didn’t help either. Great timing, right? Worst aunt ever.
Once we got ourselves settled, I sat down on the grass and chatted with Ashley, Dori, and Melissa. They brought magazines to read, but we ended up not having much time to waste. I had heard horror stories about waiting in the freezing cold for hours and hours before the start of the marathon, but we timed our transportation so well, we didn’t have long to wait at all. As for the cold weather, we really lucked out. The temps were in the low 50’s when we started running.
Before I knew it, it was time to head over to the corrals. At this point, I lost Theodora in the crowds and started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to find her before the race. Weeks ago, we made plans to start the marathon and run together for as long as possible, so I had a bit of a panic attack about not having my running buddy with me during the marathon. Thankfully, we found each other on our walk to the corrals.
We bumped into these lovely ladies in our corral: Dori and Melissa!
Slowly by surely, we were fed to the start line just before the Verrazano Bridge. Surprisingly, my nervousness went away and all I felt was excitement. I knew, no matter what, I’d cross the finish line of the marathon. I just didn’t know how enjoyable the experience would be considering my recent travels across the country, sub-par training, health issues, and my asinine visit from Aunt Flow. There were a lot of things working against me on marathon day, but I knew I could do it. Hell or high water, I was finishing that marathon.
A few minutes later, the song “New York, New York” played, and we were off running over Verrazano Bridge.
The pace over the bridge was slow and steady. The crowds of runners made it difficult to go too fast, which was fine since it was all part of our plan. Theodora wore a 4:20 pace band, so our goal was 9:55-ish miles. My only goal for the marathon was to run the last six miles, so I knew we couldn’t start out too fast if I wanted my legs to last.
The first several miles of the marathon totally flew by. I honestly don’t remember much about them, except for my face hurting because I smiled so much during them. I sort of remember chatting with Theodora, but I mostly just tried to take it all in.
The crowds along the entire marathon route were absolutely amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it– not even at the Boston Marathon! Whenever I felt my motivation waning, I looked to the crowds for support. Everyone spectatating was so excited, and the music, cheers, and energy did not stop for 26.2 miles. I especially loved seeing all of the motivational/funny signs in the crowd. My favorites from the day:
- Thanks for running so I can drink.
- Hurry up so I can watch football.
- Sweat is sexy.
- Do epic shit.
- Because 26.3 would just be crazy.
- Run like you just stole something.
- When the body says stop, the spirit says never.
Around mile 6, I started to recognize the marathon route since I had run it a few weeks earlier. Theodora and I felt great during these miles, but we kept reminding ourselves that we couldn’t go too fast. Must save legs for Central Park.
We continued running through Brooklyn, and at mile 8, we saw Theodora’s family and friends, who cheered loudly. Theodora was so psyched to see them!
Around mile 10, my left foot started to really bug me. I never tie my sneakers tight, but, for some reason, I decided to do so on the morning of the marathon. Bad move. My foot didn’t hurt that badly, but I didn’t want to deal with it for the next 16 miles either, so I kept trucking along, but I knew I needed to loosen the laces as soon as possible. Theodora grabbed a cup of water at the next fuel station, so I used that opportunity to quickly fix my sneaker. Much better.
A few miles later, Theodora made a quick pit-stop to use one of the Port-a-Potties. She told me to keep going, but there was no way I was leaving her that early in the race. She speed-peed, and we were back to running less than 2 minutes later.
Soon, we headed toward the Pulaski Bridge. I absolutely hate running hills, so I knew I needed to summon as much mental toughness as I possible for each of the five bridges along the marathon course. At every single bridge, I told Theodora: “I’m going to make this bridge my bitch!” It made her laugh every time, and it helped us keep up our pace. We were actually trying to make up for some lost time, so we didn’t want to lose anymore on the bridges.
Entering Queens was out-of-control. The crowds– plus, the fact that we were more than halfway through the marathon– gave me so much energy for the next couple of miles.
As the Queensboro Bridge approached, I mentally prepared to make it my bitch. I remembered it from our training run and knew it would be tough, so I told Theodora that I planned to leave it (the bridge) crying. I wove in and out of other runners with Theodora following right behind me. At the top, I put my hands over my head and cheered: “Queensboro Bridge, you are my bitch.”
As we approached the end of the bridge, we heard loud cheering coming from First Ave. Naturally, we got excited and picked up our pace to sub-9:00 miles. Thankfully, Theodora noticed right away and slowed us down. We were okay with picking up the pace a little bit because we were still trying to make up some time, but not sub-9:00 miles.
I don’t remember much about the next few miles along First Ave, except that I was still feeling pretty good and pleasantly surprised about it. At the Arizona Marathon, I hit the wall hard at mile 18 and crashed and burned from there, so I was psyched to have made it that far with still some fuel in the tank.
I felt okay for the next couple of miles, but then my legs really started to get tired. The last thing they wanted to do was run up a hill, but with the Madison Ave. Bridge quickly approaching, I knew I needed to get tough if I wanted to stick to our goal pace. I focused my attention on driving my legs forward, and, eventually, we made it to the top of the bridge.
At the bottom of the bridge was a huge JumboTron. I was in so much pain, I barely noticed it until Theodora got my attention and pointed it out. I looked up and saw a message from Michelle in Charlotte wishing me (“Tina from Carrots ‘N’ Cake”) good luck. As soon saw it, I burst into tears. It was exactly the motivation I needed to make it to the end. Thank you, Michelle!
Miles 23 and 24 were really tough, but I would not let myself stop running, especially so close to the finish. At this point, I started to lag behind Theodora a little bit. I pushed myself to keep up, but the distance kept increasing between the two of us. Theodora turned around and tried to encourage me, but my legs just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to hold her back, so when she turned around to look for me, I waved and yelled, “GO!” I didn’t want to hold her back. Weeks before the marathon, we talked about splitting up if one of us couldn’t keep up. Neither of us wanted any surprises or hurt feelings on marathon day, so it was good to talk about it ahead of time.
The last two miles of the race were torturous for me. I had definitely hit the wall, but I kept telling myself not to stop and walk. I knew if I did, running again would be really difficult. I also didn’t want to have any regrets. I wanted to finish knowing that I ran the best race that I could. I actually didn’t care so much about my time because I wanted to run those last six miles so badly. I just kept pushing my legs as hard as I could and didn’t look at my Garmin until I finished the race.
Mile 25 felt like the longest mile of my life. I kept seeing signs annoucing the distance to the finish: 1/2 mile, 800 meters, 300 meters. I told myself I would sprint as soon as I saw the finish line and that’s exactly what I did. I’m not sure how fast I was actually going, but it was the hardest that I could run at the time.
I knew Mal and my friends would be in the grandstands cheering for me (Nissan gave me VIP tickets that I passed along to them), but I was in so much pain, I couldn’t even look for them. I just wanted to finish.
As soon as passed the grandstands, right before the finish line, I closed my eyes and waited for my legs to bring me across. I didn’t see my time on the clock, but I knew it was a PR.
My official time was 4:21:59, nearly five whole minutes faster than Arizona. Obviously, I was psyched!
Once I caught my breath, I felt the worst pain imaginable in my legs. My legs wanted to stop moving, but, at the same time, walking felt better than stopping. If I hadn’t been surrounded by strangers, I probably would have sat down on the ground and cried. My entire body hurt.
Eventually, I got my finisher medal and mylar blanket, and then stumbled over to where I saw water and food. A volunteer handed me a whole bag of goodies– Gatorade, water, an apple, pretzels, trail mix– I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy.
Eventually, I made it out of Central Park and found Mal. He gave me the biggest hug and told me he was proud of me. My friends, Matt and Kristen, live just a couple of blocks from the finish line, so Mal and I walked to their apartment. Meanwhile, Matt and Kristen went to buy pumpkin beer and bags of ice (for an ice bath) for me. Mal packed me a change of clothes, so once I got to their apartment, I just relaxed for the rest of the night. I’m thankful to have such great people in my life.
I still can’t believe I finished that marathon in one piece. PR-ing was icing on the cake.
A huge THANKS to all of you who supported me during my training and congratulations to everyone else who ran the New York City Marathon! I’m not sure if I have another marathon in me, but if this one is my last, I’m so glad it was New York. It was an experience of a lifetime.