The NYC marathon: 26.2 miles running through the streets of NYC. A unique way to see the city, covering all 5 boroughs, along with 51,000 other runners. On Sunday, Nov. 5, I toed the line at the 2017 NYC Marathon.
I went into Manhattan Saturday to pick up my bib and check out the expo. I arrived right when the expo opened — I didn’t want to be stuck in the city all day (I wanted to be able to rest during the evening). I walked straight up to the desk with my bib number range, collected my bib, and went into the expo. I looked at the New Balance NYC Marathon gear online before arriving at the expo, so I already knew what I was looking for. I found each of the items and then visited the nuun, Run Ottawa (for a little taste of back home!) and Saucony booths before leaving.
Sunday night was the time change, but fortunately our clocks were turning back an hour. I was a bit nervous about missing my alarm, but ended up waking up a few minutes before it went off at 4:30 a.m. I already had all of my gear laid out and items for athlete’s village packed. I got dressed quickly and my husband drove me to MetLife Stadium to board the bus at 5 a.m. Knowing that this was a huge race, I wanted to be there early, because I wasn’t sure how long everything would take. I was in Wave 1, Corral B, which also meant I didn’t have any time for delays.
I boarded the second bus and arrived at Fort Wadsworth before 6 a.m. It was dark, cold, and the ground was wet from the rain that stopped shortly after I woke up that morning. I spread my rain poncho out on the ground and tried to close my eyes and relax for awhile. I had a LONG time before I had to move to my corral, and the place was still pretty empty. I was too cold to fall asleep. As more people arrived, everyone started talking about where they were from, if they had run NYC before, if this was their first marathon, and a variety of other topics. It was fun to meet other people from all over and to have conversations to help pass the time. At 8:20, they started moving Wave 1 into our corrals. I offered my rain poncho to another runner, as well as a pair of my throw-away gloves, and made my way over to my corral. There wasn’t a lot of space, and the ground was still wet. One of the volunteers graciously offered me a plastic bag to sit on. It was large, so I opened it up and shared with some other runners so that they had somewhere dry to sit too.
Around 9:30, we were able to move from the corrals to the bridge. On the walk over, someone yelled my name, and I was so happy to have run into another runner I knew from back home (Hi Colin!). We hadn’t seen each other since Boston, so it was nice to catch up! The cannons went off, the rain started, the wind picked up and we were off. Running over the Verrazano Bridge was incredible. It was difficult to get through the crowds, especially because you didn’t want to go too far out to the sides where it was incredibly windy. After we were over the bridge, it was a bit easier to break out of the packs that had formed, but there were still people everywhere. It stayed that way for the first 10k or so. The crowds were absolutely amazing. I had been told that the atmosphere was like nothing else, but it’s truly something you don’t understand until you’ve experienced it. The energy from the crowd was contagious, and likely why I spent the first half of the marathon feeling like I was on a cloud. The crowds through Brooklyn were so big, and everyone was so supportive.
I ran fairly even splits the first half, with the first 5k in 22 minutes, hitting 10k at 44 minutes, 15k at 1:06 and the halfway point in 1:34. Around the 16k mark, my Garmin started going haywire, and was telling me I was dropping 3 minute kilometers, and I knew by feel that I definitely wasn’t. The distance was also totally off (in the end, my Garmin says I ran 44.9km, not 42). I didn’t panic very much, but felt totally confused and was a bit lost on my pace, as I knew that I couldn’t trust my watch from that point and would have to figure my pace out manually at the clocks.
I started to ride the pain train when crossing over the Queensboro Bridge. I had been warned about this bridge. I’ve driven over it, I’ve watched footage of the marathon over and over to make mental notes about the bridge, but none of it prepared me for running over it. I felt like it was never going to end. I slowed down a bit and took the opportunity to take in some Cliff Bloks. I tried not to think about the fact that the course only gets tougher after this bridge, but it consumed my brain. Coming off the bridge, I was waving to people in the crowds and trying to pump myself up. It worked for a few kilometers, but entering Manhattan and running up First Avenue also felt like it was never going to end. We would ascend uphill for a bit. Flatten out for a bit. Ascend some more. I felt myself getting slower and slower — and colder and colder. It had been raining on and off during the first half, but was raining very consistently at this point. It was a bit windy, but wasn’t actually that cold outside, so I couldn’t figure out why my body felt so cold. My hands and legs were so cold, my joints were starting to stiffen and my hands were looking a little purple. When I looked at my race photos after, my legs were reddish-purple during the second half as well.
I would look at the clocks, do the math, and was getting a bit discouraged as I realized how much slower I was running. I don’t usually stop and walk, but I was walking the water stations to try and drink more. Although I didn’t go into the race with a specific time goal, I had been hoping to run somewhere around my PR, which is a 3:17, but knew NYC was a hard course and was also aware that maybe 3:25 was more realistic. As I started slowing down, at that point I just told myself I’d be happy with another BQ.
As we approached Central Park, I knew we were getting closer to the finish, but also knew that the course wasn’t going to get any easier. The crowds thickened throughout the park and it definitely helped boost my spirits. Once I saw the 800m to go sign, I felt instant relief. The race was almost over, and I would run another BQ. I crossed the line in 3:30:48, definitely not a negative split. The second half of that course is no joke. I can think of a million things I would have done differently about this race, but I’m not beating myself up over it. I ran 10 minutes faster than I did in Boston, which is a big positive.
After crossing the line, I asked the volunteer that gave me my medal how Shalane had done. “She won!” replied the volunteer and I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so happy for her. She is a runner I admire, and she fought hard for this. She got the big moment she was hoping for. I still can’t get through race footage of her finish without crying — I probably never will.
I selected the finisher poncho instead of the baggage option, and made my way to the designated area as I ate a bag of pretzels and downed a bottle of water. I had my poncho placed around me and made the trek from Central Park down to Port Authority to get on the bus back to New Jersey. We have cousins in New Jersey that graciously allowed us to stay with them that weekend. Due to the weather, I told them, and my husband and kids to just stay at the house and track me online. I didn’t want anyone getting sick or the kids being miserable in the rain. It was just as easy for me, because I could just exit the park and get to the bus station.
I think the 24 block walk actually helped with my recovery, as my legs were feeling pretty good the next day, and by Tuesday I was able to do stairs, which normally doesn’t happen too quickly for me after a marathon!
The NYC Marathon capped off another banner year for me on the running front. I ran Boston in April, raced my first event in the elite field during Ottawa Race Weekend, won a 10k race in Ottawa that meant a lot to me in September, and ran NYC.
NYC also marked the start of my marathon hiatus. I’ve only run three marathons, but they all took place over the past 17 months. During that time, I also noticed big drops in my 5k and 10k times, but marathon training often got in the way of me pursuing my goals at the shorter distances. For the next year or two, I’m going to focus on shorter races and getting faster. It’ll be just as challenging as training for the marathon, but I am ready to put in the work.
To the City of New York, the NYRR, race organizers, the volunteers, the spectators, my friends, family and everyone else who has been along for the ride with me this year, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.