I’ve never really had a bucket list, per se. While there are things I’ve thought, “That would be cool to do one day,” I know the logistics may never work out, so I’ve never got caught up on making plans to say: see the seven wonders of the world, run a marathon in every state, swim with dolphins, etc. BUT if there was a race that would be on my bucket list, it was definitely the NYC Marathon!
The logistics came together perfectly for this trip. My friend, Whitney, moved to Albany, NY in June, and I knew she had plans of running the 2018 NYC Marathon because she had been accepted through the lottery. In August, I made the comment to Craig that it would be fun to go and visit Whitney in NY. I had never been to New York, I love to travel, and what a better way to see a new state. Then I started thinking how fun it would be to kill two birds with one stone and run the marathon as well.
me and Whitney
Well, literally just a few days later after making that comment to Craig, Alaska Airlines’ deal of the week were reduced tickets to Newark, NJ (basically NYC)! The next hurdle was getting into a race that was closed, but when you work at a running store–and your coworkers have connections, there’s always a possibility. With the right connection, my coworker was able to contact someone at New Balance, and they paid for my race entry!
So there I was with an entry into the marathon, cheap tickets to fly to New York, a place to stay, and a friend to do it all with!
Luckily, I had been training through July and August (after I finally worked through my injury) with the possibility that I might be able to run a fall marathon. (But I also love training during the summer, so I would have put the miles in regardless.)
I did what I could during the three short months I had to train. I ran as many miles as I felt comfortable running coming off an injury. I worked my way up to a 23 mile long run, raced two half marathons for tune-ups along the way, completed one hard workout each week, and did several runs with goal marathon paced miles in them.
I felt fit going into the race but also knew that it would take a perfect day for my big, dream goal of a sub-3 hour marathon to come true. I knew the course for this marathon was not fast, and I didn’t have the base I wanted to going into the race. However, I was going to give it my best shot and see what I could do on that day.
Cullen and I flew into Newark the Monday before the race. I decided to take Cullen because he and Whitney’s daughter love playing with each other, and I didn’t have anyone to watch him during the week anyhow. The week at Whitney’s was pretty low-key, but we were watching three kids, so we didn’t rest as much as we would have liked.
On Saturday (the day before the race), Cullen, Whitney, and I took the bus down from Albany to New York City. When we got there, we walked to the convention center to pick up our bibs. It was only about a mile walk, but it took quite a while with all of our luggage and a pokey toddler. We were hoping to have time to go to a New Balance event featuring their product line for next year, but we ran out of time. Then we ended up taking an Uber to Brooklyn to where we were going to stay the night before the race.
We got settled in at my cousin’s house in Brooklyn, walked to Whole Foods to grab dinner, laid out our things for the morning, and went to bed at 9:00 p.m., which was the new 8:00 p.m. (We lucked out that it was daylight savings that weekend!) Cullen and I shared an air mattress, which wasn’t ideal especially since he moves around a lot when he sleeps, but he also had come down with a cold the day before and coughed all night long. Let’s just say I didn’t get much sleep.
Whitney and I woke up at 4:00 a.m. the next morning, got ready, and left my cousin’s at 5:20 a.m. It ended up taking us nearly four hours to get to the start of the race! We first got on the subway that took us to the ferry, and then from there we got on a bus that took us to the start. Talk about all the modes of transportation to get there! We were supposed to be to the ferry at 6:00 a.m. but actually got there around 6:30 p.m. (The subways can be confusing!) Once the ferry transported us to Staten Island, we then had to wait about 45 minutes in line to board a bus. Once we were on the bus, it took forever to travel to the start, which wasn’t that far away. I think we were on there for about an hour. People were asking to get off the bus and walk to the start, but the bus driver refused to let anyone off.
Our throw-away clothes for the race.
When we finally go to the start, it was about 9:00 a.m. We were both in the first wave (different color waves though), but we were both slated to start at 9:50 a.m., so we knew we had a little bit of time. We stopped at the port-a-potties knowing it would be our last time to use the bathroom before the start. We then continued walking through the athlete staging area, which was huge, expansive, and had signs pointing to the different areas. People were holding signs if you had questions, and someone on a loud speaker was giving out last-minute calls. I was in the Green Wave, and Whitney was in the Orange Wave, so we split when it was time to go our separate waves. We hugged and said our last good-lucks before the race.
I found the staging area for the Green Wave and was milling around trying to orientate myself with where things were and where I would need to go to get to my corral. Well, no more than a few minutes after I got to the area, they announced over the loud speaker that the gates would be closing to Wave 1 in five minutes. I started freaking out because I wasn’t even close to being ready, and I had no idea where I had to go to enter my gate. I scrambled to find someone with an information sign, and they pointed me in the right direction. I ran on over, tore my clothes off, grabbed the things I needed from my bag (mittens, energy gel, and Nanohydr8 that I was going to take right before the start) before walking into my corral. They literally closed the gate a minute later.
Our corral then walked to the start and waited there for 15 minutes before they shot the cannon off to signal the start. (Someone told me about the cannon, and they were also announcing over the loud speaker not to be alarmed with the sound of the cannon, which I was thankful for after my Boston experience.)
The temperature was 50*F at the start, clear blue skies, and picture-perfect racing weather. I was shivering at the start, but within a couple of miles I was perfect. I took my energy gel and Nanohydr8 minutes before the race started, and as soon as the cannon sounded, we were off!
The first mile of the course has a 150 foot uphill climb, but it didn’t feel like that because there’s so much excitement and my legs were still very fresh. I was on the bottom deck of the bridge, and my watch did not pick up an accurate signal, so I had no idea what my pace was. I had heard many people say don’t worry about your pace that first mile and just run. I knew I was running slower than what I wanted, but I also wanted to be more conservative than I have been at other races. The trek over the bridge was a little gusty, but I knew it wouldn’t last long. I did glance out over the water when running on the bridge and take in the views.
When I saw the time on the clock for my first mile, it read 8:20. “What?!” I thought, “I’m doomed! I have sabotaged the entire rest of my race.” But I knew I couldn’t give up that easily–one mile into the race. After a little while, it dawned on me that that was the gun time, and I had crossed the start line about 50 seconds later, so my first mile split was closer to 7:30, which was better, but I needed to settle into a little quicker pace.
As soon as I got off the bridge, which ended a little before mile two, I was warm enough to take my gloves and arm warmers off and toss away. (I had really cheap gloves that I brought for the race, and I took an old pair of my husband’s dress socks, cut the toes off, and used them as throw-away arm warmers.) I then started checking my watch to find that 6:50 pace. It came easily at this point and everything seemed to be clicking along. I took in the crowds, listened to all the cheers, and enjoyed the race.
There was a long straight stretch for the next few miles, and then we got into some rolling hills miles 4-9, but I didn’t think they were that bad.
I hit the half way point in 1:30:13, which was perfect! I wanted to be very intentional about not going out faster than this because I knew the second half was hillier, and I’ve run myself into the ground too soon in too many other races. With that said, I also felt the tiredness already starting to creep in, which is far too early in the marathon.
I do remember the climb up the Queensboro bridge during mile 15. It was long and gradual and seemed to go on forever. About two-thirds of the way up I was ready for it to be over!
My gut told me pretty early on in the race that a sub-3 time wasn’t going to happen, and my splits after the half confirmed that. I told myself that it was fine and to just enjoy the race. So for several miles I truly enjoyed the race and did not get caught up in the fact my splits were over a 7:00 pace at this time. I accepted this and decided my next goal was going to be to make this race my second fastest marathon ever.
I didn’t really know where I was throughout the entire race, but I knew when we were getting close to Central Park and the finish because of the tree-lined streets–and of course the mile markers. At about mile 23, I started to get a cramp in my right calf. This had never happened during training, but this was the first time I wore my racing flats (the New Balance 1400s) for this long. I thought for sure I was going to have to stop. It would seize up pretty badly on the uphills, cramp when I toed-off, and then relax a little when I brought my foot forward. Luckily it didn’t bother me as much on the downhills, and there were enough downhill portions that it didn’t seize up enough to warrant stopping.
I knew I was going to be close to achieving my second goal of running my second fastest marathon. (I needed to beat 3:07.) I kept gunning it to the end, finally crossing the line in 3:05:52. I immediately bent over, put my hands on my legs, closed my eyes, and was so glad it was over. A volunteer helped me walk until I was able to open my eyes again and comfortably walk on my own again. I was satisfied with my time and knew my body had given everything, which is all I could ask of it.
We then had to walk for about 45 minutes through the finisher’s chute, getting our medal, a Mylar blanket, a bag of some food (apple, protein drink, Gatorade, water, and pretzels), and then finally they gave us a really warm, fleece-lined poncho.
While walking through the finish area, I got really sad all of a sudden. Sad that I had wasted my time, my efforts, and money on such a silly goal. Frustrated that I had taken so much of my time away from my family. Embarrassed that I didn’t meet my goal again. (This was the third attempt.) Tears started to well up in my eyes, and I wanted to cry. What was the point?
Maybe this is all part of the plan. Maybe I will get my sub-3 goal one day. Or maybe I never will. Either way, I’m still sad/frustrated/embarrassed/bummed about it all. I know no one else thinks these things of me, but we are our own worst critic, right?
Overall, I loved my experience at the NYC Marathon. I would definitely do it again. Now that I know more about the logistics, I feel like I could do a lot better job planning. And while I am bummed I didn’t get my sub-3 hour marathon, I knew going into it the chance of it happening was pretty slim. (I do think it was worth it to keep the spark and possibility there though!) While my race wasn’t perfect–and I still had positive splits, I feel like I raced this marathon in a smarter way than I have in the past. Finally, I am convinced that I have not broken 3 hours in the marathon because Craig (my biggest cheerleader) has not been there at any of my attempts, so I think it is time to pick my next race, and this time he’s coming along with me!
After walking to the end of the finishers’ chute, I went to the letter ‘B’ of the family meeting area where I was supposed to wait for Whitney to finish. I asked a volunteer when she had finished, and I found out she finished about 30 minutes after I did, so I waited. But after waiting for 2 hours (3 hours after I finished), I couldn’t find her, and I decided I had better try to make it back to my cousin’s house in Brooklyn. The problem was, I had no money and no phone. So stay tuned for the rest of that story in a couple of days!