Ten days ago I ran through the five boroughs of New York City.
I still can’t believe it. I am a New York City Marathoner.
I wrote about my experience last week for work. I don’t want to create a carbon copy post for y’all, so I am sharing a tweaked version.
I arrived in Manhattan bright and early Friday morning and I was a disorganized and anxious mess. Normally, I’m quite organized and plan far ahead for my trips.
I forgot what airport I was flying into. I forgot to call my friend to tell her what time I’d be arriving at her apartment. I forgot my umbrella. (Oh, and I needed it. It poured. POURED.) I forgot band-aids and some other needed gear.
But alas, as the weekend progressed, I checked tasks off my to-do list.
– Go to the race expo and collect race bib without spending too much money. Check.
– Visit several NYC-based friends, hydrate and carb load. Check.
– Stay off feet and avoid walking miles at a time. Nope. Didn’t follow that rule.
I was thrilled to meet some fellow Oiselle runners at the team brunch Saturday morning. Many of the women were running Sunday and others were local and planned to volunteer at a water stop late in the race. It was so nice to meet ladies I’ve been chatting with online for months. What an amazing group of women! I can’t wait to reunite with them.
My quads felt pretty tight the day before the race as I had walked about 5 miles on Friday. I logged another 3 miles Saturday. I stretched as much as possible. I sat in front of a diorama of a forest in the Natural History Museum to meditate for about an hour and then I read in a nearby park, ogling the stunning fall foliage.
As Saturday went on, I grew more and more anxious. A knot had formed in my chest, at times making it difficult to breathe. I was worried. I was nervous. I repeatedly questioned myself and my training. I wondered why I wanted to run such a difficult course with even more challenging logistics to get to the starting area. What was I thinking?!
I wondered how my leg would hold up, considering I had fallen down the stairs the previous week. I even considered a last-minute deferral. I quickly rejected that idea when I thought of all the months of training and all of the people who supported me day after day, run after run.
I knew adrenaline would see me through the race. I knew I would finish. But I wanted more. I wanted to run my best.
I slept fitfully the night before the marathon. It came in waves, the longest being about 2 hours. I actually got more sleep than I expected but was still wide awake when the alarm sounded at 4 am.
I rose, ate, dressed, chatted with my friend Kyle who was kind enough to come to Manhattan for the weekend to cheer me on.
I cabbed it over to the New York Public Library in mid-town where I caught a bus to the starting area in Staten Island, on the Varazzano Bridge. Runners have to make their way there before dawn. I arrived around 6 a.m.
About 3 1/2 hours later, I was finally running.
I had brought along many disposable layers and looked as though I was bundled up for a blizzard. I shed most layers just before I started running, though I quickly exchanged my hideous oversized sweatshirt for a running jacket that smacked me in the face after someone failed to toss it over the bus I was standing near.
I chatted with several other runners as we all tried to calm our nerves. One man was running his 5th NYC Marathon and had clearly over-caffeinated. He was a wealth of knowledge and advice, which he gladly shared with us first-timers.
Once the starting cannon (YES!) sounded – and scared the stuffing out of me – I was off running over the bridge. I didn’t want to start off too fast, so I kept reeling my legs back in.
To my left, I saw a beautiful view of Manhattan’s skyline. I told myself I’d be there soon. I moved forward among the masses, even encountering and chatting with a few folks I met while waiting in Staten Island.
I felt the bridge move with each stride as it carried only runners from Staten Island to Brooklyn. I shed my top layer.
Around the second mile, I realized something was off with my right foot, so pulled to the side, took off my shoe, adjusted my sock, retied and ran.
If something was wrong, I wanted to fix it early on.
The next few miles were uneventful. I tried to stick as close as I could to a 10-minute-mile pace. I didn’t want to go too fast, even though I felt strong. I knew I would pay for it later if I started out with a sprint.
Around the 5K point, much of the crowd had thinned out. I saw some runners I recognized – a few ladies running for Every Mother Counts, an organization that supports safe pregnancies and childbirth for mothers worldwide. Among the women was supermodel Christy Turlington Burns, who was clothed by Oiselle, the same label I run for! Such a small world! I grunted a hello to the ladies – we had chatted earlier while waiting in our corral – and ran along. Several miles later, we greeted each other again. The group came up from behind me and cheered for me as they zipped past.
That’s one thing about runners – we motivate each other to do our best. We cheer for each other when we need it most.
The miles ticked by.
I waved to firefighters, police officers and cheering fans.
I smiled as I ran. That knot in my chest was long gone. It was just me and the road.
I reached the half at 2:08, the same time the winner crossed the finish line. I was thrilled with my pace, which to me seemed only possible because of the incredible crowd support.
I crossed the Queensboro Bridge, leaving Queens for Manhattan. I was loathing this part because I knew it was hilly and the crowds wouldn’t be nearby. You could hear runners’ feet slap the pavement and cars whiz overhead on the upper deck.
A faint buzz grew louder. I ran down the bridge ramp to the crowd, and nearly tripped as an overzealous runner cut me off. The volume was deafening as they welcomed us to Manhattan. I was grinning ear to ear.
We turned onto First Avenue and headed north for five miles. Around mile 18, several teammates screamed my name. I turned my head and waved, thrilled to have support when I needed it most.
I ran through the Bronx and back south toward Central Park. I was on pace and moving forward.
I slowed down on Fifth Avenue around mile 22, not far from Central Park. Those last four miles were the death of me.
I wanted to stop and walk. Badly.
A short time later, I saw several more teammates, all ladies I met the previous day at brunch. They screamed my name and told me I could finish, exactly the words I needed to hear. I picked up the pace and moved forward.
The park was on my right as I struggled uphill. The hills were small, but with 23 miles behind me they felt mountainous.
I passed two runners guiding a disabled runner along the course. He stopped to walk. They grabbed his hands and told him he was a star. The trio warmed my heart.
I turned into the park – where I unknowingly ran past my training partner for the second time. Two miles to go.
I’m not going to lie, those last two miles were the hardest. They were hilly and I only wanted to walk. I knew if I stopped, I wouldn’t start again.
I paused for water one last time, and only started running because someone shouted words of encouragement. I didn’t know that person. I didn’t turn my head to see who yelled, but I will forever be grateful that he (or she) cheered for a complete stranger at the moment I needed it most.
I pushed to the end, running past a screaming Kyle near mile 26 and rounding the bend at Columbus Circle into Central Park.
I sprinted uphill to the finish, grinning ear to ear. I did it – and with a personal best time of 4:26:04.
More than 50,000 people ran the 26.2 mile course on Nov. 3 and I was smack dab in the middle as finisher 26,594. I couldn’t be more proud.
Have you ever run a big-city race or marathon? Were you the kind soul who cheered me on? (thank you!) What’s your l0ngest race distance? Tell me in the comments!