I haven't done a race recap in ages! Maybe because I haven't run a race in ages! Or maybe it's because I haven't felt inspired and touched so profoundly in a while. Holding onto that energy, carrying it forward and sharing it after the race ends is motivation enough to write a post.
What can I say about the NYC Marathon that hasn't been said already? Taking to the streets of the greatest city in the world is a privilege, an honor. It's not something that everyone wants to do, or that everyone can do. People choose to run a marathon for various reasons. I've only ever run 2 marathon races, and they were both NYC. I'm not sure I would want to take on this task in another city.
I'll keep the recap short on the technical details, but I was not "properly" trained for this race. My longest run up until race day was 10 miles. Every runner is different, which means one specific approach to training is not "one size fits all". I have had many running injuries over the past 5 years, most stemming from overuse or "too much too soon". Since I started teaching indoor cycling 2 years ago, for me less is more. My body can't handle 6 runs per week. It can barely handle 4. In reality, I barely have time to squeeze in the 3 runs per week I usually get.
I had a some minor injuries all year, with a stress reaction forming in late summer. I stayed off my legs for the month of August (not too hard to NOT run in the fucking NYC heat) and cautiously came back to running in September. To be honest, I was scared to get injured again and I was a bit over the whole running thing.
Working as a fitness instructor can be exhausting. Training on top of teaching is just daunting. So I avoided it as much as possible. Also I got some new shoes, the Asics Gel Kiyanos, and even though they feel great, I was so scared to put long mileage in them. Its so scary changing shoes! Come October, cautious, exhausted and totally over it was where I was at.
Towards the middle of October I decided to do the marathon as a fun run. I really didn't have a choice, but this wasn't just because I was undertrained. I didn't want to have the pressure of racing. No watch. No pace. No splits. Just running for the pure fun and fucking joy of it. And that's what I did.
I got to race day feeling excited. Not confident, but happy to be injury free. I didn't know if I could run the race any faster than my previous attempt - 4:15:15. 26 miles is gruelling for anyone, but I was hoping that since I was stronger than I was 4 years ago, that I could survive 26 miles no matter how tough it got.
I ended up shaving 30 minutes off my previous time, crossing the finish line with an official time of 3:46:07. This time is just 1 minute off the time I had hoped to get the year before, when I was training to run the marathon in 2016.
Needless to say, when I finished the race and saw that my time was most likely insanely good, I wept. Letting go and giving in to just one thing on Sunday - which was to be overjoyed the entire race - led me to a fast, respectable time. It kept me from crunching numbers and being stressed about, well, anything. I was able to run happy and take it all in, not something I'm sure I could have done if I was in "race mode" that day.
There is nothing quite like the start of the NYC Marathon. Just getting to the start is an adventure that takes hours. It also allows you a peek behind the curtain of what a logistical shit show this one day is! We arrive by train, bus, ferry. We are scanned, sniffed and searched numerous times. Due to an overcrowded ferry, I made it to bag check and my corral with 5 minutes to spare.
**Here is a PRO-TIP for anyone running NYC (not sure if this applies to other marathons)**
The starting corrals & bridge are a TREASURE TROVE of supplies. Since NYRR allows you to bring supplies into your corral, anyone who doesn't check a bag leaves their pre-race goodies behind. This includes things you may have forgotten during your hasty packing OR things you may have checked in your bag by mistake - including, but not limited to, Body Glide, Vaseline, Water, Gu Packs, Bananas, Salt Tabs, Warm hats & Clothes (to shed as you get warmed up), etc. You gather in your corral, but then you are ushered onto the bridge. This is the time to find treasures!
This year I was in the Green Corral, which runs on the bottom of the Verrazano and then veers off from the rest of the race for the first 3ish miles. Its amazing how quickly the first few miles fly by. Once you hit 4th Ave and start your journey through Brooklyn, the crowds get bigger and more vocal.
The city uplifts you every step along the way. In fact, the few times where there the crowd is absent provides such a contrast that in comparison those silences are almost chilling.
I was lucky enough to have friends scattered throughout the race. Even before I ran past my first friends at Mile 8, I was getting shout outs from random strangers. Running up 4th Ave in Park Slope I realized I was misty eyed and not because it was raining, but I was already moved by the energy of the crowds.
Lafayette Ave brought my first few friends, a much needed mini-water bottle (thank you Em & Kev!) and some of the rowdiest crowds in the race. Like 2013, parts of Lafayette Ave taper in and become bottlenecked because the crowd is so dense. After you turn onto Bedford Ave, you hit the first patch of silence through South Williamsburg's Hasidic neighborhood which is a nice moment to reflect, check in on your breath & body. After you pass into "hipster" Williamsburg, the crowds, music & cheering return.
By the time I made it to my family at Mile 12 in Greenpoint, I was still feeling 100% (and pretty sure I was making good time). After some photos and hugs and a reload on the Gu and Water, I continued down my neighborhood stretch, ecstatic and ready to conquer Queens.
The silence of the Pulaski Bridge makes the roar of the crowd in Queens even more exciting! My team was waiting around mile 14 and after a few high fives I kept straight on ready to take on the Queensboro Bridge. I took my first walk break of the race at the foot of the bridge, allowing myself to walk it out for a minute or so, to check in with my legs. Not exhausted yet, not even close, but starting to notice my legs were running a marathon.
The Queensboro is where people start to feel the first signs of fading. It was quiet, maybe too quiet. I started yelling and hooting and hollering in an attempt to uplift my fellow runners. Once the roar of First Ave started to roll in, those damn tears came back. Hearing people cheer and yell your name is awesome. But hearing a fucking crowd losing their shit is another level. Just when you need it most, the city brings you back up and steers you up to the Bronx.
First Ave is wide and usually the west side of the street is more populated. Shout outs to all the run crews reppin 1st Ave and the dudes who were passing out shots of Beer (it hit the spot!). I started feeling some aches and weird knee pain coming into the Bronx. But the Willis Ave bridge was where I fell apart my first race in 2013. I was determined to not stop running until I was over that bridge.
The bridge into the Bronx is just before Mile 20. This is when the wall creeps up and negative thoughts about being tired, giving up, and "fuck this" start creeping into your mental dialogue. I wasn't gonna let this happen to me or anyone around me. "WE GOT THIS" I yelled. "WE ARE ALMOST IN THE BRONX" I yelled. "We're almost OUT of it too" I got in response. "DON'T LOSE IT IN THE BRONX" I said. And then someone ran up beside me and said "Are you gonna lead us there?" and I said "FUCK YEAH". This man had to give up last time he ran NY right on this very bridge, just a few feet ahead. We ran together, we crossed the bridge, we made it!
The Bronx is the most energetic borough of all the marathon. Maybe its because they only have about 2 miles to cheer for you, or because they know you will need the biggest lift at this moment, but the Bronx has got your back. I ran the entire time, until I hit the bridge back in. I let myself walk for a spell. The nice people on the bridge gave me a banana which helped my cramping calf. High fives got me back on the road and back into Manhattan to finish what I had started.
Harlem was a blast full of run crews and some really amazing signs. The pain was starting to sink in once I made it to 5th Ave and Central Park. I was slowing down a lot, but still smiling. I was in pain, but not stopping. I saw some amazing ladies from my team right before the turn in and it brought me back up!
I hit the park with pep in my step which unfortunately didn't last. I was getting slower and slower, but not stopping. Stopping wasn't an option. I knew if I stopped to walk one more time I would have a really hard time getting these legs going. I staid the course til bottom of the park, missed the sign that we had 1 mile to go I was so focused on shutting out the pain, that when we were exiting the park I was confused. I didn't really have the steam to kick it at the end, but I realized in that moment it was ok. I took a hard look at the crowd, making eye contact with as many of them as possible. I was trying to think of what emotion I was feeling the most, besides "overwhelmed" and it was "PURE FUCKING JOY".
When the finish line came into site, I managed a tiny sprint. I crossed the line with a heavy heart, but heavy with joy and love and elation and encouragement and courage and determination and happiness and pride and love, so much love.
Thank you to all my friends, family, NY Custom, Gotham City Runners, all the Run Crews (Mile High Run Club, Harlem Run in particular) & all the random strangers who supported me before-during-after the race, with encouraging words and signs and hugs. You carried me every step of the way. Extra huge shout-out and love to the NYPD & FDNY, NYRR and all the volunteers who made the race the best day I've had in a long time.