On November 3, I had the privilege of running in the 2013 ING New York City Marathon, along with 50,739 other runners. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, both physically and mentally.
After cheering one a friend during the 2011 NYC Marathon, I was inspired to start up running, and added the NYC Marathon to my life bucket list. I joined New York Road Runners, and participated in their 9+1 program to qualify for the 2013 marathon. I just started running, and thanks to the encouragement and advice of my friend Kate, running became a part of my life. So after much anticipation, marathon day finally arrived.
I no longer live in New York, but luckily my sister and her husband live in New Jersey in close proximity to the city. Drove up with my mother a few days before the race, my baby sister Teresa took the bus up from Philly, and my boyfriend Will flew up from Louisville to cheer me on as well.
To make it to the early morning Staten Island Ferry time, I spent Saturday night at my friend Kate’s apartment, since she was running the marathon too. I was so nervous in the morning, and realized that I hadn’t really prepared anything for breakfast (Kate was nice enough to share) and was just feeling very overwhelmed at the prospect of running 26.2 miles. Even though I had ran several half marathons and enjoyed them, the full marathon still intimated me. I also had not kept up with my training like I should have, and was kind of winging it and hoping for the best (I do not recommend this approach). Kate and I shared a cab to the ferry, and made it to Staten Island with thousands of others. I still can’t get over the vast scale of the marathon, 50k+ runners is a lot!
Since I hate dealing with baggage claim at the end of a race, I decided to layer “throwaway” clothes over my running gear to wear in the morning while waiting for my wave of the marathon to start. There were donation bins where you can toss in the layers you peel off right before you start. The morning was chilly, but the waiting really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It took over an hour to get to the start, via the ferry and then a bus that took all the runners close to the Verrazano Bridge, which is where the marathon begins. Then we had a couple of hours to kill before Kate’s wave of runners started, but she was smart enough to bring a blanket so we were able to sit, eat some breakfast, drink some coffee, and talk out some of my anxiety. I have never run more than 13.1 miles before, so I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to finish. I never had a goal time or pace in mine, all I was hoping for was the cross the finish line.
Once Kate left for her start time, I wandered over to my original waiting zone and tried to stretch and relax before my turn. I thought about how grateful I was just to be able to stand here waiting for the marathon to start, and how lucky I was to be healthy enough to even consider being a participant not just a spectator. After (what felt like) a very long walk through the corrals to the start, I couldn’t believe I was at the bridge! This was the moment I’d been waiting for over a year after qualifying, and the air was full of excitement of everyone else who was so happy to be there! It was different than any other race I have run, I actually teared up a little bit when I began running on the bridge.
I knew I had to take it easy and pace myself accordingly if I were going to make it through the entire marathon. I was confident about the first half, it was the second half that I was worried about. Up until about Mile 14, I kept to a pace that was easy to maintain and really tried to take in the whole experience. What makes the NYC marathon amazing is the sheer number of spectators that come out to cheer on complete strangers in addition to their loved ones. Encouragement from the spectators definitely keeps your spirits up and motivates you to keep on going.
Going over the Queensboro Bridge after running through Brooklyn and Queens was where the trouble started for me. Not only did the bridge slow me down significantly, I could feel my body start to stop cooperating with me. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that Will, my mother, and Teresa were waiting for me as soon as I hit Manhattan. When I saw them after struggling over the bridge, I really got a second wind, and was determined more than ever to finish.
After I saw my family the rest of the marathon is kind of a blur, all I could really do was focus on not stopping. For most of the first half of the marathon (after the first 3 miles or so) I was using a run-walk method to keep my pace going, where I would run for 4 minutes, then walk for 30-60 seconds, depending on how I felt. Later on, it turned into running for just 2-3 minutes, then walking for a minute or so. The soles of my feet were on fire and my leg muscles were just not handling this long distance running thing very well. I had to keep reminding myself that I was more than halfway done, and that I couldn’t stop now.
While running up 1st Avenue towards the Bronx, I was really struggling, I knew I had more than 10 miles to go and I was in a lot of pain. Luckily I knew I wasn’t seriously injured, it was just muscle pain that I could overcome. My body was just not prepared for what 26.2 miles really were. What helped me finish wasn’t my willpower or my training, I credit the encouragement and cheering of my friends that I saw along the way in the last 10 miles. Thank you to my two friends and old co-workers who screamed my name from their apartment window on 1st Avenue as well as to the girlfriend who cheered for me right before I got to Harlem. On the way to the finish from the Bronx, I had just realized that the tops of my feet were bleeding from my sneakers rubbing against them, and every step was painful. I was pretty close to tears when I saw a group of friends who were holding a sign with my name on it and cheering for me! I really wanted to go say hi, but I was at the point in the race where I knew that if I slowed down or stopped, it would be incredibly hard to keep going. I figured I’d see everyone after the race and thank them there.
In the last mile, right when I was turning onto the last bit of the race, I saw Will and my family cheering for me. This gave me the boost that I needed and I was determined to finish, I was so close! While I had been doing a sort of limping jog/walk for the last few miles, I decided to give the last quarter mile or so everything I had and ran over the finish line.
After crossing the finish line, I vaguely remember someone handing me my medal, a foil blanket, and a bag with water, fruit, and some snacks. I couldn’t believe that I had actually finished! It was one of the proudest moments in my life, regardless of how slow I ran it or how much pain I was in. Unfortunately my body was not going to let me enjoy this accomplishment one bit.
After shuffling out of the park (what felt like the longest walk of my life) I was given a fleece lined poncho and went to meet up with my family. I was a mess, especially after that walk, and I could barely move at all. The original plan was to meet up with Kate and my friends on the UES afterwards, but I knew that I wasn’t going to make it. Even if I did, I would have been absolutely no fun to talk to. I was really sad because I hadn’t had a chance to see some of my friends while I was in New York, and I really wanted to thank everyone in person.
I ended up being in so much pain that I couldn’t even walk across a few avenues to try to catch a cab to the ferry. Will ended up having to carry me on his back a couple of blocks, which was pretty humiliating but I accepted it gratefully without complaint.
The above photos were taken in the terminal while waiting for the ferry. I still can’t believe I finished! My time ended up being 5:48:15.
Will I ever run another marathon? Probably not. I don’t think it would be fun to do another one unless I really wanted to commit to training. But I still love running, and I’m definitely looking to run some more half marathons!