My head is still spinning after experiencing so many emotions during Sunday's race. I knew that I had hit all of my training paces and that I had put a ton of work into preparing myself for a BQ at this race, but I still can't believe I actually did it -- and on a tough course at that!
The NYC Marathon is the biggest marathon in the world (in fact, I read this this year's race set a world record for the biggest race ever). The fact that 50,000ppl plus participate means the organizers have to have their stuff together. The pre-race set up was very well organized. I took my assigned ferry at 5:45am from Whitehall in lower Manhattan. I got to sit and I ate my toast. I was so happy we weren't all jam-packed in there. I like my space.
I sat on the west side so that I could enjoy views of Lady Liberty as we made our way to Staten Island. Once we landed, we were immediately corralled into buses that would take us to the waiting area. I drank an entire bottle of water on the ferry/bus, giving myself plenty of time to pee before the race started.
The bus dropped us off at the waiting area, which was sorted by color. The signs were super straight-forward. I made my way over to the Green section to get my free Dunkin Donuts fleece beanie & refreshments.
It was surprisingly not crazy cold. I had brought my North Face shell jacket, anticipating temperatures to be in the 30s, but they were in the low 50s. So I went ahead and checked my bag early to avoid lines and just kept my throwaway sweats on me.
Here's the best part. Yeah, yeah, free gatorade/coffee, bagels, bananas, hats... whatever. They had therapy dogs in the Green area!! At first, I thought they belonged to racers. But then a woman with a dog came up to me and asked if I wanted to pet her dog Taz (pictured below). Obviously, I wanted to. She proceeded to tell me that NYRR was doing a trial run in the Green area only this year to see if having therapy dogs on site would help relieve people's pre-race anxiety. This made me so incredibly happy. I had brought stuff to read to entertain myself, but ended up spending basically all of the pre-race time petting dogs.
I tossed my $5 Walmart sweats in the donation bin as we made our way to the start corrals. And then tossed my sweatshirt & gloves right before the race started.
I talked to the 3:30 pacers before the race started to see what their strategy was. They planned to keep an even effort throughout the course, meaning they'd go a slower pace uphill and a faster pace downhill. That aligned with the strategy my coach told me to do, so I told them, "Okay, my plan is to stick with you guys even if it kills me." To which they replied, "Great!"
The first mile was ridiculous. It was super crowded on the Verrazano Bridge and the hill was really significant. I checked my watch for the first mile and it said 9:30 pace. I freaked out a little internally and then remembered that this was the biggest hill of the course. If we're keeping an even effort, it would make sense to go much slower up this hill. On the way down, we did a 7:12 (my fastest pace until the last 0.2mi).
After the bridge, we were in no-mans Brooklyn for a super long time. There were some crowds, but not a ton of people, and the landmarks were unrecognizable for me.
I had to dodge people for basically 100% of the race in order to keep up with the pacers. I was confused by that because everyone in my corral was supposed to be going 3:35 or faster. And they definitely weren't. There were people already walking after the first couple miles. Not sure how they got into Wave 1, but maybe NYRR should rethink the way they assign people because a ton of people in front of me definitely would have made more sense in a later wave. At one point, a guy paused my watch with his elbow as he was kinda shoving me to get water before I did. There was a surprising amount of shoving going on.
Anyways, once we made our way up to the 20s in Brooklyn, we entered probably my favorite stretch of the race -- Park Slope & Downtown Brooklyn, my old hood. I loved running past familiar streets and shops. I also knew that my husband and some of my friends would be watching over by the Barclays Center on Lafayette Ave. I was so excited to see them at mile 8!
After I passed them, things started to get unfamiliar again. I never spent much time in North Brooklyn (Williamsburg/Greenpoint) or in Queens. I turned my music up a bit and cranked out the miles.
Exiting Queens on the Queensboro Bridge forced people to cram together again. I was dodging people hard to keep my pace consistent and one of the pacers turned to me, handed me his 3:30 sign, and said, "You should be holding this, not me. Great job keeping pace. And don't worry. It'll open up soon. We're almost to First Ave." I laughed and handed him his sign back. This was a good boost for me.
Note: purchasing unwatermarked images from the race costs $85. I'm not paying for that.
When we came off the bridge onto First Ave, we were greeted by so many loud cheering people. And a huge, wide road. This was a very happy moment. Yay, personal space! I turned my music down a bit to enjoy the roar.
As we came into Harlem, we were at mile 19, which in your head seems like it is close to the end, when it's kinda really not. Everyone warned me about the mile in the Bronx, but it honestly wasn't that bad. There were bands and fans, and the roads were wider than other parts of the course. And I honestly felt really great until the last 5K or so.
The last 5K was tough. There were moments where I didn't know if I could keep up with the pacers. And I was trying to figure out if I were to lose them, could I still qualify for Boston if my qualifying time is 3:35. There were several girls who wanted to qualify who started with me and the pacers at the beginning, but were long gone at this point. I hope they caught up and were able to qualify.
I cranked my music up and just pushed. Hard. The music was really helpful in getting me to keep going. It was not helpful in me spotting my friends on the course. I missed one of my company's VP's yelling my name and cheering for me, and then I missed my husband and some of our friends in Central Park. I just didn't have much energy left in me, and it was hard to see people with crowds so thick. I did spot a friend who was maybe 50 yards from Matt because she kinda jumped out of the crowd and waved her arms big at me. Matt made fun of me after because he saw me get excited to see her after totally missing him. Sorry, Matt.
It took everything in me to dodge people and keep up with the pacers. And then at the last half mile or so, I just kicked it into high gear. I was thinking, "Oh my gosh. I could actually do this. And I could maybe even beat 3:30." I ditched the pacers and went as hard as I could, finishing with a 3:28!!
So glad the marathon photographers caught this photo of me right before the holy-crap-I-did-it ugly cry started.
Wait. You want me to walk another 20 blocks to get my bag?!
Seriously. We had such a sad death march after crossing the finish line. It felt like it was never going to end. I sat down twice and the medical people would come up to me and ask if I was okay. I told them I was just tired, but didn't need medical attention. Like... I just ran a marathon and you're asking me to walk for another 30 minutes or so. Lower your expectations.
I got my stuff finally and made my way out of the park to greet Matt and my friends. That was really happy.
What I Consumed
- At 6am on the ferry - two pieces of white toast with butter & jelly + 20oz water
- At 7am in the waiting area - a small cup of Gatorade
- At 8am while petting puppies in the waiting area - Honey Stinger waffle
- Mile 2 - 2oz water
- Mile 4 - 2oz Gatorade
- Mile 5 - 4 Bonk Breaker Gummies
- Mile 6 - 2oz water
- Mile 8 - 2oz Gatorade
- Mile 10 - 4 Bonk Breaker Gummies
- Mile 12 - 2oz water
- Mile 14 - 2oz Gatorade
- Mile 15 - 1 GU packet (with caffeine)
- Mile 16 - 2oz water
- Mile 18 - 2oz Gatorade
- Mile 20 - 1 Honey Stinger gel (no caffeine) + 2oz water
- Mile 22 - 2oz water
What I Wore
- Throw away warm stuff: sweat pants, Dunkin Donuts beanie, sweatshirt, gloves
- New Balance shorts
- Compression sleeves
- North Face Tank
- Under Armour Sports Bra (super compressive)
- Newton Motion V shoes
- Feetures socks
- Lululemon headband
- Running through the most amazing city in the world
- Crowd support
- Really good, consistent pacers
- Puppies in the Green corral
- Wayyyyy too crowded. Maybe they should do more waves with more start times to ease up congestion.
- Not an easy course. Lots of sharp turns & hills.
- Walk of death after the finish
- Getting home from the finish = more walking because Ubers were 3x surge pricing
- Waiting 4ish hours between getting to Staten Island and the actual start time
Overall, I loved it. I would definitely do it again and would recommend every runner should do it at least once. It's an experience worth having for sure!