After 18 Weeks of training and it finally arrived. My FIRST full Marathon race.
I never had the goal of running a full marathon. Never!
37 (now 39) Half Marathons = happy camper!
Then my Brooklyn Half Marathon finishing time in 2018 qualified me to run the NYC Half Marathon in 2019. Unbeknownst to me, it also automatically qualified to run the 2019 NYC Marathon, as well.
Many runners made me feel guilty for not registering when only 10% of those who enter the lottery get in.
I was hoping that one of my local running friends would get in too. (Nope but she got injured anyway.) But my friends assured me that they would help with my long runs. And they did!!! (Love you guys!)
So I registered to run the NYC Marathon for these reasons:
- I time qualified and had an automatic entry.
- If I’m going to run ONE marathon, why not go BIG and run NYC?
- I am healthy now. Who knows what the future will hold?
- I found out that blogger and skirt sister Cari was running it as well as a few locals that I know (and even some bloggers who I’m haven’t met yet.) At least I’ll know someone.
- It’s only a train/bus ride away and I have enough points for a free hotel room for two nights.
- It’s a fall marathon. Weather should not be too hot or too cold to train or race in.
- I LOVE NYC.
- As they say: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
If you follow my posts, you also know that I am not strict about following a training plan. But on July 1, I decided to download the Hal Hidgen Novice Marathon Plan and at least follow the long run schedule to the best of my ability.
And though I may have re-arranged things, I did all but one weekend long run. (Thank you Weather Gods — none in the rain.)
Besides, the goal for my FIRST marathon was finishing!!
Pre-Race Day Activities:
I took the train to NYC early Saturday morning and met my roommate Lacey for the first time (at the train station). Together we walked to the hotel and chatted.
It was too early to check in so we left our bags at the hotel and headed directly to the expo at the Javits Center. It wasn’t a bad walk and I was familiar (from previous trips for a 5k) about how enormous it would be. I had planned to grab my bib and shirt, check out the freebies and photo ops.
And that’s what I did. I refrained from buying anything. Basically because I had already purchased NYC marathon gear online to avoid the crowds of the expo.
Earlier in the week, I had grabbed a bunch of tickets for free afternoon events – podcasts at the Run Center with Deena Kastor (12p) and Ali on theRun (1pm) as well as tickets to see Meb at the Mariott.
Since we hadn’t checked into the hotel yet, we did that and wound up skipping lunch and just attending Meb’s event.
Good decision since Meb was awesome. We also got a lot of UCan samples which I hope to try out in the future and tips about running the NYC Marathon.
Probably not a smart move but we walked a lot. How can you not in NYC? Not sure if it was the boots I was wearing or not, but all day, my lower back ACHED.
So I changed into sneakers and we headed back to the expo (Lacey got some bargains. I bought a car magnet) and then we went out to dinner. My back felt better.
I’m a firm believer in not trying anything new on race day (or the night before) so we went out to an Italian restaurant. We shared pizza and pasta and cannolis for dessert. I have stuck with pizza or pasta for pre-long run and race meals, so I was confident that this would be okay. (We had skipped lunch so we ate dinner too fast to take any pics lol)
Lacey went back to the hotel but I was not tired yet (and too excited to sleep) so I walked around Hudson Yards. I forgot that it gets dark early and had tickets to climb the Vessel to catch the sunset. Instead, I walked around the the 5th floor of the mall where they had mannequins outfitted in roses.
I went to bed a little later than I would have liked, but because of Daylight Savings Time, I actually felt okay when I woke up at 4:00 am the next morning.
Lacy was in Wave 1 so she had a much earlier bus to catch. I lazily stayed in bed until 5:15 am and then ate my usual pre-race breakfast (oatmeal and coffee) in my hotel room.
I left at 6:15 to walk over to the New York Public Library to catch my 7 am bus to Staten Island.
I knew the weather prediction for the weekend. And it actually turned out to be pretty accurate.
Fortunately, it was not as cold on race day morning as predicted ..in the 40s with plenty of sun and little wind. I was decked out in plenty of throw-aways and was not cold.
Good thing I left when I did because the line for the buses was already pretty long. Cari and I met up on the line and I was amazed at how quickly it moved and how organized everything was so far.
After we got off the bus, we had to wait in yet another line to go through security to enter Start Village. Again due to the superb race organization, it moved quickly and before we knew it, we were in the Start Village!
You were assigned either Green, Orange or Blue and a corral – colors corresponded to where you start (top or bottom of the bridge) as opposed to your wave which corresponded with your start time.
Cari & I were in different waves and different start colors but we hung out together in the village, used the porta-potties, got our Dunkin Donut hats while basking in the marathon excitement.
Eventually we separated into our own color villages. I had some coffee, a bagel and a banana (my breakfast had digested hours ago), relaxed on the ground (sitting on my foil blanket) and watched the first 2 waves start and cross the bridge overhead.
Time passed quickly as I chatted with many other novice and experienced marathoners. I removed most of my throw-aways when they announced Wave 3 corrals opening.
I only kept my foil blanket (since I didn’t realize that there were more bins for clothing) and Dunkin Hat. Yes, I was chilly but not too bad. There were more porta-potties inside the corral area. Who knew? So I used them again since the lines were not long.
So…as I waited to start, I chatted with many of the runners in my corral. Soon it was 10:35 am and we were moving. Canons fired, confetti was thrown and speakers blasted Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York. I was already moved to tears… as I crossed the start line of my FIRST Marathon!!
The following breakdown is based on my own GPS (which may or may not be accurate):
The first part of the race took runners to the highest point of elevation: crossing the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge out of Staten Island (borough #1) into Brooklyn (borough #2).
I was in the Green Wave, which started on the lower level of the bridge. I was told that although the view was not as good, it was less windy and the incline less steep. I was happy for that.
So the first mile was uphill and crowded and I ran it very slowly. I planned to walk it but I was too excited. It was long and steep but not as bad as I had feared. Of course, that meant the mile 2 was downhill. I did my best to hold back. (I may not have been so successful).
10:58, 10:42, 10:42, 10:49, 10:32, 11:13, 11:16, 11:50, 11:30, 11:40, 11:53
Everyone had told me to get ready for the “wall of sound” coming off of the Verrazano Bridge entering Brooklyn. It was even louder than I expected. It continued the whole route in Brooklyn!! In fact, at times it was deafening.
Around mile 3, we were running alongside the Blue and Orange waves, both of which started on the top of the bridge. An old friend of mine said she would be at the mile 3 sign marker, I looked everywhere but never saw her 😦
We ran along Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. The crowd support continued to be amazing. I collected many high fives here and lots of cheers. I was glad that I had put my name on my bib. I was surprised at how many spectators and volunteers called out my name and cheered me on.
After the first 2 miles on the bridge, there were water/Gatorade stops at EVERY MILE. I don’t run intervals, but my plan was to WALK and DRINK at every water stop even if I was not thirsty.
My left foot (bunion area) always hurts at some point during a long race and of course, it did not disappoint. It hurt early on. I tried to ignore it and prayed that it would not continue throughout the WHOLE race (It did not last long surprisingly.)
Around mile 5, I decided to take my first fuel. My fuel of choice is GU. But I didn’t think I’d want to eat that many during this LONG race. So I saved my GU for mile 20 and ate a different energy gel at mile 5, mile 10 and mile 15 (SIS, Honey Stinger, E-Gel). My stomach felt great the entire race and I never felt hungry and energy deprived (Yes, I ate something new on race day…do not do this LOL).
Soon after, I decided to cross to the other side of the street. Not sure why. Just for a diversion. Well, it was at that point that someone ran up behind me. It was Karen, a runner that I knew from home.
We ran together for quite a few miles. I stopped at every water stop and she did not because she carried her own water. Each time, however, she slowed up and waited for me. She is a much faster runner and eventually, I purposely slowed and told her to go on ahead. I felt that I may have been running at too fast a pace to maintain for 26.2 miles. But it was fun to run along side a familiar face.
The Brooklyn crowds really rocked. Music and screaming around every bend. We turned from Fourth onto Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn around mile 8. There were a good amount of rolling hills and inclines in Brooklyn but the crowds made the miles go by quickly.
I ate a gel around mile 10 and tried to keep an consistent pace and slow enough not finish the first half of the race under 2 1/2 hours. (I was pretty successful at this!)
The last miles in Brooklyn brought us over the Pulaski Bridge into Queens (borough #3). For this bridge, I did walk the incline and run down it.
There was a supposed group from at running group at home at mile 13.1. I looked but again, it seemed impossible to find people in the huge crowd and I never saw them.
12:03, 13:48, 13:10
I’m not sure exactly when things started to go south but I think it was around here. My back started to really HURT. I tried to run in a way to minimize the pain, but my back just seemed to ache. (Same pain as the day before…very strange but ouch!!)
Next came the Queensboro Bridge. I walked up it and ran down it as I did on the last bridge. Many runners paused and took selfies with a view of the Manhattan skyline. I thought about it my phone was buried in my belt.
13:06, 12:49, 14:10, 14:30
At this point, you left Queens and entered Manhattan (borough #4) to run down First Avenue. I continued to run (but at a slower pace) and walk at the water stops (but for a longer time).
There was a lot going on to keep my mind off the pain. I witnessed 2 marriage proposals, countless funny and encouraging signs and most importantly, spectators screaming and calling out my name.
This part of the race was LIT! The crowds were amazing yet they were behind a barricade for the first time in the race. Still I gave out a lot of high fives. I was starting to have fun in the race again (despite the pain in my back).
I knew that my tennis friends had driven down to see me. I checked my phone and they said that they were at the corner of 1st Ave & 86th (around mile 17.5).
So I walked a bit so that I would look strong when I saw them (so vain of me).
I was worried that I would not find them in the crowd since I had missed everyone else when all of sudden they jumped out into the street and hugged me.
Of course, I had to stop and take a selfie.
It definitely lifted my spirits to see them. I continued to sprint away until I was out of their sight and then I slowed to my painful slog.
Another running friend was at the Gatorade stop at mile 18. I looked and again I could not find her.
In addition to water stops (of which 2 had gels), there was volunteers that would spray you with Bio Freeze, offer you salt tablets, vaseline, etc.)
I finally succumbed to one where they rubbed you with Bio Freeze (on my quads) because I knew I was heading up and down bridge #4.
After crossing the Willis Avenue Bridge (again, all the bridges were hard!), you entered the Bronx for a mile. At this point I was nervous because I had never run more than 20 miles in training, but it was fine! I was not really tired just in pain…
Although you were in the Bronx (borough #5!) a short time, there were really energetic spectators and lots of music. I work in Queens often, so the atmosphere seemed familiar.
So after a quick couple of miles through The Bronx, we crossed the Third Avenue Bridge and headed back into Manhattan for the final 5 miles on Fifth Avenue, up 59th St. and into Central Park.
14:56, 14:27, 14:09
You ran through Harlem when you first entered Manhattan from Queens. The crowd support was almost as crazy as Brooklyn!
We continued running up Fifth Avenue and it was a false flat. The incline was a killer at this point in the race and in addition to my back ache, my quads (mostly left) started to throb. Even my right ankle felt weird.
Up to now, I had been only walking the water stops and up the inclines of the bridges. In my race-induced hypochondria, I imagined a slipped disc, strained achilles and a femoral stress fracture. I decided to just walk, high five every child and not risk serious injury. I was finishing this race…no matter how long it took me.
Fifth Avenue seemed to go on forever. Thank God for the crowds.
14:32, 13:32, 13:34, 12:37 (.26)
I had no time goal. I just wanted to finish but secretly I wanted to finish without running in the dark. Remember we lost an hour of daylight.
So despite the pain, I tried to pick up the pace. After running for hours, we finally entered Central Park…yes the hills of Central Park. The crowds were insane.
Believe it or not, I don’t remember the hills. I was so glad to be nearing the end of the race (though it was far from over.)
Eventually we turned up 59th street heading toward the final stretch of the race. I do remember walking so that I would have enough energy to sprint through the finish line.
And when I saw the finish line, I was ecstatic!
I DID IT!
I ran my FIRST MARATHON.
Garmin Time = 5:27:22 (a little off, I guess)
Getting out of such a big race is a long slog. After we got our medals, the runners received mylar blankets and recovery bags filled with snacks (large bottle of water, Gatorade, protein drink, apples, power bars and more)..
Then there was a long slow walk to either bag check or poncho pickup. I was a poncho runner so my exit was a bit closer (but still LONG).
I’m so glad that I opted for the poncho! It was really nice and fleece lined so it was warm.
It was another slog past the family reunion area and on to exit the park. On my way out, I stopped at a medical tent and begged for something for my pain. They gave me ONE Tylenol (yeah like one was enough. I take 3 for a headache lol).
I thought about taking the subway (which was free today) but it looked to be so crowded so I decided to walk the final 1 and a half miles back to the hotel.
I had a runner’s high and no longer felt any pain anyway.
Lacey had finished way before me and was anxiously waiting for me in our hotel room so we could go out to dinner and celebrate.
I quickly showered and off we went to a steak house.
We spent the rest of the evening at the hotel bar, drinking, having dessert, debriefing about our race and watching the live feed of the race. (At 10:15 pm, there were still runners on the course….SO INSPIRING!!!)
The Next Day:
I got up early, had breakfast in the hotel and headed off for my appointment at RECOVER. Believe it or not, I felt great…barely any stiffness or pain. Hmmm??
Next Lacey and I walked to Hudson Yards so we could climb to the top of The Vessel and take some pics with our medal. My idea!! And we weren’t the only crazy ones.
We came to our senses and took the elevator down.
After all that walking, we worked up an appetite. Good thing because we had plans to meet Cari for lunch.
After lunch, Lacey had to head home so Cari and I took the subway to Jack Rabbit Sports store for more recovery, freebies and shopping. We used the Normatec boots again. I don’t know if they helped but it felt great.
Unfortunately this wonderful weekend had to end… and I sadly boarded my train to return home.
Additional Race Reflections:
I can’t say enough good things about this race. I may have focused too much on my pain and the slower pace I was forced to run with. But since that day, all I think about the positives and how I lucky I am to have had this opportunity.
- Abundant communication beforehand about all aspects of the race
- Organized packet pick up.
- HUGE expo with lots of samples and items to buy.
- Many things to do (for free) before the race -podcasts, lectures, runs, etc.
- Organized, easily accessible and sufficient buses to the start.
- Dunkin hats, coffee, bagels, bananas in the race start village.
- Bins everywhere to discard clothing
- Organized and easy access to corals.
- Sufficient number of port-a-potties. In the village, corrals and along the course.
- Prompt wave starts with canons, confetti and Frank Sinatra
- Sufficient number of water/Gatorade stops – 25, I think – 2 had Honey Stinger Gels
- Lots of medical support along the course
- BioFreeze and vaseline provided along the course, as well.
- Well marked course with mile markers and timing at each mile and clocks at each 5k.
- THE MUSIC, THE CROWDS, THE SUPPORT
- Perfect weather
- No blisters!! No chafing!
- No stomach issues!
- Cool medal
- Post finish line support of food bag, mylar blanket and a fleece-lined poncho
- Free subways after the race
- Friends before, during and after (esp Lacey & Cari)
- The bridges
- The long walk out of the park
- MY PAIN
- Nothing 🙂
Would I recommend this race?
OMG! YES YES YES.
What can I say? This is an amazing race. Crowd support is incredible. From the Expo to poncho pickup, the organization was perfect. Everyone has to run New York at least once!
Final Stats and Thoughts:
As you all know, I trained for 18 weeks for my first marathon. I rarely missed a weekday run (although they were shorter than prescribed) and nailed all of my long run distance (except one). Based on my NYRR pace per mile. I was predicted to finish at 4:25. I expected to finish around 5:30. But wouldn’t even be disappointed at 6 hours. I had ZERO time goals.
My official finish time was 5:29:11
This graph describes how I ran the race:
I planned to run 2:30 for the 1st half and 3:00 for the 2nd. What I didn’t plan was that I ran/walked the 2nd 13.1 miles slowly because of pain rather than weariness.
How am I feeling and What’s next?
I think walking around NYC after the race and the next day helped because I didn’t really have much soreness days after. I also went to see my chiro. She couldn’t believe that there wasn’t much for her to do. Less tightness than at a normal visit.
I ran the Stockadeathon 15k a week later. Yes, my legs felt tired and I ran it slowly but the good news is that my back did not hurt!!!
Last but not least, THANK YOU!
So I couldn’t end this post without thanking so many awesome people that encouraged me on my marathon journey.
To my running friends. THANK YOU for all of your wisdom, words of encouragement and support during those LONG weekend runs.
Thank you to my Mizuno sneakers!
To my friends (including virtual friends and bloggers), you guys are the real MVP. THANK YOU for supporting me on this crazy 18 week journey and for cheering for me during the race. It means more than you’ll ever know!
Since today is Tuesday, I’m also linking up with these ladies and you should too.
Happy Running! Ever run this race or another marathon? How do you feel about your experience? Please share.