I started this blog (as the Little Runner that Could) in 2007 when I began training for the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. I never imagined that 8 eights later, I’d still be blogging. I’m not sure whether I thought I’d still be running marathons.
Completing the marathon yesterday was sort of surreal. I’m always one to be nervous before races, no matter the distance. But for this one especially, I felt incredibly unprepared. I was still feeling a bit sore from my minor sprain in early September. I hadn’t done a long run of more than 16 miles. My mental game was weak. A hundred times I considered just canceling, but I figured I’d rather try and DNF than not try at all. I also promised myself this would be my last marathon, if I finished.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the spirit of the marathon on race week. Every ad you see makes you feel like you’re a part of something special. I decided to take hydrating and carb loading super seriously the week of the marathon, it was really the least I could do.
I had taken the day off on Friday, but I ended up having to go in for about five and a half hours. Nevertheless, we made it to the expo by around 3PM and it was packed. Frank and I sat through a great breakdown of the race mile by mile given by a couple of running coaches. We bought a bunch of random items, gus, glides, arm bands,* gloves and shedable shells.
*I typically hate wearing arm bands with a passion, but the fitletics one I bought didn’t bother me at all
We stopped at Eataly and picked up some fresh pasta, homemade mozzarella and basil. We enjoyed a nice pasta meal, got our race supplies together and had a low key Friday night.
The next morning, we finished up getting ready and took the bus to Staten Island to Frank’s dad house. We went to Michael’s to pick up numbers for our shirts and ironed those on.
Being that is was halloween, we dressed Petty up as Snoopy the World War 1 Flying Ace and he had a great time handing out candy with Frank AKA Charlie Brown.
Throughout the day three of our friends that were also running joined us for a pre-marathon party. If there is one thing that’s awesome about being from Staten Island (other than the pizza and Ralph’s Ice), it’s great pre-race accommodations and transportation. Around 5PM I made everyone watch the Lucky Penny episode of HIMYM, which was just as wonderful as always. At 7PM we all sat down to a fabulous dinner made with love by Frank’s awesome dad. He is the most amazing cook and put out a spread of antipasti, pasta, meatballs, turkey bolense, artichokes, garlic bread and three different salads. Yum.
We watched some of the mets game and just generally hung out before heading to bed.
The next morning we all met for breakfast around 7AM. Another lovely spread prepared by my father in law. I’m trying to convince him to host on Air BNB next year.
Our goal was to leave by 8:15AM, since Kagan had a 9:50 start and the rest of use were all 10:15AM. Honestly, we should have left a bit earlier as we ended up running around at the start village for various reasons and never even got a second to stop and get mentally ready.
Frank and I basically ran to our corral after I checked my bag. All that was in my checked bag was Frank’s poncho from last year. Quick vent: I was annoyed that two weeks before you had to select bag check vs poncho they somehow ran out of ponchos and I had no choice except to be automatically given baggage. I don’t understand why they couldn’t just order more ponchos; it seemed silly. But if that’s my only complaint about the whole marathon, it’s really not that bad.
Frank and I were only one corral apart, so I just stayed with him and we were able to start together for about 10 seconds before he went up with the four hour pacers.
I’ve given each miles section a theme song, just for kicks. I didn’t put on my playlist until the Queensboro, fyi.
Miles 1-3: Start Me Up: Rolling Stones
From the very beginning things felt harder than I would have liked. Not crazy or anything, but not the easy, breezy few miles I remembered from my last marathon. I told myself I just needed to warm up, it often takes about 5 miles for me to feel good. I was in the green wave, which was the lower level. Fortunately, I didn’t get any sprinkles from up top, but I did find the green wave a little quiet and lonely. There were also three small hills that I didn’t remember from the orange wave. Oh well. One I got to mile 3, I just started focusing on how many more miles until I see Ashley.
Miles 3-7: Thinking Out Loud: Ed Sheeran
The crowds kind of thickened and thinned out during this period. Other people noted that things felt crowded in Brooklyn, but I never noticed. I actually felt it was sort of the opposite. But I was just focusing on my mental game and trying to enjoy the fact that pretty much every person on the sidewalk was screaming my name. I loved that. It’s why the NYC Marathon is so amazing.
Miles 7-10: This is How We Do: Katy Perry
Ashley, I see Ashley. Oh thank goodness. Can you tell I was excited to see Ashley? It was so nice to have someone to chat with and lose a few miles with. I’ll say that these were my fastest miles of the whole marathon. They felt challenging, but in a good way. Ashley was pumping me up as we ran through the packed streets of park slope. My absolute favorite point of the marathon was the Emmanuel Baptist Church choir. They are just so amazing and joyous. It’s impossible not to be happy when you pass them.
Miles 10-16: Turn Down For What: DJ Snake and Lil Jon
Ashley and I parted ways at mile 10 and I trucked on focusing on the familiar sites and scenes of Williamsburg and Green Point. The Pulanski Bridge was tough. Since I hadn’t trained as much as I had wanted to, I really conserved energy on the bridges. This was probably the biggest difference between this marathon and all my others. There was considerably more walking, especially on the hills. I cautiously took the hills really easy, so I didn’t burn out before mile 20.
I always enjoy Long Island City, I still miss living there years later. So I happily ran down Vernon saying hello to a few friends and then focused on getting to the Queenboro Bridge. It was here where I put on my headphones. The Queensboro wasn’t so bad. I ran almost all of it as I enjoyed the skyline views to my left.
Miles 16-20: Best of Me: Morning Wood
Ashley gave me wonderful advice, don’t walk until you get to mile 20. Once you get to 20, do whatever you want. I took this seriously and it was actually the perfect plan for me.
Mile 17 might have been the hardest of the race. I had just seen Meri around 71st street and then I sort of lost steam. I was wiped. First Ave has always been my least favorite part of the race and this marathon it was no exception. Even though the crowds are great, it’s such a trudge to get to the Bronx, the ever so slight incline taking its toll. I think that I should have lost the headphones because the crowds would have actually been more helpful. I told myself I would run again after the Powergel station.
From miles 18-20, I was able to mostly keep a slow steady pace. I saw Jess at mile 19ish, which was wonderful. Then I was almost to the Bronx.
Miles 20-21: Fight Song:Rachel Platten
Typically, I like the Bronx, maybe more than most. I love that it’s just one mile and there is usually fantastic music. In my previous 2 marathons, my friend Sue met me at mile 18 and carried me through miles 23. She recently moved and I missed her a lot during this part of the race. I think that she really helped me enjoy this tough stretch and it was hard to play the mental game alone. That said, the Bronx did fly by. Before I knew it I was back in Manhattan and I knew that I would finish, one way or another.
Miles 21-26: Welcome to New York: Taylor Swift
I sort of lost focus at this point. I felt like I should have been able to push through and keep running, but my mind wouldn’t let my body do what it needed to do. This is where proper training is so important, you really need practice getting in the right headspace when things get tough. My body was being kind letting me truck on when it didn’t get the kind of training it deserved. That said, I was never miserable or in crazy pain, I was more mad at myself for not being able to keep running.
I decided to run 3 minutes and walk 1. This strategy really helped me get through the next few miles, as I could get through the running knowing a walk was coming. It also gave me something to focus on. That said, again, I think losing the headphones would have been a positive here, as I was sort of lost in my own little world. I actually missed friends at miles 22, 23 and 25 because I was so unfocused. I kept looking for them, but couldn’t remember exactly where or what side of the street they were supposed to be on.
Some feel a major rush entering the park, I was excited to be in the home stretch, but running-wise, things didn’t change much. I was happy to see the 90th Street transverse, Cleopatra’s Needle and Cat at Cat Hill, my familiar friends. I kept trying to alternate my run/walk. I was so close, but my body was reaching its limit.
Mile 26-26.2 Started from the Bottom: Drake
When we finally reentered Central Park at 59th and 8th, I got that rush I had been wanted for the last few miles and I was able to conjure the energy to focus and just run. I didn’t really care about the hill–although I certainly noticed its presence–I just wanted to see the finish line. When it finally came into view, I couldn’t believe it. It was so close, right in front of me. Just a few feet before I crossed, I heard my name over the loud speaker and I broke into a huge smile and waved at the grandstand. The finish came and went so quickly, I almost didn’t even see it until I was right there and crossing it. I completed my fourth and most likely final marathon.
I was pretty pumped and I braced myself for the long trudge out of the park ahead. It’s always hard to start just crawling out of the park in the thick crowd of runners. I picked up my medal, foil, recovery bag and then did my best to be patient as we walked another 12 blocks to the baggage pick up exit line. I have to say, baggage pick up was pretty quick. That nice fleece-lined poncho felt amazing as I wrapped it around myself. Frank had already showered at a friend’s, so he met me outside the park and we walked back to our friend’s place to exchange race stores and celebrate with friends and fellow finishers. It’s always great to hear about everyone’s races, as each story is so unique.
Writing this a day later, it doesn’t seem so bad. I see why it’s so easy to keep signing up for another marathon. It’s a crazy addiction that’s hard to satisfy. That said, 4 marathons later, all my marathons are within 13 minutes of each other even despite drastically different levels of training for each one. I’m not sure I have anything left to prove to myself as far as full marathons go. I don’t think I need to run any certain sub-pace to feel good about being a marathoner. I think half, 10Ks and tris might be more my scene. But never say never.