Before I even begin, I just want to say that this whole experience was AMAZING. Unlike anything I have EVER done in my entire life and I have a whole new respect for people that complete marathons. It’s definitely true when you hear veteran marathoners say, “you’ll never fully understand what it is like to run a marathon until you’ve actually done it”. O.M.G. I had NO CLUE that this would test every physical, mental and emotional fiber in my body. I am a different person because of this race, honestly, I am.
The day started off early with at 5:15 wake up. Needless to say my nerves got me up at 4:45 and I just laid in bed and stared at the ceiling until about 5:10 when I just decided to hop out of bed. It was weird because the minute I hopped out of bed all of my nervous energy seemed to dissipate. I had some coffee, took a quick shower and got changed into my clothes. I must have checked my gear bag 50 million times to make sure I had everything, kissed my husband goodbye and made my way down to the hotel lobby.
All set and ready to go!
I stayed at a hotel in midtown so I had two options to get to the ferry 1.) ride the subway or 2.) just take a cab. Even though I don’t mind riding the subway, my nerves started getting the best of me and I decided the most painless (even though much more expensive) option was to jump in a cab and go straight to the ferry terminal. Within 15 min. I was among the throngs of runners walking into the terminal where it was PACKED with people waiting for the boats. Since I pee ALOT when I’m nervous, I decided my first stop was the bathroom where, imagine this, the MEN’S line was 4 times longer than the women’s. About 10 minutes later I was boarding the ferry and on my way to Staten Island 🙂 I have to say that there was never a time when I felt that thing were disorganized or rushed. The boarding process was super easy and the ride over was nice. Immediately after we disembarked the boat, we were calmly directed to where we needed to go and right outside the ferry terminal there were tons of port-o-potties with minimal wait time so I decided to pee (again) before boarding the bus to the fort. Glad I did because the bus ride felt LONG .. at least 30 minutes. And I had two very loud people talking behind me the entire time.
Once we got to the fort, I just followed everyone else until I could find a directory of where I needed to go. This part was a bit overwhelming because the start area is like a town in itself….and you have 47,000 people milling about. Luckily the Charity village was super close and I was inside the Team DetermiNation tent before I knew it. I think the best part was we had our OWN bathrooms with NO LINES — score 🙂 I swear the minute I laid out my garbage bag to sit on and get my spibelt packed, etc. our head coach was telling us it was time to head to our corrals. REALLY? I seriously thought I’d be waiting around forever …. so not the case! so after another 2 pee stops I made my way over to my corral and sat for about 5 minutes before it opened. I couldn’t have asked for better weather — I shed my sweats and sweatshirt in the corral and was warm from the sunshine. I almost wish I had my camera with me because it was amazing to see all the clothes EVERYWHERE. Literally 10 minutes later we were making our way to the start line. No turning back now … this was really happening and I was so excited.
After a quick few words from Bruce Beck, the singing of America the Beautiful and a hearty cheer from the crowd – the cannon fired, Sinatra was blaring over the loud speakers and we were off!!! Holy crap – I’m running the NYC Marathon is what zoomed through my head. It was surreal running over the top of the Verrazano and all I kept telling myself was to take it slow, really really SLOW! And that’s exactly what I did 🙂
The first 10 miles of this race seriously blew right by. Brooklyn was like one huge block party and I was having a blast running with everyone and smiling and cheering. I literally had a smile plastered across my face for those 10 miles because it was UNREAL. The love and support from these total strangers is like nothing you’ll ever experience and they are all out there cheering for YOU — not just for their friend or family member. I was holding a steady 11:15/11:20 pace the entire time and feeling really good. After mile 10 I was amped to get to the half way point so I put in my headphones and rocked out for the next 3 miles. My legs started to feel a little fatigued but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t push through so I just kept pushing forward to the next “obstacle”…the Queensboro bridge. Many say that this is a somber place in the marathon — a place where there is basically no crowd support and the only noise you hear is that of running shoes hitting the pavement. For me it was a welcomed place of solitude. It was almost like I had experienced sensory overload in the hours leading up to this quiet stretch and I actually kind of enjoyed the peace that it brought. It was also the first time I took much needed walk break. I was now entering “uncharted territory” as this was the longest distance I ran since my knee flared up 10 weeks prior. I was feeling pretty good and started back up running again down to First Ave. and through the insane crowds once again.
Once I got to mile 16 things started to mentally fall apart on me. This was the point now where I had no idea how my body was going to react since I hadn’t gone further than this distance EVER. I was still hanging onto my slow pace but more walk breaks were on the horizon and I started to get choked up with emotions because I knew I still had 10 miles before this thing was over! Suddenly, the awesome block party became a harsh reality of pain. My lower back and quads were starting to rebel with every step but I kept on pushing and going as fast as my legs would carry me (whether it was power walking or slowly running). I made sure to take a Gu every 5 miles and had a full cup of water at each water stop (which was every mile) so I don’t think dehydration or poor nutrition were a factor in my fatigued legs — I think it was just that I hadn’t trained enough to push through.
Pretty much the entire way up 1st Avenue I was choking back the tears and trying not to imagine my family waiting for me at the finish line. It seemed that the more emotional I got, the more the anxiety built up and I couldn’t breathe — so I just kept trying to snap out of it and press forward. By mile 20 I was SO DONE but our DetermiNation coaches were there and ran with some of us that were in a group. I didn’t realize that I had some teammates behind me so I joined up with them to see if I could hang on. At that point I couldn’t talk without crying so I just said that I was hurting and I needed just follow them. We kept repeating “I am fast. I am strong. I can run all day long” … which helped for the next 2ish miles. I eventually lost the group because I my legs and back just couldn’t go anymore.
Around mile 23 I called my husband (yes I had my phone on me and yes I used it during a race – don’t judge!) because I just needed someone to talk to. I started crying hysterically when he picked up and I was just in a really dark place at that point in the race. It was at that point I would have given anything to see a familiar face on the course. Even though everyone was so encouraging the entire way – I really just needed to at least hear my husband’s words of encouragement. I told him that my whole body hurt and even though I didn’t think I could do it, I was going to finish no matter what. I also apologized profusely that it was taking me so long! I had kissed breaking the 5 hour mark goodbye and just accepted the fact that even though it was taking me forever — I was going to get to the end. I only spoke to my husband for about 2 min. because his cell battery was going to die, but I told him I was going to walk until the end and that it might take me a while. He said he was proud of me and to just give it my best…..and that’s what I did. I power walked as fast as my legs would take me until mile 26. Those were the most painful miles and I wanted to enjoy it so much — but I hurt so badly that I didn’t care what was around me or who was clapping — I just wanted it to be over.
There were so many people that kept saying “Go Determination” and I made sure to acknowledge every single person that cheered for ME. I even gave out a few high fives because at that point – time wasn’t a factor – getting to the finish was the only thing that mattered.
I saw the finish line in the distance and said to myself that I didn’t care if my legs crumbled underneath me, I was going to run to the end. So I ran as fast as my legs could go (which was a pitiful speed) and I heard my parents and friends yell from the bleachers (they had VIP seats thanks to a friend)…this was the moment I had waited 5:37 minutes for — the finish line. I crossed it with my arms held high and I thought for sure I would burst into tears but I think I was too delirious and in too much pain at that point.
Suddenly I saw my husband who told me he was waiting for me right at the the end. This is something that simply DOES NOT happen at the NYC Marathon unless you’re a volunteer or have connections. Luckily, we had connections!
I gave him a huge hug and our friend a huge hug and the next words out of my mouth (no lie) were, “where’s my damn medal?” LOL! I had to walk about 30 feet to the group of volunteers that were handing them out. There was one lady that was just handing them to people — um, I just ran 26.2 miles, the least you could do was put it around my neck! I made sure I went to a volunteer that was doing just that. After I got my medal, I headed back to my husband…I don’t think I could feel my legs at this point:
Our friend managed to grab me a heat sheet because I wanted one to keep me warm and we took a quick picture and I was out of the finish chute. SO HAPPY I didn’t have to do the “death march” out of the park because honestly I don’t think I could’ve have walked much further.
After we exited the park, I had to pee so BADLY (I hadn’t gone the entire race) and the thought of trying to walk to a port-a-potty just wasn’t happening. Thankfully there was a super nice church that allowed me to use their facilities! I think they saw the extreme look of pain on my face and felt bad for me. Before I knew it I was in the car with my parents and friends and whisked back to the hotel.
As soon as I got out of the car (smelling horribly and wrapped in my heat sheet) all of the bellmen and reception area broke out into applause and congratulations as I hobbled my way to the elevator. I felt like such a celebrity 🙂 The camaraderie amongst total strangers was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Simply amazing.
After a nice ice bath – followed by an extremely long hot shower – I put on my compression tights and my marathoner shirt and just basked in the glory of what I had just accomplished. What was even more fun was going to dinner that night and seeing all the finishers proudly wearing their medals. As corny as it sounds, it felt great to be “one of the gang”.
I slept like a rock that night and even though I wanted to get my finisher’s gear at the Marathon Pavilion the next day, the lines were way too long so we opted for some pics by the park and then headed home!
If you asked me on Sunday if I’d do it again I’m fairly certain my answer would be NO! In fact, I’m pretty sure I muttered those exact words, “yeah, I don’t think I ever need to do THAT again”. But as the days press on I’m already finding myself thinking about 2012 🙂 Maybe I really can do this again!