Six marathons down! Prior to last Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon, I said it was most definitely my last marathon, but then, I have said that before. You may remember I trained for the New York City Marathon in 2012 and didn’t run when it was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy. I felt so well trained last year; I was working from home and could build my training around my work.
Fast forward a year, and I actually felt well-trained again. I got in a lot of miles in hot weather and was planning on kicking up my speed work when I got knocked down by a 16 day cold just about six weeks before the race. I got up again, but the final blow was a silly ankle sprain while simply walking. I had a pretty bad attitude leading up to marathon Sunday, but despite all of the ankle pain and self-doubt, found myself on Staten Island on Sunday morning.
The morning temperatures were supposed to be in the low 30’s, so I felt like I had hit the jackpot when I woke up at 5 a.m. and it was already around 48. My dear, patient, wonderful husband drove me to Fort Wadsworth where the marathon start village is, and I was on my own for several hours while I waited to line up on the Verrazano Bridge. It was beautiful to see the sun rise over the bridge, but otherwise the time went pretty slowly, and my nerves grew.
The start village was well-equipped with bagels, water, Gatorade, and Dunkin’ coffee, along with loads of people collecting discarded clothing to be donated. That meant I could be dressed in lots of layers of clothes and know that they would be cleaned and donated once I was done with them.
Once in corrals, I felt like everything moved pretty quickly. We listened to announcements and the National Anthem, sang New York, New York, and waited for our start. I crossed the starting line just two minutes after the official start and made my way across the Verrazano with the entire city skyline in my sight. I felt my ankle start to hurt even before we left the bridge, but I tried to focus on the scenery and New York State of Mind playing on my iPhone.
I cruised through the first 13 miles, often wondering where the crowds were or why all of the people on the streets were just sort of staring. I had heard that the crowds in New York were deafening yet I never experienced that along the way. There were many moments where I was legitimately bored and disliked the route so much I considered dropping out. Still, when I checked my splits, I was happy with my time, and since I wasn’t tired, kept on trucking.
When I hit the Queensborough Bridge, a much-anticipated uphill in the race, I was still feeling good and ran a strong uphill, only to have three NYPD officers break up the group of runners by driving through on motorcycles. I don’t know why they were there, but in scrambling to avoid them, I somehow twisted my knee, and the downhill on the bridge brought me to tears. I waited for the crowds on First Avenue, which I had heard would carry me through that stretch of the race. I expected the crowds to be almost overwhelming like the Wellesley women are in Boston; instead, I barely noticed they were there. It was then that I started to lose my pace and said goodbye to the four hour marathon pace group. I also really wanted to quit.
From mile 16 to 21, I was in a world of pain and felt defeated. I had been running so strong, and I felt great other than my knee and hips. I thought about pulling over to a Red Cross tent about a dozen times and every time came back to Boston in my mind. I sent out a tweet that I was struggling and instantly received positive encouragement in response. It was that, and seeing two smiling women with a sign “Run if you can, walk if you must, but finish for Boston.” that made me realize I would keep going if I had to limp the last five miles. I started letting myself walk through water stops and when we got to Central Park, picked up the pace through to the finish, beating my best ever marathon time by four minutes. Central Park was by far my favorite part of the marathon; I have fond memories of running there when I was in high school, and I let them take over in those painful last minutes.
I didn’t get any photos during the marathon as I was trying to really focus and run my fastest. My goal in my mind was four hours, but my right leg had other ideas. I still think I have a four hour marathon in me, and I am looking forward to trying again.
While I am glad I had the opportunity to run the NYC Marathon, and while I did receive a lot of love in response to my Boston Strong shirt, I was really kind of disappointed with the marathon itself. I think some of the videos and things I saw prior REALLY hyped it up. It was quieter than I expected, and for the most part the scenery is pretty mundane in many parts. There were places that were plenty crowded, but it seemed like the people weren’t even paying attention.
My coworker, who also ran, agreed that, while it was an awesome experience, it was no Boston. For me, long before the Boston Marathon bombings, I got emotional walking down Boylston Street, and since I first ran Boston in 2001, have hopped off the curb and walked over the finish line just about every time I go by. I expected to feel a huge emotional connection to New York, considering I grew up so close to it, and after running, other than being happy with my time, just felt glad it was over. Obviously, the two races are very different; I think I just connect more to the small town feel that Boston has to offer, and I wish I could run it again and again. And when we landed back in Boston Monday night, we both agreed it felt like home more than ever.
Overall, I am very excited about my time, considering I spent a long time thinking about dropping out. I am grateful to have experienced one of the world’s most well known running events and eternally thankful for the support of my family and friends along the way and on the day of the marathon.
New York City will always be one of my favorite cities, and running the New York City Marathon is certainly an interesting way to see it. I look forward to visiting again very soon for eating and shopping and nice strolls in Central Park, no running allowed. In the meantime, I look forward to more blogging, cooking, food and wine events, and short interval workouts to get me through these cold months. I might also be researching marathons; despite what I insisted last week, NYC was definitely not my last.