I'll start at the beginning as I recap this major accomplishment in my life. I felt like I was prepared as I mentioned in my first and second training updates. I had notified my special mile markers, and I was ready. Ready, but very nervous and a bit scared to be honest. Unfortunately, I attended the expo by myself. This was not my initial plan, but it was the way it worked out. I would have preferred to have some company as I wandered throughout the booths and looked for good deals on all things running. I was able to have my picture taken in front of a huge map of the course with my bib and the race tech shirt on. I am glad I asked someone to snap this photo for me. I was so excited to be a participant in the 43rd running of NYC Marathon!
On race day, I was up early! I had everything laid out and plenty of warm clothes for the long wait ahead of me. I snapped a quick picture before I layered up and headed over to Bryant Park to catch the bus to Staten Island. A very nice lady from Long Island (also a first time Marathoner) sat beside me in the very front seat of the bus. We chatted briefly on our ride. When we arrived, the circus began! I've never seen so many people being herded like cattle in my life. In fact, there were 50,000+ runners being shuffled through some pretty extensive security as we made our way into the holding areas. Each runner is assigned a start time by bib color and a corral by bib number. Unfortunately, I was assigned to the last start time of 10:55am. That wouldn't have been so bad if I was catching a 9am bus to Staten Island, but I was on the last possible bus at 7am. This made for a nearly 4 hour wait from the time I left my apartment to the time I began the marathon. Definitely not ideal...
I didn't have much to do to pass time except for fuel up with banana and peanut butter washed down with some Gatorade prime. The high for the day was 50 degrees though I'm not certain it ever got that warm. It was certainly more chilly than I was hoping as the time approached for me to head to my corral. I was in and out of the port-a-potties a few times as I waited to start and lined up in my corral feeling extremely cold and tense. I also felt very alone even though I was surrounded by thousands upon thousands of fellow runners. It was a strange feeling. As soon as the race began, the feeling faded quickly. I realized almost immediately that I was taking in part in something really special. Something I would never forget. Something that I had worked so very hard to accomplish.
The views from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge were simply breathtaking. Even if the wind was blasting right in my face. The weather station stated it to be 37 degrees at 11:05am - BRRR!! Regardless of the temperature, I was stunned by the view of the skyline as we ran that first mile of the marathon. The first few miles were surreal. I still couldn't believe I was actually running the NYC Marathon. It took a bit to sink in. I really enjoyed the first few miles through Brooklyn. There were lots of high fives and big smiles from kids along the route. I was loving it, but it was super windy! At mile 5, a co-worker spotted me and ran about a half mile with me. That was fun. After that, I began to keep an eye out for my biggest fans - Chris and my family!
They were under an overpass between miles 6 and 7. Just before I reached them, a huge gust of wind took my hat right off my head. Fortunately, I was able to snag it and get myself back in order before I reached them. However, I didn't spend too much time there as my stomach was starting to give me some trouble and I worried that stopping wouldn't be a good idea. I would see them again just before we left Brooklyn at the 20k mark between miles 12 and 13.
Just before I reached them the second time, I was forced to stop for a bathroom break. I was trying to hold off until after, but my body just wouldn't let me. I was also attempting to avoid the insane lines. I stopped around mile 11, but talked myself into continuing since the line was so long. By the time I made it to mile 12, I knew I had to stop. I was pretty bummed to see so much time tick off as I waited in line. It was an 8 minute wait. Based on my time at that point in the race, I knew that it would be very difficult to make it under the 6 hour mark, but I didn't give up yet. I did spend a couple minutes with my family between miles 12 and 13 though. I was so grateful for them coming out in the cold and wind to support me. I wanted to make sure they knew how happy I was that they were there.
After leaving my cheering section for the second time, it wasn't long before I hit the Queensboro Bridge. I knew from my training runs that it would be a beast. And it was. The view was amazing though. I couldn't refrain from snapping a quick picture with my phone. Just before the bridge, we hit the half marathon mark. When I looked to see that my time was 3:03, I felt disappointed. I didn't give up though. I told myself that if I could manage 12 minute miles for the next two miles, an under 6 hour marathon was still possible for me. I ran as fast as I could manage...which wasn't all that fast...for those next two miles and both clocked in around 13 minutes. I realized then that I likely wouldn't make it under 6 hours and decided instead to enjoy the last few miles of this amazing experience as much as possible. Heading off the Queensboro Bridge and onto 1st avenue was an exciting experience, but realizing there were still 10 miles left was tough. I was determined to finish it strong. I ran along 1st avenue with a renewed outlook that focused on enjoying the moment. I saw a group of friends from my church along the route as well as Chris and my family again between miles 17 and 18. I stopped briefly to let them know I was doing ok and that I knew I'd be able to finish it, but that my energy level was dropping off a bit. I also began to notice that something seemed "off" with my left foot on the 1st avenue stretch. I wasn't sure exactly what was wrong, but something felt weird*. I just tried not to think about it and pushed onward to the Bronx.
There was a lot of soul searching and digging deep in those last few miles. I accepted pretzels, a twizzler, and a sucker from complete strangers on the street. And I couldn't have been more thankful at that point in time. I was utterly exhausted. But I knew the end was near. I was so happy to see my friend, Emily, around mile 22. There weren't very many of the roughly 2 million spectators along miles 20-23 so seeing a friendly face truly meant the world to me! I was really looking forward to seeing my family one last time before the finish between miles 23 and 24. As soon as I hit mile 23, I began searching the crowds inside Central Park for them. It was starting to get dark so I wanted to be sure I didn't miss them. It really kept me moving as I was truly on my last legs. I finally saw their smiling (but very cold) faces just before mile 24. I
As I approached the finish line, I was so very happy and proud of my accomplishment of running 26.2 miles. Even though I knew it wasn't quite as fast as I had hoped to run it, I was so excited to have made it to the finish. After I was given my medal and finisher wrap, we were led along a winding path that looped back around to Columbus Circle. At some point, they also provided us with very warm, hooded wraps as well. I met Chris and my family inside a mall at Columbus Circle before we headed off to 9th avenue for dinner.
In the end, I am still amazed that I actually finished the NYC Marathon. My official time was 6:13:23...and nearly a month later, I am proud. I've had some time to let it all sink in. I had some time to really think about what an awesome achievement I accomplished. And I realized that not everyone finished. I also know that on that particular day, I gave it all I had. I did my best. And I did well.
I also realized that all these people along with many others are SO very proud of me. And I am thankful for their support and encouragment in this endeavor as well as everything else that I do. I am happy that I challenged myself to run this marathon...and, most importantly, that I finished it.
*It turned out to be a pretty significant size blister on my toe. In all my training, I never had a blister so it was odd that one formed on race day. All is well now though.