This entire weekend was a whirlwind and it will hands down be one of the most memorable weekends of all time.
I apologize for this lengthy post but my NYC Marathon weekend has been in the making for 18 months and a short post just would not do it justice.
Friday, November 1st
I went out for my last run before the marathon in the morning. The day was going to be busy – head over to the expo to pick up my bib and drop off my dry clothes bag for after the marathon at Steelcase (where our team was having the post-marathon party) followed by a trip to the airport. The atmosphere at the expo is intoxicating and since this has been my second time at the NYC Marathon expo and fifth marathon expo overall, this is one of the best expos I have been to. Even though I arrived just 30 minutes after its opening, there were crowds everywhere and lines to get through security. I left the expo an hour later with everything I came in needing – my marathon bib, Josh and his family’s Dash to the Finish Line 5K bibs and shirts, a couple of marathon memorabilia items, and Coach Brian’s autograph!
From the expo, I went to over to Steelcase to meet my teammate, Amanda and dropped off our bags. Fortunately, I was able to get into Steelcase a little early so I left the city on time to head home, eat a quick lunch, and head to the airport to pick up Josh’s family.
Saturday, November 2nd
I was looking forward to the Dash to the Finish for a long time, not as runner but as a spectator. I was originally signed up to run it last year but when it was cancelled, I deferred my entry to the Bronx 10-miler. Josh and his family though transferred their entries to this year’s race. The race starts by the United Nations and runs west along 42nd Street and then north on 6th Avenue before entering Central Park and finishing at the same finish line as the NYC Marathon. This and the NYC Half Marathon are the only two races that go through 42nd Street.
My teammate, Julio (so nice of him to come out and cheer with me) and I positioned ourselves on 6th Avenue and Central Park South to catch everyone around mile 1.8. We were lucky to be able to see Coach Brian run past, Josh and his whole family and captured some amazing pictures of it as well. From there we sprinted west to the Columbus Circle entrance of the park to catch them at the third mile. We were literally standing under the 26 mile sign (chills) waiting for them to pass.
I know that my short stint as a spectator really doesn’t compare to what everyone had to go through for me the next day but it was really neat to be on the opposite side. I enjoyed taking photos and cheering for my family.
Later that night, we all went back into the city for my team’s pre-marathon dinner at Bond 45. It was so nice having Josh and his parents with me for this event. I love my team and really enjoyed having them meet everyone. There was a big difference in the atmosphere of this dinner versus the one exactly a year ago. On Saturday night, everyone was excited and nervous. During Coach Brian’s speech, tears rolled down our faces thinking about the memorable journey that so many of us have been on together since June of last year. Listening to him really reminded me of the bond that we have all formed and how incredible of a group we all are. The team is formed of a group of people with two things in common – a connection to Alzheimer’s and the desire to run a marathon. Put these two things together along with months of grueling marathon training and poof, you built a group of amazing friends.
I went to sleep that night, still not completely nervous yet, but excited and thankful that the NYC Marathon the next day was not my first marathon. In a crazy way, I am glad the race last year was cancelled. The excitement and hype that goes into the NYC Marathon is incredible and if I had to add that to the nerves and anxiety that exists before a first marathon, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep all week. I am glad that I was able to soak in all of the excitement and not worry as much as about the race.
Sunday, November 3rd
No words will ever do this day justice. From the moment I woke up at 4AM and started getting ready to leave the apartment until I went to bed, I was on a high (even though I was losing my voice). Our team met up at Union Square to take the bus over to Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island. As soon as our team was together, it felt real and that this race was really going to happen. We took our team picture, hopped on the bus, and we were on our way. Despite the lightheartedness and my teammate, Maria’s attempt to try to calm my nerves, I was so anxious. As we were approaching Staten Island, I received a text from a friend and teammate, Alana (unfortunately, she was not running with us this year) wishing me luck and reminding me that my grandmother is smiling down at me today. Not only was a I bundle of nerves, I was waterworks.
As we made our way into Fort Wadsworth, which reminds of a little town full of people – marathoners, and found our spot by a tree to bunker down for the next couple of hours, I finally started to relax a little and finish my breakfast. The time at Fort Wadsworth flew by, between chatting with the team, eating my pre-packed breakfast, and going to the port-a-potties as many times as possible, before I knew it, it was time to head into our corrals.
In our corrals, we did our last minute preparations, stripping down from our layers of warmth and got ready to head to the start at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Even though I started on the lower level of the bridge, it was very intimidating to be standing at the entrance to this ginormous structure about to embark on 26.2 mile journey through the five boroughs of NYC.
New York, New York played overhead and the guns sounded. I was off by 10:07AM. The first mile was probably a good indication of how cold it was really going to be that day. The wind blew and we definitely felt the chills even on the lower level of the bridge. The first 10 miles were incredible. Brooklyn was probably my most favorite part of the entire course (though that could be skewed since I was feeling physically stronger then as well). The crowds and bands all through Brooklyn were intoxicating. To hear your name being cheered for from all different directions is a feeling like no other. Right before mile 8, I knew to expect my first cheering section – Josh, my parents, brother, Josh’s parents, and his brother were all supposed to be there. When I ran past them, I was elated – I even gave them all a high-five. I was running 9-9:15 minute/miles through this entire first part of the course and even threw away my gloves. Big mistake!
As soon as I passed my family, it started to drizzle and sun went away. With the wind blowing as well, I quickly regretted shedding my gloves so soon. By the time we were approaching the half-marathon mark – crossing over the Pulaski Bridge from Brooklyn into Queens – I was starting to feel throbbing and soreness in my quads. I thought it would pass but it didn’t and gradually got worst for the rest of the race. My lowest moments of the entire race came during the Queensboro Bridge and it did not get better for the rest of the course. I struggled to keep up my energy even after we entered Manhattan and the fan support was strong. Getting a push from a random runner, strangers shouting my name along the way, and knowing where my family and friends were positioned really helped get me through. Someone analyzing my split times could clearly tell that I started off way too fast and could not sustain it and that is a lesson that I learned. Even though I knew that it was easy to get swept into the crowds and adrenaline of NYC, I still fell for it. It’s so hard not to!
My original goal time was 3:59 (but I knew that was far-fetched as race day got closer), then the goal was 4:15 or better, when I knew that was no longer achievable, I just wanted to PR (which would have been 4:21), then when I couldn’t do that anymore, I wanted to break 4:30 but towards the end of the race, I settled on just being able to make it into the NY Times (crossing my fingers that my time would be good enough to make the page cutoff). When I finished the race (with a time of 4:34:05), I knew that even though I didn’t perform my best, the NYC Marathon is the best race out there. I knew that deep down inside, I am lucky that this wasn’t my first marathon because it made me appreciate just how great NYC really is. I knew that I would one day want to run NYC again. How could you not want to run a race through a city and course you know so well and have so many fans cheering for you? It is addicting!
The worst part of the NYC Marathon though, is the walk to exit the park. I had to stop into the medical tent to get ice for my quads which by the way, ended up being duck taped to my knees because the packs kept falling down. It took us nearly an hour and a half to exit the park, pick up our ponchos, and make our way 18 blocks south to Steelcase.
As soon as we got off the elevator though at Steelcase, it was all worth it. To be surrounded by my friends and family was an incredible feeling. Again, I was waterworks. I thought of my grandma and all of the support and love that I had around me, it was tears of happiness, joy, and accomplishment. My mom thought I was injured though – couldn’t have been the duck tape on my knees or salt all over my face that made her think that, right?
I am one lucky girl though! I was surrounded by my entire family and friends who all trekked out into the cold to cheer for me and congratulate me as I finished the NYC Marathon.
I would not have made it to this point without all of the support of my family, friends, and teammates. Through the last 18 months, my ultimate goal was to run in the NYC Marathon in memory of my grandmother and because of all the support I had, I accomplished this goal on Sunday. Thank you for all of the generous donations I received from this year and last (I’ve raised over $6,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association over the last two years)! Thank you for all of the words of encouragement along the way, cheering for me virtually, reading my blog, tracking me on race day, and following me on Twitter! Thank you for dealing with me as I made plans on days that didn’t coincide with long runs, refusing a drink because of runs, or leaving events early because I had a long run in the morning. I know that my marathon training schedule has not been easy and I appreciate everyone’s patience with me. The last year and a half has been a whirlwind to finally get to this point and I truly appreciate everyone’s support and encouragement. I am excited to say that I am finally an ING NYC Marathoner!