This post could easily be about:
- How to run a horribly paced marathon.
- How to drop a 6:48 mile in mile 2 of a marathon.
- How ridiculous the crowds of NYC are.
- How awesome my friends are.
- How to smile like a goofball for 21 miles.
We shall combine them all. Starting from the beginning.
Despite the late 9:40 start, marathon morning began with my alarm going off at 5:15am. While brewing my coffee and brushing my teeth, I got a text message from Betsy, yelling “Runner breakfast emergency!!” I immediately thought that perhaps she ran out of bananas, but apparently her oatmeal wasn’t cooking and she asked if I could bring her some bread instead. With Betsy’s back-up breakfast secured, I headed out to meet her and our other neighbor Megan (who I ran Ocean Drive with) to grab a cab down to the Staten Island Ferry.
The sunrise looked so pretty as we drove down along the FDR, and soon enough we were at the ferry. The cab driver commented that everyone was heading to the Staten Island Ferry…marathon morning! We nabbed the 6:15 ferry and quickly found Meggie, Kelly, and Baker for some early morning company. Yay for the UES crowd and Meggie! We chatted and ate our breakfasts which helped the morning to move along without too much freaking out, although there was certainly a little bit of that going on.
Once we got off the ferry, we headed to the buses to take us over to the Athletes’ Village and start corrals. Our bus was standing room only, but some nice Italian men offered up their seats to the women of the group, which I thought was quite nice since we were all running the same marathon! (Thank you for the chivalry, Italian men!) The bus ride was longer than expected, but soon enough we were at the starting area with the corrals.
We went through a security check where they almost made me throw out my backpack (you know, the one I’ve had since freshman year of high school?) and continued to walk until we had to separate into our different waves. Runners were everywhere and the walk seemed a bit long, but our continuous chatter helped to calm the mood. Baker gave some last minute tips such as, “The Queensboro Bridge and Fifth Ave suck no matter what. Brooklyn, up Fourth Ave, is my favorite part.” He was quite spot on with those instructions…
We parted ways with Baker who was in the orange corral while the rest of us were in green. As we moved toward baggage check, we saw this behind us:
We checked our bags nearly an hour and a half before the start, which seemed a little weird and I was pretty convinced that I had packed something that I wanted to have with me. I had last minute thoughts about taking my camera with me, but I threw it in baggage check since I didn’t feel like carrying it. Megan and I said good luck and bye to the rest of the green corral crowd and headed over to the Local Competitive group.
We had our own corral with some food and port-o-potties, although all I really took was a bottle of water. The bathrooms didn’t really help that much since everyone in the corral decided to go one more time before heading out to the bridge. I didn’t know tons of people in my corral, but I kept an eye out for familiar faces. I hung out with Ben for a bit and got to say hi to Lam and Josh…they’re all crazy fast!
Soon enough it was time to head to the bridge…about 45 minutes before the race started! I lost Megan as we headed over and I found myself alone in a crowd of people. Josh wasn’t too far behind me so I was able to chat with him for a bit. One of the men standing behind me noticed my sweatshirt (from my lifeguarding years, circa 2002), and it was soon discovered that he was from Palatine, which is my hometown! Small world.
Time in the corral seemed to go soooo slow. We heard the elite women go off, but we couldn’t see them since we were on the bottom of the bridge and the other two corrals were on the top. At one point, some of the sub-elites (you know…like Lindsay) were peaking over the side of the bridge, and I swear I saw Lindsay…definitely some CPTCers, so I figured Lindsay was up there. I waved my arms and yelled her name, but I don’t think she noticed. Oh well! As the clock got closer to 9:40, more and more people were ditching their sweats and more and more men were peeing in Gatorade bottles…lucky guys. I definitely needed to go, but I wasn’t totally up for heading for the grass. (That’s more than you needed to know…deal with it.)
At 9:40, they announced six minutes until the start…ha! They announced the elite men, a cannon went off, and “New York, New York” started playing…we were off!
it’s all a blur
The first two miles are essentially on the Verrazano, with the first part being uphill and the second part being downhill. The green corrals are on the bottom of the bridge, so it was pretty much just the runners around me…we couldn’t see fireworks, boats, helicopters, or the elites! Everyone around me seemed to be having fun…some people took off gunning for good times, other people ran in groups and chatted along. About a mile in, a group of three men started talking to me and I got a fist bump from one of them…I knew this was going to be a fun race! Also at this time, that guy who runs as Minnie Mouse passed us and I joked with one of them men that this was his time to catch him…to which he said Minnie can get him this time. This time was for fun!
I hit the first mile in 7:48, which I guess was probably a little fast for the uphill, but admittedly the incline didn’t seem so bad…probably because it was the first mile! We came down the other side of the Verrazano and while the effort seemed to be the same, I was shocked when mile two came in at 6:48…that’s a marathon mile PR right there! Oops. I knew I had to bring the pace back down if I was going to survive this marathon, but my pace for mile three was still holding around 7:15…not today, Susan! Right after mile two, I saw runners from the blue corral cross a bridge over us, and it got me really excited…SO many people were running this race, and I didn’t even get to see 2/3 of them yet!
As we came off the bridge, it didn’t take too long for me to throw off my tube sock arm warmers since I got warm pretty quick…it was sunny and the temperature was fabulous. As I said before, I kind of had to pee, so I made an executive decision to head for the first round of port-o-potties that I could see, which were in mile three. I figured it would be best to get it out of the way and to help reset my pace since I should NOT be running 7:15’s for this marathon. Pretty sure I set a bathroom stop PR as I was in and out in less than thirty seconds and still ran mile three in 7:46. Fabulous.
Somewhere along mile 3 we joined up with the blue corral while orange was still on the other side of the road. One of the nurses from work had said he was going to be around this area, so I kept scanning the crowds…I never saw him and later learned he had to work! However, I made the most of the run up Fourth Ave and high fived tons of little kids and LOVED hearing everyone cheering my name! So many runners would pull up next to me, hear all the cheering for me, look at me, and shake their head and laugh. I joked with a few that they should just pretend their name was Susan!
And one guy started talking to me in French…I have no idea what you’re saying, sir!
This part of the course was such a blur…I was just running, listening to the crowds, high fiving kids…and running some more! People were yelling, “Welcome to Brooklyn!!” and all sorts of things. Miles were clicking off like crazy, and I kept thinking that running anywhere from 7:20-7:40 miles would come back to haunt me. But oh well.
My dad had come in for the marathon, and we spent Saturday night mapping out exactly where he was going to be…complete with side of the road and everything. As I approached mile 8, which is the turn from Fourth Ave onto Lafayette, I swung wide since I knew my dad would be on the left side of the street. It was easy to spot him in his red Maryland shirt and since most people were hugging the corner, he was able to see me without a problem.
Miles 1-8: 7:43, 6:48, 7:46, 7:23, 7:26, 7:32, 7:28, 7:39
i guess this is real
As we made the turn onto Lafayette, I realized that…I’d been running for eight miles! And now we’re going uphill! Yikes! Duh, Susan. Next time maybe I’ll look at the course map and elevation better and perhaps pay attention to my pacing. Oops? Somewhere along here I started taking my energy chews (and dropped half of them on the ground…oops)…also had them stuffed in my sports bra since the pocket in my shorts wasn’t as big as I remember it being. Hello, cuts all over my chest. (This might be why I’m still single…running is so glamorous.)
It was also somewhere around here that I realized that the water stops were about every mile, which I thought was crazy! The closest together I’ve seen them in previous marathons is about two miles. While I didn’t feel the need to grab water/Gatorade at every stop, it is still difficult to navigate water stops and kind of messes up your rhythm with people darting in and out…but I survived!
Back to Brooklyn! I knew I’d be seeing some familiar faces, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember exactly where people said they would be. I kept my eyes peeled for Megan, but it was Sarah (from Washington Ran Here…with a private blog now?? I miss your posts!) who I heard screaming my name and looked over to see the two of them…So great to see your faces out there!
Somewhere after seeing the two of them, the course headed downhill for a little bit and my pace felt a little easier. I just tried to keep things in control and smile even though I knew in my head that I was probably running wayyyy too fast. Whatever, this was my race for fun and if that means running fast, then I’m going to do it, okay? We continued through Brooklyn and reached the part of town with the Jewish population that could have cared less about the marathon. Many were out and about, some actually cheered for us (and some marathoners thanked them!), others darted across the road. Mixed bag, eerily quiet. It was somewhere around here that I realized I was running in a giant mass of people and that we all smelled like we had been running for ten miles…ha!
It was also somewhere in here that I noticed Josh and Daniel ahead of me…they were probably about fifteen seconds up, and I thought about catching them…sprinting didn’t sound like a great idea at the time, so I just let them float in front of me. My mind eventually went back to wondering when we were going to get into Queens…and then I saw the bridge in front of me.
Miles 9-13: 7:37, 7:20, 7:44, 7:38, 7:37
Half Marathon Split: 1:38:41, avg pace of 7:31
queens to queensboro
The half marathon marker was actually on the Pulaski Bridge as we headed from Brooklyn into Queens. Not going to lie…that bridge wasn’t so much fun! I told myself to keep things nice and easy on the uphill, trying not to waste much energy. (Remember when I ran Big Sur and that worked? Yes.) After cross the halfway mark, I realized that it wouldn’t be too long until we were in Manhattan! Seeing as I didn’t think I would know anyone in Queens, this was really exciting. We came down off the bridge and into Queens and things started to look familiar…this was about where I was cheering last year!
I ran past the high school band that I remember seeing on 10th St before the right turn and mile 14, then I made the turn right where I was cheering last year. I ran along mile 14 and started collecting my thoughts for the Queensboro Bridge…I knew it was going to be a tough part of the course and I wanted to be ready for it. I put one foot in front of the other, mostly in my thoughts since the cheering crowds were thin at this point. I did manage to look up in time to see someone who I didn’t know was going to be out cheering, so I yelled his name as I ran by and he yelled back…so I had fans in Queens too! It was a nice boost that I needed headed onto the bridge.
And that bridge. Oh Queensboro, you were about as miserable as everyone told me you were going to be. Mile 15 is right before the bridge, and mile 16 is at the end of the bridge. It’s a long, dark way to go. You remember that you’ve been running for a long time, but you still have many miles in front of you. The crowds aren’t there. It’s a mostly covered bridge so there’s not much light. You’re going up, up up, and I swear it never seems like it’s going to end. Things hurt. I kept telling myself to just keep moving, take it easy on the up…the downhill will come, and then Manhattan will be there. We crested the bridge/hill and made our way back down…some people had made it up onto the bridge to cheer. Signs on the bridge started to say, “If ten miles to go sounds easy…then things are about to get easier!”
And then…we hit Manhattan.
Miles 14-16: 7:46, 7:56, 8:00
ain’t nothing as sweet as the sound of a crowd
In my post leading up this marathon, I said that I was running this marathon because I love this city and I couldn’t wait for the crowds of First Ave. As we reached the end of the Queensboro Bridge, a runner near me yelled out loud, “Can you hear that?? This is what you’ve been waiting for!”
Then I heard it.
The crowds of First Ave.
You come off the Queensboro Bridge and make a left U-turn before heading back under the bridge and up north. As we made that U-turn, I heard the crowd. I smiled. I’m not going to lie…I got a little choked up. I almost teared up. I’m the cheesiest person in the entire world. I kept thinking to myself how much I love running, how much this city means to me, and how many people I have waiting for up First Ave. I literally almost started crying thinking about it.
Call me a nerd, but it was amazing. We ran under the bridge and headed north up First Ave.
The crowds were nothing short of incredible. I ran up the west side of First Ave because I knew that’s where most people who I was looking for would be. People were lined up 3-4 deep on the west side with a fair amount of people on the east side as well. I had a huge smile on my face and started scanning the crowds. People cheered for me every step of the way and it was pretty much the best thing ever. Bands were out playing. People were cheering like crazy. My heart skipped every time I heard my name because I thought it might be someone I knew.
Words cannot explain how much fun I had.
I saw my first fans in the form of nurses I work with…in two different groups. So much fun seeing them out there…and not in scrubs! My dad was at 86th, so he was the next person I spotted. He had a spot right against the gates so I was able to run right by him.
After spotting my dad, I knew that Ali, Lauren, and Emily would be on 89th St. They spotted me and I spotted them and they screamed their heads off in their I <3 Sweat gear…sooo good to see them! (And sorry I didn’t actually get to see you this weekend! Soon!) After seeing them, I immediately beelined across the street since Elyssa and Bojana told me they would be over there. Sasquatch Josh had stopped by them, so I got a high ten (not even just a high five!) before rolling along.
I was on such a high! Loved every second of it. But I’m not going to lie…that high wore off fast. I was soon faced with the reality that I would be heading up into the Bronx and I wasn’t going to see any spectators I knew until mile 23.5. Yikes.
Miles 17-19: 7:44, 7:42, 7:56
this is kinda rough
I knew earlier in the day that keeping a faster-ish pace wasn’t going to go so well later on in the race. This is somewhat of a common theme throughout most of my marathons, so no surprise there! A fair amount of fans were out in Harlem, and then we climbed the Willis Bridge into the Bronx. Since I ran this route with Meggie and Megan two weeks ago, this part was familiar, although not all that comforting! Some people were handing out Coke and pretzels on the bridge and I was just trying to get through since I knew that I’d be back in Manhattan shortly.
But oh man…that hurt. I knew my pace was dropping, but I tried to keep going. I don’t know what to say about this other than I knew it was going to happen, and if anyone can teach me how to pace better, I will give you lots of hugs and kisses. (Or cupcakes? Anything, really.) I finally made it through the Bronx and back across the Madison Ave Bridge into Manhattan. People are often surprised to hear that I walk during marathons…and my first walk break was on that bridge. Maybe it would be better if I didn’t walk, I have no idea. But I did. So there. Picked it back up and hit Manhattan.
All I really remember from this part of the marathon was going around Marcus Garvey Park and heading back down Fifth Ave. I counted down the blocks, which seemed to be taking forever to pass by. Fifth Ave is a slight incline into Central Park and the sun is right in your face. I tried to run along the shaded part to make it so I didn’t squint the entire time…but yikes, this was not going well! People were still out and cheering, but I admittedly just wanted to be done. Where was Central Park?? Is this over yet? Why didn’t I run slower earlier in the race?? How many walk breaks are acceptable??
We kept going up and up (seriously, that incline is miserable and Fifth Ave and I are no longer friends) and finally we reached 90th and Engineer’s Gate. I scanned the crowd for my dad and spotted him just before heading into the park.
As I turned the corner into Central Park, I head someone screaming my name…it was Amy, my friend up in Boston who had trekked all over the city and finally saw me at mile 23.5 in Central Park…sorry I missed you earlier!
Miles 20-23: 8:42, 8:51, 9:01
central park to the finish
I wish I could say I loved Central Park. That I loved the crowds. But I was dying and I knew it. I don’t remember these things hurting so much…I know they do, but this seemed to hurt even more. Just needed to get to the finish…hopefully as quick as possible, but this felt horrible!
One bright spot in Central Park was seeing Erica out with her sign! Familiar faces definitely helped with a little boost before working my way to the finish. We headed down Cat Hill (not up, thank god) and I told myself to use the downhill while I could since I knew a little uphill on the other side of 72nd St was waiting for me.
Well…that little hill got to me and I started with a walk break. I had been walking for no more than ten seconds when some man ran by me, grabbed my hand, and yelled, “We’re almost there, and you’re coming with me!” I took a deep breath and started moving…I didn’t have a choice since he had my hand! I tried really, really hard to keep moving, but he eventually went ahead of me since my pace wasn’t exactly anything speedy. Not too long after he passed me, another man patted me on the back and ran with me for about a minute while being encouraging…he went ahead too.
My legs hurt so bad. I never run clockwise in the park so I kept thinking the exit out of Central Park would come faster…but it seemed to take forever! We left out of the park and ran west along Central Park South. This. Hurt. So. Much. I don’t remember Central Park being so wide! Along the way, yet another man (make that three total) pulled up beside me and said that we were finishing this together…I couldn’t muster many words until he said something like, “You better not beat me in a sprint to the finish!” I laughed and commented that that could never happen since his legs were twice as long as me.
How awesome are these runners? They have no clue who I am, I’m 99% sure none of them were from the US, yet they were unbelievably encouraging in those final miles. Thank you, wherever you are. You are all amazing.
Last man of encouragement left me right around Columbus Circle as we headed back into the park. I knew the finish was close. I knew it was uphill. Here we go.
Sometimes I sprint(ish) to the finish. This time I just moved however fast my legs would take me. I looked up at the grandstands, looked around the park, looked at the people around me. The giant video board in front of me showed Apollo Ono entering the park. I saw the finish line. I put my arms up. (Yes, yes, I did.) DONE.
Marathon #10. NYC. So good.
Miles 24-26.2: 9:21, 9:01, 8:30, 1:44
26.2 miles in 3:28:19, avg pace of 7:58
Probably one of the worst parts about this marathon is after you finish. It’s a long, long waddle to get your medal, space blanket, food bag, and checked bag. They recommend telling your friends/family that you won’t see them until an hour after you finish. The only thing I wanted to do after I crossed the finish line was sit down. That’s pretty much the only thing you’re not allowed to do. So I waddled along with everyone else. I got my medal (and was a little sad they only handed it to me…I like when they put it around my neck. It’s the little things, people) and space blanket and kept waddling. Volunteers kept saying, “You’re almost there!” Thanks.
I grabbed my bag and checked for people I knew, although the only person I spotted was Lam. I just wanted to get out and sit down! The plan was to meet my dad only a block away from where I exited the park, but I needed to sit down first so I grabbed the first curb I saw. Sitting down has never felt so good. That’s all I did for a few minutes…then I checked my phone…tons of tweets, thanks everyone! I finally gathered myself enough to get up and walk a block…I must have made a really funny grimace as I stood up since the guy next me commented, “Ugh, I know that feeling!”
No joke, friends, that hurt. I don’t remember my legs being this sore immediately after my other marathons. Finally headed down the street to see my dad and snap a victory picture:
That’s ten fingers for my tenth marathon.
The next goal in front of us was finding somewhere to eat. We met up with my friends Amy and Duncan and scoured the Upper West Side for somewhere that didn’t have a million hour wait. We ended up at Ditch Plains, a restaurant with a bit of a surfer feel to it (makes me smile!), where I almost fell asleep in my beer and hamburger. I was so exhausted after this marathon…so much more than the rest! Such a long day. I managed to finish my beer and half my hamburger, and apologizes to Amy, Duncan, and my dad as I was a poor dinner participant post-marathon! Luckily, I perked up for the best post-marathon picture:
Uh, can you see that salt on my face?? Oops. This was about the peak of my awakeness after the marathon…it was all downhill from there!
After lunch/dinner, my dad and I tried to catch a cab, realized that was going to be impossible, then got on the M86 crosstown bus back to the Upper East Side. By the time we got back, the UES looked so different already! They were cleaning up First Ave, and no runners were in sight. So different than it had been just a few hours prior. Crazy. We walked along and ran into Kai, who I had met on Saturday at Erica’s brunch…small runner world, and I love it.
I finally made it home, showered, tried to stay awake on the couch while watching football, then proclaimed that I needed to lay down. Climbed in bed and slept from 6pm-9pm before waking up for a little more football with dad before going back to bed. I was exhausted and my body hurt. I don’t remember these things being so tiring!
26.2 miles in 3:28:19, avg pace of 7:58
Overall Place: 5032/46,795 (Top 10.7%)
Female Place: 694/16,928 (Top 4%)
Age Group: 182/2,817 (Top 6.4%)
Marathon #10. Done. In my favorite city. Was this my best race ever? Nope. Was I trying for a PR? Nope. I just wanted to run however I wanted to run, soak in the city, and enjoy myself. Had I paced myself better I might have had a little more enjoyable experience in Central Park, but no regrets. I’d prefer running fast than making myself hold back, and running those miles through Brooklyn and up First Ave cannot be topped.
The crowds in this city are absolutely amazing, and I had a blast running through the streets of this town. So many people told me that this was their favorite race and that they will run this marathon every year that they possibly can. That’s a big thing to say about one race, but I totally understand where they’re coming from. People come from all over the world to run this race, and I have it in my backyard. So many of my friends train for this race, and so many others are out cheering…it really brings this city together like nothing else can.
I hit some hard times in this race, not totally unexpected. But I still had a blast. My legs hurt like I don’t remember them hurting before, but I’m so happy with the race on Sunday. I’ve never been known as an emotional person, so to have a part of a race nearly bring me to tears (in a good way!) shows a lot. I love running, I love this city, and the NYC Marathon was a great way to cap off my year of racing.
I’ll definitely be back in 2012.
thank you all
I say it at the end of all of my race reports…but I cannot thank all of you enough. Your support during my training, words of encouragement before the race, tweets and real live cheers during the race, and comments after the race really mean a lot to me. It was great to see some of you out there on the course and I can’t wait to read the reports from those of you who ran it with me!