For years I have wanted to run the New York City Marathon, 4 years to be exact. Because of the popularity of the race, entry is by lottery and after being denied for 3 years in a row I got an automatic entry my 4th year. Because of injury and illness, this year wasn’t the perfect year for me to run in NY, but it had taken me so long to get in, I couldn’t give up my spot. I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty but I knew I could get it done.
The day started very early as I had to catch the Metro at 5:45am to get to the Staten Island Ferry at 6:15, and from the Ferry take another bus to the start line. All in all the journey just to get to the start line took almost an hour and a half. I didn’t really mind though as my start time wasn’t until 10:10 so it was a good way to kill some time. I finally arrived at the Start Village where competitors were starting to camp out for the almost 3 hours we had to kill. I camped out in a sunny spot and attempted to doze which didn’t really happen with the excitement of the race about to start.
The announcer called my start group into the corrals, so I fueled up, geared up, and made a last stop at the port-a-potty only to hear someone violently puking next to me. Note this was my second visit to the port-a-potty and both times someone was puking violently next to me…what was up??
We were pushed forward to the start and it was quite the scene, with helicopters overhead, firefighters and police cheering us on from the tops of double-decker busses, and music blaring. I was starting to get excited, and we were off!
The course was packed with people heading out over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and I couldn’t do much to manage a pace. After getting off the bridge it started to open up just slightly and I was able to make up some time. I was feeling good, although I could feel some hamstring pain from a previous injury from the get go. I was able to block out the pain and stay on pace. I knew I wouldn’t be able to block out the pain for the whole 26.2 but I was going to take advantage of the time when I could.
As soon as we got off the bridge and into Brooklyn the lines of spectators began and didn’t stop for the entire race, incredible! There were a supposed 2.5 million spectators and I believe it. I had never run a race like this and I absorbed the energy around me.
We ran up 4th Avenue in Brooklyn which was a long, relatively flat haul. This was the flattest race I had ever run! There were bands and DJ’s lining the course, sometimes a few bands per block which was constant stimulation. Many of the spectators had signs, saying everything from “Run like you stole something” to “Thanks for doing this, so I have an excuse to day drink.”
The miles were going by quickly, but around mile 12 I started to have a hard time blocking out my hamstring pain. I kept my eye open for the next 1st aid and then popped a few Tylenol, which did absolutely nothing at all. I kept my pace for the first half, and made a port-a-potty stop to only have, yes, someone next to me violently puking again. What was the deal?
Things took a turn at mile 14 just as we were getting to Queens. My hamstring was screaming and the rest of my body was also starting to feel like crap. Miles 14-16 were rough, and I could only break out of it knowing my sister and brother-in-law were waiting for me at mile 17. I crossed the Queensboro Bridge at a dramatically slower pace that I had been going, and I tried to push through the wall that had popped up way too early.
I turned onto 1st Avenue in Manhattan and the number of spectators escalated. People lined the streets, 5-8 people deep.
I was glad I had picked an exact location to find my sister and brother-in-law or I would have never seen them. When I found them, I stopped to chat with them, which rekindled a bit of energy. We are clearly celebrating victory a little too early in this photo.
I felt a bit better for the next mile or so, then it all started to go to hell. It felt like my entire body was cramping. I can’t ever remember feeling that much pain. I searched out the next 1st aid station and downed a packet of salt. I think I needed about 5 packets of salt, but they would only allow me one. I carried on with thoughts that I just wanted to stop and walk as I couldn’t block out the pain with the overstimulation from the crowds. Somehow I kept running although my pace slowed. I don’t even remember running through the Bronx. The mile markers came slower but I pushed on. I just wanted to get this done.
I saw my support crew again in Central Park, and now there were just a few miles to go. I told myself that I was just starting out on a 3 mile run, which helped me pick up the pace and pound through the last few miles. I have never been so relieved to see a finish line.
I got my finishers medal, which felt rather anti-climatic and I started to head out of the park with the masses. I felt like crying, as I was feeling so emotionally drained for having to push through so much pain.
This was the technically the shortest and easiest race I had done this year but it was the hardest for me. I learned a lot about what I can push through and what I am capable of doing with injury, which makes me inspired for what I can do without injury.
I am glad I did this race and now I can mark it off my list. It was an epic event and a great way to see New York, but now I can’t wait to get back on the trails!