It’s taken me days, okay weeks, to process my thoughts about the New York City Marathon. As I sit here, still recovering, it feels like a dream. I truly can’t believe it. I can’t believe that I ran a marathon. I can’t believe that I ran the New York City Marathon. I feel gratitude. I feel overwhelmed with emotion. I feel pride. Grateful that I was able to run a marathon through the city I love. A marathon that people dream of running. I watched the coverage of the marathon on TV the day after and listened to an interview with a runner from New Zealand who has been dreaming of running the New York City marathon for 15 years. How can I not feel grateful? I feel emotional. I was emotional and shed many tears of excitement and happiness in the days leading up to the marathon. Yet I didn’t cry on the Verrazano Bridge as I listened to Frank Sinatra sing New York, New York. I didn’t cry as I came down off the Queensboro Bridge and was greeted by thousands of cheering spectators on First Avenue. I think I cried when the nice man placed the medal around my neck. I definitely cried trying to get out of Central Park after the race. I feel a huge sense of pride. I’m proud of myself for doing something that scared me. I’m proud of myself for the dedication, sacrifice and hard work it took to train for 18 weeks. I’m proud of myself for never giving up despite some bumps in the road. And maybe, above all else, I’m proud that I believed in myself enough to try and had the courage to start.
The day started off with a 5:30 alarm clock.
I slept surprisingly well; only waking up once before my alarm. I woke up with a strange sense of calm. Neither of these things happened last year before my first half marathon. It was a welcome change. I was so calm that I honestly thought I was forgetting so many things as I started making my way to Staten Island. I did some normal race day stuff, bathroom, Oiselle tattoos, a little foam rolling. I text Abby and Steph this picture at 6:30 in the morning and told them that I was READY TO FLY!!!!!
My plan was to eat a honey stinger waffle and 1/2 banana in my apartment and bring my normal pre-long run fuel (banana + 2 slices of cinnamon raisin toast with peanut butter) with me to Staten Island. Normally I eat 1-1.5 hours before a race or long run but it would be MANY hours between waking up and the actual start of the race. Alarm clock 5:30am. Cab to the ferry 7am. Wave 4 start 10:55am. You do the math.
I took a cab, with Brittany (also running her first marathon) and her friend Sarah, from the Upper East Side to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. I’m sorry I’m just blabbering on and not breaking up my chatter with a bunch of pre-race pictures but like I said I was in a weird state of calm that morning and didn’t even take pictures. Maybe it was really nerves masquerading as calm. I can’t be sure. But it felt like calm. Leticia, Katie and Anne ended up finding us at the ferry terminal and we all made the trip out to Fort Wadsworth together.
This is the BEST thing that could’ve happened that morning. All of the conversation and laughter distracted me from the realization that I was mere hours away from running my first 26.2. I hope those girls know how grateful I was to spend the morning with them.
After two and a half hours, we arrived at the start village, found a short port-a-potty line and were finally resting comfortably at Fort Wadsworth. The speedier people didn’t have much time to get into their corrals. I had just enough time to relax for a bit, use the port-a-potty one more time and not have too much time left to freak out. Before I knew it, I was in my corral by myself. I quickly made friends with Maggie who was also running her first marathon.
After a little chatting, we decided to start out together. We were in the first corral in our wave and only a few people back from the start line. For those of you that have read this blog before, you know I’m NEVER just a few people away from a start line. I think this is when reality set in. I remember starting to think, oh my goodness, is this really happening? Am I really about to run A MARATHON? Maggie said, jokingly I think, let’s get back on the ferry.
While I briefly entertained her suggestion, in my heart I knew that this was the moment I’d been dreaming of for the past 18 weeks. Probably, on some level, for the past 18 months. In that moment, as nervous as I was, I knew it was finally time. Time to put the last 18 weeks to the test. After all, the hard part was over, right? This was the victory lap. Or least that’s what they told me to calm my nerves the night before.
I looked at her and said, “We’re doing this. We’re running a marathon.” As we listened to G-d Bless America (I must admit, I was disappointed it wasn’t the national anthem), I started to get a little more nervous. I said my normal pre-race prayers, thought of all the hard work that brought me to this moment, thought of all the reasons I was running and before I knew it the cannon blasted and Frank Sinatra was singing New York, New York. It was on. As I started to put one foot in front of the other, I couldn’t believe it, I was running my first marathon. There was no turning back now.
Staten Island/Verrazano Bridge
It was all so surreal. Was I really running the New York City Marathon? You can see a thousand pictures of that famous race start but it was an indescribable feeling being up there. Although it was freezing, and very windy on the bridge, I couldn’t stop smiling. The excitement, the adrenaline, it was all around you and you couldn’t help but feel on top of the world. Literally. This would be the highest climb of the day but my legs didn’t notice. I was running my first marathon. Looking to my left I could see Manhattan. Maybe looking the most beautiful I’ve ever seen it. I felt so much gratitude in that moment. Halfway over the bridge, I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned around to see Kara. She said it perfectly, “It was the best thing that could have happened. I was so thankful to see her.” She was such a huge part of my training and I couldn’t have been happier in that moment. We would go on to run six or seven miles together. They were some of my favorite miles. I absolutely love running with Kara. She has believed in me from day one. She may have even believed in me before I believed in me. She always knew I could run a marathon. It was the best feeling getting to start out together. Eventually she took off and I’m SO HAPPY she did because she’s so strong and CRUSHED this race with a 44 minute PR! She’s accomplished so much this year; including an Ironman. She’s truly an inspiration.
I think a lot of Brooklyn is underrated. The spectators are unbelievable. Five people deep in some places and screaming for you on Fourth Avenue, through Park Slope, Fort Greene, Williamsburg, up Flatbush Avenue. It was amazing. I got to see one of my coworkers early on, around mile 3.5. She was the first person I saw and it was so exciting. She was out there, with her mother and sister who don’t even know me, just to cheer me on. She looked almost more excited than I was. I missed seeing Jim and Meghan in Park Slope. I tried really hard to find them but there were, what felt like, thousands of people cheering alongside of them. I can’t believe I missed Amy.
I remember seeing the sign she was holding, laughing to myself that yes toenails are, in fact, overrated and completely neglected to see that it was my friend holding that sign. I finally saw Annie just after mile 11. I felt like I had been searching for her for miles. I teared up immediately and got emotional when I saw her smiling face; something I’m sure was not easy for her that day.
I honestly felt like Brooklyn went on forever. I don’t know why I didn’t expect this; it is almost half the race distance, after all. I was so excited to finally reach the Pulaski Bridge and make our way into Queens and the half way point.
I had been excited to see Kristin and the megaphone (do they still call it that) she was able to sweetly score from her school. I heard her cheering “Welcome to Queens,” but, sadly, I missed her. I have no idea how I didn’t see her. Either way, the time had come; time to conquer the Beast. I thought the Queensboro Bridge would make me much more nervous. Although I had run this bridge so many times before, I’d never faced it at mile 15.
Maybe it was the growing excitement of coming off the bridge and finally being in Manhattan. The anticipation of finally getting to see my friends and family that had been waiting outside for hours for a chance to see me for mere seconds. Maybe it was picturing my favorite running buddy running right alongside of me as she had so many times before. Maybe it was a trust in myself and my training. I’m not sure what made me feel so calm as I started the climb over the bridge that day but it just didn’t seem so tough. I will admit that, while the incline didn’t seem so bad, it did feel like it took longer to reach the top and feel the sweet relief of the downhill (which also didn’t feel as steep that day).
And then I saw two of the best signs of the day:
Foot Locker Welcomes You to MANHATTAN! and 10 MILES TO GO!
I thought to myself, 10 miles, I can definitely run 10 more miles.
As I came down the ramp of the bridge, I thought I’d be fighting back tears. But there were no tears. Only pure excitement and adrenaline as I heard the amazing crowds cheering for me. Crowds that I had been part of for as many years as I can remember. Marathon Sunday is quite literally the best day to live on the Upper East Side and for the first time I was on the other side of those cheers. It was indescribable. I think my face still hurts from smiling so much. Strangers screaming your name, high five-ing you and genuinely rooting for you to succeed on that day. For me, First Avenue was the best part of the race, save for the finish line.
I started getting so excited to see all of my friends and family that would literally be lining First Avenue from the 60s up to the 100s. I only had to go 10 or 20 blocks until I saw another familiar face. It makes First Avenue feel so easy; even though you’re already at miles 16-19 and running uphill for a decent amount of that stretch. First I saw my dear friend Tina, her husband and daughter at mile 16.5. I don’t know who was more excited that I was running the marathon at that moment, she or I. She was one of my biggest cheerleaders all throughout training, today was the victory lap, and she was out there to celebrate with me.
I saw Jen at the mile 17 sponge station and think I was a little too excited to see her. I remember sort of jumping on her when I saw her. Sorry for that, Jen. I was just really excited to see you.
Just past 80th Street I saw Nicole, Allison and Ashley and closer to mile 18, Kim and Steph. They always say you’ll see your spectators before they see you but I think Nicole and Kim spotted me first. I was beyond excited to see them; jumping up and down and screaming for me. I had been waiting to see them for three plus hours at this point. Knowing I was going to see them around mile 18 pushed me all along the course. I wanted to look strong and happy when I saw them. I hugged everyone, I think, and was happy I’d see them again at mile 23 on Fifth Avenue. Sorry for all the salty hugs, friends! Love you more than words can say.
Just a few steps farther and I saw my heart and soul. My family and friends, that I’ve known most of my life and are more like family. I could never have made it through the past 18 weeks, or let’s be honest, most of my life, without them. They’ve seen it all. The good. The bad. The ugly. They are ALWAYS by my side; cheering for me to succeed. On and off the road. I will never be able to find the right words to express how grateful I am for each and every one of them.
Abby and my brother jumped in with me around mile 18.5. I knew Abby was planning on it but my brother totally surprised me.
I’m also fairly certain that my Dad briefly ran alongside of us? I’d choke it up to marathon delusions but I vaguely remember my brother commenting something along the lines of, “Look at him, he’s running, he’s going to have a heart attack.” So I think it may have actually happened. My family and friends gave me such a huge boost and I was ready, with Abby by my side, to conquer the Bronx and Fifth Avenue and see them again, in just under 5 miles.
This is where things got tough. As we started to run over the Willis Avenue Bridge, into the Bronx, I felt a huge wave of nausea and thought I might have to throw up. Abby told me to go to the side, throw up (not on her) and let’s get on with it. Just as I was fighting back the nausea, I heard a very welcomed and familiar voice calling my name. I turned around and saw Bernadette and Ed. It was so nice to run into them at that moment. Sorry for slowing to a walk without any warning and making you crash into me, Ed!
This would be the beginning of me fighting my way through 6.2 miles of awful stomach cramping but there was no way I was giving up. I was finishing this marathon; with a smile on my face.
I was definitely starting to struggle. At one point, I think around mile 21 or 22, there were finally some tears. And they were not the happy, emotional, I’m running my first marathon ones. I think I cried to Abby that I just wanted to lie down and rest. She said I could. When I crossed the finish line. She pushed me through some tough miles. She reminded me to push through, along Fifth Avenue; reminding me that I was running those miles for Annie who couldn’t run the marathon this year because of injury and I pushed on.
Somewhere between mile 23 and 24, don’t ask me where exactly it was all sort of a blur at this point, but I saw my friends again and then a few strides later my family and, somehow, managed to flash the biggest smile. I was definitely smiling through the pain.
No matter how much it hurt. No matter how much my stomach was cramping. Somehow, I could still smile. I still felt grateful to just be running this marathon. I don’t remember this part, there are pictures to prove it, but Ashley said that I screamed at them, so happy, that I was almost there. That I was almost done. That I only had three miles to go. That I was going to finish. I think I may have been delirious by then. I find it rather comical that I would say I’m almost there with three miles left to go. If someone screamed, you’re almost there, at me with three miles left to go I’d probably flip out. There’s perspective for you.
I thought I would feel this huge sense of relief upon turning that corner at 90th Street, through Engineers’ Gate, and entering my beloved Central Park. As Abby reminded me, it’s just a regular morning run from here. But knowing every twist and turn and up and down proved more difficult than I anticipated. It seemed like I still had so far to go. Yet I was beyond excited to enter home base.
I pushed and pushed and pushed and, finally, at mile 25 Abby sent me on my way, out to Central Park South, and said see you at the finish line. This was it. No matter what happened, or how much pain I was in, this was the final mile. I was going to do it. I was going to finish my first marathon. I ran as hard as my body would allow in that mile which apparently felt much faster than it actually was. But I was able to pick it up for that last half of a mile. The crowds on Central Park South were incredible. I was so focused at that moment but I remember how much they were screaming for us. How much they were cheering us through that final mile. I cheered at mile 26.1 of the Philly Marathon last year and I can wholeheartedly tell you that it was one of the most inspirational days of my life. It was what made me decide I wanted to run a marathon and got me to this moment.
I turned the corner, around Columbus Circle, and back into Central Park. I can only imagine the smile on my face.
400 meters to go. 300 yards to go. 200 meters to go. Grandstands. That famous finish line. It was finally here. The moment I had dreamed of. I ran through the finish line with my hands in the air and a huge smile on my face.
Like I said before, I think I cried when the nice man gave me my medal. I know I cried when I called my family and said, “I DID IT! I RAN A MARATHON!!!!!” In fact, I’m tearing up right now just writing it. It’s been two weeks and I still can’t believe it. I never, in a million years, thought I could run a marathon. I can’t express it enough; anything is possible. This day, this whole experience, made me truly believe that. Believe in yourself, work hard and never give up and anything is possible.
Dreams really can come true if you have the courage to pursue them (that Walt Disney was one smart fella, as my grandmother would say).
For 26.2 miles, I couldn’t help but feel extremely grateful. Feel extremely happy. Feel extremely proud. Proud of the person I’ve become thanks to running. Five years ago, I never would have tried something I wasn’t sure I’d succeed at. I never would have tried something with such a huge margin for failure. I never would have tried something so scary. I would have been too fearful to take that first step. I wouldn’t have believed a marathon was something I could do.
I can’t find the right words to express my overwhelming gratitude for my family and friends and the thousands of strangers that come out to cheer on Marathon Sunday.
I have to say an extra special thank you to Abby and Kim; two of my dear friends. Without them this day could not have been possible. They always believed in me. They never gave up on me. They are the best team a girl could ever have asked for. Their support, encouragement and love helped me make this dream come true and I thank them from the very bottom of my heart.
Many thanks to all of my friends who listened to my crazy, calmed my nerves and drank many glasses of wine with me along the way. I don’t know what I would do without each and every one of you.
Lastly, thank you, times a million, to my family, who never for a second thought this wasn’t possible. Who never for a second doubted whether I could run a marathon. Thank your unwavering support and love and always believing in me. Thank you for making me believe I can accomplish anything I put my mind to and work hard for.
They say you finish a marathon running purely with your heart! Now that I’m a marathoner I can wholeheartedly say that truer words were never spoken. This was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life and, undoubtedly, one of the best days of my life.