A while back, I made a declaration that I would not run the New York Marathon...and I stopped following my training program. Instead, I continued to run and managed to complete a few half-marathons and some mid-distance weekend runs of about 10-14 miles. After one such run, I talked to a Flyer friend about the possibility of just running part of the marathon. This sounded like a good idea to me, and it kept within my recent philosophy of just running to have fun (the "time goals and PRs out the window" philosophy). Why not be a part of New York City's premiere running event? I had paid my registration fee, and would qualify for next year with my 9 races, so what was stopping me from lining up at the start?
This became the plan--and I must say, I tapered well. My plan was to get to mile 16 and assess. If I felt things were not going well, I'd pick up my bag and head home. But if, on the other hand, I was having fun, feeling good, and enjoying myself, I'd continue.
So Thursday night I attended the Expo, picked up chip/number/techie shirt, browsed with fellow Flyers before we made our way to the pasta party. I was certainly excited. Marathoning does that to a person.
Saturday I observed all my marathon traditions: one mile run, pasta dinner, set out my attire, and got to bed early.
And Sunday... Here we go. The full report.
Pre-Dawn: Awoke naturally at 4:27. Considered this a good omen, since I have this thing about waking up to a time with a "7" in it. Had plenty of time to make my way to the Upper East side (via cab) to catch the Flyer bus. Though the runners and volunteers were somewhat sleepy, it was clear everyone was excited. This was, after all, the big day. I boarded the first bus, and we headed to Fort Wadsworth.
Pre-start: We had about 3.5 hours to kill at Fort Wadsworth. It was similar to a picnic in the park, only it was the crack of dawn, and instead of seeing the sunset, we saw the sunrise. Bundled up and seated atop plastic garbage bags, we sipped "sports drink", munched on bagels with pb, and calmed our nerves with easy conversation and picture taking. After a porto-potti visit and a quick checking of bags, we headed to the start.
The start (Staten Island): Nothing can compare the the herds of people lined up at the Verranzano Bridge, singing the Star Spangled Banner while the Air Force jets circled overhead; especially on a day as gorgeous and perfect as yesterday. And then came New York, New York, as we made our way to the bridge. I was in no hurry and just took it all in--snapping pictures with my disposable cam. Running over the bridge was amazing--people were everywhere; we could see the runners on the lower level at certain points and the energy was contagious.
Brooklyn: Brooklyn kept me busy. It was my first time running on those streets so everything was new. I had some trouble clocking my early mile splits, b/c it took me a while to figure out the color scheme on the mile markers (too many distractions!) Not that splits mattered, but I had to give the watch a run for its money. I spotted a Flyer with a cool sign around mile 6 and stopped to take pictures. My husband had planned to be around mile 7--which came and went. I practically gave up all hope til I saw him around mile 9 with a motivating sign and a big smile. Again, I stopped to take pictures and chatted a bit. I handed over my camera at that point and kept jogging, taking it mile at a time.
Somehow I arrived at the half mark, and soon I was tackling the Queensborough Bridge. Having run over this recently (in the Flyer Hunter Moon Run), I knew what to expect. It passed more quickly than I expected, and soon I found myself in Manhattan.
Manhattan (1st Ave): The crowds kept me going--not just the crowds, though; I had planned to meet some spectators along 1st avenue, starting with 79th street; I saw a coworker who had come out to cheer me on--again, stopping to say hi and mentioned that a few things were hurting. She urged me on, saying I looked great and would definitely finish. Soon I passed the Power Gel station loaded with fellow Flyers. And shortly after that, I saw my brother. He had made a sign for me and was on the phone with my parents--they were spectating from Chicago via internet and cell phone. I have to say, talking to them was least expected and the best surprise. They praised and encouraged me, and mentioned how steady and consistent I was running. At that point, I knew I was going to make it.
The Bronx: I dreaded this part the most, but it was surprisingly easier to run through than I thought. Fans lining the streets helped get me through these difficult miles. At this point, stopping often to stretch was a priority.
Manhattan (5th ave and CP): As I neared Central Park, I saw, once again, my husband and bro. They snapped plenty of pictures, for which I paused to pose, and then I was on my way. My next rendezvous was another coworker on 102nd street. I found her flawlessly right at mile 23, and she hopped in to run a bit with me. This helped tremendously, since I was achy and, quite honestly, ready to be done. But with her help, I was able to maintain my steady pace and the miles clipped by. Running through Central Park was indescribable. The beautiful fall trees and the fan-lined road was enough to make anyone dig down deep. Emerging fromthe park, I found a second wind. There was no stopping me now. The finish was fastly approaching. I must say, running toward a marathon finish chute, no matter what your time, is quite an amazing feeling. You finally realize what you've done: run 26.2 miles, and you also realize that you get to stop soon :)
The finish: I was clocked at 5:05.38, which came to an average pace of 11:39. More importantly, I had a great time, and realized that my body is capable of amazing things. It wasn't easy, but I stuck to my goal of taking it slow and having fun, and the end result was perfect. I collected my finisher medal and blanket, retrieved my baggage, and located friends and family.
Post-race: After replenishing with chicken wings and beer like any good marathoner, I promptly crashed. Today I am sore, but not as sore as I have been in the past. I took a personal day to help me accomplish the 3 Rs, peppered with frequent icing breaks. I made a deal with my legs: You guys get me through this 26.2 miler, and I will refrain from running for the rest of the month, concentrating instead on lifting and elliptical training. So, I guess now I have to keep my end of the bargain.
Final comments: Congratulations to everyone who ran yesterday! I know many goals were met (BQs, sub-fours, beating Lance!, etc). And I also know it couldn't have been done without the help and support of the volunteers and fans. Thanks to all those who got out there--brighter and earlier than some of the runners--and made it such a fantastic day!