Five boroughs. Five bridges. There is a reason the NYC Marathon is the largest in the world. Read all about the course and my experience running it with my NYC Marathon Race Recap!
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I’m currently writing from 30,000 feet in the air on my way to Austin, Texas, and I am filled with emotion. While it is bittersweet to say goodbye to NYC, the city I’ve called home for the last 6 years, I can really say I went out with a bang because my last day was spent running 26.2 miles through every borough during the 40th Annual 5 Borough New York City Marathon!
I don’t have the words to express how amazing this race was, but I certainly will try. Since I’m not big on expos, let’s start with the night before.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
I had to be out of my Brooklyn apartment at the end of October, so I was homeless on Marathon Eve. Fortunately, I have amazing friends and family that let me couch hop for a week.
I stayed with my friend Lindsey (NYC was going to be her first marathon!) the night before the race. She lives in Battery Park just steps from the Staten Island Ferry, so we knew our morning commute would be a breeze.
We ordered food, painted our nails with marathon pride, watched The Devil Wears Prada, got our gear ready and headed to bed around 10:30pm.
THE MORNING OF
Surprisingly, we both slept pretty well and got up at 5:45am with plenty of time to get dressed and ready. We left her apartment at 7am, and basically walked right onto our 7:15am ferry. Before we knew it, we were crossing the Hudson!
When we arrived in Staten Island, the lines for the buses were a bit crazy…
…but despite the crowds, I spotted Nellie! We shared a good luck hug, and Lindsey and I continued to make our way to the bus.
About half an hour later we were on the bus heading to the start village. I heard the bus ride was pretty easy, but it seemed like we were at a stand still.
Eventually, the bus pulled over and the driver told us we should walk the rest of the way. We were all “Uh… Ain’t nobody wanna walk far before running a marathon,” but he assured us it was less than a quarter mile away. I’d rather walk a bit and stretch out my legs than be late to my corral, so walk we did.
Right when we got off the bus, one my new Austin neighbors spotted me! Will has made a few friends that live in our new apartment building, and when he found out one of them was going to be running the NYC Marathon, he put us in touch. I was pretty easy to spot in a big red sweatshirt, Run Brooklyn hat and my crazy Reebok leggings, but I’m still surprised he was able to find me given the 50,000+ runners. It was so nice to meet him, and I’m hoping to have a new running buddy in Austin!
Anywho, Lindsey and I made a porta-potty stop and snagged this pic:
Before I knew it, it was time to head into my corral!
The corral area was really crowded, but I made a little space to get my pre-race dynamic stretch routine on and take a selfie:
A few minutes later, I made my way to the starting line. The energy was incredible, and the weather was gorgeous. I shed my throwaway layer, and soon enough, the National Anthem was being sung, the starting gun went off, and Frank Sinatra’s “New York” played as I crossed the starting line at 10:19am.
THE RACE (MILES 1-6)
The race starts on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Bridge, and as you run across, you get incredible views of the city. It was a crystal clear day, so I could see The Statue of Liberty, One World Trade, the Empire State Building, and the clock tower near my old Brooklyn apartment. I really soaked it all in as I crossed that bridge. I didn’t even notice that I was running uphill (the biggest uphill and downhill of the course are over that bridge).
Coach Suz and I chatted about running the first few miles a little slower than goal pace before kicking it up to target pace (9:30) at the 5K mark and giving it all I had for the last 5k.
I was trying my best to go slow despite the starting line rush and not weave too much. I did pretty well, I think! Still, the first 2 miles passed in a flash, and all of the sudden, I found myself in Brooklyn.
I was the most excited for this borough since it’s been my home for the past 4 years, and the crowds did not disappoint. There were people lining the streets with signs and cheers. Bands were playing. People set up stages on their brownstone steps. One guy hung from a traffic post singing All American Rejects into a microphone. It was incredible.
THE RACE (MILES 7-13)
I knew a few people would be around mile 7, so I started keeping my eyes peeled. I missed a few friends, but I did spot Ashley! Ashley has been one of my best long run running buddies through training, and seeing her gave me a huge boost of energy and smiles.
I love this pic snapped near Atlantic Terminal. I wish it came free!
The next big spot I had to look forward to was between miles 8 and 9. That was where my apartment was and where I’ve watched the marathon from the sidelines in the past.
The course really narrows here, which kind of sucked, but I didn’t mind slowing down the tiniest bit to take in my neighborhood one more time before shipping off to Texas. I took one last lingering look down my block before continuing along toward Greenpoint.
A short bridge later and I was making my way into Queens. I was still feeling really good, and running a consistent pace, which is something I’ve never managed to do before without my favorite pacer, Angela.
I couldn’t believe it when I hit the half marathon point in 2:05. If the last 13.1 were anything like the first, I’d nail my 4:10 A goal.
THE RACE (MILES 14-20)
I’d heard the Queensboro Bridge was one of the toughest parts of the course. You’re running uphill at mile 15/16, right when most runners start to fade. There aren’t any water stations along the way and spectators aren’t allowed.
I was still feeling awesome at that point, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. My pace slowed a bit on the uphill, but I easily made it up on the downhill. Unfortunately, I saw the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in a race about half way over the bridge. A runner had collapsed on the sidelines. The paramedics were already there (thank goodness!). The ambulance was making its way to him, but he did not look good. I really hope he is ok!
I was a little shaken from that sight, but the crowds along 1st Avenue as you come down off the bridge filled me with positive energy again. The sidelines were at least 5 people deep for the entire stretch. I put my name on the front of my shirt so people could cheer for me, and it was the best decision ever. Every time some called out for me, I got a huge boost of energy.
I knew I had a few people to look out for between miles 17 and 19, so started panning the crowds. I was so excited when I spotted a group of my friends from college, who grabbed this picture:
I missed a few friends (sorry guys!), but I did spot Meghan and my friend Kate. Those miles may have been my favorite just because of all the people I got to see!
Mile 19 is usually when I hit my wall, but I was still feeling awesome. I was nailing my pace as I headed into the Bronx.
THE RACE (MILES 21-26.2)
I couldn’t believe it when I hit the 20-mile mark. Only a 10k to go! I got this!!
One mile later, the positive energy and awesome feeling I’d managed to hold onto through 3 hours and 20 miles of running bit the bullet. And so began the series of events that led to me not hitting my 4:10 time goal.
First, my right quad started to cramp. I thought it was just tired trying to go uphill over the last bridge of the race. I tried to convince myself as much, but when it didn’t go away on the downhill or after reaching a flat stretch, I knew I had a cramp.
“That’s ok!” I thought, “I can power through a cramp!” And I probably could have had it not been for the following.
I went to take my fuel at mile 21. I got out my chews, and as I went to put the rest of my little bag back in my Spibelt, I dropped them. Shit! I quickly stopped to turn around and pick them up. I collided with another runner and almost got trampled trying to pick them up. I probably should have left them. I only had 5 miles to go. If I didn’t do my last fuel-up at mile 23, it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. However, I got injured once for not fueling properly, so I had a little freak out moment. Little did I know I wasn’t going to be taking in any more fuel anyway, but we’ll get to that.
I knew I’d lost some time from my little fuel drop, but since I was planning on picking up the pace a bit for the last 5k, I figured I’d make up the time then.
At mile 22, my headphones shorted out. Had this happened earlier on, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. I was listening to the crowds for most of the race, but at mile 22, I needed a little beat to help push me through the quad cramp. I got a little flustered and definitely slowed down a bit as I got them back up and running.
At mile 23, I knew the home stretch was ahead! I tried to pick up the pace. My quad was cramping still, but I was determined not to stop. Had it just been my quad that acted up, I think I could have made up enough time to hit my 4:10.
However, the rest of my body was not having it. I started having a hard time breathing, which led to having a hard time swallowing. I started getting really nervous that I was going to throw up. Every time I pushed my pace a bit, my body pushed back with a big hard, “F*#^ you!” I tried taking my chews for an energy boost, but I couldn’t swallow them.
At that point, my pace had slowed significantly, and I knew my 4:10 was no longer realistic. Instead, I set my sites on my B goal: a PR (anything faster that 4:21). As long as I didn’t stop to walk, despite REALLY wanting to, I knew I could PR.
After the race, I found out a few people saw me in Central Park during those last 3 miles. They all said, “I saw you, but you were in the zone!” Correction: I was in the pain! All I could do was look down and focus on my breathing so that I wouldn’t throw up.
When I saw the finish line, I was beyond excited. I spotted my parents in the Grandstand right away. My mom had made me an awesome sign:
I threw my hands in the air as I crossed that finish line in 4:16 on the dot!
AFTER THE RACE
My first thought after crossing was, “Thank God the pain is over!” My second thought?
THAT WAS FREAKIN’ AMAZING!!!!
As soon as I stopped running, my quad stopped cramping and my breathing returned to normal. I got my medal and felt so proud!
I followed the parade of limpers (stole that line from Lindsey) to get my poncho (you have the option of either checking a bag or getting a poncho). I had the post-race chills, so I was happy with my poncho choice.
I exited the park at 72nd street and slowly made my way to a smoothie place. I had a long train ride ahead to get back to my parents’ place in New Jersey, so knew I wanted to get some food in my belly. I was still having a tough time swallowing, so it took me a while to be able to get it all down. When I was finally able to drink it, it was BOMB!
I planned to meet my parents at a bar near Penn Station with my aunt, uncle, cousin and his girlfriend (who had also just run). We chatted for a bit and took a finisher’s photo before I waved a final farewell to NYC and headed to NJ with my folks.
Despite the last few miles being rough physically, I really didn’t hit a mental wall at all. There is usually at least one mile that seems never ending (I’m looking at you Philly mile 19), but not during this race. Even when I was in pain, I stayed much more positive than I have in the past. No, I didn’t hit my A goal, but I’m really not disappointed at all. I still walked away with a PR and an incredible memory.
The course is incredible. The crowds are incredible. The whole freaking thing from expo to finish shoot is incredible.
As I’ve said before, I cannot imagine a better way to spend my last day in NYC. I got to run through every borough. I got to see so many friends and family members. I got a new PR! It was everything I hoped it would be.
I know this post is getting lengthy, but I can’t leave it without giving my big Oscar speech:
I really could not have done this with out the help of all my amazing runner friends, especially Coach Suz and all my amazing runner buddies: Ashley, Katie, Zoe, and Jess. I felt so loved along the course thanks to all my incredible friends and family who came out to watch (sorry I missed some of you) or who sent me texts along the way, so a big thank you to Courtney, Kyle, Lisa, Chris, Gerard, Kate, Alex, Kate & Kyle, Sam, Annmarie, Jess, Angela, Leah, Amanda, Eric, Aunt Renee, Uncle Gordon, Mom, Dad, and Will!
Last but not least, a HUGE CONGRATS to all the other NYC Marathon Finishers! You are all rock stars, but I have to give special shout outs to:
Gregg (good luck in SF!), Katie (PR!), Zoe (PR!!), Lindsey (1st Marathon!), Maria (1st Marathon!), Nellie, Sandra, Toni, Kim (1st Marathon!), Ashok (hi new friend!), Jess (1st Marathon and sub 4:00!) and Patty!
This is usually the point where I write a PRO/CON list about the race, but I only have good things to say about this race. Plus, this post is already crazy long, so I’ll leave you with this:
The NYC Marathon is the most amazing race of all time, and you should all go do it!
K? Cool. Go sign up for 2017!
And while you wait for your entry to be confirmed, come join the Wild Workout Wednesday Link Up!
Oh, and one last thing, I love you, New York!
Who’s run the NYC Marathon?
Who wants to run the NYC Marathon?!