Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New York City Marathon: If you can make it there...

...you can make it anywhere. So goes the song that serenaded us as we prepared to cross the start of the 42nd New York City Marathon!

Does my face show how excited I am?!
And/or insane.
Seriously though, this was one of the best days of my life. This race and day was one for the books and one I will not soon forget.

Thursday night after work I went to pick up my bib number. I didn't have much time to linger though, because I was going to the NY Flyers pasta party where THE BART YASSO would be speaking. While the food was pretty boring, the company was lovely and Bart's speech and slideshow were a great way to kick off marathon weekend.

Friday night my parents came in from Virginia and we went to dinner at Georgia's Cafe on the Upper West Side. I was sure to request an extra bread basket that was devoured in addition to the pita bread that came with my main dish. I also got a dried cherry pumpkin oatmeal cookie that played an important role in my carbo-loading for the race. I probably wouldn't have gotten through mile 20 if I hadn't had that cookie.

Saturday I laid low while my parents went to some museums. On top of relaxing and getting in a two-mile run, I also met up with Janae and 10 or so other bloggers/Hungry Runner Girl readers at 16 Handles (conveniently just up the road from my apartment!). (A big thank you 16 Handles for getting me through mile 21.) Let me just say that Janae is the sweetest, most hilarious girl -- we all had a blast talking about the race and running and everything in between!
Clearly I should not stand in the back row!
And I shouldn't wear a ponytail with a headband.
(picture courtesy of Janae)
Afterward my parents came to my apartment and we got ready to go to Uva for dinner. Dinner was super delicious -- we started with bruschetta and a killer bread basket, which I chased soon after with a whole wheat farfalle dish, filled with delicious sauce, mozzarella, and spinach. (Uva got me through mile 22, for sure.)

I attended to some very important business after dinner -- decorating my nails.
Disregard the accent nail - I ran out of zebra print.
I used Sally Hansen nail decal thingamajigs that were zebra print to remind me A) that I am an animal, and B) to run like a zebra running from a lion. I also wrote a mantra on my hand that I saw every time I looked at my watch -- "Think strong. Be strong. Finish strong." It helped.

I went to bed around 11pm, full and happy and totally ready to wake up and race the crap out of the NYC Marathon. I set three alarms and while I didn't wake up every hour on the hour like I'd expected I would, I did wake up once at 2:34am and checked to make sure that my iPhone had, indeed, fallen back with the time change. At 5am my alarm went off and I LEAPT out of bed, popped a bagel in the toaster, and threw on my race outfit, fleece throwaway pants and top, ear warmer and gloves. I grabbed my UPS bag and went outside in search of a cab -- of which there were none. Luckily I ran into two other girls who were also searching for a cab to Midtown (I took the 6am bus from the NYPL), so we headed to 3rd Ave. in search of a cab -- which we finally found!

The bus pickup at the NYPL was seamless -- there were a ton of people, but no pushing or shoving or worry that anyone would be late. As soon as one group of buses was full, they would take off and another group would file in. It took about an hour, but I made it to Staten Island around 7:15 and immediately located the portapotties and my start village (not to mention Dunkin' Donuts coffee). The whole thing was rather uneventful and quite solitary for me -- I chatted with a couple of people, but was mostly inwardly focused on getting my head in the game and trying to control my excitement.

At the Staten Island Half Marathon, I'd eaten my normal pre-race fuel, but I still felt empty and like I didn't fuel enough before that run. This time, I tried to stay very in tune with what my body needed. I had my traditional bagel with peanut butter on the bus and drank a lot of water all morning, but I knew I'd need more to eat. I had a banana at some point, then grabbed a free bagel that I nibbled on throughout the morning. My body felt strong and happy and not empty in the least throughout the entire race, so I think I did a great job of listening to it and fueling it well. I ended up drinking water and Gatorade every other aid station (note that running and drinking WILL result with Gatorade going up your nose), and taking a gel every six miles.
Before I knew it we were lining up in our corrals, and I heard "New York, New York" and the cannon sound for the first wave. Slowly we made out way up, and all of a sudden it was our turn to take the city by storm and run the biggest marathon in the world. I took a Gu and reminded myself that THIS was what I came for (a mantra that I repeated many, many times throughout the race). 
Sea of people
The race, according to my Garmin (which was a bit inaccurate, but hey, let's go with it):
Miles 1, 2 - 9:58, 8:45. I did well in the first mile, and let my legs fly running down the Verrazano Bridge. I did my best not to weave and just keep a strong, steady pace.

Miles 3, 4 - 9:13, 9:06. Oh man, it was SO GREAT to get into Brooklyn. The crowds early on were mostly people on their stoops and hanging out. It was also around here that I ran into two NY Flyers whom I'd met at the previous Three Bridges Runs, and they also happened to be aiming for a sub-4 hour marathon. (I ended up sticking with them through mile 17!)

Miles 5, 6, 7 - 8:55, 8:48, 8:51. Wow. A little quick there, Margaret. I got a little taken away by how great I felt and how wonderful the crowds were in Brooklyn. I was actually very blown away by the crowds that showed up, and the support that they showed; from signs to cheers to high-fives. This was one of my favorite parts of the race.

Miles 8, 9, 10 - 9:13, 9:06, 8:57. My legs felt good, the crowds were still great, and I was having a hard time not letting my legs go as fast as they wanted to go. I just let them fly! It also helped that I had two other people to run with and listen to and chat a bit with. Somewhere in here I also saw Johnny, who I met through the NYCM Facebook group and hung out with before the Staten Island Half Marathon! Who knew I'd run into so many people I knew among 47,000?!

Miles 11, 12, 13 - 9:12, 9:07, 9:10. This was somewhat familiar territory for me -- the Three Bridges Run had passed along here on the way to Queens and the Pulaski Bridge, so I felt comfortable at this pace. It was right around my goal pace of 9:09, too.

Miles 14, 15, 16 - 9:20, 9:21, 10:10. Unremarkable miles through Queens. I hit the halfway mark at 2:00:25, which would mean I'd have to negative split to break four hours. I suspected this was unlikely, but just kept trucking. Mile 16 was uphill on the Queensboro bridge -- I'd heard this was a terrible part of the race because it's just sneakers hitting the ground, so I focused on the views of Manhattan to my left and just putting one foot in front of the other and preparing to head into my borough.

Miles 17, 18, 19 - 9:29, 9:14, 9:26. MANHATTAN! Whew! I was definitely NOT greeted with the "wall of sound" that everyone talks about so much, so that was a bit of a letdown. My feet also started to HURT, so I kept repeating, "Your feet hurt because you're kicking so much ass!" to myself, which actually really helped! I knew that my parents and friends would be along 1st Ave. though, so I stuck to the left side and kept an eye out for them. At 17.5 I saw Becca and Portia who I know from college -- we were all in the same sorority and they actually made a bright pink sign with ∆∆∆ and "MARGARET" written on it. I couldn't miss it, and screamed out their names so they'd know I saw them! It was a bit before then that I lost my Flyers buddies so it was exciting to see people that I knew when I was getting a bit tired. At 103rd St. and 1st Ave, I saw my parents, which was SO awesome. They saw me, too!
So happy to see my parents!
Miles 20, 21 - 9:39, 9:30. Heading up into the Bronx I didn't really know what to expect. I'd never run up there, but I'd heard that Willis Bridge was a toughie. Since I'd lost my running partners back at mile 17 and I was starting to need an extra push, I put on my headphones, pumped my arms as hard as I could, and made my way through the Bronx. I thought the crowds in the Bronx were actually pretty impressive, and before I knew it I was back in Manhattan.

Miles 22, 23 - 9:29, 9:28. I unexpectedly saw my friend Eileen along 5th Ave., but completely missed two big old cheering squads of friends. They saw me, but I was on the other side of the street and completely oblivious. I think I had some sort of a marathoner blackout (which sounds bad, but trust me, I didn't feel dehydrated or sick or anything) where I just don't really remember much and was 100% focused on getting through the last few miles. 

Mile 24 - 9:58. Hello, 5th Ave. incline. I did not enjoy you. Not one little bit! But the PARK!!! Oh, it was so wonderful to enter my park. The crowds in the park were really wonderful, too. (I have a Powerbar gel to thank for getting me through this mile.)

Mile 25 - 9:35. Big downhill along Cat Hill. I'd been warned about this hill, not to take it too fast so as not to thrash my quads (oh, but my quads still feel quite thrashed today!).

Mile 26 - 9:38. Slight uphill exiting the park, followed by a great crowd on 59th St. I remember thinking that Columbus Circle looked so. far. away. But I don't remember much else. Other than being SO HAPPY when I was suddenly AT Columbus Circle and making the turn back into the park for the final 0.2 mi. I might not remember the last couple of miles terribly well, but I do remember making that turn.

Last 0.2 - 9:15 pace. Thank goodness I picked it up, but let me tell you, it was NOT easy to do so. I was struggling at this point, begging my legs to go faster, take me closer to the finish, complete the marathon that I'd spent the better part of two years mentally preparing for. Crossing that finish line was indescribable, and I almost cried, I was so happy. 

Final time: 4:06:31, for an average pace of 9:25! A personal record by 6 minutes and 41 seconds. A personal record I am so, very, incredibly proud of. A personal record I set in my city, New York City, among 47,000 others (not to mention the 2.5 million spectators). 

It is a feeling I will not soon forget. It is a race I will always remember. It was my first New York City Marathon, but it will not be my last!
Full of pride, happiness, and beer.


  1. CONGRATULATIONS! And great race report - you really covered all the miles but kept it interesting.

    I don't know why everyone talks about the "wall of sound" coming into Manhattan - I was really let down the first time I ran NYC too, because I just don't think it's really like that at all.

  2. Thanks Laura! I know, it was a bit of a bummer after all the hype! It's like the people were there, but they weren't saying anything!

  3. CONGRATS!!!! You are seriously inspiring! I love how positive and focused you stayed throughout the entire marathon. . . that's my exact outlook and I'll definitely be using some of your strategies for my marathon in 3 weeks!


  4. You did so awesome and the finisher pic with beer is classic. You have to have liquids and barbs... here you have both ;)

  5. Thank you Kristine! You are so sweet to say that. I have loved keeping up with your training and can't wait for your marathon!!! :)

    Thank you Jen! I was SO thirsty, and beer really was the perfect balance of quenching thirst and getting in my carbs :)

  6. Great recap. I hadn't ever thought about ING until meeting up with you girls. It's on my list. Super, super excited for you! I am amazed at your accomplishments!

  7. Thank you Rebecca! I'm glad you've added it :) I'm already plotting for my next marathons!

  8. yay to the best daughter in the world! great race - I'm so proud of you!!!

  9. I was waiting for this post! It sounds like you had a really great day with solid running. I'm glad you were able to fuel how you needed. Feeling hungry in a race is no fun at all.

    I got really inspired watching all of the runners on Sunday and now I'm thinking about marathons more than before.

  10. Thank you, Daddo! I'm so glad you could be there :)

    And thank YOU Christine! It was a really spectacular day indeed. It's really incredible to watch it happen, isn't it? That was my first taste of the marathon -- volunteering at the NYCM in 2009. It definitely gave me the marathon itch :)

  11. CONGRATULATIONS! This is amazing Margaret! Love reading the blow by blow of each segment - how long it took and how it felt. I can't imagine running for such a long time. The mental and physical strength involved! That is such a milestone and an incredible thing to have accomplished! You are freaking hard core! xx

  12. Just found your blog via Twitter - so fun to read this! Did you train with NY Flyers for the marathon? Congrats!