A Dream Come True

Where do I even begin?

First off, I’M A MARATHONER!!! I completed 26.2 miles non-stop & survived! Something I have dreamt of doing for so long now & still find hard to believe I accomplished.

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The entire thing still seems surreal, like it was a dream. And the strangest part of it all is that I never felt nervous like I have before every other race I’ve participated. Usually, when I get to a start line my stomach gets super uncomfortable & my nerves go into overdrive. I never once felt that “angst” in my gut. Guess I was really ready for this race after almost 2 years in the making!

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I had read several blogs of past runners reviews of the NYCM & they varied on experience from one to another but they also had their similarities. They all attested to the “miles flying by” which reading this pre-marathon, I rolled my eyes & thought yeah, right…But it was true! Let me start from the beginning.

Since my nerves never got the best of me, I slept like a rock Saturday night before race day. The extra hour thanks to daylight savings time also helped, I’m sure. Since I was in the last wave (4) of the race & I had read up on the muddy conditions at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, I never felt the need to rush. I was going to take my time but still be on time for my corral in the start villages. My alarm went off at 5:45a.m. & I laid in bed for a few more minutes mentally preparing myself for what laid ahead of me in the day. Today is THE day. The day I finally get to run NYC. The day I get to accomplish an item on my bucket list. The day I become a marathoner. I got up, showered, into my race gear followed by my throw away clothes on top, grabbed my bag with toilet paper, gossip magazines, water & other necessities & Carl & I headed downstairs for breakfast by 6:30a.m. I ate a bowl of oatmeal, a banana & some yogurt followed by a cup of coffee & then we headed to the subway by 6:45ish.

Can I just say, I LOVE the subway?!? I was totally scared of it last year—hearing about all the crimes & how dirty it is & people falling/getting pushed onto the tracks. But Carl & I bought a MetroCard to navigate the city quick style this year & we are serious pros now! The dirt doesn’t bother me, there’s so many people down there I’m not too nervous about getting mugged, & I always stood up against a wall to keep my distance from getting pushed onto the tracks below. All cities need subways. They are amazing. I would love to never have to drive again.

Anyways, the subway was packed but surprisingly, I never felt anxiety overwhelm me like I normally do when enclosed in tight spaces. I swear, NYC is the ONLY place I love the crowds of people. Anywhere else, I am in full on panic-attack-mode. We arrive at our stop for the Staten Island Ferry & Carl walks with me to the entrance where he gives me a big good luck hug, exchange I Love You’s, & I make my way inside with the thousands of other runners.

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You were literally touching shoulder to shoulder the entire time inside the terminal & was even more sardine-in-a-can-like when having to pass through the gates to board the ferry. But everyone is so happy & excited to be there to accomplish the same thing; you just laugh & apologize as you carry on small conversations with everyone you are surrounded by. There were so many parts of this race where you are waiting in a line (from expo to Marathon Monday in Central Park) that you seriously relate with the people you encircle forming a connection for the duration of your wait time because you know you share a bond—you are all crazy enough to want to run a marathon!

The ferry ride was awesome. I found a window side next to a retired NYPD office who was running for the 9th time. He was kind enough to bestow upon me some words of wisdom from a fellow runner who informed him of the same words 9 marathons ago; “You see those big buildings way over there? (he points back to Manhattan as we are maybe half-way to Staten Island) You gotta’ run waaaaay past those & then back to Central Park!” I laughed, knowing it was true & finding his analogy humorous but intimidating. He then told me to take my time & enjoy the city. It is truly an experience like no other. Boy, was he right.

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When we finally arrived at Staten Island (felt like forever to get there), I immediately got in line at the port-a-potties before boarding the buses to Fort Wadsworth. Guess the coffee & the water I had been downing caught up to my bladder. Plus, spandex doesn’t aid in bladder comfort. Here was another line where I had conversations with a group of middle-aged women in front of me. This wait time was probably a half hour or so. This was also the most frigid part of the entire day. That wind coming up off the harbor was bone-chilling. But I was pretty comfortable in my two pairs of pants & bathrobe, which I received tons of compliments on. Many people pointed & said, “Genius! I’m totally doing that next year.” To which I wanted to reply, “Yeah. This your first marathon? Rookie.” But I couldn’t! At least I gave the impression that I knew what I was doing!

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Once I finally peed & boarded a bus, that was another twenty or thirty minutes to the start villages. I almost fell asleep en route in between drinking water & eating my banana. But that sleepiness quickly departed when I was greeted by NYPD with metal detectors promptly stepping off the bus. It was sad to see the need for this much security but also much appreciated. Upon arriving in Fort Wadsworth, I was just in time to see the first/second? wave of runners take off over the Verrazano bridge! That’s when it hit me—I made it here this year & it’s so close to my turn to run over that iconic bridge!

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I found my orange corral & made my way down to my wave. Only having time to sit down & get my gear together & discard my first layer for maybe 10-15 minutes. Perfect timing! But the wave in front of mine didn’t get open on time & people started getting pissed & shoving from the front to the back to find an entrance. So thanks to pushy “New Yorkers,” I got shoved into wave 3 instead of 4 & started twenty minutes ahead of my actual start time. Whoops! I was mildly concerned this would be a bad thing & I would get run over by speedy people & even considered stepping to the side & waiting for wave 4, but thought eh, what the heck. Why not, right?

We reached the starting line & God Bless America started playing shortly followed by everyone cheering & the cannon to initiate the start. This was trailed by Sinatra’s New York, New York which I had been humming to myself for about a week straight now. To be hearing it at the starting line of the marathon was dreamlike & I started to tear up a little as everyone began singing along. I was worried with being in the last wave I might have to run underneath the Verrazano bridge, but to my surprise (& probably due to being in an earlier wave) I was going to run up top! Talk about incredible! Viewing the iconic towers as I ran underneath each of them was out of this world. Thankfully, everyone seemed to start off at a similar pace so I wasn’t trampled! I actually got into pretty good sync with two ladies in front of me for the next 10 miles.

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Brooklyn was so much fun. I’m pretty sure I smiled the entire first half of this race because the crowds lining the course were unlike anything I have ever witnessed—especially as a participant. Random strangers cheering & calling you by name was fantastic. The spectators are truly the reason I ran so well & felt great the entire time. The energy is indescribable. Just amazing. I felt the need to pee from mile 3, but could not allow myself to stop that soon & stand in line (yet again!) at a port-a-potty. My competitive me was in full gear & kept telling me to keep going. You want to enjoy this race, but let’s see how well you can run it. I made it all the way to 11.5 miles & finally saw port-a-potties with only a few people waiting so I pulled over for the pit stop & was in & out in less than 2 minutes. The Queensboro Bridge (miles 15-16) was the worst part of the entire race. We ran underneath & it’s silent & terrible. I never felt terrible or like giving up, but it’s just deserted & you’re alone with your own thoughts for the first time. Not to mention a slight incline that wasn’t tons of fun.

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I remember reaching the end of the bridge to enter Manhattan & a sign that said, “If 10 miles to go means easier…welcome to easier.” Of course that means easier! We are nearly to single digits! Plus, I knew I was meeting Carl around mile 20 in the Bronx & I kept telling myself 4 miles till I see Carl…3 miles till I see Carl…but those miles seriously flew by. Before no time we were crossing the 18 mile marker, then as we crossed the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx, an elder man next to me shouted “Last bridge!” to which I replied with a very happy, “WHOOOOO!!!!” He laughed.

I made a few turns once into the Bronx & was meeting Carl at 3rd Ave & 138th Street. I looked up & saw I was crossing over 137h & started looking ahead. We actually turned right onto 138th & Carl was straight ahead at the turn.

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I screamed & started waving with a huge smile on my face! I ran straight into his arms receiving a big hug where he told me “I’m so proud of you! You have no idea! You’re killing it! Keep it up!” One of our friends from college lives in the Bronx & he & his girlfriend was there for support too, so of course I had to give them a sweaty hug of thanks! Then they jokingly cheered, “Get outta here! It’s a race!” and I was back at it with only 10K to go.

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A spectator shortly thereafter was holding a sign that read “F#@$ THE WALL!” Referring to the point where many runners hit “the Wall.” For many marathoners, the 20-mile mark is often where their stored glycogen—the fuel for muscles—becomes depleted. If this happens, a slowdown is nearly inevitable—as is quite a bit of discomfort. The way a runner prepares for this part of the course can mean the difference between a new personal best and a very long, unpleasant final 10K (6.2 miles). But I was feeling great! I ran 20 miles faster than I did in my first 20 mile training run 3 weeks ago & still felt like I could finish 10K strong.

Miles 21 & 22 were just like the rest & came & went in no time. But that maddening mile 23…shew. I never felt pain anywhere like I had read about so that was a plus, but I was just getting tired & the next 3.2 miles felt eternal. When I finally got into Central Park, there were turns & rolling hills & each mile marker felt like it took longer & longer to reach. But I just kept going. There was no other option now than to keep going.

When I finally saw that 26 mile banner stretched across the route, I was overcome with emotion. It was at this exact point last year where I visited on what would have been race day with Carl & was also overcome with emotion. He held me there under that 26 mile marker banner while I sobbed uncontrollably for a few minutes while I felt so defeated for not being able to accomplish what I set out to.

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But there I was again, having ran 26 miles and only 385 yards to go. I thought about how different the emotions I was feeling now compared to last year were & could no longer hold back the tears. I was going to do it. I looked down to try & hide my ugly-cry-face & saw the yellow line on the ground that was representing Boston. I then thought about those who were killed, injured, & all those who were not able to finish—some who were as close as I was right now. I couldn’t even imagine that feeling of defeat. That gave me a huge boost to finish strong & I looked up & around on each side of me as that finish line grew closer & closer, taking in every single second. When I finally crossed that last tracking mat noting it was over, I was elated & shocked. I had done it. I was a marathoner. I glanced over to my left & saw the statue of Fred Lebow standing there & the emotions took over once more. (If you’ve never seen Run For Your Life, go watch it. It’s on Netflix.) Lebow was the founder of the NYC Marathon & the NYRR & I am forever grateful to him for putting together the best race in the world & giving me the opportunity to feel like a champion & a New Yorker for a day.

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NYCM 4:49:42

Not too bad considering I was expecting a 5 hour+ finish time.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t that crippled afterwards. Yes, I was sore but not as bad as I had anticipated. I ate the apple & pretzels that were given to us in our recovery bags after the finish—again, during a time of waiting in line to exit the park. But once I finally got back to the hotel, I wasn’t all that hungry. Carl ordered some Chinese food (I crave it after a particularly long run—salt) but I was only able to eat a few pieces of chicken & a few spoonfuls of rice before calling it quits. Water was more important. I downed a 1.5 liter of water in the hour and a half post-race which of course, meant frequent trips to the bathroom (which was torture-getting up out of bed & then squatting). I fell asleep around 10p.m. and I woke up around 2a.m. to devour my Chinese food. I fell back asleep till 7a.m. to which my wonderful husband went downstairs to the continental breakfast to bring me up a bagel & yogurt & coffee in bed. We spent the next few hours watching the Today Show before heading out to Central Park to get my medal engraved at the Marathon Monday Pavilion & snap a few last pics near the finish line.

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We grabbed lunch with our friend from college before heading for the airport. It’s so sad to leave New York City. It holds such wonderful memories, some of the biggest moments of my life. I am forever appreciative of the greatest city in the world & maybe someday I can return to run the streets of NYC once again…

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