The morning started normally enough- with toast and coffee in NJ. I took a quick shower and got dressed with all my warm layers on top. It was sprinkling. We drove to the Meadowlands. I waited for a bus with about 100 other runners, and then we were informed that we were waiting IN THE WRONG PLACE. With not much time before the *last* bus from NJ to Staten Island, a kind dude offered to give folks a ride in his truck. Three girls plus me and another dude fit into the back of the truck. We drove around to the other side of the arena and found the *real* buses--like 15 of them. I got on a bus and thought the drama was over with. However, the bus driver had *no* clue how to get to Staten Island, so two nice girls from NJ read and translated the directions into Spanish. Yes, we did arrive--on time and all--to the starting village. The time at the village was interesting and boring and anxiety provoking all at once. I chatted with a few fellow runners. I sat down and relaxed for awhile and took care of bathroom needs. I figured out where my wave 2 corral would be. I lined up with plenty of time to spare...
I almost started crying at the start because there was so much excitement and joy. Wow. People from all over the world--ready to go. The start was up and over the Verrazano Narrows bridge. Shockingly, it never felt uncomfortably crowded. I mean, there were people all around, but- for the most part- you could go along at your own pace or navigate around people to find a good space for running.
SO many fun bands and cheering crowds--offering bananas (I took one and ate half), kleenex, gum, and waving signs. Hooray- a street party that I get to run through--a bit speedier than my designated goal marathon pace. And runners of all ages and abilities--including a young man with a prosthetic leg and athletes in wheelchairs and blind marathoners. It was extremely humbling. I also thought of the elite runners who'd flown down these identical streets and bridges a bit before I did!!
Still feeling strong- a few uphill stretches. There was a hard bridge--59th St. Bridge into Manhattan. Had to work hard but really could not believe that I was more than halfway done!! The miles were flying by, and I even thought to myself that the race was going by *too* quickly :)
Running up First Avenue was incredible, and I was heading toward my fan club (Jeff, his parents, plus M, D, and little Z!). I cruised up First Ave. and was having a total blast. Even though I'd run over 16 miles, I had plenty of pep and was motivating myself to run hard till mile 20. I saw Jeff and the gang: gave everyone high fives and Z a squeeze and a g'luck kiss. Then I was on my way. For awhile, I was fine. Around mile 20, I realized I *was* working harder, much harder, and not going quite as fast. Oh well. Miles 21 and 22 were about 10 min. miles; that wasn't my goal pace. But I thought that if it didn't get worse, then maybe I could pick it back up ;) Running through Harlem was cool, and the crowds and music (including "Take On Me") were terrific.
And the finish in Central Park
Mile 23 hit bad--a 12:20 mile. I had to walk a few times, got a side stitch, and tried to harden up. Then Mile 24 arrived--an 11 minute mile accompanied by weird quad cramps/spasms and general exhaustion. Somehow, I worked it in miles 25 and to the finish--at 9:20 pace. Amazingly, one of my ALL TIME favorite running songs "Don't Stop Believing" was playing as I turned from Columbus Circle into Central Park :) Totally rad. It took concentration but I kicked and finished in 4:07-- a 12 minute personal best!!
After finishing amidst thousands, you walk into a sea of staggering marathoners. I was alright for awhile--walked slowly and got my snack bag and heat sheet. Then I got dizzy and queezy and totally weak. I didn't know what to do--stop and sit down (and how the heck would I get up?!?!) OR keep trying to move. I felt awful and told a very, very kind medical volunteer how awful I felt. And she escorted me to the medical tent. We walked--arm in arm--for another 10 minutes or so. I was checked-in and two super sweet medical volunteer gave me water and salt and took my vitals. Just sitting in the warm tent with supervision made me feel better :O Apparently, I need my entourage after races ;) I was able to leave the tent and slowly made my way toward to exit (and had to stop to deal with a massive foot cramp, go fig). I think I may have gotten dehydrated during the race.
A few reflections
I ignored the 'pace police', went out pretty hard, and felt great for about 20 miles. The last 6 miles weren't so pretty, and I didn't hang onto an ideal pace. BUT- I know I left it all out there on the course. I toughed it out and kept going. I also had a blast. I understand why they call this a race like no other, and it was awesome to experience NYC and marathon running in this light! Yes, I could complain about minutes here or there or debate how to use Garmalade or when to eat my gels, but I'd much, much rather bask in my PRdom, knowing that there are other races out there to share with family and friends :)