November 11, 2013

Race Report: ING New York City Marathon (Part 2)

When I left off with Part 1, I was crying at the start as New York, New York played over the loudspeakers. Not a bad cliffhanger, huh? It took a little while for me to cross the start since I was toward the back of my wave, but that was just fine with me – it meant more time to sing along with Frank Sinatra and hopefully get my tears over with before starting to run. However, it did not apparently give me the time to actually think about what I was doing – because I was at least a minute into the race, caught up in all the excitement, before I remembered to start my Garmin. Oops! That would come back to bite me later.

I headed up the right side of the top level of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, so incredibly amped and excited to be there. Although I had run this race twice before, I had been on the bottom level once, on the top left once, and now this was my first time on the top right – kind of fun to change it up a bit. But the views were just as spectacular as always, and I was pleased to see the beautiful blue sky with white puffy clouds. This is exactly the kind of day that makes me love running!

Verrazano Bridge NYC Marathon 2013
The crooked angle was not me trying to be artistic; this picture was actually taken while I was running.

As I predicted, the first mile of the race (which is pure uphill to the center of the bridge) wasn’t bad at all – the adrenaline keeps you going so much that you don’t even realize you’re on a hill until you’re already at the top! The wind was a little bit worse than in past years, though nothing too crazy. I was definitely glad I had on my tights and long sleeve, though! It seemed that most of the runners around me were similarly dressed, and I didn’t understand why some of my friends had been considering shorts. This seemed perfect! I headed down the other side of the bridge, trying to pick up the pace as I did so. This part of a marathon is always tough though – too many people to weave around – so I didn’t get that much of a speed increase.

While I had started out on the far right side of the bridge so that I could look over the edge, I had migrated toward the center of the bridge (that is, the far left of my side next to the divider) in the first mile so that I wouldn’t get as cold. This gave me a little bit of room for passing, since most people weren’t right up next to the edge of the bridge. Almost before I knew it, watches were chirping and we were at mile 2 – heralded by a big homemade sign that said “Welcome to Brooklyn, USA.” The first two miles had gone by way too fast – both in that I had gone out at a pretty decent clip (around 8:20/mile) and that I quickly realized how soon this race was going to be over. I wanted this experience to last forever!

We took our first turn left from the highway exit ramp onto the regular city streets, and I took the turn super wide, ending up on the right side of the road as I did so. This meant that I was right next to all the spectators cheering on the side of the road, which gave me a much better vantage point to give everyone high fives! I know that can waste energy, but at this point I had tons of energy to spare – and besides, I just wanted to enjoy myself.

One thing I love about the NYC Marathon is that when you write your name on your shirt (as I had done), all the spectators know to look for it and to cheer you on. In some races, you can wear your name and no one thinks to shout it out. But in NYCM, so many people put their name on their shirts that seemingly everyone knows how it works. While miles 1 and 2 were silent on the bridge, pretty much the entire rest of the race (except the 59th Street Bridge) had people yelling my name, which made me feel like a total rockstar. Honestly, New York City has the best marathon fans of any race ever (yes, including Boston) – they make it a truly incredible experience.

Furthermore, I was really excited that my mom had made me a pageant-style sash to wear, which read “100th Marathon.” She had made a similar one when I ran my 50th state and broke the world record, and I was so excited to get to wear it again for this race. It also made for a really entertaining game of people watching for me, as I got to watch spectators read it and then do one of a few things:
-Cheer me on with an extra-impressed look, saying something like “Congratulations on your 100th!”
-Finish reading/processing it after I was already gone, and turn to their friends saying something like “oh my gosh, it is that girl’s hundredth marathon?! That’s awesome!” (Even though they weren’t talking directly to me, it still totally made me feel great when I heard it.) -Look baffled and ask me if it’s really my 100th marathon. (Do you really think I would wear it as a joke?)
-Finally, in the case of two really rude people both of whom used the same wording, read it and turn to their friends and loudly say “oh my gosh, what a complete nutjob!” (Um, yeah… thanks for making me feel crappy.)
Overall, I was so glad I wore my sash – it just made it so much fun to get that extra boost, almost like I was letting all of New York in on my celebration. Because really, that’s what this race was – a 26.2 mile victory lap and party that I never wanted to end!

But back to the race. We turned onto 4th Ave shortly after mile 2, and it was here that we would stay for a good long while. I stayed on the right side, soaking up the energy of the crowd, and just felt like I had so much energy as a result! It was really glorious, and I started to wonder if perhaps I might be able to run a faster time than I had originally anticipated. Each mile was ticking by around an 8:30-8:40 pace, and that pace also felt incredibly easy. Of course it was early on, but the crowd support just made it so magical – like I could run forever! (You will notice that a very common theme in this race report is that I didn’t want the running to end. This race was a perfect example of one where I would have loved having a few extra miles tacked on!)


One thing that’s a little bit unfortunate about my jubilation was that most of the miles in Brooklyn ran together. I couldn’t believe just how it was mile after mile of pure people screaming and cheering – so amazing! These miles are honestly just a blur, which is kind of sad to me because I wished I could remember every single second of this run. At mile 8, I do remember getting to see my mom (fortunately, we had texted to make sure we were both on the same side of the road) – but what I had totally forgotten was that I gave her a pack of energy chews before the race and asked her to have them for me on the course. When she held them out to me at mile 8, I was confused for a second – and then turned them down because I hadn’t thought about eating. No matter – I had tons of energy and didn’t need silly gels… for now. I was so glad that I had managed to pick my mom out in the crowd!

In miles 9, 10, and 11, the crowds continued – but I found myself thinking about something other than the crowds. Specifically, I was thinking about some of my friends who inspire me – Ashley, Adam, and Laura. Adam and Laura, in particular, are super speedy runners, and once I was in the double digits, I really appreciated thinking of them to motivate myself to keep going fast. Mile 11 in particular was a little bit quieter than the others so far – but just when I was losing my energy, I then bumped into my friend Katie on the course! Katie was supposed to run last year’s NYC Marathon, and ran Richmond after Hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation. I had forgotten that she was deferring to this year, and it was such a nice surprise to find her running right near me! However, she was definitely doing a lot better than I was – and so we only connected for a brief minute before she zoomed off again. But what a way to make my race – finding a friend in a crowd of 50,000!

Mile 12 brought me into Greenpoint, and as I had predicted before the race, I started thinking all about my dad, little sister, and all my family in Poland. This stretch of the race again went by in a flash, and two turns later, we were approaching the tiny incline of the Pulaski Bridge – and mile 13. Less than a minute later, I hit the halfway point of the race – and was pleasantly surprised to look at my watch and see that it only read 1:55. If I kept the same pace for the second half (which honestly seemed doable given my energy level), I could finish in 3:50 – or even faster if I picked it up a bit! I had gone into the race hoping I could go sub-4 hours, but now it seemed even somewhat possible that I might PR, given the crazy awesome energy of the crowd.

But what would the second half of the race bring? Things are a bit crazy on my end right now, so you’ll have to stay tuned a bit longer for part 3 to find out!

Click here to continue on to part 3…


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