I can’t believe it’s over. It was at around mile 23 that I realized I was nearly done – that all those weeks and months of training had done their job and I had about 5K left to run. It was a long 5K, that’s for sure, but I knew I would make it at that point. All that was left was to pick up my pace so I could make my goal of crossing the finish line in under four hours. This year was a totally different marathon experience.
I woke up at 3am on marathon morning. Not because I had to, but because Roman, who has slept until 6am for the past 18 months, suddenly decided that 3am was the perfect time to wake up and be ready to play. We brought him into our bed in the hope that he would snuggle in and go back to sleep. Instead, he decided to stand up and fall onto us, yelling “Flop!” at the top of his lungs. He interspersed rounds of this awesome game with chasing the cats. While still on the bed.
So, wide awake and full of nerves, I began the trek to the start. The subway to the Staten Island Ferry; a quick trip across New York Harbor (with each ferry accompanied by a machine-gun wielding US Coast Guard boat); then onto a bus to be transported to Fort Wadsworth, where all the starting villages and corrals were set up in the shadow of our first mile over the Verrazano Bridge. I noticed with amusement that a couple of Italian runners somehow managed to find takeout espresso at the ferry terminal on Staten Island. Everyone else made do with crappy, watered-down “coffee” to help keep warm.
After a bagel and coffee in the starting village, I made my way into the corral. I didn’t see my friend Erich, who I knew was in the same corral as me, so I sent him a good luck text, then we all made our way to the iconic starting line on the bridge. The cannons went off, “New York, New York” started booming from the speakers and the ING NYC Marathon 2013 had begun.
I felt better trained, better prepared and had a much clearer plan for how I was going to tackle the pacing this time around. If you remember, my goals were to PR; to finish under 4 hours; and to get under 4 hours with time to spare. Ideally I wanted to hit 3:55, and I had a pacing wristband to check my splits for that time goal. I had split the marathon up into 4 mile sections, with the 2.2 at the end, and had each section with my goal paces written on my hand. (For those of you who weighed in on my shoe dilemma, I ended up wearing the newer pair of Mizuno Wave Inspires. I was planning on the Mizuno Wave Riders, but the night before I checked the tread and felt like they were too worn out for one last long run.)
My pacing went really well. I took it deliberately easy for the first couple of miles over the bridge, then settled in to a comfortable pace for the first few miles through Brooklyn. At about mile 6, I was looking slightly ahead, admiring a beautiful tattoo of a rooster on the calf of the man running just in front of me. Suddenly, I realized I recognized that tattoo – it belonged to my friend Erich! I was so happy to see him – one of those super cool New York moments where you accidentally bump into someone you know in an enormous crowd. Just a little further up was my main cheering section. Fran, Roman, my parents, my friend Maggie and her girls, and my friends Kristen and Steve and their adorable baby were all waiting to scream at the top of their lungs and high five me. I can’t describe how awesome it is to see people you love cheering when you’re running such a long race. I was so happy to see them and excited to see the amazing signs Fran had put so much work into making to cheer me on.
I didn’t see anyone else for a long time. I knew where friends were going to be, but even though I was scanning the crowds, I missed nearly all of them. The crowds are unbelievable. I knew that from running in 2010, but it didn’t stop me getting choked up from time to time as I ran through thousands of screaming spectators, who were yelling out our names, words of encouragement, and waving signs and banners. New Yorkers have a reputation (one I think is unwarranted) for being rude (we’re just brusque and in a rush), but the overwhelming feeling you get running past throngs of New York spectators is one of support, joy and encouragement. There were so many moments when I was flagging and someone would scream out, “Go Carly!! Looking strong, you’ve got this!!” and it would give me just the boost I needed to pick my pace back up.
Things I was better prepared for as I was running this the second time:
The somber crowds in South Williamsburg, which is primarily a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood. It’s as if a silence falls over the runners here, since the inhabitants either completely ignore the 50,000 people running down their street as they go about their day; or watch silently from the sidewalks. Last time I ran, my pace here dropped considerably, since it’s tough to get to mile 11 with so far left to go and have nothing to distract you other than the footfalls and breathing of the runners around you. This time I used the mile to focus on my pace and checking in on my body and form.
Queensboro Bridge. This bridge is just awful. Horrible. I am not even sure why it is so, so awful, because it’s not the steepest bridge, but I remembered from 2010 that this was just going to suck. It did. With no spectators and an eerie sound echoing from the traffic on the upper level, it’s dark, slow and hard-going. My time here was a little faster than 2010, but slower than I intended when I planned my pacing.
Things I wish had gone differently:
Bathroom break. Despite using the porta-potties in the start village and the corrals, just in case, I still needed to pee by mile 8. I spent the next 4 miles trying to find porta-potties with no lines until I gave up and spent a precious 90 seconds. The next porta-potties I saw had no lines. Cest la vie.
Worn a headband. During training, occasionally I’d wear a headband, but most of the time I didn’t. I discovered that’s all very well for a 10 mile run, but 26.2 miles of windy conditions meant I was constantly brushing flyaway hairs out of my face.
By the time I got back into Manhattan from the Bronx, I was hurting and I knew I had to really pick it up to make it to the finish under 4 hours. Repeating a mantra came in handy at this point – I just started saying “Strong. Fast.” over and over in my head as I started to increase my speed little by little. I saw my friend Gabby handing out water at the Mile 22 water station, which gave me a boost and definitely helped me get my pace on track.
Central Park wasn’t as crowded as it felt when I ran 3 years ago, so by the time we exited onto Central Park South for the final stretch, I knew I’d make it if I could keep my pace. I saw my friend Justin on Central Park South – he leaned over to give me a high five. It was almost the exact spot I saw him when I last ran! His was another familiar face just in time for that last mile. I kept my pace until I saw the finish line, when I gave it everything I had.
And I DID IT. And I made it under 4 hours. Not quite with minutes to spare (more like seconds to spare), but a PR and I finally have that lovely ‘3’ at the beginning of my marathon PR.
I AM A MAMA MARATHONER! 🙂
Of course, I checked my splits when I got home to compare them against 2010. The big difference was that I started more conservatively this year and I was able to maintain a fairly steady pace throughout. The last few miles were much faster than the last time. In 2010 I started fast, clocked some slow miles after about mile 16 and managed to pick it up enough at the end to keep it close to 4 hours. Definitely I felt stronger, more prepared and happier running than the last time, for which I give credit to the awesome training plan I purchased, the NYRR Virtual Trainer. I can’t recommend it enough. Seriously, they should hire me for PR, because I recommend it to everyone. Since it’s virtual, you can use it no matter where you’re planning on racing. I will definitely use it again in the future for any race I want to rock.
Because OF COURSE, like every runner, despite spending the last 6 or so miles swearing in my head I’d never do another marathon because they’re horrible, by Monday morning I was explaining to Fran that I already had a pacing plan in mind to do even better on my next attempt and was doing a little research on various other marathons I might want to enter.
It was especially fun having my parents in town to be there to watch me and tens of thousands of other marathoners running. They were blown away by how huge the event is, how many people run and how much New Yorkers get into cheering everyone on. They had a great time and they loved seeing me do it!
The biggest and best difference from 2010 is that I was not on crutches the next day. No major injuries, thankfully. I am definitely pretty stiff and sore – my right quad in particular is hurting, so my knee’s kind of banged up as a result of that, but not serious. Just a couple of days rest and it should be 100% again.
Those of us who selected no baggage to get an early exit from the park also got these sweet orange ponchos. It’s actually super cozy and fleece-lined. I kind of love it. Almost as much as Roman loves my medal. I ended up letting him wear it for a while (after unsuccessfully trying to fob him off with a medal from another race. He didn’t buy it for a second).
I have to give a huge THANK YOU to all of you, my readers and friends, who cheered me on along the way as I trained and blogged about the process. I loved sharing everything that goes into training for a marathon, but there were certainly some times and weeks when your comments and Facebook messages of support definitely helped me. And I was BLOWN AWAY by the outpouring of love and support and internet cheering throughout Marathon Sunday. You guys are the best!! Thanks for helping me cross that finish line.
Now I have to go finalize which marathon to sign up for next…