Training and fundraising for and completing the NYC Marathon became one of my biggest goals and focuses for this year. It is the biggest challenge I’ve taken on in a very long time and I wanted to make sure I had a record of the experience while my thoughts were still fresh. It has been hard for me to write a race recap because I feel like there is SO MUCH to say about race weekend and at the same time like it was all such a blur and hard to express. But writing tends to help my thoughts so I’m just going to write a ton (and believe it or not this is an abridge version compared to what I journaled…) and no one is obligated to read any of it, so if you want to read on grab your favorite cozy drink and settle in for the long ramblings of my race weekend experiences…
The day before the race we experienced the expo- it was full of photo ops, race day recommendations, and SO many things you could buy. I was very glad I bought my race memorabilia ahead of time as it saved some serious time on my feet waiting in those long check out lines. To keep me off my feet, Dan and I had planned to go to the matinee with the longest run time- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It was technically magnificent and let out just in time for us to head to my World Vision team dinner. At our team dinner we celebrated all the children sponsored from this crazy adventure and laughed about how the theme of the weekend seemed to be “Man plans, God laughs” whether it be the weather, food, fundraising, etc. and that theme would definitely remain the next day. As I reflected on the impact we made with our fundraising (over 1000 lives changed!) I felt very moved by it all. We left team dinner and I got to meet up with some very dear friends from grad school who had come down from New Haven to cheer me on which was incredibly special. We caught up a bit as I hydrated and finished laying out everything for the next day.
I was SO thankful I did that work the night before because even though I tried to go to bed at 9:30-10, I was up through all hours of the night with SO many race day nerves. I barely slept and my sleepy brain was thankful to not think about anything that morning since I had to be at our group bus at 6AM. Well… the bus was supposed to take us to the Staten Island Ferry… so we could all see the Statue of Liberty as we went across on the ferry before we got to the start village and do a big rally clap before we left, etc. Our bus driver apparently thought he would take us to the Staten Island side of the ferry instead of the Manhattan side and we ended up getting stuck on the Verrazano just before they closed the bridge to traffic to start setting up for the race. I am SO GLAD I was with my team because we took a stressful situation and ended up just having a karaoke/dance party while the bus driver slowly realized all the roads to the ferry were going to be closed as it was only for marathon transportation that day. We ended up getting dropped off at the start villages eventually and it all worked out, but it was a super stressful start to the day, especially since cell phone reception near Fort Wadsworth was quite unreliable. I was bummed to miss some friends I thought I’d see at the start village , but I ran into Jen from my online running group randomly and finally found Courtney right before we had to head to our corrals.
Entering the corrals was so exciting and when it was time to move from there to the start line all the volunteers clapped for us and it was just SO exciting to register we were really going to start this big, beautiful, beastly race.
I was in the Blue wave so we went across the top of the bridge. The cannon went off to start my wave and New York New York played and ten seconds in I cried for the first but certainly not last time of the race. I cried again coming off the Verrazano into Brooklyn where we had our first round of crowds and the giant block party began. Amazing signs, gospel choirs, so many kids. A few miles into Brooklyn I realized that while I’d done a really good job not going out too fast, I was still feeling the heat and the humidity and the hills and that some of my pacing goals for the day were only going to happen if I sacrificed every other part of the racing experience for them. So I decided there and then what kind of race I was going to have- I was going to have the kind where I gave everything I had to the crowds in the first half and trusted it would all come back to me in the second. I can confidently say I won that racing strategy. I high fived every kid on my side of the course who had their hand up (and plenty of adults too), I went to every “power up” and “speed boost” sign, I reacted to other signs and took time to thank volunteers and told people I liked their race day outfits. I videoed crowds of people shouting my name. It became a little overwhelming at times (I found myself very grateful for the Hasidic community section of Brooklyn so I had a second to gather myself), but I also knew that I may never experience this kind of thing again and I wanted to be fully in it. Mile 8 I started looking for my husband for our first meeting point. I was so busy looking for the landmark he texted me that I almost missed the official World Vision cheering station but the giant flag helped and gave me so much adrenaline before meeting up with my Dan that when I saw him. I grabbed some fuel but forgot to hand off the stuff I wanted to get rid of so guess I was holding it until mile 19! I also ran into my friend Kristin who runs the All Saints World Vision team in Phoenix but was running this marathon with Thorn- her employer aka Ashton Kutcher’s charity. It felt so great to run into her and I kept partying through Brooklyn until it was time to face my next bridge.
I came off the Pulaski Bridge grateful to have another incline down, although I knew it was small potatoes compared to the next one. I was really energized looking out for my friend Lee- someone I had done shows with way back in elementary school and junior high and who I seem to magically reunite with about once every decade or so. I didn’t get to stop, but we had spent a great bit of time together a few days earlier and it felt wonderful when I heard him yell the quote Tommy Rivs put in my copy of Ultimate Guide to Running- “Keep Moving Forward” and forward I went into Queens. I was starting to get some serious tightness in my calf and getting worried I was cramping up. I was also trying to take one of my saltstick tabs I had stashed in my pack whenever I saw med tents offering salt to runners because I already saw that some runners were going down, but my stomach was starting to hurt from those and it was getting pretty hot aka I was very sweaty. My worries were mounting, but then I realized I recognized the runner stopped just in front of me- it was one of my instagram running friends I’d been trying to connect with at Fort Wadsworth! Keith is part of Forest Park Runners and was stopped there, and his running club hooked me up! They asked if I needed any water or anything else and when I mentioned my tight calf they rolled it out for me which I definitely credit with getting me through the next bridge. I left with a lot more pep in my step and then ran into Keith and his brother Tim again on the last 3 bridges of the course where we kept pushing each other on.
The Queensboro is a monster. I had hoped to keep up my run/walk intervals but the day was really taking a toll on me so I said ok, let’s walk up and get back to intervals on the way down. I ran into a fellow World Vision Teammate- Ryan and we connected for a bit before he urged me to keep going so I went ahead with what I had planned for this bridge. It was the one time I’d use headphones in the whole race. I popped them in and put on the song I knew I’d need- Chance the Rapper’s “Child of God”. It has been a bit of a theme this training cycle. The repeated phrase in the song is “Just do your thing child” and it was a deep reminder to get out of my head and do my thing- left foot, right foot, left foot right foot- just do your thing. I took my headphones out as the bridge started descending and prepared for the “wall of sound”- the crowds I had been told about that you hear before you see. I was worried maybe I was too slow, that maybe I wouldn’t experience it because I was coming to 1st Avenue too late. Luckily I was wrong. I came off the bridge to the most unreal cheering. It was just nonstop and it stretched on and on. I definitely came too fast off of that bridge and the adrenaline got the best of me. That probably hurt me later in the race, but the surge of the crowd was undeniable. Less kids in this section, but more people screaming like I was a complete rock star. About a mile later was, unfortunately, the section where aid stations got a little dicey. It was so hot that they were being utilized more than expected, I guess, because they ran out of cups (and later would even run out of water.) Luckily I had my handheld bottle with me to refill, but the confused and tired crowds of runners at these aid stations and the sea of broken down sticky cups on the ground really slowed me down, and the hard thing about slowing down in that way at this part of the race is that your fatigue starts to catch up to you, your brain starts to register all the work your body has been doing. So as I reached the upper stretch of 1st avenue, I felt all the miles in all the places. I texted my husband that everything hurt and I was really happy he was only another mile or so away because it was the first time all day I really wanted to stop.
Before I got to my husband and the rest of that second cheer squad, I met some AMAZING spectators who had cold water, ice packs, and more to keep runners going during this race day with record heat. They helped supplement the aid stations that were struggling. Whoever brought ice to the race you are an ANGEL among us. It made such a difference. I saw a sign thanking charity runners and knew I was getting close to the World Vision crew. I saw my husband cheering for me and with him EJ and Christine and my grad school friends Clara and Owen. I got to meet their daughter for an all too brief but very sweet time right there on the course. I full on stopped for a few minutes here to refuel and to get rid of the stuff I meant to ditch at mile 8 as well as tell my people how happy I was to see them. They told me I was looking good and I told them I definitely wasn’t feeling good! But I was at least feeling a little better now that I’d seen them all.
All too soon it was time to keep going and off I went into the Bronx. The cheers from the police officers welcoming us to the Bronx and telling us to GET OUT were hilarious and nothing made me happier in that stretch than seeing the sign for the “Last Damn Bridge” of the race. On that last bridge I could see it was golden hour and knew sunset would follow fast, which really started a mental battle. On top of that, my IT band was hurting and I just felt SO hot and sweaty but I knew THIS was it. I just had to push through the wall. I saw another familiar face (another Phoenix World Vision rock star and the aforementioned Kristin’s husband!) shortly after crossing back into Manhattan which was so helpful as I knew this was the hardest part. I kept telling myself Get out of Harlem. Get up the hills of Central Park West, and the finish line would be so close. Just before entering the park, I saw Kelly Roberts and we talked sports bras and celebrated her seeing a cat with a spectator (which was apparently worth ten points!) I kept pushing on while she got footage with said cat and soon after that I really REALLY started to struggle. I thought I had hit the wall before but this was just pure pain. My intervals were off and I just couldn’t sustain them anymore. I remembered the advice Tommy Rivs gave me when I met him a few days before– that he would be doing 30 seconds of running 30 seconds of walking and he wanted me to remember that I could too. That I had to just keep moving forward. So I did. It was a little quiet in the park, many of the crowds had dispersed as the sun was setting. So I thought of all the 3-5 mile training runs I’d done a million times. It helped my mental game so much that I’d done those runs even when I was exhausted and it was stupidly hot- just like the situation was here. I also looked at the paper I had been carrying the whole race- the one with all my sponsors and the names of the children they had sponsored. Remember my why. Trust the training. Work is never wasted. In the midst of that struggle, David texted he was on Central Park South. That helped me get moving out of the park. Once I made it out, the crowds were there again and it helped SO much. I found David and high fived him and by then the sun had set, it was twilight, and it took all I had to push through and run more. I started thinking how close I was to seeing my husband again. “Get to Dan. Don’t trip. Get to Dan. Don’t trip” was all I kept repeating as I turned back into the park.
I finally saw Dan in the grand stand seating. I knew then it was just a few more steps to the finish line. I had made it. As I crossed the finish line I pumped my arms and you can see me saying YES YES YES YES!” in the video. I started just totally crazy crying all the way across the finish line. If an announcer said my name I didn’t even register it, I was so emotional. So much so that a news person flagged me down and asked if I could be interviewed for the local news so that happened. Then I got my medal and cried all over again. I’m a marathoner y’all! And I brought almost a dozen sponsorships to kids in need across the globe. We were so lucky to celebrate that evening- first with my team and then with friends who feel like family. I am so amazed and humbled by this whole experience and just grateful grateful grateful for all the people who volunteered to make it happen, for those who showed up (in person or virtually) and cheered and tracked me, and for those who ran alongside me… even if “alongside” meant in a totally different wave or pace. It was a race filled with so many hard moments, but it was filled with even more love.