After reading countless recap posts of the New York City Marathon from previous years, it’s safe to say my anticipation was high leading up to the race. I spent most of my extra time during taper researching the race and anticipating what to expect. Three weeks of obsessively researching logistics and course info had my mind in overdrive before even making it to NYC.
This past weekend was filled with so many memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I just don’t even know where to begin. WARNING: this may be a very lengthy post. 😉
My parents, husband and I all flew from Chicago to New York the Friday before the race. We spent most of the day traveling, finding our hotel, and looking at maps. We had tickets to see Wicked on Broadway in the evening, but still found ourselves with quite a bit more free time than we expected. Our hotel was in the Upper West Side, just a few blocks away from Central Park. We walked over to the park for a bit before heading down to Times Square for dinner. Before the show, we had dinner at a family style Italian restaurant which was PERFECT for carb loading!
Needless to say, Wicked was amazing! I am so glad we were able to fit in this experience while in New York for such a short time. We headed to the expo on Saturday morning and taking the Subway there was much easier than I expected. I was anxious heading into the expo thinking it would take forever, but everything was so well organized! I picked up my bib and shirt without any problem or wait. We headed into the New Balance area to browse the marathon clothing and I ended up buying a jacket. I’d heard that the lines would be over an hour long on Saturday, but there were so many cashiers that we didn’t have to wait any longer than five minutes.
After leaving the New Balance area, we browsed some of the other booths. I bought more KT tape since I was running out, and we listened to some of the pre-marathon talks. We grabbed some snacks before leaving the expo and then headed back to our hotel.
One of my friends from high school lives in New York City now and she was able to meet us by our hotel in the afternoon. We spent some time walking around the area with her, and then took the Subway a little south to get cookies from Levain Bakery. SO GOOD. She told me that these cookies were huge, so I was expecting them to be really large in circumference. I was surprised to see that they were a normal diameter, but super thick. We waited in line to get them for about half an hour but they were definitely worth it!
After getting cookies, we headed over to our planned restaurant for dinner, only to find out that there was a HUGE line. It looked like all of the tables were already taken so we decided not to wait and walked around to find another restaurant. There weren’t many casual restaurants in this area so we didn’t have many options. We finally stumbled upon a cheap pizza place and decided it was good enough. I was panicking slightly in my head this whole time because I had wanted to eat pasta the night before the race, but it ended up working out.
Once the pizza was finished we said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel. I wanted to make sure I had time to get all my things organized, shower, and look through the logistics one last time. Once everything I needed for the morning was in order, we headed to bed in preparation for race day. My husband and I were in bed my 9:00 pm that night. It took me a little while to fall asleep, but once I finally did I slept really well. I think this was the best I’ve ever slept before a race! I even woke up before my alarm in the morning feeling wide awake. The time changed during the night and we gained an extra hour of sleep, which really help set my mind at ease.
The next morning my alarm went off at 5:00 am in order to get a taxi from our hotel by 5:45. There were two options for transportation to the Staten Island start on race day: the ferry or a bus, and I went with the bus. I knew that the ferry provided some great views, but ended up choosing the bus because I didn’t want to have to worry about getting cold on the boat and wanted the option with the least amount of steps. The buses left from the New York Public Library periodically throughout the morning, and took us right to the start villages without any stops. The bus ride was supposed to be 90 minutes and it took almost exactly that amount of time.
My bus departure time was 6:30 in the morning, and I was early getting to the library. For some reason when I envisioned the bus transportation, I pictured myself arriving at the library and not knowing where to go. Turns out I could not have been more wrong! The taxi dropped my mom, husband and I off at the library around 6:00 am and we were surprised to see a huge line. We walked less than a block before catching up to the line and found ourselves completely stopped. The line weaved all the way down the street and then came back up towards the library.
Leading up to this race, I was nervous about two things: the logistics of getting to the start in an unfamiliar city, and navigating everything before the race by myself. I have run many races by myself before, but never one where my family couldn’t be with me before the race began. My anxiety was at an all time high leading up to race morning, but as soon as I found myself in the big line for the buses I instantly felt better. I saw runners all around me who were there on their own, and runners who were in much earlier waves than I was, and seeing all of them made me feel so much better.
My mom and husband said their goodbyes and left me in the line. Less than a minute after they left, I met three other runners standing next to me and we chatted about the course. One had run the New York City Marathon 4 times before, so she gave us all some helpful tips to remember on the course. Once we got to the other side of the street the line moved much quicker, and we were easily able to get on a bus. The buses were heated and I actually found myself getting a little too warm (definitely the opposite of what I worried about)! I sat with a woman who was running her first marathon and we chatted the entire way.
The bus ride was so easy and went by really quickly. Once we got over the bridge we could see other runners in the start village and really started to get excited. We both kept saying that we just couldn’t believe this was really happening, and reminded ourselves how lucky we were to be there. We were actually going to run the New York City Marathon! Once the bus stopped we hopped off and headed right to the security line. Security moved fairly quickly and was pretty easy. We stepped through security and instantly saw thousands of other runners milling about, and the Verrazano Bridge! This is when the excitement really started to sink in.
We were through security and into the start villages by about 8:15, and we both had over an hour to spare. The woman I was with was in wave 2, and her corrals opened at 9:15. My corrals didn’t open until 10:00 so I had tons of time! We waited in line for porta potties for about 45 minutes, and then when I finally got to a porta potty the one I used didn’t have any toilet paper. Of course I didn’t think to bring any (I will never forget again!), but luckily I noticed beforehand so I just walked back out. I wasn’t too worried because I knew I had a bunch more time to use the restroom.
We were both in the green corrals which was awesome, so we spent a little bit of time trying to find the green start villages. I had studied the map of the start beforehand but everything was laid out so differently than I’d imagined from the maps. There were signs pointing to the green start village but we couldn’t figure out where they were pointing because our village was on the other side of the bridge.
After a little bit of wandering, we finally found our way to the start village and found a spot on the grass to sit and calm our nerves. We finally ate our breakfasts and before I knew it, wave 2 was lining up. We said our goodbyes and good luck to one another and I found myself alone. I used this time to head to the bathroom and relax a little before my wave was called.
I had a full bagel (with no cream cheese so it was pretty boring) and banana about 15 minutes before the corrals for my wave opened. It was so hard to wait to eat this because I was already hungry when we were on the bus from the library, but I’m glad I did. While I was eating the first wave started and I was able to see the runners on the bridge from where I sat underneath. Everyone in the start villages cheered and clapped for them which was awesome.
After eating I prepared all my gear and tossed my bag. I headed over to the corrals and was able to walk right into mine: Wave 3, Corral E. I kept waiting to hear an announcement that the wave three corrals were open, but never did. My corrals were supposed to open at 10 am, so a few minutes after 10 I headed over to the entrance figuring I’d wait outside the gate until they opened. It’s definitely a good thing I didn’t wait much longer! The corrals were already open when I arrived and I was able to walk right it. It was less than five minutes after I got there that I heard the announcement saying the wave 3 corrals were closed. Yikes!
There were bathrooms and bins in the corrals for our throwaway clothes which was awesome. I tossed my throwaway clothes a few minutes after entering the corrals and wasn’t too cold. At this point it had started drizzling but wasn’t raining very had yet. I was in the green corrals, which start under the bridge, so I think that really helped block the wind. The temperatures were in the upper 50s at this point which was great.
2017 New York City Marathon
We walked our way up the bridge to the start line and only had to wait there for about 5 minutes before the cannons went off. The cannons went off right on time for our 10:40 start and New York, New York started playing. I had been so excited to hear this and it was exactly what I expected!
Miles 1 – 4
Either I didn’t notice the uphill at first because of all the adrenaline, or we didn’t have as much of an incline at our start because we were under the bridge. Either way, I’ll take it. My watch got off right away when we ran under the bridge and we passed the mile marker while my watch told me I was running an 18 minute mile. The other runners were so excited and kept cheering periodically throughout the silence of the bridge.
We came out of the bridge into Brooklyn, and I was a little disappointed to see no crowds at all. The green start takes it’s own course for the first few miles, so we weaved off to the right while orange and blue kept going straight. I think most of the crowds were gathered on the main course, but after reading about all their energy it was a bit of a bummer to see no one.
My watch somehow magically got back in sync exactly at mile 3 and beeped when I passed the marker. I noticed that I was running about 45 seconds faster per mile than I had planned to do. The corral I was in was also ahead of the 4:30 pacer, which would be my PR, and I was planning on running slower than that for this race. As we got further into the race, I found it harder and harder to slow down even though I knew I shouldn’t start out fast.
Miles 5 – 8
We merged with the blue and orange courses around mile 5 and were immediately greeted by screaming crowds. Here is the excitement I had been reading about – finally! The crowds were overwhelmingly loud, with so many playing music, instruments and noise makers. There was a rope divider in the middle of the course so we were still separate from the other groups, but we ran right next to them. I think this was my favorite part of the course! The fans were awesome and it felt like we were in one heck of a parade. I tried really hard to take it all in and soak up the excitement.
My legs were feeling good at this point and none of the hot spots I was worried about were hurting. I was impressed with how well these paces were feeling, considering I had not trained to run a race where I would push myself. I ate two shot blocks at mile 6 as I found myself starting to get hungry and then realized I accidentally got a different kind than usual. Oops!
In the back of my mind I knew I would regret starting out too fast by the end, but still just couldn’t force myself to slow down. I figured I’d go with it while it felt good and see what my body could do. The miles were ticking by so fast that every time I saw the next mile marker up ahead I just couldn’t believe it!
Miles 9 – 13
We finally fully merged with the other groups around mile 9 and it got a little more crowded. For some reason all the spectators were standing on the streets in front of the sidewalks at this point, so the street was a little narrower as well. We passed by a big screen television right when Meb was finishing, so I was able to watch at the perfect time which was awesome! It was so cool to see him run through the finish. I saw him collapse on the ground, but then we had to turn a corner so I couldn’t see anymore. The next few miles were spent wondering if he collapsed just out of exhaustion or was hurt.
I really tried to stay ahead of the game with my fueling, and ate another two shot blocks at mile 10. I saw my parents just before mile 13, right as we turned to get on the next bridge. It was a perfect spot to see them! My legs were still feeling good and mentally I still felt pretty strong, but seeing them gave me a huge boost. I didn’t think I needed more support until I got it (funny how that always works, haha). Seeing them left me smiling and got me energized for the next half!
Miles 14 – 16
We headed over a short bridge to Long Island next. I noticed a lot of people start walking the uphill here and told myself that this would be a good time to walk if I wanted, but I was feeling so strong on the hill that I kept going. My legs were powering me through and my mind felt ready for anything. I had originally planned to alternate Gatorade and water at each aid station, like I have done for the past four marathons, but I started drinking Gatorade and just continued to drink it at each aid station. I had two more shot blocks just after the bridge and still felt great.
The crowds died out a little for these few miles in Long Island so it got a little less exciting. At this point I really started to get in my head wondering when I would fade and regret running these faster times. My times had remained consistently around 10:30-10:45 minutes per mile up through this point, even though I had planned to run 11:30 minute miles for the whole course.
Miles 16 – 19
We crossed the Queensboro bridge and this time the hill started to get to me a little bit more. I lost satellite on my watch so the distance was not accurate at this point, and I kept looking down at it wondering when the next mile would appear. This was the first time a mile went by slowly. I finally saw the mile marker and then we turned the corner and suddenly we were on 1st Avenue. The crowds were wild here and I really needed them after the break silence we had just experienced! It was so cool to turn the corner and see all the tall buildings and city streets. At this point the rain was really starting to come down and I was so surprised how many people were still outside cheering.
The hills were starting to get to me at this point and I took two more shot blocks. Since I bought the wrong kind there were 8 in this package instead of my usual 6, which helped me spread them out over more miles. I continued drinking Gatorade at every aid station and still hadn’t stopped to walk. At this point I was starting to want to walk but knew that I had gotten this far, and wanted to see if I could make it through the whole course without stopping.
I took two more shot blocks at mile 18 and this is where I noticed the fatigue starting to creep in. It seemed that we were running a never-ending hill! I had to keep reminding myself how hard I had worked to get there and that everyone else around me was in pain as well. Knowing that others were pushing through their pain really helped me stay motivated and suck it up.
Miles 20 – 22
We crossed over a short bridge that just about felt like torture with its incline at this point. We stepped into the Bronx and there was one woman at the bottom of the bridge cheering us on and yelling inspirational quotes which was definitely something I needed! My mind was starting to lose its focus at this point.
This is about when I noticed that my right pinky toe was rubbing at it was really starting to hurt. I could feel that a blister was forming and would try to curl my toe under so it wouldn’t rub, but then my foot would cramp from running in a weird position. I finally figured oh well, I’d rather deal with the pain of a blister than a charlie horse and just let it rub. Every once and a while it would catch and cause me to flinch from the pain, so I kept trying to position my toe to avoid it but it never worked.
The cheering helped distract me for a few minutes at a time, but my focus would always find a way back to the pain in my foot. Around mile 21 I ate my waffle and hoped that the extra energy would help relieve my sore muscles. We weaved around a few streets, and I found myself very frustrated that we still weren’t on 5th avenue. It’s funny how long runs can really make you cranky by the end, haha!
Miles 22 – 24
We FINALLY made it to 5th Avenue and I knew that we were getting close to the end. At this point the miles started to slow down significantly and I thought we were never going to make it to the next mile marker. It seemed like 5th Avenue was one HUGE hill and I got so frustrated that it never seemed to end. I saw my family around mile 23, when I wasn’t expecting to see them, and this was another huge boost! At this point my legs were starting to get really tight and that toe just continued to rub. I desperately wanted to stop and walk each time I took a Gatorade but told myself that I had made it this far and it would be a shame to break the streak now!
My mile splits slowed down a lot during these last few miles, but they were still right around the pace I was originally aiming for. Every time my watched beeped for a mile I was surprised that I was not running slower. At this point I felt like I was crawling up the never ending hill. They passed out bananas around mile 24 and I took one hoping that the potassium would help ease my muscle cramps. My neck and lower back were really starting to bother me too, and I just had to remind myself that I knew this was coming. Pain is truly inevitable during a marathon.
Miles 24 – 26.2
We entered Central Park right around mile 24 and at this point I was feeling terrible. It’s funny how easy it is to forget pain, because I certainly did not remember feeling this in any other marathons but know that it happened then too. There were so many people cheering here which really helped stay me motivated to keep running. I was surprised how few other runners stopped to walk and this kept me going as well. Central Park was actually not as hilly as I anticipated, and there were much more downs than I expected!
There were so many fans yelling that we were almost there at this point, which was very frustrating because two miles sure feels like forever at the end of a marathon! I kept looking around the corner to see if I could spot the finish line but it was never in sight. We finally rounded a corner and I could see the stands and the finish line up ahead. I didn’t have anything left to pick up the pace, so my goal was just to not stop. Running across the finish line brought a huge wave of relief knowing that I was done! I couldn’t believe I had just finished the New York City Marathon.
The worst part of this race was definitely the long walk after the finish. They gave us our medals right away, and shortly after we were given bags of food and things to drink. After this it was a long walk to get out of the park! I selected the post-race poncho option, so I had a shorter walk, but after a marathon it certainly felt like an eternity. At this point I was starting to get grumpy about walking and just wanted to be done. When we finally reached the exit we turned and were given our ponchos. The volunteers were so nice and buttoned mine up and put the hood up for me when they noticed I was struggling. I met my family a few blocks over since they couldn’t get any closer and it was an easy Subway ride back to our hotel.
The New York City Marathon was definitely the most memorable race I have experienced so far. It wasn’t my best time, and I didn’t feel amazing for the entire run, but that’s to be expected. The organization for 50,000+ people was just incredible, and all of the volunteers were so encouraging. The crowds were wild and the support was just what I needed! I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and will forever cherish these amazing memories. All of the pain and anxiety was completely worth it. Hats off to NYC for throwing an incredibly 26.2 mile block party!
Now to rest my beautiful toe blister and recover for the week.
Congrats to all the 50,000 other finishers of the New York City Marathon!