2021- TCS New York City Marathon in Review
For two years I had been mentally preparing to run the NYC Marathon. Fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association in honor/memory of my dad. For the three months prior I was focused on my training plan and staying healthy, all while being just a little bit afraid the race would get canceled. Then Chicago and Boston both successfully happened and I felt comfortable that New York would happen too. We had turned the trip to the marathon into an extended family weekend. We had quality family time leading up to the race- hitting all the highlights. We saw the Empire State Building, Statute of Liberty and even enjoyed the sea lion show in the Central Park Zoo. We caught up with friends and had dinner at some of our favorite places. Quite honestly worrying about all the logistics of the weekend combined with having fun with frineds really kept me from thinking about the fact that I was about to run the biggest race of my life. That at 40 years old I was going to stand on top of the Verrazano Bridge and run the NYC Marathon. Even I still can’t believe this happened.
I’m a planner. Planning and making arrangements is my thing. I had all the details worked out and that kept my nervous energy busy. But there were so many things I couldn’t control. The weather, the fact that I had to get the bus at 5:15 AM and didn’t start until 10:40. Or that the logistics of how to get into the Grandstand seating for Jeff and the boys didn’t make any sense. I’m telling you all this “extra” worry kept me from thinking about running the largest marathon in the world. That is until I sat myself down along the Verrazano Bridge and took in the grandness of the experience. Listening to music I looked around at all the other folks about to embark on the same crazy experience of running five bridges and five Burroughs through New York. What was I thinking?? Primarily I was thinking how am I going to find Jeff and the boys at the finish so we see each other after they wait so long for me to finish. Not for a minute did it cross my mind that I wouldn’t finish. Crazy in hindsight- but also at about mile 20 when my hamstrings hurt so badly that running was a challenge- but we will get there.
I started out with the 4 hour pace group. Running sub four was my goal. It felt realistic. Felt- because I may have underestimated the hills on the course a tad bit. I felt healthy to start, I was fueling and hydrating appropriately and had a solid first half. Even chatting with the others in the pace group. Then I had to stop to go to the bathroom and lost my pace group. I had to work to regain my mojo a little bit. I enjoyed the camaraderie of running with a pace group for the first time. Plus now I had to do a better job of monitoring my pace since I was on my own. I remain completely blown away at the number of people who came out to support the marathon. I’m talking that some sections of the race were practically single file runners because the streets were full of people. While this amazing energy is profound for me, it was also a little unsettling. I’m not a huge fan of big crowds. Are you laughing- because I was running with 30,000 people? Yeah, I’m laughing too. But anyway, there was a stretch that was so congested with people that it really took me off guard. I felt claustrophobic and actually tried to put my headphones on to get into my own zone for a little bit. Shocker- it was actually too loud with all the people. Trust me- this is a blessing in comparison to the dreaded Queensborough Bridge. While I knew there was this quiet stretch coming I underestimated how long that damn bridge was going to feel when all you could here were feet. While the elevation gain is not the same as the Verrazano Bridge it…was…HARD. For the first time I had this little piece of doubt creep into my brain. Was I going to finish what I came here to do?
Mantras are important to me. So I dug deep literally and remembered that “I run for those who can’t” and damn it “I can do hard things!” My hard was short lived. The hard of those suffering for Alzheimer’s doesn’t get to come and go. When I started this marathon quest it was to raise funds and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of my dad. My Dad lost his battle with Alzheimer’s in August so the marathon became even more meaningful. I know he was with me the whole way- but seriously dad I could have used a little help around mile 20 when my hamstrings knotted up so tightly that I again wasn’t quite sure I could in fact finish what I had come to start. When I finally got off that damn Queensborough Bridge I saw my friend from HS who I in fact haven’t seen since HS. She came out to support me that day and seeing her couldn’t have come at a better time!! Seeing the other folks out there in their Alzheimer’s Association singlets was awesome too. While the race is personal and individual, we were still running as part of a team. I’m not going to lie- I knew that there was a cheer zone for the Alzheimer’s Association and I had committed it to memory but somewhere along the Queensborough Bridge anything I had committed to memory left my brain. Until I started hearing tons of shouting from our cheer zone. Thanks to my Alzheimer’s Association friends for the support along the way. I honestly don’t remember what mile that was- but I love that you were there!!
Pregnant women joke about pregnancy brain- I’m here to tell you marathon brain is a real thing as mine became mush. Another fun example of that would be when all of a sudden in my headphone I heard “hello.” It was my sister. Me: “Did you call me?” Ashley: “No, I texted and then you called.” She had been texting me all morning along with other friends and family who were following along on the tracker. That “crowd” support also meant so much. So here I was in Central Park with less than two mile to go delirious getting water and Gatorade saying to my sister- “Yeah I’m not so sure I can do this.” Now really, I knew that if I had to I would have crawled from that spot and I could finish. But man, my hamstrings hurt so darn badly. Shortly after I ran into that same friend again. I was on the far right side and she was on the left side- and I basically did a crazy car lane change across the traffic to give her a big hug for coming out. Basically I had been thinking about the fact that I should have stopped when I saw her the first time to thank her and here she was giving me another chance. A little more than a mile to go. Out of the park and onto Central Park South and then back into the park again. At this point I was kind of doing a run walk combination. No matter what I did I couldn’t quite loosen up my hamstrings. I was well aware that my four hour marathon dream died somewhere along the Queensborough Bridge (notice I’m not a fan). But I was the only one who cared about that silly time goal. My people- my husband, and two sons waiting at the finish line could careless what time I finished- just that I finished. Up to Columbus Circle we came- and back into the park. It wouldn’t be long now. We had walked the finish the day before so I knew there was one incline, but I also knew they had it marked. 800 to go. 400 to go. 200 to go and there are my boys jumping up and down, ringing their cowbells with huge smiles on their faces. In that moment it was if we were the only ones there as we connected and then I went the final 100 to cross the finish line of my first “real” marathon. Final time 4:18:55.
I’m not going to lie, the walk back to the hotel was the longest walk of my entire life. Thirteen blocks felt like thirteen miles. I slowly but surely put one foot in front of the other and made my way back. All I wanted was a hot bath, champagne and pizza!! All of which were quickly arranged. The perfect end to the perfect marathon- and the perfect weekend. I would be remiss if I didn’t again say thank you to all the friends, family and strangers who donated to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor/memory of my dad. Another huge thank you for the support in the months…years leading up to the big day. I promise a small break in marathon talk for a bit. To my co-workers who supported me, made me signs and surprised me with a celebratory lunch- I appreciate you all so very much. And the biggest thank you to my amazing husband who supports my crazy ideas- encourages me to do my best, while at the same time take pause and realize that my expectations might be a little much- and who entertained our two boys for 5 hours so they could have front row seats to see me finish. I am truly blessed!!
So, what’s next? There’s always a next, right? Shockingly to my boys I took off all of this week and haven’t run since Sunday. It’s not that I don’t feel good. I actually feel great. I’m just recognizing the awesome thing my body accomplished and giving it a little bit of grace. But then I’ll be back it. Slow and steady to finish up 2021. With my sights on a new big goal in 2022. I’ll continue to raise awareness and advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association. Check out what’s next for 2022! Psst….See you in Bean Town in October!!