So, sure, I want to get married someday. But I feel really bad for my future husband, because I’m pretty sure that I will always remember November 6, 2011 as the best day of my life, not my future wedding day.
The night before, Ashley and Bo had me and Tina over for our last carb-loading meal. I feel bad for him and my mom having to deal with the three of us obsessing over the race. He made some delicious fresh pasta from Eataly with homemade sauce and chicken. Even my picky Italian mom liked his sauce, and she wasn’t even just saying that to be nice.
My mom and I came back to my apartment, where I laid out all my stuff and painted my nails marathon orange and blue.
I actually slept really well until about 3am. After that, I was up every hour until 5am, when I finally gave up and just woke up and started watching inspirational marathon YouTube videos and crying in bed.
With all my clothes laid out, I actually got ready pretty quickly and was just busy putting Vaseline everywhere when Bailey started barking at the door. I thought he heard something in the hall, but it turns out there was a Tina at the door, incredibly early.
Someone didn’t want me to leave.
Melissa Z lives a few blocks from me, so she picked us up in a cab at 7:20 and we all headed down to the ferry.
As we got out of the cab, we all looked at each other and said, “This is really happening.” Hundreds of other runners were pouring into the ferry terminal, each setting out to do the same thing we were about to do.
Oh hey Lady Liberty.
We took the ferry to a bus, which finally brought us to Athlete’s Village. There was a group of about six of us, but I started chatting with Emily and looked up and the rest of our group was gone.
Luckily, we ended up finding them.
Dori and Melissa
Thank god we found them, because Tina and I had plans to start together and run together as long as possible.
We squeezed our way into my corral (I was in the higher-number corral, so she came back to mine) and were slowly fed to the start just before the Verrazano Bridge.
I’d heard they played New York, New York just before the start, but I still started crying (and singing) the second I heard it. If you can make it here, you really can make it anywhere. Most of yesterday was pretty surreal, but I will never forget that moment standing there, thinking about how far I’d come and knowing that, yes, I’d run 26.2 miles before, but that anything could happen in the next 4+ hours.
We ran up that bitch of a hill, and I noticed our pace was around 9:15. “Tina, we really need to slow down–we have a long way to go,” I told her. We hit mile one and thought, oh good, only 25 miles to go. Once we hit Brooklyn, the orange and blue groups were split from the green group.
At mile 3, I was lucky enough to see my lovely book club ladies. They screamed so loudly that some of the runners running near me and Tina were incredibly amused. I’d started with arm warmers, and I remember taking them off right after seeing my ladies. I’m glad I bought the cheaper ones at the expo, because I ended up losing them shortly thereafter. I tucked them into my Spibelt, and they quickly bounced out.
Tina and I had run the last 20 miles of the course a few weeks earlier, so we were excited to get back into familiar territory at mile 6. We were feeling great in these first few miles, and I was really nervous we wouldn’t be able to hold on to our pace. It seemed that every time I looked at my watch, we were doing a 9:45 pace, but we were actually running closer to 9:55-9:57.
I’d taken this 4:20 pace band, and it said we needed to be hitting 9:55 miles to hit our goal of 4:20. Being right on the mark so early on could mean one of two things: either we crashed and burned or since we were feeling good, perhaps we’d be able to pick it up in the second half. Obviously, I was hoping for the latter.
We continued running through Brooklyn, sometimes chatting a bit but mostly just grinning our faces off at the crowds. I’m so happy I had my name on my shirt, but every time someone called my name, I turned and wondered if I knew them or if they were just reading my name off my shirt. Either way, I waved or smiled as much as I could when someone yelled my name. I was absolutely beaming with happiness at this point.
My family and friends were aiming for being at mile 8, but I figured with the crazy crowds, they could be anywhere between mile 7 and 9. Well, they were exactly at mile 8! Can you see the joy in my face? (My mom says I even jumped in the air.) I was so happy to see my parents and some of my closest friends. I also have to thank my friends for being amazing and letting my parents tag along with them around the city, being patient with them on the subway and even walking them over to the grandstand to watch me finish.
Tina and I were still feeling strong here, but at this point, I really had to pee. I kept hoping the feeling would go away, that I would sweat it out, but I never did. I started scouting the port-a-potty lines as we passed, hoping for a short line.
The next thing I remember is hitting mile 10. I was really happy that we were finally into double-digit miles. At mile 11, my left leg started feeling really tight in a way it had never felt before. I’ve certainly felt my leg feel stiff before, but my muscle felt like it was shrinking here, and I was afraid that I was limping or that I wouldn’t be able to run on it anymore. I usually fuel about every six miles, so I took a Gu Chomp at mile 11.5 and hoped that some extra energy would help my leg. If you’re keeping track–I had a tight muscle and I really had to pee. This was clearly not my favorite stretch of the race by any means.
Just before mile 13, I saw a big line of Port-a-Potties with short lines. I told Tina I needed to stop and that she could just keep going. “We’re not splitting up this early!” she said, and I wanted to give her a big, sweaty hug. I got in and out within 90 seconds and we were back on our way. This was right before the Pulaski Bridge, and I was nervous about my knee heading up and down this bridge. At every single bridge we hit, Tina said “I’m going to make this bridge my bitch!” and so make this one our bitch we did. By the other side, my knee was already feeling better, and I have never been more happy to be in Queens. The energy in Brooklyn was absolutely tremendous, but I just wanted to get out of Brooklyn and closer to the finish.
Miles 13-15 are a huge blur for me, other than some stomach discomfort. My first Gu was a vanilla bean Gu, which I always take and never bothers my stomach. My second Gu was a Sweet Tea Gu Chomp, which I thought I’d had before, but once I looked the package, I realized I hadn’t. THESE GUS HAVE DOUBLE THE CAFFEINE. I barely drink caffeine any more. From miles 12-20, my stomach felt like it had a balloon in it that kept inflating and deflating. I tried to suck my core in as much as possible, in hopes of popping the bubble. I also tried to take as much water as I could at this point. Previously, I’d been doing water every two miles, but I took water every mile at this point.
Finally, we were upon the Queensboro Bridge! Once again, Tina said she was going to make it her bitch. I’d heard from many people that this was the worst part of the course, but we were still feeling strong, and it really didn’t feel like a big deal. It was, however, really long. Towards the end, I started telling Tina a story to distract us both from the monotony of the bridge. As we approached the end, I heard that legendary wall of sound coming from First Ave. I knew some of my friends would be out here, and that it’s the area where a lot of young people are, so I figured I might know some other people, too.
We’d heard it’s hard to maintain a steady, slow pace coming up First Ave, and this was true. We looked at our watches and saw we were running sub-9:00 miles. “Tina! We need to slow down!” She started yelling out our pace until it was back above 9:15-9:30 again. I didn’t mind if we picked up our pace a little more, but I didn’t want to be running any faster than that.
Once we got above 100th Street, the crowds thinned significantly. I remember at this point just wanting to get out of Manhattan and get to the Bronx, but I tried my best to take it all in. Yeah. The First Ave portion of the race is really long. Once we were up here, the incline felt like it had evened out some. I took the few remaining Gu Chomps at this point and hoped for the best. Finally, we were in the Bronx and hitting 20 miles! During Chicago last year, I hit the wall around 18-20, so I was so happy to have gotten to this point still feeling okay. Obviously, my legs were tired, but they didn’t feel hellacious, just like I had just run 20 miles.
Finally, we crossed our last bridge, the Madison Ave. Bridge into Manhattan. Other people seemed really happy to have crossed this last bridge, but I knew this meant no more downhills until the park.
At mile 21, I SAW A SIGN FOR BANANAS. I basically ran clear across the course (sorry, guys) to grab my half a banana. Obviously I really love my bananas, but I knew my body couldn’t handle any more Gu–but I still wanted some fuel. Also, it just made me happy. The happiness inside that banana got me through until Mile 22, where Caitlin and the Lululemon girls were cheering. I noticed the Lululemon cheer squad, and then I noticed Caitlin and wanted to give her a big hug! The next things I were looking forward to were seeing Jess and her sign somewhere around mile 23-24.
I never ended up seeing her, but I did see Lacey and Jen again at 95th and 5th with these fab signs:
I remarked to Tina, “I hope someone’s saving me a beer!” and then realized “WAIT! THOSE ARE MY FRIENDS! They better be saving me a beer!”
FINALLY! FINALLY! We made it into the park at 90th Street and hit mile 24 soon after at 4:00:14. It was at this point, I realized that I could definitely make 4:20 if I kept the same pace. Somewhere between 110th Street and entering the park, Tina started lagging a bit behind me. I kept turning around and trying to encourage her, and we stayed together until almost mile 24. Again, she fell a bit behind, and I said “come on!” and she told me to just go. I turned to leave her, and realized how thankful I was that she’d stayed with me at my bathroom stop, and I turned around to keep running with her. The park was absolutely packed, and my legs were just itching to run it out to the end, and by mile 24.5, I had no idea where she was.
Here’s where I turned it up.
The quicker I run, I reasoned, the quicker I could finish. The course got pretty narrow with all the fans at this point, but everyone was screaming my name, and I was smiling from ear to ear. Once I hit mile 25 at 4:09, I knew I could finish with a 4:1x in front of my name. WITH A 4:1X IN FRONT OF MY NAME. I ran Chicago in 4:59. That would be a 40-minute PR. At this point, I ran with absolutely everything I had left. A few times I looked at my watch and saw an 8:30 pace or even a 7:50 pace, but I ran those last two miles in 9:59 and 9:56, so I clearly didn’t keep that pace up for an entire mile, just a portion of it.
I exited the park just after mile 25 and ran onto Central Park South. LESS THAN ONE MILE TO GO! I ran across and remember alternating between thinking “Just three avenues!” and “OMG, three avenues?!” At this point, my legs were fully exhausted but I just kept muttering to myself “You’re almost there! Don’t walk! You can do this! Don’t walk. Don’t walk.” I took in the energy of the crowd and was smiling so hard my face hurt. I remember a spectator yelling “Keep smiling!” I could do that!
Finally, finally, I entered the park again. I knew I had just about 7 blocks to go and kept thinking, “I can do anything for 5 more minutes.”
I spied the grandstands, and started looking for my parents. (Nissan gave me special grandstand tickets that I passed along to them.) I didn’t look too hard, though, because I had a goal to meet! I was just at 4:19 hitting the grandstand, and knew that I had just under 4:20 in me if I ran my heart out for the last few feet.
I RAN LIKE HELL FOR THAT FINISH LINE, and 4 hours, 19 minutes and 56 seconds after I started this race in Staten Island, I finished it in Manhattan with tears in my eyes, a smile on my face, and a tremendously full heart. Full with thoughts of my amazing friends and family, of all of you reading and cheering along for me, for the random people who cheered for me on the sidelines. I got my medal and definitely hugged the lady who gave it to me after she congratulated me. I got my heat sheet and began the long trudge out of the park when I felt a tap on my shoulder. IT WAS RUSTY! He was volunteering, and I hugged him twice, thanked him for volunteering and told him I shattered my goal.
The worst part of this race? Getting out of Central Park. It took forever! We had to walk probably almost a mile to get out, and at that point, it felt never-ending.
I just wanted to curl up on the side of the road, but I knew I’d never get back if I did.
I made my way to JackRabbit to meet up with my family. Those five blocks from 77th down to 72nd felt longer than the entire marathon, and I really used the same techniques to keep me walking. “Just three more blocks! You’re almost there!”
I’m still in shock that I actually beat my goal of 4:20 and with such an even pace!
I’m also still in shock that, other than my bathroom break, I ran the entire time! When I started running a few years ago, I thought only professional runners could run an entire marathon without stopping to walk.
So Kara Goucher, watch out.
Congratulations to everyone else who ran and a big thank you to my coach, Marc, for pushing me to get here and to my parents and friends (and you!) for putting up with all my marathon obsession the past few months.