Hi, can someone help me figure out how to bottle endorphins? Because I am still riding a serious endorphin high, and I don’t ever want to come down.
From the day I got into the marathon lottery until I toed the start line yesterday, I was nervous about how I’d handle marathon day emotionally. From just being sad that my mom might not be there because she was too sick, to being devastated that she wouldn’t be there because she was no longer with us, I was terrified of this day. I think on some level I didn’t start training until September because I didn’t want to face the marathon without her after she died. And then I pulled myself together and realized I’d be more sad if I didn’t do it. Either way I would have been some level of sad yesterday; I might as well just run the damn thing, right?
My mom was there by my side for my Junior League brunch two years ago, so I made sure to surround myself by friends this Saturday, and I made my best friend sit next to me, ready to grab my hand as I sobbed. I cried getting ready, but I’m not sure if it was a weird combo of anxiety and gratitude, but I made it through the brunch without crying.
Our president, Suzanne (to my left), tells me I’m crazy every time marathoning comes up. She’s not wrong…(pretty sure she’s telling me that here.)
I love every single one of these ladies (including the littlest one) so so much. Having them by my side has meant everything to me this year.
I was running with Leah (to my right), and I’d asked her the day before if I could stay with marathon eve. My mom always stayed with me the night before and got ready with me and the idea of being alone was overwhelming to me. Leah is one of the sweetest people I know and said of course immediately 🙂
If you follow my Instagram stories (@theodorable), you know that I’ve had some wicked insomnia this year. I was a little nervous about not sleeping in my own bed, but a few minutes of a meditation app, and I slept like a baby!
I woke up and still watched the Alec Baldwin video in bed like I have before, teared up just a bit, and bolted out of bed to get ready.
Leah’s sweet husband took a photo of us just before we left. Although I didn’t have my mama to pin my bib on me, I pinned her on my back. (And another big shout to my BFF, Meg, who helped me with my letters.)
One more benefit of staying with Leah: she lives around the corner from the New York Athletic Club, where we were taking the bus from. One of our friends is a member and arranged to get us on the buses. The last time we’d run, we were told we had to be at the NYAC at 6, and the bus left at 7…so we left at 6:05 from Leah’s, and when we got there, we were told that the buses were about to leave. We decided to run downstairs and grab a croissant. Leah is one of those people who always cuts things close, but they miraculously always work out, so I decided to follow her lead. Well, we ended up sprinting for our bus…but we made it.
The bus left around 6:30, and we got to Staten Island just before 8.
We were starting at 10:40. EEP.
Other years, I only ended up waiting for about an hour once I got there, so I was a bit nervous about waiting for 2 hours to get into our corral. We showed up and settled into the blue start village.
Kelly had posted something on IG stories about THERAPY DOGS
AND THIS WAS NOT FAKE NEWS. THERE WERE, INDEED, THERAPY DOGS IN THE CORRALS. Holy happiness. We snuggled with this guy and then sat down to wait and take turns going to the bathroom. My aunt and dad called while Leah was in line for the bathroom and I teared up as I talked with them about my mom watching me and keeping me safe, but I chose to see the beauty in this, rather than the sadness. I sat and meditated while I waited for Leah as I got overwhelmed by the wide range of emotions I was feeling.
And before we knew it…it was time to begin.
OK…let’s do this??
They played New York, New York, and I sang, and I cried, just like every other year. This was the first place I felt the presence of my mom — we shared a love of Frank Sinatra’s music.
We took off over the Verazzano, and despite this being marathon #7 for each of us, we took off way too fast. As we came off the bridge and into Bay Ridge, I started grinning. We were really doing this!!
I’d called Jess (who had coached our team but not me individually this year) earlier in the week freaking out, and we’d discussed a race plan of running the first ~12-13, or however many I felt comfortable and confident running, and then switching to walk/run breaks. Leah and I had taken a pace bracelet for ~11:00 miles (~4:50), figuring that we could manage this thang by running at a pace considerably slower than our well-trained paces (we’re about the same speed at our peak fitness levels) and taking it steady. We kept picking runners ahead of us, not to pick off, but to keep ahead of us, to keep us steady. And then we passed them anyway. Oops.
The miles ticked off surprisingly quickly, and we were at the 10K mark before we knew it, and we grinned like idiots for the cameras there.
The very very slightly rolling hills through Park Slope started getting to me mentally and physically as I wondered how I could get through another ~19 miles and as my left leg started cramping. I got frustrated that Williamsburg, usually one of my favorite parts, was feeling difficult. If it was already feeling difficult…how would I get through? I remembered Jess’ advice to take things one mile at a time, and kept chugging along. As I cramped, I remembered my PT’s advice a few years ago to really exaggerate my stride, and started doing this. I also started feeling a few sharp but fleeting pains in my lower back. (Post-marathon goal #1: work on my weak/jelly core)
As we climbed and descended the Pulaski, I started getting really nervous about my cramping leg. But I knew we’d see Leah’s husband and our NYJL cheer station (and my dear friend Anne and her precious son) around mile 14, and I focused on getting to that.
Well, I “focused” so hard, that I fell as I came around a curve, wiping the eff out and skinning my knees and ripping my pants. (I should mention here: it rained lightly almost the entire time.) In that split second going down, I feared not finishing the marathon and hurting myself badly. I stood up and everyone around asked if I was OK. Dazed, I said I wasn’t sure, and I started walking a bit. “Shake it off!” Leah told me. I thought of how Jess fell and twisted her ankle en route to a BQ and thought if she could do that, I could continue my shuffle.
Is he not THE CUTEST THING YOU’VE EVER SEEN? Only another 17 years until I can marry him…
Strangely, the cramp in my leg went away after my fall?!
In training, we’d walked a bunch on hills/bridges, and so I was fully prepared to take the Queensboro super casually, but Leah insisted that we chug up it, slow and steady, slow and steady, and we did. It wasn’t easy, but as we climbed, I turned to her and said “we’re doing so much better than I thought we’d be!”
As we came down the Queensboro, I started grinning, anticipating the wall of sound and I felt amazing up until about 68th, when I started doing the math of how long it was until we’d leave Manhattan (about 50 blocks/2.5 miles). We saw a ton of people we knew, and I tried to fake a smile, but I was having a bit of trouble breathing as a little anxiety took hold. (Or mile 18 of a marathon, unclear.)
Well, then…we smelled smoke and fire trucks started blocking our path.
Others kept running, but I froze in place, convinced it was a Boston bomber copycat. Thankfully, some spectator told us not to worry, it was an apartment fire, and it was under control. I’d estimate we were stopped for about a minute, and I took a second to regroup, and we continued on. At this point, I started getting a little angry that we still had to loop around the Bronx and Harlem rather than just run west into the park and be done. We were so close yet so far!
As we climbed the Willis Ave Bridge into the Bronx, I started to fear ~the wall~. By some miracle, IT NEVER CAME.
In fact, I felt even better from mile 20 on, and I kept turning to Leah and telling her how happy I was with how we were doing. As she got quieter, I realized she was struggling and asked how I could best support her. At some point on First, before 20, she said “let’s get to 20 still running, and anything from there is bonus!” I reminded her of that and that we could walk whenever she wanted (no, really, Leah, LET’S WALK! PLEASE!!!), but we made it all the way to mile 23, chugging along. I knew that the Finish Line PT team would be at 105th, and I set getting to them as a goal for us. We started walking fairly soon after that, and walked the next 15 blocks or so up that hill, as Leah’s knee was really bothering her.
I HAVE to give a mad shoutout for Beth, who spotted us during the Fifth Ave climb, and walked/ran it with us all the way up to the park.
On Fifth, I also saw two of my besties, Camille and Lacey — and Camille had this amazing sign. Throughout this shitty year, she’s kept saying “well at least you have great hair” to cheer me up 😉 (Ironically, my hair was a giant rat’s nest from the rain yesterday.)
As we made that magical turn into Central Park, I saw a “cheer card” that Meg had made me, and feeling that support from friends going into the park filled me with so much joy, love and excitement. As we ran in the park, I did my best to take it all in, smiling like a damn fool.
Coming down the hill to exit the park, there was a cheer station that was nothing short of magical. I don’t remember much other than a million cheers and some music, but Leah and I turned to each other and said “that’s amazing.” My watch had been super off mileage-wise the entire race, and blinked low battery at me after mile 24, so seeing the mile 25 sign took me a bit by (A VERY PLEASANT) surprise. I started thinking about what my next race could be…and that I was still feeling so good that maybe I should consider an ultra one day? (LOL no…)
Some notes on fuel, honestly, mostly for my own memories/record for the future: I had a croissant on the bus and a bagel in the start village — and a water bottle full of Nuun Energy. We took water at every odd-numbered mile water station, and after mile 11, I started diluting Gatorade about every other water station through 21. I took shot bloks at miles 6 and 12, and some fancy organic crap I bought at Whole Foods the day before at mile 18. When i spied bananas at mile 22, I once again made a beeline for them. I felt a bit woozy a few times from the humidity, so I made a real effort to make sure I was getting in electrolytes and enough water.
That sea of green hats was our last NYJL cheer station, on Central Park South. We were so, so happy to see our friends, and I was truly grinning like an idiot.
I was incredulous we were about to actually finish the thing, and as we turned back into Central Park, I took in all the flags and crowds and my face hurt from grinning.
“Let’s go finish a marathon,” I said to Leah.
I barely felt that last uphill as adrenaline took us through to the finish. My cousin and her husband were waiting in the grandstands, but I apparently looked the exact wrong way.
AND THEN I FINISHED MY SEVENTH MARATHON.
We finished just under 4:50, my second slowest marathon time yet, nearly an hour slower than my PR, but I’m truly just so so happy to have done this.
I started crying immediately and turned to Leah to hug her and tell her I couldn’t have done it without her.
An ABC reporter came over to us to chat, and she asked why we ran.
I told that it was my 7th marathon and that my mom had always been out there, but that I ran it for her this year. I was totally undertrained, and I didn’t deserve to feel as good as I did. I really believe my mom was there with me on my shoulder, protecting me. (And I also think the good luck ~crystal~ I had in my SpiBelt didn’t hurt…)
I saw Ali at a marathon event earlier in the week, and she told me she thought this marathon finish would mean more to me than any other, and she’s right.
This was the worst year of my life, and so so much was taken away from me, and I fought through so much pain and grief.
But running will always be there for me, and I’m forever grateful to have it as something to bring me joy and peace amidst the darkness.
I’m still so happy, and yesterday was the best day of my year. (I mean the bar was low, but still.)
Leah is a gem of a friend, and I am so so lucky to have her by my side.
Especially for the trek out of the park. (My dad asked if I’d mugged a princess when I sent this to him.)
I was so happy to see my cousin, too. It means so much to have her there, and I know she did it for my mom.
And then I headed to Cafe Tallulah for my usual burger and bubbly.
Special shouts to Altra for giving me these sweet NYC Torins. I’ve been running in Altra since they sent us shoes in September for the Runner’s World Festival, and I’m loving them.
TL;DR if you didn’t make it through this novel of a recap: yesterday went better than I ever could have imagined, and I am so so happy and grateful to have made it through my seventh marathon so smoothly.