The marathon is always a great day in NYC. I love the nervous energy at the start, followed by excitement, and finally, glory. It is beyond compare. But this year, despite all of that, I had a rough race. I ran my slowest marathon ever, including my first, aka “the porta-potty hop of 2012” in Philly, where I stopped at every toilet there was after mile 12. Yeah, it was not fun, but this NYC was 2 minutes faster than my slog to the finish in 2016. Luckily, it wasn’t that way for everyone. I have many friends who did killed it yesterday! (Congrats, Guys!!)
Here’s my story:
As you may know, it took me several years to finally run the NYC marathon. I first registered in 2009 and failed to make it to the start that year and the following year due to nagging injuries. In 2011, I just started a stressful job that took over my life and left no time for training. I was ready to race in 2012, but the race was cancelled due to a hurricane. So I thought 2013 would be my year. Nope, a twin pregnancy kept me sidelined that year. Finally, in 2014 (with 7 month old twins), I made it to the start and ultimately the finish line of the NYC marathon. It was a great day and a challenging one. I fell in love with NYC and I finally got to experience the marathon.
This year, I plain, straight did not train enough. I ran 2-3 times a week, often missing my long runs. I got in one 20 milers and two 18 milers. All of my runs felt miserable by the end. I also got a slow start to training after Ironman. It took me several weeks, into October, to wrap my head around running for 3 hours and finally do it. You could say I was burnt out.
Of course, due to all of that, I expected a slow time for this year’s NYC marathon. I thought I could hold 10 minute miles and manage a slight fade, finishing around 4:25. Unfortunately for me, around mile 10 I knew that 10 minute miles were probably too fast. I started to feel tired and achy. By mile 16, which is demarcated by the Queensboro bridge connecting Queens to Manhattan, I was struggling. This is when, according to NYC marathon veterans (including the guy I shack up with), “the race begins” …
There was a chance that C+E would be waiting for me at mile 18, which is near our apartment. I kept it together until then, but when I didn’t see them, I got a little upset. My breathing quickened and then I got a cramp in my ribs. For the first time, I stopped to walk. You know when you start to walk, it is very hard to get back into the mode of running. My stomach had been feeling a little iffy for the last few miles and the relief of walking was immense. No more jostling. But still, it was probably a bad idea. My pace per mile dropped immensely after that point. I was dry heaving due to whatever was happening with my stomach. I switched from gels + endurolytes for fuel to Gatorade and water and wished hard for coke and ice. Ironman has ruined me!
The Bronx was a blur. When I entered Manhattan again, the sun was so bright, I couldn’t see a thing. Never was I so happy not to be wearing my name on my shirt. I tried to interact as little as possible with the crowd. And for the most part, they left me alone. I was walking now with an occasional run, which was more like a shuffle, thrown in until I felt like I might puke. I almost stopped once to try to throw up, but thought better of it. What if I didn’t get started again?
I saw Michael on 5th Avenue and made it into Central Park. Finally, the finish line was in sight, but there was no joy in it. A little bit of relief, but overall… meh. My time? 4:40 something. I didn’t even check my watch. Instead, I joined the walking dead and shuffled my way out of the park. I even thought about skipping the finisher’s medal because I didn’t feel I really earned it.
Processing it all
Rationally, I understand why this happened, but I still needed to work through it emotionally. I fell into a deep sleep abruptly last night and then had a dream that I was running and people were yelling negative things at me from the sidelines. Then I tripped over a hose that was in my path, which resulted in me kicking my feet and waking up. I started to cry. Why is this %&*%# sport so difficult for me?
This is what happens when you don’t respect the marathon. As much as it sucked, and it did suck, I learned a valuable lesson out there yesterday. For me, the marathon has to be the main thing. Never again will I run a marathon as a “B” or “C” race. It will either be the main thing or I’ll sit it out and cheer on my friends. And I don’t plan to run one again until I feel I can commit the energy to it to run it in less than 4 hours. And for goodness sake, I need to figure out this nausea thing!!
It wasn’t all terrible, of course. I met a guy from Chicago who was making a comeback to the marathon after 10 years. It was his first NYC. We chatted away in our corral. I saw so many friends on the course and received such support from them. And Michael ran quite well, all things considered. I’m really proud of him. My OBGYN qualified for Boston in her first marathon since college. My tri coach ran his first marathon in a respectable time. An American woman, Molly Huddle, made the podium for the first time in 2010 in her marathon debut. Gwen Jorgenson, US Olympic champ in Rio, ran the race in a speedy 2:41. And so many other people I know had great times and made themselves proud.
Very tactically, I have some plans (of course!) 🙂
- Make an appointment with a sports nutritionist to see if we can get to the bottom of my digestive issues. I’m going to come up with a plan so that I can try a few new things in training next time and see what “sticks” because this is not fun!
- Take some time off. I’m going to take a week to recover from my long slog to 26.2 – woohooo!
- Focus on strength training in the off-season. I think we can all agree that I’m not a natural marathoner. I didn’t hit the genetic lotto for this sport, but I do love making progress against myself. And there’s something about endurance sports that is appealing. There are so many lessons I’ve learned through the adversity I’ve created for myself in running. To make better progress and fall in love with endurance sports again, I plan to build some strength in my core, hips and butt. Lifting will also be a nice change of pace for me. I always feel so strong and powerful when I incorporate weight training into my routine. I’m really looking forward to it.
- I’m giving myself the freedom to explore other forms of exercise this winter, too. I think that yoga could be really restorative. I might dabble in Pilates for core strength or get back to the pool.
- In the spring, I may add in some running and slowly build my base for a fall marathon. It will depend on how I’m feeling and what inspires me.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear about your NYC marathon experience. I hope you were one of the runners who had a great day out there. Either way, congratulations on your finish!