Yesterday I ran a little local New York City road race and came within 50 seconds of a new PR.
You came within 50 seconds of your 3:51:51 Marine Corps Marathon PR despite New York City’s infamously challenging hills and last week’s illness? That’s wonderful! You may be thinking. Even Meb had to walk!
Oh, um, no, I came within 50 seconds of my half marathon PR yesterday during the first half of the race. Which, in case you’d forgotten, was a full marathon.
Or, in other words, I exploded out of the gate, zoomed over the Verrazano Bridge, hightailed it through Brooklyn and crossed the 13.1-mile marker in Greenpoint at an impressive 1:50:52 chip time, or just seconds slower than my half marathon PR recorded earlier this fall in Central Park.
When I passed my friends and family at the base of the Pulaski Bridge, I was positively flying.
Unfortunately, Newton’s first law apparently does not apply to marathon runners, and this object in motion was unable to maintain the sub-8:30 pace during the second half of the race that had propelled me from Staten Island to Queens in the first. In all my excitement high-fiving strangers and tearing with emotion and WOOing at every spectator who yelled my name in those first three boroughs, pacing myself kind of went by the wayside. That is, until I hit the brutal ascent of the 59th Street Bridge and realized there was nothing – and I mean nothing – left in the tank. Don’t believe me? Just check out this brutally telling graph of my race pace. Ouch.
Hello, I’m a textbook example of how not to run a road race. Nice to meet you.
But let’s backtrack a little. The morning started with a 5 a.m. alarm (or 6 a.m. alarm, thankyouverymuch daylight savings) and a train-ferry-bus ride to the starting villages at the base of the Verrazano Bridge. Donned in my coolest throw-away warm-up gear, I made friends with a fellow first-time NYC marathoner and we passed the pre-race hours waiting in porta-potty lines and admiring the veteran runners’ ingenuity. Runner using a pool float as a mattress, I salute you.
By 9:30, I was ushered into my corral, and at 10:05, my wave was making our way across the starting line as New York, New York blared over the PA system and the skyline herself towered in the distance. I’m not usually one to cry at sentimental things like when Simba realizes his father lives on in him or when Forrest sees Lt. Dan’s magic legs for the first time (cue waterworks), but I may have teared up as I stepped onto that bridge and knew I was on my way to completing an event that’s been at the top of my bucket list since 2011. I can’t wait to see MarathonFoto’s attractive snapshots of my frozen face contorted in happy sobs at Mile 1. That’s bound to be one for the scrapbook.
The bridge itself was uneventful save for a brutal side cramp, two circling helicopters and the most breathtaking views of the city you’ve ever seen (ok, fine, it was eventful), but the real fun started when we took those first steps onto solid land. “Welcome to Brooklyn!” the spectators’ banners cried. “Run like you stole something!”
If you’ve ever looked at an NYC subway map, you might think Brooklyn is a quaint little borough spanning about the same area as Central Park. Listen up, kids, it’s time someone told you the truth: the MTA lies. Brooklyn is vast, and the next 12 miles all took place within this wonderfully boisterous and diverse collection of neighborhoods. From the church ladies in Bay Ridge to the Park Slope Yuppies, the streets of my favorite borough were packed several bodies deep and the excitement was palpable. I knew I should have been keeping myself at the 8:45 to 9:00 pace I’d been targeting for the first few miles, but as I high-fived hands and blew kisses like a celebrity, I was simply unable to rein in the energy. Miles 1 through 7 flew by, and before I knew it, I was in front of the 3:45 pace group. Whoops.
That should have been a sign to slow down, since I was targeting more of a 3:55 pace, but the roar of the crowds and the knowledge that my people were waiting at Brooklyn’s last corner propelled me forward at a dangerously unsustainable clip. I tore through Williamsburg, turned down Greenpoint Ave., spotted my crowd and barreled through like a rockstar.
Ten minutes and two bridge-climbs later, I hit a wall.
Previously when I’d pictured myself running the NYC marathon, I imagined I’d come off the 59th St. Bridge into Manhattan and feel the swell of energy that would push me through to the end. But while I was excited to see a friendly face (and dog) around mile 17 and was doubly excited for the energy gels they were giving away at mile 18, I’d lost my exhilaration – and stamina – by the time I’d landed in my home borough. I realize the signs along the race course were true: “No one said it would be easy; they said it would be worth it” and “If a marathon was easy, they’d call it your mom,” but as I entered Manhattan, I couldn’t help feeling how HARD the whole thing suddenly seemed. One sign in particular rang true: “I bet this seemed like a good idea four months ago.”
I never doubted I’d finish the race, especially after doing some self-inventorying and deciding that none of my foot pain or soreness was debilitating, but I knew 3:50 to 3:55 was probably off the table (and the 3:45 pace group was well out of sight). However, I thought a sub-4:00 might still be in the cards, especially given all the time I’d (foolishly) banked at the beginning. So I hunkered down, ate anything I could get my hands on, guzzled Gatorade and pushed myself through the Bronx, up that brutal Fifth Avenue climb and into Central Park.
Where – surprise! – my spectators had popped up for an unexpected hello!
At this point, I had only two miles to go and I was back on my home turf – the park loop – so I knew I had it in the bag. I plowed ahead, sprinted down 59th Street, turned back into the park and crossed the finish line as the clock struck 3:58:34. I was then ushered down a finishers’ shoot, wrapped in a heat sheet, adorned with a medal, given a bag of food and forced to walk a full mile north before being allowed to exit the park. Great planning, ING. Marathoners love walking the full length of the city after a four-hour jog.
I finally maneuvered my way out of the park, collected my sweet post-race cape and located my parents, roommate and boyfriend in Columbus Circle, where they all kindly hugged me before pointing out how gross my salt-streaked face was. One BLT, two poptarts and a bagel later, I was passed out before 8 p.m. in the city that never sleeps.
Everyone’s been texting and e-mailing to find out about the race, so here’s the recap: When it comes to NYC 2013, I went out too fast, positive split, broke all the rules of a successful run and didn’t even come close to recording a new PR. And if that’s not enough, today I feel like I was hit by a freight train.
So was it worth it?
This bad boy says hell yes.
New Yorkers, how was your race day? Spectators, thanks so much for coming out. Runners, I feel your pain. Literally. And Meb, I love you more than ever, man. 2014’s your year. And maybe mine.