That Time I Ran the NYC Marathon

It’s been a long time…but I actually have not forgotten about my blog. I think maybe I was purposefully avoiding it…. really avoiding this race recap. But here goes nothing…5 months later, in very broad terms about the race, and very specific terms about what I was going through, here is my recap of the NYC Marathon. Why? Because I blogged about all the training, and it needs a conclusion.  The NYC Marathon, and the Marathon Chapter of my life needs a final end.

I was originally set to fly into NYC on Wednesday, Nov 2 (before the Sunday, November 6 marathon) to get settled in American time, be early for packet pick up, relax with my friends, and be an utterly calm Zen Buddha master of life before race day. That didn’t happen. My MIL was moved to hospice the previous week so I changed my flight to half a week early (from Nov. 2 to October 28) and changed to fly into Chicago rather than NYC. (My return flight had always been from Chicago as I had plans to help my mother rehab hip surgery and spend time with my MIL post marathon.) I then spent the week in my hometown’s hospice, trying to support my husband and his family, trying to stay strong and sane while watching a loved one slip away, and selfishly, stressing about the marathon. I snuck away for a few runs but really wasn’t sure if I’d be running the NYC marathon or not. It wasn’t until Thursday evening that I bought a flight to NYC for the next evening (Friday). Sometime in the night Thursday, my MIL passed away.

 

My only picture at the expo.

I tried to support my in-laws the best I could on Friday and then got on a plane to NYC alone.   E had to return to Scotland for work as the funeral wasn’t going to be for another 2 weeks, and he hadn’t been home to Scotland in over 5 weeks (with work trips, a wedding, and being with his mother). It was a whirlwind of feelings I couldn’t process and I just trudged through like a zombie. I got to my brother’s Friday night, utterly exhausted, stressed, anxious. On Saturday morning I got up and got the bus to packet pick up. I had never been to a race expo alone (E has always been my rock…. I’ve never run a race without him cheering me on…ever). It was strange and exciting, but I was lonely and sad. I tried to put on a brave face and enjoy the experience, but I was numb.

 

That night my brother asked if I wanted to go out or pick up pizza- I opted for some chicken and boxed Mac n cheese. I talked to my brother about the schedule for Sunday, where he would be during the race, where I would meet him after. I texted my friends and cousin to arrange seeing them along my route. I stretched, and rolled, and hydrated. I took a xanex and went off to sleep at about 9pm.

I’m trying to remember the timeline of events of the morning of race day. Let me just tell you…. it was a long hucking day. My start time was 10:40am (I ended up missing my corral just by one so I think I started actually at 10:50 or 11). My ferry time was 8am. I think I left Hoboken to train to the World Trade Center stop at 6:40am. I then walked to the ferry…and almost missed it! Oppps! Once you depart from the ferry you are in line, standing, to get on busses that bus you to the start for over an hour. Probably closer to an hour and a half. Then once on a bus…. you are in the bus for about 30 minutes. Made only more excruciating if you have to pee. Which I did. And I mean, I REALLY had to pee. I almost bailed out on the bus. I was rocking back and forth and just trying not to piss my pants because that would make the upcoming 26.2 miles so very uncomfortable.

On the ferry, headed to Staten huckin’ Island

I made my way through this mob of people after about an hour and a half…it was miserable.

It takes so long on the bus (in part) because each bus needs to pull up at a specific spot where a mini police security team is set up. You exit the bus and immediately get metal detected, your bag searched, and possibly a small pat down. Once I get out of this I immediately darted behind a tree (honestly, about 6 yards from the bus door) and peed in someone’s yard. I had TP in my bag because it’ not my first rodeo. Thank god I managed to evade the police because after I did this…I watched another man try to do this and he was practically tackled by police mid-whipping out his junk because they want you to stay on the designated path in case he was going to pick up guns/bombs/heroine or whatever.

Let’s do this!

I then ran into my old co-worker from Qdoba. Who would’ve guessed the largest race in the world and I run into him. Admittedly, he was in a terrible mood. And I was super anxious. And we didn’t even get a picture. Nor did I get a picture when he passed me in Brooklyn ha! So I missed my corral, which was fine, just delayed the inevitable. And so there was some standing at the start of the Verrazano bridge, then there was the star spangled banner, and BOOM. Cannon fire and New York, New York streaming over the loud speakers.

Now my coach came up with very specific pacing for each mile. I created an AMAZING pace band from FindMyMarathon.com. Too bad it doesn’t do much good when your watch loses signal. But what’s worse is when you watch loses signal but you don’t know it and you’re sprinting to get your time knowing you are going way too fast but it’s too late and you want to hit that time on your watch. And then you get to mile 3 and your watch is saying you’re at about 2.3 miles. PROBLEMS. Math is not my strong suit either. So I knew I was too fast, but with all these different paces, there’s no way I could figure out and adjust as precisely. So I tried to stick to around 10:18 mile pace…and I did (even though I knew I was a few minutes early to every mile marker) until I couldn’t. Until I couldn’t push any more, and mentally and physically went from walking and running, from hysterically not being able to breath to solemn faced as I realized I missed my goal time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Highs and the Lows

So happy and naive….

  • Going over the Verrazano Bridge was exciting, sunny, and a bit windy. I tossed my gloves immediately. My first mile was a slower pace up the bridge and I was enjoying it, but when I was supposed to up my pace on the downhill my watch lost signal without telling me and I ended up sprinting ridiculously downhill until I get into Brooklyn and the crowds. I saw my mile marker was WAY off…and spent about 5 minutes stressing over it before decided to just try and maintain a 10:18 pace.
  • Brooklyn was amazing. So many people! This is the closest you’ll get to feeling like a professional athlete with hundreds of people yelling your name. My name was written on duct tape and I highly recommend you do the same. If I didn’t have my name on my shirt, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have finished.
  • Around mile 5 my headphones break. Just one of them. No sound comes out except crackling. So I am left running with one headphone in. Thank god there are 2 million spectators screaming my name because if there was a rural marathon I would have quit right then. Even that being said, there are a lot of points in the marathon that would have gone a lot better had I working headphones. I nearly always run with headphones…. especially mentally tough runs. My marathon playlist is an exact science to me. It takes weeks to perfect. I include motivational speeches at difficult parts (when I estimate I’d be on bridges, that last 3 miles). And with only one headphone, the NYC noise coming into my other ear is really too great for me to get an assist from my music.
  • I had most of my friends waiting for me in Brooklyn and they seriously made my day. I mean, I don’t even live in this city; I came to the race alone, and had 4 separate groups of people cheering me on. And can we talk about their enthusiasm and signage?

Mile 7 – On my right hand side was Katie Ly and her fiancé Jonathan

 

 Mile 8 – On my left hand side, my cousin Dylan and his girlfriend I basically ran straight across the road to see them as you can tell by my angle.

 

Mile 11 1/2 – My girlfriend Merima, who actually lives in San Fran, came into NYC to see me and a few of her friends who live there.

Miles 18 ½ and 23 – My brother and sister-in-law! My brother doesn’t do signs but he did suffer through the most crowded points of the marathon, see me at 2 different points, and then find me after the race…. which is no easy feat when there are 50K runners, 2 million spectators, and I am barely moving.

  • Pulaski Bridge into Long Island – Everyone talks about the Queensboro Bridge. How it’s the most soul crushing experience of the marathon. Too bad I had pretty much hit empty on the Pulaski Bridge – THAT I deliriously THOUGHT was the QUEENSBORO BRIDGE. What did that mean?   That I had a lot more race to run, and a hell of a lot of more hilly hardships than I anticipated ahead. I had to stop and walk for the first time on the Pulaski Bridge. But I kept my walk speedy and stayed optimistic because once I got through it, was giving myself a pat on the back that the Queensboro Bridge wasn’t too hard. A mile later I realize that I hadn’t yet met the Queensboro Bridge and doom and panic hit me.

    Over one of those damn bridges.

  • Queensboro Bridge – Eff this bridge. I walked lots.
  • Manhattan – The finish line is in Manhattan but don’t be fooled. You are nowhere near the end. You still have to head up to the Boogie Down after all.   And 10 miles.   I am disheartened trying to return to a jog/run I can maintain. I don’t think I can hit my goal time but there’s still a small chance. The crowds are mental but I’m really down on myself. Can’t let my brother and SIL see me walk though so I pick up a run again. I see them and hug them and they are super encouraging and enthusiastic…. I try and maintain my slow run up to the Willis Avenue Bridge.
  • The Willis Avenue Bridge is a baby bridge (in comparison) into the Bronx. The Bronx actually wasn’t as desolate as I thought it’d be. But by this point there was a lot of walking. It was realized my goal time had slipped away and I just wanted to sit and have myself a pity party.
  • Back into Manhattan and here is the worst part. Worse than that stupid Queensboro Bridge. You’re running down 5th Avenue for the next 3 or so miles at an incline. Sure, it’s not a huge incline, but it’s enough of an incline to break you. I am walking tons. I see my brother and Carly again before I head into Central Park. Of course I make sure they see me “running” but I don’t think anyone would really call it that. They later tell me how they thought I had looked good the first time they saw me around mile 18, but when they saw me now around mile 23 I looked pretty broken. Hey, I’m just surprised they thought I looked good at mile 18. I have lost my goal time, and now I am just trying to pick my sorry self up the ground and beat my Paris Marathon time.
  • Central Park – is a lot of uphill, but some rolling hills and with that at least means some downhill. The park doesn’t have a load of spectators but the ones that do save me.   There is one man on my right, he’s a few yards in front of me and he sees me struggling. He’s looking me right in my eyes as he’s yelling, “Come on Lauren! This is what you trained for! You know you got this! You’re almost home Lauren. Think of your training!! You can do this!” For a moment, I thought this man must know me. He did not.
  • Central Park South – a wee stretch of road where the spectators are mental and you’re almost home free. I’m really trying to turn it up here.

  • Finish line – eerily quiet. They charge money to sit here and watch the elites finish so by the time I finish it’s totally empty. Sucks a bit.

I cross the finish line and everything I’ve tried to mentally muscle through for the last 5 hours, no 36 hours, actually 4 months takes over. I am at a point of hysterical crying that a volunteer grabs me, takes me to the side and hugs me telling me, “You did great Lauren, you did it.” I am so thankful for this volunteer but at the same time thinking, “Man, if you only knew.”

Done whimpering….I have survived.

I zombie shuffle through the maze to exit the marathon. I have a calm, collected weep going on, I’m tired but know if I stop I’ll never move again, I’m cold and I’m hungry. The sun is almost all the way gone. I talk to Daniel and when he finds out I’m not through the maze yet we change our meet up location to one closer to me. I get to the road and am looking for whatever street. I can’t function so I ask a police officer if I’m headed in the right direction. He says yes…but then asks, “Are you alright miss? Do you want me to come with you? Is someone meeting you?”

We end up taking the subway all the way back to Hoboken…the Uber fees are sky high and hey, what’s another couple miles of walking. Crammed in like sardines with a load of other runners crinkling in our foil blankets. Daniel thinks he’s funny complaining about how his feet hurt from spectate-ing, probably because he knows all the runners are too tired to punch him in his smug face haha.

I’m actually feeling better. Get home, shower, put some mousse in my hair and we all head out the door again back to the city for a dinner with my cheering section. Daniel can’t believe I am making it out the door again, but what’s the point of running 26.2 if you can’t celebrate. It ends up being a perfect night…everyone drinks too much, the food is amazing, we’re the loudest table in the place, and I’m pretty sure everyone of had tears in their eyes at one point from laughing so hard. It was definitely what I needed.

Given the fact I had just run a marathon and hadn’t actually sat down since 8 am….I look pretty good!

 

Just last week I had a friend ask me about the NYC Marathon because they were offered a charity spot to run it. It’s really hard for me to separate all the personal shit I was going through, and that affected my race from the race itself. I think the NYC Marathon was the biggest challenge I’ve taken on in my life. I was 48 hours out from my MIL dying, I didn’t have my husband by my side, I was emotionally and physically exhausted from international fights and hospital chairs, the torn labrum in my hip had caused me terrible discomfort throughout training and I knew that this had to be my last marathon. My headphones broke, I missed my goal time, and I walked. On top of what everyone experiences there- it’s ONE TOUGH COURSE! But hey, not only did I finish…I beat my Paris Marathon time.

NYC: 4:48:58

Paris: 4:54:38

4 Comments

  1. Barb

    Good on you! You finished AND beat your Paris time! I am often in awe with your amazing energy and honest, funny optimism. So sorry for the loss of your MIL. Hope your own mom is doing well. Your blog has helped me make this expat transition easier, more than you’ll ever know. Congrats again!
    – An expat living in Glasgow

    Reply
    1. Lauren (Post author)

      Oh my gosh- thank you so much for your kind words! They mean so much to me, really. And I’m glad I was able to help- that’s why I started this blog..and why I’m getting back to it!

      Reply
  2. Rhona // redwinerunner.co.uk

    Great write up! Well done on your finish and your PB; when you’ve got life shit going on in the background, focussing on doing well in a long distance race can be so much tougher.
    It’s one of my bucketlist dreams to do the NYC marathon. I love the small Scottish races which are so personal, but there’s something about a big city race which just turns the whole experience up to 11. I eagerly await my first American marathon in Chicago this year!

    Reply
    1. Lauren (Post author)

      Ah Chicago!!! Let me know if you’d like an email with all my recommended restaurants and tips. I’ll also start sending the good vibes for you that it won’t be hot….you never know there. I never even attempted to run Chicago because I’d have to train in the summer there and I don’t deal well with the heat. But if I ever get my hip surgery that would be the marathon I do. And who doesn’t love a flat course?! So exciting for you!!

      Reply

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