NYC Marathon – 6th (and final) World Marathon Major!

Well, I finally did the NYC Marathon!! This has been a long time coming so it was exciting to finally be in NY and to get my bib number knowing it was going to actually happen. I felt like it was never going to happen, so being in the city made it real and I was a little nervous. My training had been really, really good leading up to this. My long runs were fast, I mixed hills in, and felt awesome. This race was a dream for so long. I was in the Big Apple!

I arrived on Halloween evening, went to see the Village parade that night, and then went to expothe expo first thing on Friday morning. Everyone else thought to get there at the same time too but once they opened at 10am it flowed pretty well. Other than it being fast through the bib and T-shirt area, I wasn’t that impressed with the expo. For such a large race, it was small and didn’t see much that I cared about. So I was in and out pretty quickly. I did say hello to the folks at the Abbott WMM booth and found out I was the only one from expo 1Sacramento, that they knew of so far, that would receive a 6 Star Medal so that was neat.

I was invited by Abbott WMM to participate in the Opening Ceremonies on Friday later in the afternoon. There were supposed to be 50 of us representing Abbott WMM, but it was very disorganized getting things situated at the start of this event (not by Abbott but by the NYRR and volunteers) and was very chaotic and only about 10-15 of us found each other. To be honest, the Opening Ceremonies wasn’t all that great. Maybe because we were one of the first groups to walk out and then we had to opening ceremonystand for a long time waiting for all the countries to come through and it was quite a long time standing there in the cold. Also, the security wouldn’t let us out of the corralled area to leave. I think next time, I would not participate and would rather watch.

I tried not to do a ton of walking but it’s hard not to. It’s such a walkable and vibrant city. I had dinner with Alison and her husband Rob on Friday night and it was great to catch up with them. I also did the compression boots at Nike two days in a row before the race (and then again on Marathon Monday). The day before the race I didn’t get out of bed til like 10am which was really nice. I almost never get to do that at home, so I was relaxed and stress free before the race. Met up with Brittany and her mom at the Nike store. Then I had some delicious NY pizza and salad to carb up the night before.

The morning of the race, a group of us from the hotel (I stayed at The Belvedere Hotel near Times Square) walked to the NY Library area where the buses were. It was quite the process. We left the hotel at 5:40am and didn’t get to the athlete village til about 8:40am. I was glad to not be on a ferry and be cold and also it allowed for less time sitting in the cold at the start. The Village had quite a bit going on. Dunkin Donuts had coffee, donuts and the coveted beanie, which we put in my gear check bag so we could keep them. There was hot cocoa and tea, bananas, Honey Stinger waffles, bagels. Lots of porta potties and the three different colored corrals with their own restrooms as well. Lots of security also. I met Jeewon, from Arizona, in the bus line and we chatted on the bus, and had been hanging out with Stephanie from the UK as well, so we all stuck together until our waves left.start of race 1

As each wave started a real canon went off and when I heard the first one I practically pooped my pants. They even announced and warned you it was coming but I don’t think anything can prepare you for that sound. It made my heart hurt. My body shook and I got nervous. It took me back to the videos of the Boston Bombing and made me think “what if’s”. It was scary each time. I can honestly say I didn’t like that part.

When it was my wave’s turn, we walked up onto the Verrazano bridge. While we were waiting to start, they got us pumped up and the DJ played some pretty fun music and we basically had a start of race 2dance party up there. It was pretty fun! When the canon went off and it was go time, we ran across the top of the bridge and it was an amazing site of so many people! Like…SO MANY! The helicopter flew low to film us and we all waved. It was a long run across but those two miles went by fast. And then I lost my favorite running gloves right after the bridge. My 30th anniversary CIM gloves fell out from my waistband. I was sad but kept going. And then we got to see soooooo many spectators along the course the entire way! It was incredible.

I felt really good and fast for quite a while. I never was able to get to a pacer before the start, so I just did it solo. At some point I put my headphones on so I could focus. I knew I was going faster than I wanted to so I needed to change my pace. It’s always funny how you can have an amazing training season and then your race can go to shit. It didn’t really get that bad but I surely thought I would finish faster, but honestly, it’s totally ok.

So it was around mile 14-15, going across the Queensboro bridge, that things changed for me. It got tough there and that bridge gave me a few booty kicks. I guess I’m a dummy and didn’t realize bridges gradually go up and over, and not straight across. Haha! But it seemed a lot of runners struggled here as well. And then not too long after that around mile 17 or so was when the gps went out on my watch. I had a feeling this could happen with the buildings and the masses of people. And it never came back on and I just didn’t want to mess with it, so I ran the rest of the race not knowing what my lame pace was. It was kind of bad and good at the same time. It allowed me to try not to think about my pace and just focus on getting to the finish and soak in what I could. But it’s also annoying not knowing your pace and if you can perhaps push yourself harder. Either way, getting my 6 star medal was my priority no matter how I finished. Even if I crawled.

But the crowds and spectators are what keep you going. SO. MANY. And so many great signs along the course. Except for the one at mile 5 that said “You’re almost there!”…the guy next to me wanted to punch that person out because it made no sense. Lol! Aid stations were a plenty and flowed pretty well except for at one, a guy in front of me kind of abruptly stopped and I hit his shoe (heel) with mine and he turned around and got mad at me. It was a simple mistake. And I said “Sorry man, there’s 50,000 people on the course. Get over it.” And he freaked out on me so I just kept running.

One sign that I remember most was the one that said  “#Lastdamnbridge”. I honestly thought that lady was screwing with us. I found out later she’s out there every year. I hadn’t been counting the bridges and I couldn’t remember where we were at that point and I had a conversation in my head about whether she was lying and screwing us over and messing with our heads. Marathon thoughts for ya. Hahaha!!

The last few miles were a little tough. The crowds were awesome but my quads were taking a beating. Luckily so many spectators see your name on your bib or shirt and they just yell your name to keep you going. I remember an older male runner saw the sign on my back (it said “Cheer me on, I’m going for my 6th Star TODAY”) and gave me a pat on my back to help push me and give me some encouragement. It was really nice of him in that moment and I appreciated it. Right before we turned into Central Park, I remember the strong smell of urine. Like, SO STRONG. I don’t know why. I have no idea if there were porta potties close by or what, but it was awful.

Going into the finish area was a huge relief, after feeling slightly bummed about my time. I saw the amazing finish arch and all the people and the flags and was so excited to be finally finishing. It’s pretty spectacular going through that last area to the finish. After you cross and get your finisher medal, which is not immediately after you cross, then you get your space blanket and just have to keep walking forever to get your poncho or gear check bag. I was told that the poncho option was better because you get it first but I opted for the gear check so I could bring clothes to change into right away since I didn’t have family or friends with me to bring this stuff to me. But the poncho area was just as long to get to as well. And while it does have fleece inside I was still ok with not getting it. If you really want the poncho, they do have an option to buy it for $40 at the expo, so you could have your gear check bag and stuff the fleece in for later.

thumbnail_B9389AE2-3E89-4912-B7FF-7A24CF295CDDBut before I continued on to gear check, I had to get my World Marathon Major medal since I FINALLY completed my sixth major at this race! This was the most exciting part of the race for me as I’ve been dreaming about this for so long. The team with Abbott congratulated me, gave me my medal, took pictures, and then asked me to step aside for a minute to do an interview with another female runner who just finished at the same time. We were two of about 160 runners who received our medal that day. Only about 6,500 people in the world have gotten this medal so far and I am one of about 1,500 Americans.

thumbnail_A49E38D2-2D63-4AF5-8E34-D09C55BBEC39I was overwhelmed with happiness at the end of this race. It wasn’t just that it had been 10 years working toward this goal, but it was also in New York City, on my own home turf, so it felt even more special. Not a lot of people on the street know what the World Marathon Majors are, but many runners did and congratulated me at the end of the race. It was nice to feel so special for the day.

finish dinnerAfter the race, and after I sat down and put on my clean, warm clothes, I walked to the Patagonia store not far from the finish to meet Rob, Alison’s husband, to wait for her to finish. As I arrived, there was a finish dinner 2table right in the front of the store with donuts and apple cider and I just stood there and looked at it. I’m sure I was drooling. I asked what they were for and if I could have one, and the guy working there said “of course!” Oh my, they were so good!! After Alison finished, we had a beer at a bar, and then we walked to Motorino for pizza and also had the most delicious sparkling red. It was a great night after the race! And if you know me, I don’t go to bed anytime soon after a race, so I went back to my hotel, showered and went out to a bar around the corner with my hotel roomie, Sue, and her other running buddies that ran with the NYPD. She ended up buying me several glasses of champagne. Oy! At around midnight, I think, I made my way back to the room and passed out after eating some popcorn and goldfish crackers.

six star finishersThe next day I had to meet with the group of six star finishers for a picture near the Tavern on the Green in Central Park. While I was walking through the city to Central Park and back, so many other runners were out wearing their New York City Marathon medal and saw that I was wearing this six star medal and congratulated me. A couple from Slovenia stopped me and were soooo excited to see it and asked me a bunch of questions. They told me that New York City was their first major and treated me like a celebrity, which was very cute, and then the gal wanted a photo with me with my medal. It’s so cool to see so many people around the world and people who dream of running the 6 majors as well.

medalsSo there you have it! I finally ran the NYC Marathon and it was a really fantastic weekend! My time wasn’t too bad, 3:51, but wasn’t what I was necessarily hoping for. But still, I am not dwelling on it because getting my 6 start medal was the most amazing part of the weekend. After 10 years, it was a long time to wait to see this happen, but I guess the universe wanted it to happen this way. I have met some really great runners and people along the way. I think that’s one of my favorite parts of “running to see the world”…meeting folks from all over the world with common interests and passions.These people have also become some of my greatest cheerleaders and friends.

The biggest question I get now is: What’s next?? People already asked me this after other adventures I have been on, but it’s somehow different. Part of me is sad this “challenge” is over; part of me is relieved. Part of me is excited for the next chapter; part of me has no idea what I am going to do. And that’s a strange feeling. By no means am I going to stop running marathons or stop running them all over the world. I have races in mind and other countries I want to see. My ultimate goal would be to run in every country on this planet, but that is a very long term goal. For now, maybe I’ll finish out the last two continents: Australia and Antarctica. I have no races set for 2020 so we will just see in time what happens. I don’t really have anything profound to leave with you other than just follow your dreams. I honestly didn’t think this “dream” would take this long, but perseverance and dedication finally made it happen.  So…dreams do come true!