After a night of little sleep- waking up every hour to check I hadn't missed my alarm/the start of the race, I got up a 5am, got into my marathon gear and headed to our hotel lobby. The less than helpful concierge the night before had suggested that 'I would just have to wait for breakfast to open at 7' and that it's OK 'because runners shouldn't eat before the marathon anyway', erm, right. I managed to buy a coffee, bagel, banana and some pretzels at the shop in our hotel and got a cab to another hotel where the bus would be leaving from.
The buses took us over the Verazzano-Narrows bridge, which we would shortly be running over. I think the buses leave earlier than the ferries, due to the closure of the bridge, which meant that I had nearly 2 hours to kill in the start village. There was a lot of security, with bag checks, body searches and confiscation of oversized items such as sleeping bags. It was a freezing morning, and I was very glad of my throwaway clothes, despite looking like a hobo. I was even laughed at in the queue for the portaloos for my dressing gown- by a man wearing a bin bag...
Zoe and I managed to meet up and huddle together and try to keep warm. After another visit to the portaloos, we made our way to the corrals. Wave 2 started at 10.05, with corrals closing strictly at 9.35 (if you missed this, you had to go back a wave!). You can go back a corral, but not forward, and our bibs were closely checked. There are loos in the corrals though, and a bit of room to strip off your layers, apply body glide, and nervously pace about.
Whilst in our corrals, we heard the National Anthem, and start of wave 1. Then it was our turn to remove our layers and walk towards the start line. For our start, Miss New York sang 'America the Beautiful', before listening to 'New York, New York', the famous song that sends New York marathon runners over the start line. It was quite emotional, and the realisation that we were about to run one of the most famous marathons in the world set in. We had both put 4hr finishes as our predicted time, so we were in quite a fast start, and Zoe decided to start a little further back, to stop going out too fast.
I shed my jumper (and almost instantly regretted it) and walked forwards to cross the start line. The first mile is along the bridge, all at a slight incline. The wind was howling through the bridge and I was freezing! Gia had sent over a pace plan for the race, and suggested trying to stick to 9.50min miles for the first 10 miles. Going over the bridge in a pack of runners with a strong wind felt really slow, and every time I looked at my Garmin, it was registering a 10 plus min mile. I decided right then to stop looking obsessively at my watch, and try to run on feel for the first few miles, and get into my stride.
The course gets harder as you go, so I knew the first half of my race was probably going to be faster than the rolling hills of the second half. I also knew that if I went out too fast I might hit the wall hard, like I did in London.
My garmin and my official mile splits are a little different, so I'm going with official splits.
First 5K- average 9.19 pace
The crowds started to build after the 3 mile marker, and this really pushed me onwards. I had written my name on my top, and I loved hearing people cheering me on! I was running without music, taking in the crowd, course and feeling so so good. My feet were finally thawing out too- not sure if that was a good or bad thing!
I took my first Gu gel at mile 5, and couldn't believe it had come so soon. I was running with a handheld bottle, so could skip through the water stations early on in the race, with the plan to fill up when I needed later on.
10K- 9.15 average pace
I had sped up a tiny bit during the next 3 miles with the support of the crowds, and the energy gel. I remember going through the 10K and thinking, whoah this is kind of fast, but I still felt great, and knew that time banked now would mean extra time I could take on the hills later. (So, not following Gia's advice, or the advice of every other marathoner, ever, well done me.)
I cruised through the next few miles, sticking to the right hand side of the course, where I knew my parents would be at mile 9, with Union Jack balloons! I really recommend running to one side, there is so much more support for the runners at the side of the road, than in the middle, and I didn't find the camber of the road too bad.
I saw my parents and felt great- the balloons were such an brilliant idea, I could see them from quite a distance. Plus my Mum said that lots of Brits going past whooped at them!
Mile 8- 9.14
Mile 9- 9.15
Mile 10- 9.15
Doing the YMCA with the spectators (very odd filter on my phone, don't know what it is or how that happened)!
Took another Gu gel at mile 10, still feeling awesome. During these miles you run through the Orthodox Jewish area, which is notoriously quiet. It was a real boost to leave that area and enter Brooklyn where the support was amazing!
Mile 12- 9.18
Mile 13- 9.19
I was slowing down ever so slightly over these next few miles, but not by much! I ran through the half way point, and noticed that I'd crossed in my second fastest ever half! 2.02.05. This is when I started to worry a little that I'd gone out too fast. Whilst that's 10 minutes slower than my Half Marathon PB, it's still about 10 mins faster than I should have crossed the halfway point at!
I saw my parents again around this point, although I only just spotted them. They'd moved to the other side of the road!! It makes such a difference having supporters along the way, hearing songs that remind you of friends, signs that make you laugh, and people cheering your name. One observation I made was that during the run, when I was smiling I got more cheers than when I wasn't smiling- and cheers make you smile even more!!
Mile 13 took us up a bit of an incline on the Pulaski Bridge- the first of many in the second half of the race. We were treated to an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline as we crossed, which slightly made up for the hill.
Mile 14 is through Queens, and the crowds are brilliant. It psychs you up for the slog of the mile uphill over the bridge at mile 15.
The noise and the crowds as we rounded the corner off the bridge did not disappoint. They were 3-4 deep along the roads, with banners, signs and music. I could see thousands of runners out ahead of me, and I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed to be part of something so huge. We were over halfway now, but the mental and physical battle was only just beginning.
Tom and his family were just after mile 18, on the right hand side. They were standing on the road, in an area with not many spectators, so I ran over and high fived Tom before grinning and running off. I said that it was hard but I wasn't feeling too awful!! I had planned to put my headphones in if I needed them after seeing Tom, and was really glad I'd brought them. I put on one of his playlists and the music, coupled with the great atmosphere pushed me forwards.
Mile 20 was where I hit the wall during the London Marathon, so I was nervous that my body and mind would fall apart at this point again, and with no Emily to pull me through- I was on my own. I had taken a Gu gel at 19 whilst still on First Avenue, then the course had taken us up and over another bridge- Willis Avenue Bridge- to get to Mile 20. I was feeling strong, and excitedly could tell from my Garmin that I was going to make my 4.24 time goal, if all went to plan for the final 10K.
Miles 21 and 22 are in the Bronx, I remember some crowds and just counting down the miles, unable to believe I was so close to the finish and still feeling great. During my 22 mile training run, I hadn't felt awful at any point, and I was thanking the stars, Gia and my legs for getting me around the course feeling so strong.
And then I hit mile 23.
I wasn't prepared for the incline. It's gradual, but it's there and it's a mile long.
I knew I was seeing Tom and his family between 96th and 97th, about half way along. I looked up to see I was at 116th- OK only 10 streets to go until I saw them, I could do it.
Or if you're not running a marathon, and you can correctly add, it would be 20 streets. When I realised my mistake I was crushed, 20 streets to battle on an incline. It was hurting a lot by this point, everything ached. I wanted to stop to walk so badly. I saw Tom's Dad from a little way off, and I lost it. I burst into tears.
I picked up the pace as I ran past them, knowing that if I slowed down to speak to them that I might not start going again. One foot in front of the other, up the hill. Then I thought of everyone following my journey, my friends that had come out running and supported me during my training, those at home following my progress, and decided
'One day I won't be able to do this, today is not that day.'
Mile 23- 9.30
Looking at my watch, with just over 2 miles to go, I worked out that if I could keep a sub 10min mile pace I could maybe, just maybe, I could finish with a sub 4.10. This was way beyond my wildest dreams, but I just went for it. I gave it everything I had. I'd planned on taking my music out for Central Park, but knew that I needed it, and didn't want to waste time faffing with the headphones.
I passed a lot of people during those final two miles. Many were walking or simply slowing down- the 24 previous miles having taken their toll. Whilst running I felt like I really upped my pace, however my splits suggest otherwise!
Mile 24- 9.32
Coming back into Central Park (you come out for a little, then head back in) felt great and terrible at the same time. With 800 yards to go, I started nervously glancing at my watch.
Mile 26- 9.33
400 yards to go and it flicked to 4.09...
My arms hurt so badly I could barely raise them over my head for a victorious finish line photo.
4.09.49- 45 minutes faster than my first marathon. 20 minutes faster than my C goal. 15 minutes faster than my B goal, 10 minutes faster than my A goal.
I was so thrilled, I quickly received my medal, posed for a photo then started the long walk to meet up with my parents. I rang Tom, and once again burst into tears, neither of us quite able to take in my time! My legs felt rather wobbly, so I tucked into the goody bag on the walk back, wrapped in my foil and wishing I had some more layers on! If you'd opted not to drop a bag, you were given a fleecy poncho that I was very, very glad of. As the lady wrapped it round me, my arms unable to move, I was overcome with emotion, I tried to say thank you to all of the volunteers around me, knowing that they help make this day so special.
Thank you to my parents, Tom, his parents, 2.09 events (cannot recommend them enough) and to all of you who have followed this journey, pushed me to reach my goals, inspired me, run with me, cheered me on and most importantly, listened to every boring bit of my training! And congratulations to Zoe and her boyfriend, Darren on their new PBs! xxx