It is sweetest when it is all over and done with. The soreness has peaked and is beginning to slowly recede, so it is time to share the story of a 26.2 mile journey that began on a windy bridge in Staten Island.
The day began on Staten Island with a few hours of relaxing and chatting while dressed in soccer mom-looking sweats and a NY Yankees poncho. In case you were living under a rock and missed it, the plan was for EG and I to run together this year, a decision we made many months ago. As we were cruelly locked out of Wave 1 by a not-well-advertised 8:55 closing time, we stood around for an extra half hour before the race as we waited for Wave 2 to start at 10:10am. Looking back, I blame that for all that went wrong during the race. Ha. If only.
The race began on what has been called "The greatest start in sports" on the Verrazano bridge which was windy and chilly and strewn with discarded clothes from runners who went before us. Don't they know your clothes cant be donated if you toss them on the bridge? The gall. So off we went on the uphill climb with incredible people all around us. There was a blind runner to our right, a double amputee in front of us and just the buzz of adrenaline and excitement all around. Despite the chill we tackled the uphill and the crowds in 8:45 and whizzed down towards Brooklyn in 7:29. A lil quick, but we quickly settled down, cranking out the next few miles all around 8:10 despite the urge to surge ahead in the excitement of the wonderful and amazing Brooklyn. I swear it, half a million folks in Brooklyn yelled out my name as I ran by, I wish I could have hugged them all, but there was work to be done. Mile 5 brought a glimpse of my hubby and Mom cheering us on. They snapped this awesome pic:
As we made our way into Queens we were hit with more great cheers and excitement and even more folks screaming my name. I joked at one point that they'd probably seen my article on DNAInfo.com and that's why they were cheering. It had nothing to do with the giant letters across my chest, definitely not. After one particularly long string of "Go Amy" cheers, I goofed around and said, "I'd like to thank my many fans..." The miles were getting to my brain and making me goofy. In Queens my eyes were peeled for TK and also for Josh who we expected to see, and thank goodness we saw them- it was a nice boost before the big bridge. As we neared the bridge I remember hoping that there wouldn't be a huge pile of shit on the divider in the center of the bridge this year like there was in '08. Tragically, that is one of my most vivid memories from my first marathon. Yep, gross. Luckily there was no poo this time and the bridge felt great, it felt like we breezed over and down into Manhattan. I suggested a quick pee break at the bottom of the bridge and EG let me keep my promise of not peeing on myself.
Crossing back into Manhattan and beginning the schlep through Harlem was where things got hard. Not like "hitting the wall" hard, but "I'm going to barf all over" hard. I was torn between barfing and hoping it would make me feel better and sucking it up. In the end I didn't barf, but it was very touch and go there for a bit. Sipping water helped for a few minutes, but it always came back. We made a pit stop for EG somewhere along the way in the W100's and my legs tightened up immediately as I focused on not puking on the sidewalk. Damn, this point in the race was so much better in '08. Most of the UES is a blur as we made our way down 5th Ave towards my family and the Inwood Hill Runners and ultimately Central Park.
After we snagged some tangerine slices from my Mom at mile 23.25 we passed an enthusiastic Inwood Hill Runners crew just before entering Central Park. I was hurting. My legs didn't want to keep going, neither did my head. Can you see the anguish as I snag the tangerine from Mom's hand?
Trust me, I was in a BAD place. Luckily for me, I had EG by my side. She knew I was struggling without my saying a word and she started talking to me, encouraging me and just helping me push through the "I want to STOP" that was going through my head. I'm not sure what I would have done without her there, honestly. I mean it, I didn't care that I'd come 24 miles already and only had 2 to go, I had no desire to keep going. There was a small voice in the back of my head battling that louder voice, but without E's help, I may not have made it. I got an awful pain in my upper chest during mile 24 and I pictured myself keeling over with a heart attack (Don't worry, I knew the pain was not actually "chest pains" or I would have stopped.) Somehow she knew just what I needed to hear and she leaned close and just simply said "fight". Something snapped in my head and I began to see a little more clearly- we only had a mile to go!!! Mile 25 was relatively strong, we brought it back down to an 8:50 (from an embarrassing 9:32 mile 24) and passed quite a few people.
Entering the park was bittersweet, but looking back I think it was mostly sweet at the time, just bitter thinking about it now. I said "oh my god, I can't believe we made it here" and I meant it. As we ran along Central Park south I remember thinking that I was giving 100% with every CELL in my body. It was taking everything I had to finish. We crossed the line together at 3:46:54 and despite missing my goal by 11 minutes, I was elated. I got a huge 17 minute PR and I FINISHED without puking. Win, win, win.
While tons of folks have asked me "how did it go?!" the last few days my answer has varied. The runners I am close to know that I missed my A and B goals (3:35 and sub 3:40) but they know what it can be like to have a shitty day. Others hear my time and are out of their minds with excitement because they don't know anyone who has ever run that fast (or maybe far) before. Yesterday our building Super asked how it was and all I could think of was "it was long", what a lame answer. He was happy for me when he heard my time though. My own feelings about the 3:46 are mixed. Most of the time I'm happy with it, other times I'm bummed because I missed my goal, but that usually passes quickly. I do know that I received tons of really supportive emails, texts, phone calls, facebook messages and tweets over the last few days. Thank you all. I plan on relaxing this week and next (and the next) with my feet up, red wine in hand and a good book and cat in my lap. I'm no longer training for a marathon. Wahoo!
Good luck to my brother, Todd and his wife Heather who are running their first marathon in the Outer Banks this coming weekend! I'm really excited for them, they've been training hard and I'm sure it is going to pay off on Sunday. Congrats to all of the other 44,000 NYC marathon finishers, you rock! A special thanks, of course, to my awesome friend E who stuck by my side and made great company for the 26.2 mile journey. I couldn't have done it without you (nor would I have wanted to!)
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