Thursday, November 10, 2011

Race Report: The ING NYC Marathon - Part 2

So there I was, conflicted about how to proceed and very fidgety. I couldn't stop scanning the crowd behind me in an attempt to calculate how long it might take for the group to catch me. Or alternatively, how slowly I should start in order to meet up with them. Neither conclusion seemed appealing, so I decided to wing it and hoped that I would be able to stay just in front of the group.

Another dilemma I had was what to do with my phone. It's recently been losing charge alarmingly fast and it became evident early in the morning that this would pose a problem. I woke up around 6 and the phone was at 100%. In an effort to conserve battery life, I turned off almost all background apps except for the clock and marathon tracking apps. I started listening to music on my way to the Subway but quickly turned it off because I realized it would drain the phone even faster! By the time I reached the start line at 10:40am, the phone was at 53%. I turned off everything in the background except for the tracking app and started the race without music. As a side note, I don't know if I'd ever raced without music. I certainly hadn't run an entire marathon without it, and yet that's what I found myself deciding to do.

The gun went off and the pack moved pretty quickly in comparison to other races I've done. It didn't take long at all to cross the start line. I found myself confronted with the majesty of the Verrazano Bridge. It might be the most breathtaking part of the race because you've just started, everything is exciting, the views are gorgeous, and all the runners around you are just as thrilled. I quickly lost the other woman with whom I'd been searching for the pace group. I suppose I should have taken that as a hint to go a little slower, but I did not. I could feel that I was running faster than I should but I was afraid of slowing down too much, so I decided to keep up my pace until I couldn't anymore. I'd learn later that I was actually very consistent over the first half of the race.

The first two miles of the marathon are the bridge and the next six go straight up 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. In the last two years, my friends Kim and Szymon lived in Bay Ridge and always came to cheer at the beginning of the 4th Avenue stretch. They've since moved, but I pretended they were there anyway! The next cheer spot I had to look forward to was 4th Avenue and 11th Street, where small contingent of Team Lipstick members led by Laura was waiting with signs and enthusiastic high fives. I made a game of counting down the blocks until that spot and I made every five or so a mini-milestone.

 Oh hey Kim!

After that, there were a few places where I knew people might be. Geri's boyfriend Dan was on the course too and she mentioned that he would be standing at the 8 mile turn. I took a very wide, slow turn to increase my chances of spotting him but still had no luck. The 5 or so miles between 4th Avenue and the Pulaski Bridge were pleasant. I saw a lot of clever signs, lots of cheering and music, even a couple dressed as a pair of running shoes! Also, I decided to turn my phone off altogether at this point. At around mile 10, my battery was at 29% and I knew it would be dead by the end of the race at that rate.

The Pulaski Bridge comes about halfway through and it was at this point that the 4:10 pace group caught and passed me. Admittedly, this made me nervous because I didn't think I had a 4:10 marathon in me. The fact that I'd kept up that pace for 13 miles worried me a little bit. Who knows? Maybe it was just a mental thing.

A couple miles up from the Pulaski, Jared was supposedly waiting to pace Geri for the last 10 miles of the race. I'd hoped to see him as I passed but must have missed him.

The Queensborough Bridge is a rough run in later miles of a race. It's a rough run in general, but even worse on already tired legs. Still, though, the view is beautiful, there's usually a good breeze blowing through, and lots of spirited yelling can be heard. Even better, the entrance into Manhattan is exhilarating. Intrepid spectators perch themselves on upper sections of the exit ramp where runners pour out and loop back onto 1st Avenue. The crowds are four and five people deep and their cheers are thunderous. I get a little emotional just thinking about it.

Upon reentering Manhattan, I turned my phone back on, not realizing that the tracking app wasn't working anyway. The entry onto 1st Avenue marks the beginning of a straight 3 and a half mile stretch to the Bronx. But again, I had friends to look forward to! Michelle, Jessica and Tom from my sketch comedy group (The Chupacabra Conspiracy, FYI) were cheering at a corner in the high 70's and 1st. I spotted them and, after a flurry of hugs and a quick picture, was back on my way. They were holding signs and I don't even remember what they said because I couldn't even think about it. Beyond the fact that they were there and I was really glad to see them, most details just weren't registering. I think I remember Tom saying "You are very sweaty" and trying to avoid my wet, stinky hug but he conceded in the end. Sorry, Tom!

My roommate Monica and her boyfriend Dirk said they might be at 90th and 1st, so I kept my eyes peeled there but didn't see them. After that, I had to do my best to ignore the fatigue and fight (myself, obviously) my way into the Bronx. And the Bronx, for the tiny amount of mileage it gets in the race, is awesome when it comes to cheering and overall good spirit. It was a short but excellent mile and I quickly found myself once again crossing over into Manhattan at mile 21.

Even though I only had five miles left, the going was getting tough. I was starting to get that deflated feeling in my upper body and I felt the pounding of every step in the balls of my feet. For whatever reason, my toe was also slamming against the front of my shoe. That was new and an unpleasant surprise, though it may result in my very first lost toenail (which I'm clearly too proud of)! It took everything, and I mean everything in me not to stop and walk for stretches at a time. I conceded to this urge once, but only as an approximately block-long extension of a water stop. I find that it gets easier and easier to stop and walk the more frequently I do it and I wanted desperately to avoid falling into this same trap that's gotten me the last two years.

Most of miles 21-24 are down Fifth Avenue and the crowds balloon once again and they are raucous, cheering anyone and everyone on to the finish, which is only 2.2 miles away once runners enter Central Park at the Engineer's Gate (90th and 5th). As it turns out, my roommate was in the park but I missed her! I kept running and doing my best to enjoy the presence of the crowds in the park and trying to feed off of the energy. But the truth was, I wanted to be finished and I knew I was close. I approached the Mile 25 water stop and considered the fact that it's operated largely by Cornell alums (I've gotten emails about volunteering for it before). Any other time, I might have looked for people I knew, but I was in no mood for it when I was passing through. I just wanted to be at the finish line!

At this time I'd also gotten a stitch in my side, which was making breathing and running painful. Near the exit of the park I got a call from my mom, who was sitting in the stands at the end of the race and had just witnessed someone be walked across the finish line. She was worried about me and I don't think I did anything to make her feel better since speaking was beginning to be painful and probably sounded labored and agonized. I wasn't worried, I knew I would be fine once I finished but that I needed to get there first. We agreed that I'd call just before I got to the right section so that she could see me cross the finish line.

Finally, I exited the park and found myself on 59th Street, which is the south end of Central Park and the true home stretch of the whole thing. Crowds line both sides of the barricades until Columbus Circle, where we turned back into the park for the last 800 meters. I called my mom and told her I'd be at the end momentarily and once I saw her section, I began waving at everyone! They were all very nice and waved back at me, but somehow I didn't see my mom. Although I hoped that she had at least seen me, a phone call after I crossed the finish line revealed that she had not! It was disappointing, but still. I'd finished the race in under four hours and thirty minutes! 4:28:25, to be exact.

I'll go into post-race activities in coming days because this post is already epic without them. Bottom line: marathon number six is in the books. I'm always elated after finishing a marathon and always want to sign up for my next one straightaway. But that, my friends, is also a discussion for a different day. For now, I hope I haven't bored you too much and I bid you good night.


  1. Congrats on the amazing time! My goal was sub 4:30 - and I knew it would be close - but I think my bathroom break cost me my goal

  2. Oh no! Well, hopefully there will be many marathons to come for you to rectify the situation. I had a friend who said it took 9 minutes for her to get to the bathroom!