Monday, November 2, 2009

Race Report: 2009 ING NYC Marathon

Caution: this is long post and contains many pictures.

Sunday morning started early, but not too early. I actually got a fairly good night's sleep. Much better than I had thought I would. I met Gracela (who took most of the pics in this post) in the subway station at 59th and Lex and we got on the R train with other runners. Not long later, we were at the Staten Island Ferry station with thousands of other nervous and excited people in all sorts of running gear eating all sorts of pre-race meals, pinning on numbers, checking shoes, stretching, finding their teams, chatting away or listening intently to their iPods to keep the nerves at bay. I was SO glad to be there with Gracela and have someone to talk with and laugh with. I didn't get too nervous the whole time.

We finally filed out of the waiting room and onto the ferry. Other runners took official transportation buses or charter buses. I have a feeling those would have taken much longer than the ferry.

Waiting to get off the ferry, we could see the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, which is the start of the race.

We were then loaded onto buses and driven what seemed like 20 minutes (I have no idea how long it really took) through downtown Staten Island to Fort Wadsworth. I'm not sure how it works at other marathons, but there were many people dressed up in costumes. Clowns, drag queens, Zico coconut water bottles, and this guy. You might be able to make out the Eiffel Tower. Pretty impressive. Unfortunately, I never saw him on the course to see if he could really run in it.

There was a bit of mist and light rain in the early morning, so runners were decked out in ponchos, rain gear, and plenty of garbage bags! I can't even begin to tell you how many languages I heard in the start village.

Once we were out of the bus we made our way through the starting village and ran into Chris and his wife (who I had met on the Expo shuttle on Friday) and wished them good luck. They had quite a sizable group and large balloons to promote their organization. I didn't have much time for last minute preparations once I got to the Green start area. The announcements were already saying the corrals for wave 1 were closed and those in wave 2 had to get their bags to the UPS trucks. I was a bit nervous I was going to be late so I was rushing around a bit so I could get to the corral and make one last stop at the porta-potties before the start.

The start of the race was pretty non-monumental for me. I was on the green route for the second wave in corral C. We were still in the holding area while the National Anthem was sung and the cannon shot. We just filed out of the area and onto the lower level of the bridge and toward the starting line. I had heard stories of how crowded the start always is that you can hardly more let alone run. Well, I had no problems with that. The bridge was FRIGID! There was a nice breeze the entire way across that almost took my hat a few times. Thank goodness I had gloves on or it wouldn't have been pretty brutal. I kept a steady and slow pace, even on the downside. Others were passing me by the whole time, but I tried not to focus on that. I was running my own run, not theirs. And I knew that for me, it was best to keep the same pace on the downside of the bridge than to speed up and use too much energy right out of the gate. My feet weren't hurting and my legs felt pretty fresh at the start. I'm used to waking up early and starting my runs early. I'm not used to waking up at 5:30am for a 10am run, so I was a bit nervous about all of the downtime and if I was eating at the right time. As we came off the bridge we were on the highway and a few people were on the side cheering for us as we entered the neighborhoods. I was running by a group of Scottish men running in kilts who continuously corrected people as they cheered for their skirts!

I've never really explored much of Brooklyn, but I got a nice tour of it yesterday. We went through neighborhoods full of families, industrial areas, quaint streets with boutiques and cafes, and a lot of cheering crowds singing, handing out paper towels and Kleenex, bananas, and 'Free Fish Fuel' (aka Swedish fish). There were fluid stations every mile after the 3rd with Gatorade and water. I ended up walking through almost all of them because they were so slippery and I was too worried that I would slip and fall and be out of the whole thing. Just after mile 8, when the three colors combined, my right foot started to ache. It ached the rest of the race. My lungs were great, my legs were pretty good, and my left foot was okay, but not the right. We hit the half way point on our way into Queens.

People cheered as we went across the Pulaski Bridge and curved into Queens. The route through Queens was mostly industrial but there were still a lot of enthusiastic crowds. Have you ever noticed noticing a person or group of people, then loosing sight of them, unknowingly, only to notice them again a few miles later? Well, that happened to me quite frequently. Particularly with a group of French runners, male and female, all wearing matching shirts who would frequently take pictures of the group or members of the group with emergency responders or just random people cheering. There was the group of men in kilts, two women who would talk on their cell phones while running (I saw this often and I still can't figure out how they do it!) or the group of guys wearing pink metallic tights, green shorts and pink tops running with no shoes. We ran past classic rock cover bands, high school concert bands, gospel choirs, random people performing something on the sidewalks, people blasting jazz and concert music through radios, rappers in Harlem, and rock bands all throughout the city.

Next thing I knew, we were making the turn onto the 59th Street Bridge. I ran this once with Gracela a few weeks ago and now it was time to do it for real. I had heard that this was the hardest part of the race. Everyone was silent. All you heard were feet hitting the cement. For the first time I started noticing people off to the side stretching or resting. One guy tried to start a cheer, but no one else was up for it. As we made our way to the end of the bridge, we could start hearing the roar of the crowd on 1st Ave. A few people were on the bridge, including a couple who noticed my hat and cheered out "Go Spartans!!" that gave me a little boost to keep it up.

1st Ave was loud and raucous, just as I remembered it from being a spectator. As I got closer to 70th St I made my way to the west side of the street and picked out the green and white balloons! I stopped for a minute to hug my family. It was an awesome sight. I am so lucky to have had them there cheering for me. Knowing they were out there supporting me, every step I took, and whether I finished or not, meant the world to me. My foot hurt and my quads were starting to tighten up, but I was now much closer to the end than the start. We made our way up 1st Ave and across another bridge into the Bronx and the 'High Energy Zone.' We passed a woman with several signs next to her. When I ran past she happened to be holding one that said "Pain is temporary, Pride is forever." That was exactly what I needed. I said that over and over in my head for what could have been a mile, and several more times before I hit the finish line. How did she know I needed that? Our jaunt through the 5th borough was pretty short and no offense to the Bronx, but I was so happy when we got back into Manhattan.

Going around Marcus Garvey Park was great. The vibe from the crowd was great. I had packed enough for 4 servings of Shot Blocks but only had two of them. My stomach was feeling a bit uneasy and I was focusing too much on my foot. Heading down 5th Ave was exciting. Having my name on my shirt was one of the best decisions I made. so many people called out my name and kept me going. It really does help! I knew my family would be around 90th St or just inside the park, but around 95th I heard someone call out my name. I looked back and saw a friend and co-worker and his family. It was amazing!! I ran back to them and got big hugs and words of encouragement. It was a bit of a blur but so awesome. As I ran off, I teared up a little. I was about 3 miles from the end. Then I saw the balloons again and my family. Everyone around them cheered for me too! MAJOR ENERGY BOOST!! By this time, I had started walking a couple blocks almost every mile and had stopped to stretch my quads a couple times. I knew I wouldn't have a killer time, but all I cared about was finishing. "Pain is temporary, pride is forever."

We turned into the park and I was on my home turf. I have run this section so many times I could do it with my eyes closed. I ran the straight away along the reservoir and hugged the center where it didn't slope towards the curb. The crowds were cheering and clapping. I pushed my way up Cat Hill and eased my way down but just as we were hitting 72nd I knew I had to walk a bit so I could save my energy towards the end. A man standing on the side called my name and urged me to keep going. "You're almost there, you can do it. Just push your way through the hill." I hate it when people say "You're almost there" when you're still 2 miles away. "Almost there" is when you can see the finish line. I picked my pace back up as we went downhill and out of the park. Two policemen were standing on the side cheering us on and gave me high fives. Then it was out to Central Park South. I had to slow down a little. I knew an uphill was waiting for us inside the park and I wanted to cross the line running, not limping. After seeing only a handful jump in throughout the whole race, I saw a bandit pulled out of the race as we entered the park. As we got closer to Tavern On The Green, I started to pick up my pace a bit and sprinted towards the finish line. I threw up my hands and smiled for the cameras as I crossed the line I had been dreaming of for two years.

It had been a long road. One that was painful at times and difficult at others, but it was such a great feeling to cross that line and be handed the medal. So, I know I was only one of 43,000 other people who crossed the finish line yesterday, and that is quite a lot of people, but in the scheme of things, I'm now one of a relatively small group of people who can say that they've run a marathon. My finish time wasn't as good as I had hoped when I signed on to do this last year, but I finished and that's pretty fantastic.

Because of all the road closures it took a couple hours to get home. By the time we got off the bus my right foot was hurting pretty badly but we made it out to dinner a few hours later after a freezing cold ice bath and a nice shower. We walked past people sitting in restaurants lining Columbus Ave wearing their heat blanket and eating a big meal. I don't know how they do it! I couldn't stomach much food until hours later and even then it was half a cheeseburger and an ice cream sundae (if I can't indulge in it after I run a marathon, when can I?). It was a great day that went by in a bit of a blur, but I will never forget it.

9 races and 1 volunteer credit to qualify. Months of training. Countless pairs of shoes. Countless hours and miles on the road. 2 aching feet. 5 boroughs. 26.2 miles. 1 NYC Marathon finishers medal!!


Jenn said...

Great race report. Congrats on a great accomplishment! I hope to run that race someday.

Unknown said...

Congrats! I'm stoked for you and enjoyed reading your story. Take care of those feet! Great job!

Jen Feeny said...

Excellent race recap! I got chills!!! Congrats on being a MARATHON FINISHER! Bask in the after glow girl, you deserve it and earned it! :)

Barbara said...

I can't believe you were able to finish with 2 stress fractures ! Unbelieveable ! We're so proud of you and glad we were there to support you. Thanks to Matt for being our tour guide.
The crowds were so much fun. We met people from Scotland , Ireland , Toronto , Californis , Michigan (Yay!) , Italy , France , etc. People were just great !

heather... said...

I have tears in my eyes! I am CRAZY proud of you, Lisa!


Congrats on your amazing accomplishment! I'm impressed.

p.s. Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!