The gun went off and I crossed the start line. I was running on the freakin’ Verrazano Narrows Bridge uphill in what seemed like a wind tunnel. A while back someone had given me the advice to keep my layers on until after the first bridge and for good reason too. I noticed the NYC skyline to my left as my jowls were being pushed toward my ears by the wind. I was thrilled when we made our way off the bridge and were welcomed to Brooklyn by rowdy spectators.
I managed to stay with my friends for quite a while. We were periodically doing head counts to make sure that the 7 of us stayed together. We were keeping a decent pace (9:45-10:00) and I was still feeling okay. We met a friendly guy named Joey from the Bronx who chatted us up for a few miles. He called us his ladies from Chicago. He would yell out to the crowds, “Chicago in the house!” We were having a blast and Joey was helping to make that happen.
Somewhere around the half way point I started to realize that I had gone out too fast. I was struggling to keep up with my pack. I pushed myself to stay with them the best I could but I started to fall back around the 15 mile marker. This was the point where we were crossing the Queensborough Bridge. There was a point where I could see my peeps in the distance and then they were quickly lost in the sea of runners. Damn it, I lost my pack. It sucked, but I also felt a sense of relief. I no longer felt the pressure to keep their pace. After having run a successful Chicago Marathon 3 weeks before I knew not to expect any records in NYC. My main goal was to have fun, enjoy the course and finish.
I was alone now and the rest of this marathon belonged only to me. The course was treacherous. I felt like I was always running uphill or over a bridge or maybe both for all I knew. My body was making me take periodic walk breaks. Walking through the aid stations seemed like a less embarrassing place to walk than at other spots on the course. Eventually I succumbed to walking whenever I felt the need. My splits were starting to look ridiculous. I knew my husband would know something was definitely not right when he saw the updates. I forced myself to keep moving because I didn’t want him to worry and think that I was injured.
I looked down at my watch and saw 18 miles. How the hell was I going to pull off another 8 miles? I had to dig deep within myself to keep my legs moving. I was able to draw inspiration from several runners with disabilities that I saw on the course. These people were doing it and if they were doing it than I could move my ass and do it too. I vowed to myself that there were going to be no more complaints. I saw a man in a wheelchair pushing himself backwards, a blind woman, a deaf woman and other runners with guides for reasons I do not know. They inspired me to keep moving forward. When spectators or volunteers would shout out “Project ALS!” I would be reminded of why I was out there. Running for those who cannot.
My next goal was to make it to mile 23 where my husband had said he was going to find me. I was counting each street number until I got to 16th and he was no where to be found. Later that day he told me that he could not get there in time because of the shotty marathon day subway schedule. So all I had left to do was keep running. Just a 5K left to go, right? At mile 24 I kicked it in high gear. I entered Central Park and knew I was getting very close to the finish line. This part of the race was crowded with walls of runners who were walking. I was forced to weave in and out and around hundreds of runners. I couldn’t imagine why people weren’t working harder to get this damn race finished and fast. I’m not sure how I was able to pull 9:30s out of my butt for the last 2 miles, but that’s how badly I wanted this race behind me.
I finally crossed the finish line in 4:42:02. I got my medal and shed some tears. I always cry a little at the beginning, during and when I finish every race I run. Emotions rush over me when I think about how I get to the starting line, how I’m actually running the race and when I accomplish my goal at the end. I’m the luckiest. So lucky to be a runner with the NYC Marathon now on my resume.
I came. I ran. I conquered.