I did it! I’ve officially finished a marathon–and arguably the biggest, most popular marathon in the world, the NYC Marathon. It was a crazy experience from beginning to end. I finished in 5:09:14. I was really aiming for under 5 hours but I’m happy just to have finished, considering this is my first marathon. I also thought this would likely be a “bucket list” type of thing that I would never do again–but now I’m really thinking my first will not be my last. So I’m SURE I’ll eventually get in under 5 hours!
The SI Ferry was insane. My assigned time was 8 am, but people really show up whenever they feel like like it because the ferry is free and open to the public. So a lot of people with earlier times came later and created a HUGE backup. I was lucky enough to sneak in onto the 8 am with a bit of luck and knowhow since I’ve taken the ferry in the past.
The SI Ferry Terminal
My start time was 11 am and I got to SI Ferry Terminal around 8:30. Knowing I had plenty of time, I followed numerous other runners in waiting in the warm terminal rather than the start village. I grabbed a bottle of water and sat down, mentally preparing for the day. Then, I decided I’d get into the ladies room like (here was my biggest mistake) thinking I’d prefer that over a port a potty later on. However, the line took FOREVER and right when I got near the front people started warning us the last shuttle over to the start would leave at 9:40. I decided to give up my much coveted spot in line so I could grab a shuttle. I got outside and quickly realized it wouldn’t be so easy to just grab a shuttle. There were THOUSANDS of people backed up in a line waiting for shuttles. It ended up taking at least 15 minutes to catch one. So pro tip to anyone running the NYC Marathon in the future–get on a shuttle ASAP after you get off the ferry. It’ll take a WHILE. The shuttle was at least 25 minutes to the start area.
I got off the shuttle, quickly found a port a potty (toilet paper was long gone–always bring toilet paper), and went over to my start village area. By the time all was said and done, it was around 10:30! I got into my corral after the 10:40 wave went and threw my layers in donation bins (luckily it was already about 60 degrees out and I didn’t need anything more than my shorts and t-shirt). I really had no down time to hang out in the start village. I feel like I JUST made it to the start on time and I left my apartment that morning at 6:50 am. Crazy!
It’s so crowded when you first start, you really can’t run the pace you want to. Some people were walking to save energy since running was almost as slow as walking. My first mile was probably like 14 min–which honestly was probably a good thing. The Verrazano is a pretty big hill. I was too busy taking the race in to really get any good photos, but here’s what I did get
Brooklyn was nice and flat–thank goodness. I really made some decent time in Brooklyn, and I saw a couple friends/coworkers along the way that I didn’t expect to see, which was nice. My fiancé, friends, and family were posted up around mile 12 and I was very happy to see them when I did. Brooklyn was the only spot where I played my music actually. It gets a little quiet in a couple sections, and I was still a little nervous, so it helped calm my nerves. I turn my music off right before mile 12 so I could fine Sean and crew more easily and I never turned it back on!
Queens was short-lived, but I’ll never forget that bridge! The Queensboro bridge is evil–EVIL. A very very mean parting gift from the people of Queens. It’s right around mile 15 and that hill is VERY unwelcome. It’s not the steepest hill ever, but it lasts what feels like forever. You can’t see the end, and you just keep thinking this HAS to be it. It’s probably at least 3/4 of a mile. Any the bridge doesn’t have any spectators helping you along. Beautiful views, but definitely the worst part for me. I think it really took a lot out of me.
What everyone says is true–the crowds here are crazy! So loud, so amazing. Definitely not a place to turn on music. I took it all in–it was a little overwhelming, but it gave me the energy I needed to keep going. It’s also a very long, slight uphill so it’s smart to take it a little slower. Throughout the course, I opted to use my own water bottle–I brought a handheld with me–but I was running out. I knew I was going to Sean and my family and friends at mile 18 again, so when I did I handed Sean my bottle and asked him to refill it for me. I knew I’d see him again at mile 23. This is why it’s SO important to know your friends’ plans on where they will be meeting you throughout the race. From miles 18-23 I just used the aid stations knowing I’d see Sean again at 23.
Let me tell you–don’t take the Willis Ave Bridge lightly. It’s a smaller hill, but after dealing with Queenboro and First Ave, it’s still an unwelcome hill, especially since you’re getting up there in mileage by that time. The Bronx was short-lived but FULL of energy. A really cool vibe up there. Unfortunately, I was starting to tire QUICKLY up there. This is also where I witnessed my WORST experience of the race. I saw a girl with a knee brace just collapse onto the ground and scream out in pain. To get so far and have that happen–I couldn’t even imagine. I couldn’t stop short to help her (other people behind me were able to) and someone else told cops to get medical aid for her, so there was nothing I could really do except send some good vibes and hope that she was able to at least get some medical help and finish the race by walking the last 6-ish miles. I really hope she did!
Back into Manhattan
Once I left the Bronx and got back into Manhattan, I was in uncharted territory. My training plan only had be go up to 20 miles, so once I was beyond that I didn’t know how I’d react. At around mile 22.5 I felt like I couldn’t run anymore. I saw the 5 hour pace group fly past me and I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch them. That’s when I decided it wasn’t worth continuing to run. I was hurting and I just NEEDED a break. I figured I’d walk for like 1/4 of a mile and then start up again to meet Sean and company at mile 23. Wrong I was. Once I stopped, I felt EVERYTHING. My body felt like it was breaking down. I had some lower back pain leading up to the race that I felt shooting down my whole leg once I stopped. For a brief moment I felt like I didn’t even have any legs. My feet were so sore, my muscles were revolting. Once I was walking, so many spectators I passed were so sweet “Come on Nicole you’ve got this”, “Looking strong Nicole, just a few more miles”. I texted Sean and told him I was in pain and walking. Everyone got worried. I found them at mile 23.5, stopped, talked to them, stretched, grabbed my water. I wasn’t sure of my game plan, but having everyone pulling for me was so helpful. It really gave me the motivation I needed to finish. I knew the sooner I finished, the sooner I’d be able to go meet up with them and EAT. Haha. I was in the middle of the TERRIBLE mile 23 hill, so I continued on, walking up that. Once I got to the top, I started running again and didn’t look back. It was the hardest 2.5 miles of my life, but I finished strong, running through the finish. At the end, I wanted to cry, and I almost did. It was a really emotional experience. I was so thankful to have so many of my friends and family there pushing me through the finish.
At the finish, everyone was walking around like a bunch of zombies. I totally understood why. My legs were revolting against me. I couldn’t believe the incredible pain I felt. All I wanted was a seat and some Advil, but I had to get through the finish area, get my poncho, and find my family in the masses. Once I found them we pushed through the crowds to take a subway downtown and avoid the uptown craziness. There, we grabbed some AMAZING pizza at Kesté–highly recommended (although the staff will push you out at the end to seat more people–which was pretty rude).
The Day After
I’ve never felt the kind of sore I felt yesterday. I am SO GLAD I took two days off of work. I couldn’t even imagine having to go up and down all the subway stairs on my commute to work. My quads were (and still are) in so much pain, getting up and sitting down are practically impossible. Going up and down stairs is SO hard. Even just walking–I’m limping around like an old woman. Feeling a bit better today after 2 baths with epsom salts and a bunch of BenGay and Tiger Balm.
Would I do anything differently? I’d probably train up to 22 miles next time, and I’d do more hill training. I’d probably add in more “hard” sprint workouts since I really didn’t do any of that. I was focused on just getting comfortable with the high mileage this time around.
So would I do it again? Hell yea–but not next year. I’m getting married next year, and I’m in 2 weddings (the maid of honor in one). I don’t think I have the time to dedicate to all the training I’d need to do next year, and I want to maintain some level of sanity leading up to my own wedding.
But I’ll keep this blog up of course, and likely do a bunch of half marathons which require a lot less training. I’m looking to keep a solid 10 mile base over the winter.