Marathon Sunday was a big day for me. I went to bed at around 8:30PM the evening before. I had to prop myself up with a couple pillows because my chest was feeling tight. To say the least, I was a little frightened — I ended up keeping my inhaler with me and taking my insurance card.
I woke up at 5AM on marathon day, had a quick shower, and ate a large serving of oatmeal — the race wasn’t going to start until 10:20AM, so I figured I might get really hungry. I arrived near the base of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge by around 7:20AM. I was not excited by the prospect of waiting for three hours in the cold; however, the cold air made it easier to breathe and, truthfully, it brought to the experience. Waiting in anticipation to run 26.2 miles with 40K people in the blustery cold builds a sense of kinship and mutual respect.
The announcer called for the third wave of runners to get to the starting area. 13,000 of us were standing at the beginning of the bridge, awaiting for the horn. I was stretching a little bit before the race started and I noticed the lady in front of me had a prosthetic leg…and to the other side of the her, a gentleman with a dedication to his mom and sister (both had died of cancer)…and a couple more rows ahead, I saw a gentleman with two crutches and no right leg.
The horn rang and we started racing up the bridge. At first, I started at a pretty good pace and then I thought about the advice that every single marathoner had told me: start slowly…pace yourself. I slowed down to my eventual ~10:20 min/mile pace which I would keep for the most of the run.
For the first 8 miles of the run…it seemed like all I saw were potential reasons for why people were running the race. Defying age: a couple elderly folks’ shirts said “marathon 18 and counting”; Moving on: individuals with pictures of family/friends who had passed away; or, Defying stereotypes: people with disabilities in wheel chairs, on crutches, or with prosthetic legs).
At mile 13, my knees weren’t hurting and my asthma wasn’t acting up, but I was definitely getting tired and feeling a little nervous — the most I had run was 16 miles. I knew I had to hold out until mile 16 where my sister and friends were waiting. I knew once I got to them, I would get a burst of energy. At mile 15, the Queensboro Bridge, a man in his mid 40s had collapsed and had a heart attack. I got worried and despite having no symptoms or shortness of breath, I took my inhaler.
At mile 16, I spotted my sister and my friends, I gave them a hug, and for the first time in 16 miles I smiled… I had some extra energy. At mile 18, I started to prepare myself mentally for the “wall.” At around mile 20, your body runs out of glycogen, and you begin to use fat for energy. I took a couple Tylenol and pumped up my music. Miles 18 to 23 were a blur, I started to get very focused — I stopped looking at the crowds and reveling in the cheers. I got even more focused — looking even angrier — and started to remind myself why I was running the marathon.
At mile 23, I hit the “wall.” I really didn’t understand what people meant by saying it was like no pain they had felt before, but I got a vague idea. My legs felt completely like dead weight, and I began to slow down and everyone started to pass me. I felt defeated and a little depressed, I wanted to run strong the whole time. I literally begin to take the race stride-by-stride — no amount of cheering or “Eye of the Tiger” could give me a burst of energy. I had heard stories of experienced runners coming to the rescue of first-timers — unfortunately or fortunately, my marathon story did not end that way.
My second and final wind came when I saw the the 25 mile marker: All the pain from my legs went away — absolutely nothing hurt. In my head, I thought, “Oh my God, only one mile left. Run! Run! Run!” I started to pass everyone who had passed me at miles 23 and 24 — to say the least, I was excited.
After 4 months of training and 4 hours and 40 minutes of racing, I crossed the finish line with a smile and my hands up in there air. I breathed a sigh of relief, I had wanted to run the marathon all my life, and it was done. I had my reasons why I ran it, and it felt good — really good. Despite all the uncertainty with asthma, my knees, and never running more than 16 miles — seemingly things just came together for me on November 2nd. The run was exhilarating, motivating, and inspiring. I had a new found respect for the untold stories that I witnessed by the backs of peoples shirts, the disabilities, and the runners with seemingly nothing holding them back.
So what’s next? I have joined New York Road Runners club, and plan on running in races throughout the year. I am planning on running the Chicago marathon next year, and then after that — maybe the Boston Marathon?
Thank you for all your kind words and encouragement!