Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New York City Marathon 2013

2013 NYC Marathon finish
I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Boston, legs aching, wondering how to write this.  Part of me wants to weep that I'll never get yesterday back; most of me is thrilled beyond belief that it happened.  All of me (more than all of me!) is filled with the love I received from my family, Claire, Michael, Nimmi, Lisa, total strangers.  Where do I start?

I ran the New York City Marathon.

Staten Island ferry ride to the start

Marathon Village

lines for the start corrals

The Staten Island Ferry was a buzz of race talk.  "Is this your first?" the resounding question.  Stories from last year, stories from other marathons, time projections, nutritional advice.  Endless tips.

"Be careful as you come off the Queensboro.  The crowd will be loud and you'll want to push it, but you'll still have 10 more miles to go."
"Gu at Mile 18, bananas at Mile 21.  Are you keeping your gloves through the race?"
"I take salt before the run."
"I eat pretzels."
"The Verrazano will be freezing."
"If you miss your wave you can always start at a later time."
"Whatever you do, don't go out too fast!"

I listened, wordless, feeling the way I did when I was 16, about to take the SAT.  More prepared than I ever would be, I wanted to be tested.  I was antsy for the start.

My start: Orange corral, Wave 4, 10:55 a.m. start time
My heart jumped at the firing of the cannon (literally… I wasn't expecting it), and I started.

Mile 1 (Staten Island to Brooklyn): The Verrazano Bridge.  It was freezing!  The only portion of the race in which I couldn't feel my fingers or my toes.  I was wearing itty bitty shorts (the shorts I had trained in) and wondered if I had made a mistake.
Mile 7 (Park Slope, Brooklyn): I saw my family.  They flew up two years in a row and have been holding on to these signs throughout. They were my first spectators along the course, and I wanted to stop and say hello.  (I actually wanted to cry and yell, "Can you believe I'm running the New York marathon?!")  I stopped and hugged everyone, but couldn't communicate the enormity of how I felt.  Instead, I told them I felt great but a little cold… and then I ran on through Brooklyn.



Miles 8-12 (Williamsburg, et al., Brooklyn): Things got a bit rowdier before they got a lot calmer (read: dead) as we ran through a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood.  
Mile 13 (Greenspoint, Brooklyn): I asked myself, "Could I do that mileage again?"  The answer was an unwavering yes.
Miles 14-15 (Queens):  I was starting to feel like I had run, well, a half marathon when I made it to Queens and was greeted by Lisa.  A hug from Lisa and an urging to enjoy Manhattan (it was so close!), and then I was off, gearing up for the Queensboro Bridge.
Miles 15-16 (Queens to Manhattan): The Queensboro.  I had run it before in training, and remembered it as a manageable incline.  It was also a 10 minute incline at least, and at mile 15 I was starting to feel the pain.  I gave myself a walk break for a minute and then kept plowing through.  On the way down from the bridge, signs read, "If you think the last 10 miles is easier, then welcome to easier… Welcome to Manhattan."  I got goosebumps; I teared up. This was what I had been waiting for.

Entering Queens

Miles 16-19 (First Avenue, Manhattan):  How do I put these miles into words?  

I knew what was coming.  I had been a spectator at this very point three years in a row, so I knew the crowd would be deep.  I knew the music would swell and the energy would be powerful.  But how do you experience something you've been preparing for, been visualizing for years?  

(And how do you react when it lives up to your expectations?)

Miles 16-19 are the closest I've ever gotten to a higher experience.  Because oh if there's nothing I've felt more than the power of people as I was running up First Avenue.  

Rounding the streets as you turn off the bridge, First Ave. dips before is ascends, making it possible to see thousands of runners before you.  As I made this round, the crowd felt deafening, and as I ran I started to cry… like, ugly cry as I ran up First.  I was so happy.  This was what I had pictured in all my training runs, the mileage that really meant "New York Marathon" to me.

And it was so good.

As I made my way up First, I scanned the crowd for Michael and Claire, who were promised to be there, and sure enough, they were waiting at 68th Street, bananas and Gu in tote.  I couldn't have asked for two better people to see.  We hugged and did a little more crying and talked.  And too soon it was over and I was on my way again, fully aware that every step I took meant leaving behind the highest experience I've ever had.

First Avenue (photo credit Michael)

smiling on First

Miles 19-26 (the Bronx, Harlem, 5th Avenue, and Central Park): Yes, I lumped them together.  They were hard, and physically painful, and chocked full of 60-second walk breaks (though my mile time never dipped below 11 minutes, heya!).  At this point people cheering started using my name aggressively, rather than cheerfully.  "GO ABBY!" felt more like, "Come on, pick it up, Abby" rather than, "Wow!  We really believe you can do it!"  Even my friends in Harlem (thanks Nimmi, Joe, and Seth!) were pressuring me to keep moving (though I love you guys).

5th Avenue was a steady incline.  Central Park had more hills than I remembered.  Central Park South felt like it never ended.  With every step I PR'd, and even that thought didn't give me satisfaction.  I was doing it, but that was it.  In those final miles, there was no elation, it was just a mission to be completed.

And so I did!

After 4 hours, 45 minutes and 17 seconds, I crossed the finish line.

I didn't immediately react; there were little tears and even fewer thoughts.  I just knew I did it.  I did it, I did it, I did it.  It was over… and I didn't know what to make of that.

"early exit" ponchos

At this point we were freezing.
After 45 minutes of making my way to Columbus Circle, I was greeted by my amazing family, best friend and boyfriend.  I was all love for my support crew.

Claire, me, Daddy, Sean and Michael -- missing my mom because she took the picture
Then we headed to Smithfield for the after-party!

The after party: Me and Charity, who I love dearly and haven't seen since she left for her Peace Corps mission two years ago!

Miho and me -- Miho was one of two friends who ran with (but not next to) me.  Our correspondence over the last six months has been entirely training-related.

Me, Claire, Amy

And just like I started this entry wondering how to write it, I leave wondering how to end it.  It was the New York marathon.  I'm happy it's over, and I wish it had never ended.  Is that okay?

Day 177 (marathon day), by the numbers:

 - miles run to date
26.2 - longest run to date
4:45:17 - minutes and seconds it took
10:54 - average minutes/mile


  1. Way to go Abby! So proud of you!

  2. What an incredible experience! I have never been much of a runner but even I teared up reading; it sounds like it was an amazing day and an incredible feeling of accomplishment! That is some bucket list shizz :) Way to go!

    1. Haha, glad I could get those tears going, Caroline!