If you’ve followed my Marathon journey in the past, you would have known that I’ve only ever ran the London Marathon (4 times). (Unless you include the Impact Marathon in Kenya which got called off at mile 23 or the 35 Mile Ultra I ran earlier this year). Essentially, all my cycles have been in the Winter leading up to a Spring Marathon. So this time around, things were ‘different’ training for an Autumn event. I’d also qualified for the New York Marathon based on my half marathon time rather than getting in through the ballot, so this was quite a big deal for me.
At the start of the training block, I had told myself I would train well but the emphasis was not totally on a PB. Summer came around, social events, weddings and long runs were on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays… just whatever day of the week I could fit them in to. I also had a period in the summer where I experienced some fatigue/burn-out problems and it left me feeling slightly unprepared in the month leading up to New York.
Cue Duncan Foster from DSF Coaching (www.dsfcoaching.com) to come to the rescue to work with me in the final 4 weeks leading up to race day to change my mindset and get me in the best place possible. With 3 weeks out I ran a great 20 mile run and worked with that to build positivity. As a coach, I tend to put more pressure on myself to always perform well and showcase to my clients what can be achieved. This had started to overwhelm me and Duncan and I started to define what success would be on race day. We determined that enjoyment was more of a bigger factor for New York, but also to run a race I would be proud of.
So, off we headed to New York on the 31st of October. Excitement building and the buzz of the race was very apparent as soon as we touched down in NYC. We visited the Expo on Friday. Visit early if you want to avoid big crowds. But in fairness, they had over 50,000 to process in 3 days! On Saturday we took part in the Dash to The Finish 5K which was a great warm up going into race day.
My alarm went off at a ridiculous time of 4am, before I made my way over to the Staten Island Ferry port for the 5.15am ferry. Once you come off the ferry, you’re guided to the buses which take you over to the race village. After a short ride you get to security and the amazing start!
After a long wait (2 hours in multiple layers), my corral finally opened and I made my way over to the Green Start Line. I can’t describe how amazing the start really was. I could hear the elites being introduced, a DJ playing motivating party tunes, lots of nervous energy, NYPD helicopters flying over followed by Frank Sinatra New York New York. If you saw the week before I left, all I could was this, legs kicking out, da da da da da, da da da da da.
The gun went and off we headed over the Verrazano Bridge, the first of five to tackle along the route. We’d been told about the elevation, so I tried not to push too hard and settle in a rhythm as it was only the first mile. GPS was not great on my watch… I looked down and it said 11 min mile pace! Again, I reminded myself that I was on a bridge and this was the start of the New York Marathon. Today was about experience, a good finish time would be an added bonus. The bridge was quite congested and I tried to not weave too much to save energy. I took a glance to the left and saw the stunning Manhattan. I took a deep breath and thought ‘wow, I’m running the New York Marathon, let’s do this!’.
The up and down of the bridge flew by so quickly and before we knew it, it was the start of Mile 3 and we were being welcomed to Brooklyn. There were a few people cheering and shouting along the roads at this point and it made me smile and realise what may be ahead! It was great to feel so welcomed to the Marathon by NYC residents.
Although a lot was going around me I didn’t feel like I really found a rhythm until 5k, although the first 5k did go past in a flash. Once I passed the 5k sign I realised I was on for 3.30 pace and tried not to panic. I knew this was possible for me and tried to just run by feel. In my head before the race I thought somewhere between 3.25-3.40 would be a realistic aim, but also wanted to run to what felt comfortable. I thought back to my original aim of making this a feel good race and smiled.
Once you’re in Brooklyn, you run the same long road for quite a long time. At around mile 5 someone from the UK ran past and said hello. It was also time for Gel 1. They were going at a faster pace than I was, so I wished them well, not wanting to get carried away.
Between miles 6 – 9 were the best part of the course for me. The crowds were unbelievable and the noise was deafening. I was high fiving, whooping and cheering my way through the streets. Probably wasting a bit too much energy, but in modern day terms ‘living my best life’ so I couldn’t care less. I will always remember this part of the course now and I’m so pleased I allowed myself to enjoy it as much as I did.
Half way approached and we were still in Brooklyn!!! I felt good at this stage and kept repeating positive messages in my head. I knew Queensborough Bridge was upcoming and another tough part of the course. I went through half way in 1.45.10, still around 3.30 pace, although I had heard the second half of the course is a lot harder than the first. Still having a good time though so continued to wear my smile!
The bridge came and went quite quickly (from what I remember) and I knew I would slow down at this point. I didn’t want to push hard and expend too much energy here so was happy to let the pace drop slightly. At mile 16 I saw James again which gave me another lift and we entered the streets of Manhattan!! The noise here was LOUD, but as the streets are quite wide, it didn’t have the same effect on me as Brooklyn. It was pretty cool though to run through closed roads of Manhattan. For the city that never sleeps, it was awesome to have no traffic and free reign of the roads.
At Mile 20 we were in The Bronx and Alicia Keys ‘New York’ was playing on some huge speakers. I welled up and got goosebumps, this race just kept on giving! At mile 21 I could start to feel the marathon in my legs and I began to curse myself that I hadn’t gone over 20 miles in training this time around. But I remembered the message on my last gel; ‘Finish Strong’. So off I continued.
The long incline up Fifth Avenue pushed me a bit too far I think and at mile 24 when I was expecting to see James, I walked through the water stop. Throughout the whole race I couldn’t take on enough water to kept the thirst at bay without taking on too much that it would be moving around in my stomach. The water tasted oh so good and I got moving again quite quickly. A few minutes later I stopped again… I’d made a mistake walking before, and I felt like my head was starting to win. I finally saw James at mile 25 and turned the corner. There was a guy shouting ‘Finish Strong, Finish Strong, You’re All Champions’. If that wasn’t a sign, then I don’t know what was? I say ‘Finish Strong’ to all my clients, so I ran my heart out and didn’t stop again until the finish line. Finishing in 3.32.03.
I crossed the line beaming, although quite tired too! The last few miles were hard but I finished in my second fastest marathon time and having a really positive race experience. The streets of NYC gave my joy, happiness and hope. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I’d defined success as being able to finish saying ‘I loved that’ and they were they were the only words I could get out my mouth. We were then presented with out gorgeous medals and it really sunk in what I had achieved. It was beautiful and I wore it with pride.
New York City Marathon was everything I wanted it to be and more and I wouldn’t change a thing!