It’s official! On November 3, 2013 I became a marathoner.
Good news: I didn’t poop my pants and nobody peed on my from the upper level of the Verrazzano bridge.Bad news: I missed my goal by 3 seconds. Yup, 3 freaking seconds. But let’s start from the beginning…
I woke up at 4:00. The alarm was set for 4:45, but there was no way for me to go back to sleep. So I took my time getting ready, had half a bagel with jam, and drank a tiny little bit of coffee. By 5:45 I was out of the door and at 7:00 I boarded the Staten Island ferry with my will run for chocolate friend. While on the ferry, I had the other half of the bagel with jam and finished my 16 oz of lemon lime Gatorade.
We got off the ferry and waited for compression girl (who was running late because she forgot her Garmin at home) and Kevin. After finding each other, we finally got on the bus to the start village.
It was cold and cloudy; perfect running weather but not-so-perfect waiting weather. Before we knew it (and after visiting the porta potty twice), it was 9:30 already and it was time for us to get to the corrals. Maybe it was because I had my friends there with me or maybe it was because I was feeling well-trained and self-confident, but I wasn’t nervous at all. We made it to the start line and the clouds suddenly disappeared. The sun came out and, at 10:05 sharp, the gun went off. And just like that, after years of waiting and months of hard training, I started running across the Verrazzano bridge…
Mile 1-13.1 Brooklyn My goal was to start fairly conservatively and finish strong. I made a point not to check my Garmin too often, at least during the beginning of the race, and save enough energy to give my best during the second half of the race. I don’t know if it was the little bit of coffee I had at 5:00 or something else but, as soon as I began running, I started having painful side stitches. I tried to keep calm and not think about it, but that surely prevented me to run at a steady pace for the first 8 miles or so. Brooklyn was fun and fairly easy. To avoid getting too excited and going out too fast, I kept myself distracted by giving high fives to each and every kid I saw on 4th Avenue. I hit the 10K mark at 58:14, being almost two minutes behind schedule. I wasn’t too worried about it and decided that I would make up for that right before hitting the 13.1 mark. Right after mile 7, I saw my friend Veronica and her cute kids. I couldn’t resist! I had to stop and give them all a quick kiss. At that point, I had already lost my friends. Around mile 8, the side stitches started to slowly disappear, and I decided to take my first Gu. At mile 11, I decided that it was finally time to pick up my pace a little bit in order to reach the half under 1:59:00. I was doing really well but then, all of a sudden, the course became really crowded. Maybe it was because the streets in Greenpoint were smaller and there were water stations on both sides of the street, but the only thing I know is that I had to spend a whole mile zigzagging people and being careful not to bump into those deciding to stop abruptly in front of me to enjoy their glass of Gatorade (sorry for my bitchy tone). Anyway, long story short, I hit the half at 2:00:36.
Mile 13.1-16 Queens and the Queensborough bridge I’m not gonna lie: at this point, I started freaking out. I wanted to start conservatively, yes, but I also promised to myself that I’d have hit the half in under two hours. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to go faster, but I knew I had to save energy for the Queensborough bridge (between me and you and the rest of the web, I was terrified about that bridge because every one told me so many bad things about it). I knew I had to take my second gel, but I was too nervous at that point. When I finally made it to the bridge, I forced myself to calm down and focus. I’ll be sincere with you: the Queensborough bridge is not THAT bad. Once I reached the top, I started to finally feel better. I took my second Gu and made my way down the bridge. And right there, while the noise from the crowd on first avenue started to become louder and louder, it hit me: I was going to finish the marathon and I was going to finish it strong.
Mile 17-19 First Avenue First avenue went by so fast! While I started picking up my pace considerably at this point, I always made sure to keep things under control in order not to burn out before mile 20. I saw the lovely people from FACES at mile 18…
…and my awesome teammates at mile 19!
Mile 20-23 The Bronx Here is where the real race began. I was still behind my almost two minutes and my left arm was hurting but I did not care. I put my music on and started to really push hard. I forced myself to take my third Gu at mile 22 and kept pushing as hard as I could.
Mile 23-24 5th Avenue, aka, shitty hill This was by far the hardest part of the course. Basically, you run a whole mile uphill. I was mentally prepared for it, I knew it was going to hurt and I knew it was going to be just plain tough. I focused like I never focused before and I started thinking about what our coach told us the week before: pump those arms and focus on two singlets ahead of you. And so I did. I started passing the first two singlets, then the next two, then the next two… It seemed never-ending and It was completely surreal: I felt as if I was flying and I was literally passing everybody.
Mile 24-26.2 Once I entered Central Park, I knew that it would be all over soon. I could still barely make it sub 4 hours, but there was a tiny little problem: after helping me cruising on 5th Avenue, my quads were totally trashed. And when I say trashed, I don’t mean they were in pain. What I mean is: they were DONE, completely. My left one especially wasn’t willing to cooperate anymore.
Those last 2.2 miles are a total blur. I tried and tried until the end. I had to start alternating running with limping but stayed strong and kept repeating to myself: “you are such a badass, you can do this!” I re-entered the park from Central Park South and I looked at my Garmin: 3:58:xx. I was feeling this close to throw up but, in my mind, I kept telling myself that I could still make it sub 4. Then, right before mile 26, I saw the hill preceding the finish line and it finally hit me: there was no way for me to make it sub 4. Of course I kept pushing until the very end. I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 2 seconds, running the second half of the race 34 seconds faster than the first half.
As soon as I stopped, I started coughing hard and I moved to the side because I knew I was ready to throw up. Luckily I didn’t. I grabbed my medal and it took me a good five minutes to put it on. I was so disappointed. I had just ran a very smart race without hitting the wall and I had kept running strong until the very end. Yet, I had still missed my goal to go sub 4 by three seconds. I know it was my first marathon and I know that my time was anything but bad, but I still cannot get over those three stupid seconds. I know the problem was being already two minutes behind from mile 13.1, but I also have to say: the crowded course made it impossible to keep a steady pace at times.
Missed sub 4 aside, this has been truly an amazing experience. And I am not talking about the race per se. First of all, I was able to raise over $8000 for my cause. This reason alone fills my heart my joy! Moreover, during these four months, I improved considerably as a runner and I met amazing people who stayed by my side day after day, workout after workout. They met me at the crack of dawn on the weekends for our long runs. They put up with me when I was going nuts during tapering. They listened to my never-ending silly stories. They have been there for me, always, and I know that from now on they will always be because this marathon brought us so incredibly close. So thank you guys, for everything. You truly are the best teammates.