Running the TCS NYC Marathon was an incredible experience that I will never forget. To give a simple recap of the race would not do justice to this once in a lifetime running adventure.
Instead, I’m sharing the 15 things I’ll never forget about the NYC Marathon. Hopefully, this takes you through my emotional and mental marathon journey without all the physical suffering.
1. The training
I began preparing for the race in the excruciating August heat. After running 12 miles on a treadmill to avoid the heat, I knew I had the mental energy to complete the long and training. I ran 5 times per week on extremely sore legs that never fully recovered, which made me realize that I could do ANYTHING. The most annoying part of the training was the constant hunger. Believe me when I tell you that it’s possible to get sick of carbs.
2. Getting to the start in Staten Island
The NYC Marathon starts at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island. The only ways to get there are to take a REALLY early morning bus or the Staten Island Ferry. To avoid the insane crowds, I decided to take a later (9am) ferry, which worked out perfectly. When I got to Staten Island, I only had to wait for a bus to Fort Wadsworth for about 30 minutes (instead of 1-2 hours, like the people before me), but the traffic in Staten Island was insane! It took 45 minutes to go three miles. I made it to the start just in time for my 10:40 am start.
3. The start on the Verrazano Bridge
Waiting on the upper level of the Verrazano Bridge for the race to start was thrilling, to say the least. When it was time, the announcers counted off with an “on your mark…”, then a cannon shot off (yes, a cannon!), and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” played through the speakers. Running over the Verrazano Bridge was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and it made me feel like I was on top of the world.
4. The spectators and their energy
After crossing the bridge, I started my journey through Brooklyn with unrelenting energy from screaming spectators. The air was electrified with the voices of energetic fans, and it put a smile on my face for miles. That smile continue for many miles, especially when I ran into my first friend at mile 7 in Park Slope.
5. My first sign at mile 11
I’ve run almost every race there is in NYC [see my favorite NYC races rounded up here]. But I’ve never had anyone on the sidelines with a sign just for me. That changed at mile 11 of the TCS NYC Marathon. I was beyond thrilled to have own personalized spectator moment.
6. Hitting 13.1 and feeling great
The half marathon is my mileage of choice, and I know what it feels like to cross the finish line after 13.1 miles. I’m usually tired and happy it’s over. But when I hit 13.1 during the marathon, I still had plenty of energy and felt great. It’s amazing what training can do.
7. Seeing my family at mile 16
To get to mile 16, I had to run up the Queensboro Bridge, which is a bit tough after running for 2+ hours. Many people around me dropped down to a walk, but not me. I knew my family was waiting for me at mile 16, and I was so excited to see them that walking was not an option. When I got there, they had another sign!
8. Running the streets of Manhattan
I performed much of my training on the streets of Queens and in Central Park. As a native New Yorker, who is constantly dodging cars, bikes and other pedestrians, I felt free flying through the streets of Manhattan on my own two feet. The highlight was running up 1st Avenue!
9. Hitting “the wall” in the Bronx (mile 20)
After that “free” feeling in Manhattan, I hit the wall HARD at mile 20 in the My legs ached, my mental energy waned, and I wanted to stop. It didn’t help that everyone around me was taking walk breaks. But I kept going…
10. My family was waiting for me at mile 24
After seeing me at mile 16, my family moved to mile 24 in Central Park. If they weren’t there, I don’t know how long it would’ve taken me to get from mile 20 to 24. When I finally got there, I turned to my parents and said…”This is really hard.”
There was a guy standing next to them who had already finished the marathon, and he said to me, “You got this; you’re stronger than you think.” I will never forget that runner and his positive words. I don’t remember his face, but I will always be grateful that he gave me the motivation to run those last two miles. My legs were done at that point, but my will pushed me forward.
11. Those last two miles
After I reached mile 24, I didn’t care about the pain anymore. I felt a new burst of stamina from seeing my family, and I was ready to get to the finish line. I won’t say the last two miles were easy, but the thought of being so close to the finish line gave me new adrenaline. And, of course, seeing the words “Finish” after 26.2 miles of running is indescribable.
12. Receiving congratulatory texts
One of the coolest parts about running was knowing that people were tracking me from all over the country. Two friends tracked me from Washington DC and Seattle, and they both sent congratulatory messages as I crossed the finish line. My cousin tracked me from Florida. My other friends tracked me from Atlanta. Hell yeah for technology!
13. The greatest runners high ever
After the race, I had to walk about a mile to exit Central Park. I picked up my awesome poncho, and I enjoyed my runner’s high. I didn’t even feel tired or hungry– I was just excited. Going down the stairs to the subway definitely sucked, but otherwise, I was on cloud nine.
14. Feeling more sore than I knew was possible
I could barely walk the next day. My day went something like this: Get up. Lay back down. Ice my joints. Heat my muscles. Repeat. But by post-marathon day 3, I was walking normally again.
15. Wanting to run again
I felt back to normal about a week after the marathon, which meant I wanted to run again. Bill kept telling me to wait another week, but it’s so hard to go from running 30+ miles a week to not running at all. The Sunday after the marathon, I went out and ran a few miles and felt great.