The 49th annual New York City Marathon took place yesterday, November 3, 2019, and I was one of 53,000+ participants. After months of preparation, training, and fundraising, I could hardly believe it when the date actually arrived. Now that it's over, whatever will I obsess about?! I'm sure I'll find something...
Thursday, I went into the city to attend the Expo, get my bib, and of course, take lots of pictures! I was tempted to purchase "finisher" shirts, but didn't want to jinx myself. I ate an apple while posing in front of the medal and found my name!
On Saturday, I went to my church bazaar for a little while (I'm a co-chair of the book room) and picked up another jacket to wear Sunday morning. I didn't think anyone would want Mindy #9 of the undefeated Schnecksville Banshees, but I put it to good use! I had already purchased some sweatpants, a hoodie, gloves, and a hat to donate to the good people of New York.
I caught the bus into Manhattan and met Lili Schroppe, a friend from college, at the Autism Speaks pasta party near Times Square. Lili was originally going to run with me but sadly had to drop out due to an injury. She already has a spot in next year's event, if she's able to do it! Anne Alexander, another UVa friend, joined us and we learned some last-minute team logistics before heading to the hotel.
We watched a beautiful sunrise over the water and arrived on Staten Island after an hour or so on the bus. The staging area was impressive! Autism Speaks had a tent in the Charity Village, but I ventured out in search of hot water for my tea and checked out some of the other areas. Since my start time was 11, I had lots of time to explore! There were screens to watch the runners already on the course, therapy dogs, Dunkin' Donuts trucks, and runners everywhere, speaking many different languages. I learned later that 150 countries were represented in the race!
These pictures don't really do the area justice. It felt like a convention of homeless people, since runners were dressed in random clothing that they would later discard. There were charity bins all around the different "villages" and they were overflowing by the time I got into my corral to start. Each runner is assigned a start time, color, and letter, which correspond to when and where you begin. The blue and orange waves start on the top of the Verrazano Bridge and the green ran underneath. There were huge walls corresponding to the colors with doors leading runners into their specific areas.
We listened to a lovely rendition of the national anthem, the cannons boomed, and we were off! I met two women, Michelle and Elaine, who were in my start time and section, and we ran together for about the first half. They are fellow autism moms and are fabulous! While chatting with them and people and sign-watching, the first few miles flew by! We took our time crossing the first (of five) bridges, heading into Brooklyn. Meanwhile, Anne and Lili headed down to have brunch and watch me. We intersected around mile 11 or so and I was so happy to see them!
Michelle, Elaine, and I took a selfie when we arrived in Queens (you can see how bad I am at them) and separated shortly before the Queensboro Bridge. I was really hoping to break 5 hours, and we were not close at the pace we were running. I was proud of myself for running the entire bridge, even though I had to dodge lots of walkers. There were a lot of runners with special needs from the Achilles foundation and their guides. They were very inspiring!
I took another running selfie in the Bronx and also snuck a picture of this woman, who was running barefoot! The Bronx was loud and animated, which continued as we reentered Manhattan in Harlem. There was a lot of music and dancing there!
At this point in the race, I was still hoping to break 5 hours, but I knew I had to make up some time. I had a wristband with splits on it, which was very helpful. Once we got onto Fifth Avenue, I was really just concentrating on the time and the road and not paying as much attention to the signs and spectators. I did notice some shirts and remember "Du kannst - Ende der Geschichte" (You can. End of story) and a family whose bright red shirts read something like "Wish Grandpa Daniel a happy 70th birthday," along with the one that said "I'm Daniel & I'm 70 today."
Those miles were long and I kept repeating to myself, "You're strong and trained hard." I had read to focus on a mantra and it really did help -- especially when my feet were complaining! I never doubted that I would finish (I wasn't so sure in my first (and only other) marathon), but I didn't think it would come soon enough! But then, we entered Central Park around mile 24! I knew Lili, Anne, Daniel, and my mom were waiting for me at mile 25 and I couldn't wait to see them. At that point, I was really close to getting the time I had set out to do, but I didn't have time to hug or chat. I threw my hat to them and kept going!
We exited the park and ran along the road for what seemed like forever, but was probably less than a half mile. The last two miles were my fastest and I was focusing on the time ... and the photographers. I knew they were along the route and I wanted to make sure I was smiling! Coming back into the park, I didn't even notice the huge statue at the entrance! I was surprised to see it the next day. I passed the pacer with the 5 hour sign, so I thought I would be able to sneak in under the wire, but then with about 200 meters to go, my calves started to cramp! I was starting to cry, but ran across the finish line with 17 seconds to spare! My official time was 4:59:43 and my second half was faster than my first by about 12 minutes. I missed the course record of 2:22:38 by only 2 hours, 37 minutes, and 7 seconds! Maybe next year.
The next part was what I had visualized and thought about so often on my training runs and when I couldn't sleep at night: the medal and poncho!
I was really cold & shaky, so I ducked into the medic tent to warm up for a few minutes (and have a cup of hot broth) before meeting everyone on Columbus and 71st. I piled on all the clothes that Dan had carried and had another cup of soup in a cafe before heading to the hotel and a SHOWER! It felt so good! We had dinner in the hotel which I didn't really eat, and then beers at the bar next door, which I did drink. I'm not much of a beer drinker, but after a race, it tastes so good!
The next day after Anne and Lili left early for their planes and trains respectively, I wandered back down to the park to check out the post-race activities. I wanted to get my medal engraved with my name and time and a finisher shirt was calling my name! It was really cool to see people wearing their medals and taking pictures. One guy was really noisy -- he had run all 6 major marathons and was wearing those medals plus another with 6 circles to celebrate that achievement. Wow!
I saw the 2 hour + line for engraving and decided I could get it done later. I bought a few things and -- no surprise -- took a few pictures.
What a weekend! We were so lucky with the weather -- it was a perfect fall day. People were so friendly and supportive and it was an amazing experience! Thank you to everyone who helped me by donating and in so many other ways as well! It was fun seeing FaceBook posts of people following my progress and I loved reading all the comments. Special thanks to Anne, Lili, my mom Nancy, and most of all Daniel, who has heard more about this event than any teenager ever. And Thomas and James for being the reason I ran. I love you all!
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