This past weekend I got to be part of an incredible series of events: New York City Marathon Weekend. Growing up right next door in New Jersey made the marathon completely accesible to my family and me for spectating the three times that my dad ran it. I specifically remember standing at mile 15 in a crowd at least 10 people deep that was going crazy encouraging the runners as they went by. Everyone in the crowd wanted to know who the person next to them was cheering for so that they could join in the noise and celebration. I was still a small kid and wiggled my way to the front and when my dad came by, everyone around yelled his name to help get his attention. He ran toward the side and gave my mom, brother, sister, and me hugs and smiles before continuing on. I remember being so proud and excited for him, and the enormous crowds that lined 26.2 miles really shows how special the running community is. Though I was not in the marathon, being an elite participant in the Dash to the Finish 5K the morning before allowed me to become part of the experience. New York Road Runners hosted an amazing weekend.
Friday morning, a couple teammates and I went for our pre-race run. Just as we got back and started doing some strides, the sky opened up and it poured. Something about running in the rain makes me feel really fast and strong. After drying off, we hopped on a train to the Big Apple. We stayed at the Sheridan New York, which was a block away from the Hilton, where we got our packets, checked out the hospitality suite, and hung out for a prep meeting with Sam Grotewold (@nyrr_pro), who, along with the whole NYRR team, was awesome and super helpful all weekend. As we got our bib numbers and left the meeting, they took head shots of each of us and we went on our way. We even got encouraging cards from some young aspiring runners like we did at NCAAs in June! Those kinds of things make me happy.
My roommate, Rebeka Stowe (@rebekastowe), and fellow Oiselle teammate Amanda Winslow (@awin250), and I walked the last mile of the course in Central Park to check out the sharp left turn we were warned about. After you make the left turn, the course goes slightly downhill for a little bit before going around a curve back uphill to the finish. When we were walking, we just kind of peeked around that curve and saw the bleachers for the grand stand set up. Assuming that was the finish line, we left the park there and headed back to the hotel before dinner. We should have walked all the way to the finish line… Through some crazy miracle, we were able to find a pretty nice Italian place called Pazza Notte for dinner that was able to seat eight people. A delicious dinner, a quick visit from Nat, and an early bed time. I really haven’t raced in the morning since I last ran cross country (which is now two years ago…weird), so 5 am seemed to be coming too soon.
Trust Your Strength
Coach Fox at Syracuse used to always tell me to trust my strength. That advice is the best way I can sum up the race.
After my typical race day routine (walk, shower, breakfast, coffee), we met the group in the lobby of the hotel to get the bus over to the starting line and even though it was still pretty dark out, it was relatively warm; a good racing temperature. We went through our usual warm up routine and stripped down to race-ready before finishing up our last couple strides. The bib numbers were huge and said our first names in big letters. Before we got settled in at the starting line, some French and German spectators stopped Rebeka and I asking for pictures! Feeling pretty important and famous, I kind of wondered where those three or four pictures would eventually end up.
Once we finally made our way to the starting line, I looked around at the amazing women that I was surrounded by all weekend. I’m getting better at remembering I’m one of them now. I know I’m not Shalane Flanagan or Molly Huddle, so the plan was not to go out with the leaders. After the gun went off, I knew I couldn’t have if I tried. I don’t know what kind of time they ended up going out in, but the leaders went out quickly and to be perfectly honest, the first mile didn’t feel very awesome. That made me panic a little bit because I also knew the first mile was supposed to be flat. This was when I had to remember the mantra: Trust your strength. I stuck with a pack and made it through that mile. I started to warm up a bit and felt better through the second mile before turning into the park for that last mile we had walked the previous day. I survived the sharp left turn, embraced the slight downhill that followed, and started to grind up the last half mile hill coming around that curve. But as I got around the curve, I wished so badly that I had walked all the way to the finish line the day before. The bleachers were visible from there and so I had assumed that meant there was a finish line near by, but this was no ordinary race. The finish line seating was set up for the marathon that was finishing in the same place, and for a race this massive, it had to accommodate for an equally massive crowd of spectators that would gather there. I still had about 100m to the big 26 mile sign, and then another 0.2 miles from there, all up a hill. Somehow I found my strength and made it to the finish line for 9th place in 16:10. I was definitely happy and excited and there was so much energy all around.
Bird Brunch, Rest time, and Race #2
We did a long cool down after the race to make it a “long run” day along the Hudson River Greenway, which had a pretty cool view that I didn’t quite capture with my phone mid stride, but here it is anyway.
The long cool down left Amanda and me with very little time to get back to the hotel, change, and get to the Oiselle meet up. This proved even harder when we got back to the hotel and found it absolutely swarmed with people who were probably getting in for the marathon. We waited forever for an elevator, and when we were ready to go back down, we let two packed elevators go by before making the decision to go down all 36 flights of stairs instead (interesting post-race and long run choice). We got on the subway and made it to brunch late, but with plenty of time to eat and chat with some new bird friends who were running the marathon the next morning. Brunch with these women really reminded me (not that I forgot) why I love who I’m running for.
I spent the remainder of the day mostly resting up so I’d be ready to watch the marathon the next day. Writing that I had to rest up to spectate feels funny while I’m thinking about the amazing strength of the people who ran the marathon. Nevertheless, I’m glad I did because even though I got a run in in the morning, I did quite a bit of unplanned running to watch as well. I watched and cheered at mile eight in Brooklyn, headed to the subway to go directly to the finish line. With our athlete passes for the 5k, we also got tickets to the grand stand to watch right at the finish line. The runners had 18 miles to run in that time and we really shouldn’t have had an issue, but the train took forever to come, and once we came up on 57th Street and 7th Ave, we had to get through Columbus Circle. There was a ton of security and the whole circle, plus a block out all the way around it, was blocked off. So we raced wide around the circle and all the way up to 66th street where we could go in. We just got into the park and ran right up to the fence as Priscah Jeptoo came by. Just made it. I tried to snap a picture of Geoffrey Mutai too, but even though I had more time to set up for it, my picture wasn’t so great.
I also had a great spot to watch Oiselle Founder and CEO and overall amazing person Sally Bergesen finishing strong and looking fierce!
Words can’t really describe the excitement and energy that overtakes so much of the city for the marathon. We stayed at the finish line and watched thousands of people accomplish something so awesome. You could see the pride in the runners’ faces as they crested the hill and approached the line. Being part of the Dash to the Finish and getting to watch all of the amazing people who competed in the marathon made it such a great weekend. I love runners.