When people ask you what time you are trying for in a race, there is the time you say aloud and the time that you barely whisper to yourself. While I told most people my goal was to Boston Qualify with a 3:35 time (8:12 min pace), my training and half marathon times indicated that a faster pace might be possible. My general goal for NY was to keep my pace between 7:40 and 7:50 (average pace of 7:45, leading to a 3:23 marathon time).
Since I have never ran a marathon before I had no clue if any of this madness was even possible!
The Starting Line
Miles 1 -3
(8:26, 6:55, 7:31)
Seconds away from the start time I gazed back at the thousands of other runners who surrounded me. Chills went up my spine as I realized that all of these runners had spent months preparing for the exact same event, the exact same moment- and that moment was finally here. Running united us- all of us.
My little runner heart was warmed by the amazing solidarity of the running community. I leaned over to the woman next to me to share in this awe and said, “Amazing, isn’t it?!” She kindly smiled at me, shrugged her shoulders and replied, “Don’t speak much English. — You, run fast, ok!?” I snickered and couldn’t help but smile back; yes, running unites us- the fast, the slow, Americans and non-Americans, and I revel in it. I nodded back at her, smiled and pointed in her direction, “You too! Ok!?”
Suddenly, the cannon fired sending the herd of runners off to storm the Verrazano.
Tears filled my eyes as I realized that after months of preparation and training the day was finally here: today I would run a marathon.
Marathon runners were placed at one of three different starting points, unfortunately my starting lane placed me on the lower deck of the Verrazano Bridge. Unfortunately this meant two things: (1) my Garmin had trouble accurately reading my pace time and (2) I saw several streams of pee from men on the upper deck of the bridge (yuckko!).
I fought my way through the masses of runners on the bridge and I hate to say it- but it was incredibly frustrating! Runners were everywhere!! Less than a minute ago my heart was warmed by these inspiring people, but now- now I needed them out of my way. I needed to find a steady pace; instead, I felt like I was in a video game trying to swerve in and out of other runners fighting to find a piece of open road.
I had no idea what pace I was running until I left the bridge. When I saw that I was averaging mid-to-low 7’s I realized that I needed to slow down if I wanted to finish the race!
(7:35, 7:27, 7:42, 7:32, 7:37, 7:43, 7:29, 7:53, 7:40, 7:41, 7:42, 8:10)
As I ran through Brooklyn I gazed at the street ahead and all I could see were runners. We united into a river that swiftly swept through the streets. We moved in unison, so much so that our pace did not seem unreasonably fast. It actually seemed easier to maintain a speed in the 7:30’s because it was the norm. We were a force of nature. And the best part? I was a part of it!
The old, the young and the furry (puppies, of course) were lined up for miles on the streets of Brooklyn to partake in this amazing experience. Children held up their hands in hopes of high fiving passing runners; naturally, I saw this, pulled to the side of the pack and high fived as many kids as possible! The excitement that rushed to their face was genuine and heartwarming; if my heart rate didn’t skyrocket every single time I pulled one of my hive-five stunts I probably would have continued high-fiving kids for all 26 miles. But I had a race to run and a BQ to chase down!
I was averaging 7:30’s-or-so with relative ease. At this point my mind began to play tricks on me. Can I run a 7:35 pace for the marathon? It might just be possible!
(8:45, 7:48, 7:42)
My pace dropped as I ascended the Queensboro Bridge. I thought: Don’t worry about your pace now. Owen, dad and Kerry (my sister) are waiting on the other side of this beast. Just make it to them. 68th street. Just get to 68th street.
The streets ticked by and at 66th street I started scanning the crowds for them (just in case). 66th- not there. 67th- no one. 68th- ok, this is it! My family should be on the left side of the road! Find them!! …. where are they?! My eyes rapidly scanned the sea of spectators but I couldn’t find my family anywhere. My heart sank as I had to continue on my way towards the Bronx and the street numbers continued to tick away- 69th, 70th, 71st…
I really wanted to see them- NO- I needed to see them. Saddened by the fact that I missed my family I put my head down for the remaining miles of First Avenue. The next time I looked up I was on 108th st- How did I get here? I just mentally skipped over 30 blocks!?! (I later learned that I apparently don’t know my left from my right and I was scanning the wrong side of the road- nice work, Kass).
Miles 19-21 (The Bronx)
(7:48, 7:51, 7:52)
Previous NYC marathoners had warned me that the Bronx was empty, quiet and a mentally tough component of the race. However, I found the Bronx to be invigorating and exciting. Spectators lined the streets, Thicke’s Blurred Lines was being blasted over the loud speakers and my legs were still feeling strong.
Fear of losing steam in the final miles of the race drove me to lower my pace from 7:30’s to 7:45/7:50’s. Well, fear and the fact that the water stations became seriously clogged by runners who lost steam and randomly stopped running in front of me!
Miles 22-24: The Dark Miles
(7:44, 7:53, 8:19)
At mile 21 every step forward was now a new personal distance record and my body lovingly reminded me of this fact. My body began to ache as my calves started to feel tight and my legs heavy.
I actually started fighting with myself during these rigorous miles. Part of me thought: it’s an accomplishment to run a marathon at all. You don’t need to run for time. Yet my competitive side chirped back, Don’t give up on yourself or your goal! THIS is what the training was for- the 5 am wake ups, the giving up alcohol, the long weekend runs that caused you to miss out on time with Lilly. NEVER STOP RUNNING.
As many other runners slowed down or pulled to the side to vomit (gross, but true) I pushed onwards.
After making the conscious decision to trudge onwards and the pursuit of my desired BQ time I looked into the crowds and was shocked to see my family lining the path at mile 25. The pictures below show it all.
I screamed out in excitement and once again tears filled my eyes! After missing me at mile 16 my devoted family had hauled a** over to mile 25 to cheer me on!
Their support could not have come at a better time (or mile!) I was reinvigorated by their faces, signs and cheers that I actually was able to negative split (run faster) the remaining miles of the marathon.
Of course I was still in physical pain, but my family’s faces were more than enough to carry me the remaining 1.2 miles to the finish! I crossed the finish line wearing a proud runner’s grin knowing that I had done it: I had just finished my very first (and definitely not last) marathon – and I got my BQ with 9 minutes to spare! Yes!
I hobbled my way through the finishers chute to meet up with my family (an agonizing) 1.2 miles away. Upon seeing Owen I gleefully shouted: When can I do that again!? Oh that’s right- BOSTON 2015. Now where’s my chocolate chip cookie”
It is safe to say that after cancelling the NYC Marathon in 2012 (due to hurricane Sandy) and the traumatic events at Boston marathon in 2013 the running community- nay, the United State- needed for New York to go off without a hitch. I am honored to have run in this race and to have been a part of something truly amazing.
On November 3, 2013 I witnessed millions of runners, spectators- people- come together to support each other in what was a truly magical experience.
So, when can I do that again!? Off to research winter/spring races!