My NYC Marathon experience

Blog, Elisabeth Marnik

Note: This post was originally published on Beakers and Sneakers

It’s been a long time coming but here is finally an update on how my race went at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon for anyone interested.

The 2017 NYC marathon was my second full marathon. My first was a year ago (October 2016) where I finished in about 4:57. So I am by no means a fast runner, but I enjoy it! That marathon I had a lot of knee issues through my training that made things go less than stellar. This marathon training cycle went much better for the majority and I was hoping to finish the NYC marathon in 4:30.

In the week leading up to the race I felt semi-crappy and was downing all sorts of things to starve off a cold I thought I was getting. I also woke up the Monday before with low back pain that was unexplained (non running related since I was tapering, I think I twisted wrong. I can be clumsy). It would get better once I was up and moving but the mornings were sore. By the time race weekend rolled around I was feeling ok but not 100%. My chest still felt a bit “cold-like” but I was in denial that it would influence the race.

On Sunday Nov 5th, the morning of the race, I got up early and my back was definitely sore but it loosened up on the walk to the subway and ferry. However, once I got off the Staten Island Ferry I stood in line for over an hr to get on the bus to transport me to the start village. Standing still made my back very unhappy so I stretched it out as much as possible since it was so crowded in line.

Once I got onto the bus the driver got out of the bus to ask a volunteer where he was suppose to take us….of course I end up on the bus with a clueless driver!! He gets us lost but finally we end up at the right place and I made it to the start village in plenty of time to use the restroom and sit and stretch for a bit. I noticed tons of security in the start village (NYC police officers, soldiers and counter terrorism units, as well as helicopters) and runners I talked to who had done previous NYC marathon’s said it was definitely higher than normal given the events in Manhattan the week before (driver hitting pedestrians on purpose). I felt very safe the whole day.

At 10am my corral opened (I was in wave 3). So I made my way over there for more standing and waiting. By this point my Fitbit said I had already gone about 4.5 miles before we even started the race! My wave started at 10:40 AM and we were off!

Mile 1 & 2 were on the verrazano bridge and it was neat! However, my back was sore – which never happened on a run before – so I was worrying about that from the beginning of the race. I was able to stay on my goal paces through miles 1-14 though. The crowds in Brooklyn were amazing! This was certainly my favorite stretch of the course. It was so neat to see so many people cheering us runners on – they had great energy! The cops who were protecting us were also waving, cheering and high fiving runners. It was awesome. I made sure to thank many of them as I ran past! Isaac, my husband, found me at mile 8 and I high fived him and shouted I love you as I went by.

One note, is that the course was pretty crowded for me the whole way. I had to weave in and out of people to run the pace I wanted and a few times I couldn’t pass people who were slowing down. The water stops were also chaos and I got bumped and jostled a lot there. It was a bit overwhelming at times.

Around mile 15 I started to feel off. My breathing felt harder than it should and I think it was due to the humidity and the mild cold I had all week (the humidity was getting worse throughout the race). I have asthma and I think the humidity, plus cold, tipped my lungs over the edge. I really dropped pace on miles 15 & 16. To make matters worse mile 16 coincided with a tough bridge. So I really dropped pace there. We came down the bridge into Manhattan though and as soon as we hit the ramp down you could hear the people cheering – it was awesome.

The crowds in Manhattan helped me pick up the pace a bit again. Isaac found me again at mile 17 and I told him I wasn’t feeling stellar and he shouted encouragements at me as I went by. Around mile 18 my inhaler fell out of my handheld when I was grabbing a gel. Luckily some runners noticed and caught me. I had to run back a few yards to grab it. I also decided to take my inhaler to help with my breathing a bit. So mile 17, 18 and 19 were goal pace or close to it again.

Sadly, by mile 20 my lungs and back really weren’t happy and I slowed down considerably. I also noticed some other pains cropping up that I think were due to altered form from my back issue. I stopped a few times to stretch going forward which helped, but my breathing never felt good again. By now I knew my 4:30 goal was out the window so I went to my B goal of sub 4:45. I kept plugging along at the best pace I could. I was in a pretty bad mental space between miles 22-24. Isaac found me in this stretch and the minute I saw him I burst into tears and stopped running. I don’t quite remember what I said. I think it was something to the effect of – “I blew it” and “I just want to quit” and “I feel awful”. He was amazing, as usual, and told me to keep going because no matter what I would have a PR if I didn’t stop. So I kept going.

Miles 24-25 were my slowest and hardest miles. The crowds were great though. They kept encouraging me to keep going and I did. I kept reminding myself of how far I’ve come and that I couldn’t quit this close to the finish line. It was also neat to know my friends and family were tracking me. Every time I crossed a timing area I thought of all of the amazing people I have in my life and that gave me a nice boost. Towards the end I knew everyone could see me slowing down – so that wasn’t quite as fun, but it was still neat to know I had people encouraging me from afar.

Just past mile 25 I saw my best friend Michelle and another one of our friends Lena. They screamed and cheered for me and Michelle shouted “ducks can fly” (my nickname from college is Duck – long story) which made me laugh and boosted my spirits. I was able to pick up the pace a bit again for that last mile. The last .2 miles felt like an absolute eternity but I finally finished in 4:41:06!!! I was thrilled to be done and proud for finishing with a 16 min PR!

Then I had the over 1 mile death march out of the park. That was absolutely chaotic and terrible. Isaac was waiting for me at the exit with a huge hug and then shuttled me into a warm vehicle for a ride back to the hotel.

Overall, I am very pleased with the race. I didn’t bonk in the traditional sense. My energy levels felt steady through the race and I avoided stomach issues which I had last time. So my fueling strategy worked. However, I think a combination of dealing with some health issues that coincided with race week, the humidity and the fact that we were on our feet so much before the race contributed to me missing my A goal of 4:30. I just couldn’t make my lungs work well enough to hold the pace I needed to (plus my back wasn’t going for it either) and that made the last 5 miles feel pretty awful. I am very proud of my finishing time though. I did the best I could given the day and that’s all you can ask for during a marathon.

I definitely learned a lot during this race and I am so grateful I was able to run NYC (I got in through the lottery). The spectators were simply amazing – it truly was like a 26.2 mile block party. There was music, amazing people and great signs all through the course. The only quiet stretches were the bridges. I didn’t listen to music and the miles flew by (even in the rough moments). Running over the bridges and into central park was fantastic. I’ll cherish those moments and hearing everyone shout my name. I highly recommend doing NYC at least once! I will admit though, that I prefer the easier logistics of smaller races.

My husband and I have already signed up for a spring marathon (The Fredericton Marathon in New Brunswick Canada) so I can run to re-attempt a 4:30 marathon. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about running though – it’s that you can’t gaurentee any result come race day. Luckily, I also enjoy the training so I’ll take it one day at a time and hope for the best come race day. It’s all any of us can do!