I AM OFFICIALLY A MARATHONER.
I think this photo accurately captures the emotion, exhaustion and feelings of the day. Oh my god, does NYC throw a damn good marathon. Not that I have anything to compare it to, but I guess there’s a reason it’s the biggest marathon in the world. There’s nothing like marathon Sunday in NYC to remind you why this city is so so special.
Trying to wrap my brain around the experience is kind of insane, me? A marathoner? I feel like I have a million and one things to say about yesterday and the entire marathon experience. Instead, I’m breaking it down into 26.2 thoughts and tidbits from the race. Because let’s be honest, much of it is a blur in my head 🙂
BEFORE THE RACE
1. Taking the ferry was a good choice. I was supposed to go on the charity bus with Team in Training which would’ve left from Murray Hill at 6:00AM. At the last minute I decided to take the ferry instead. Just the thought of waiting around in the starting village until my 11AM start was enough to make me a nervous wreck. I don’t do well with waiting.
Instead of waking up at 4:00AM like I would’ve had to for the bus, I “slept-in” until 5:45AM (which was really more like 6:45AM with the time change!). I regret nothing.
So many runners. Uh and some homeless people…
2. I felt terrible when I woke up. You know that awful nauseous feeling you get when you wake up too early? I was totally experiencing that mixed with pre-race nerves. Throw in the fact that I have an intense phobia of vomit (true story), I was even more nervous that my body wasn’t going to cooperate with me on this really, really important day.
Despite the sick feeling, I still looked at Jeremy when my alarm went off and whispered “I’M GOING TO RUN A MARATHON TODAY!!”. He probably wasn’t as excited as I was.
I forced down half a Luna bar and walked to Starbucks for some chai. This was really important to me because I didn’t want to get hit with a caffeine headache. PRIORITIES PEOPLE. The Village was SO quiet and serene, the only people I saw out and about were clearly running the marathon.
By the time I was walking back home I was starting to feel less nauseous. Back at home I was able to eat a peanut butter sandwich while watching TV. By the time I was done foam rolling and taking my 3rd bathroom break, I felt a million times better and sort of ready to run a marathon.
I didn’t leave my apartment until 7:30AM. Ferry for the win!
3. I made new friends every step of the way. I’m not a very friendly person. I say this half jokingly, but it’s kind of true. I’m just not the kind of person who will randomly strike up a conversation with strangers mainly because I’m painfully awkward. Waiting around for the ferry (which took FOREVER) I made some friends, made new friends on the ferry, made a friend waiting for the bus, and made a friend on the actual bus to the start village.
We were all in this together, many of us running our first marathon, almost everyone I talked to was running their first NYC Marathon. We had something in common and all were feeling a lot of the same things during our (really really) long journey to Staten Island. We also were all trying to conserve cell phone battery, so all we had was each other! I hope they all had an incredible race day, and I’m grateful for the random strangers I talked to throughout the morning. It kept me calm and distracted from the fact that I was about to run a freaken marathon.
4. After a horrifying porta-potty experience on Staten Island, I didn’t take another bathroom break. This is where I admit to being a germaphobe when it comes to bathrooms. The porta-potty I went in before entering the start village kind of scarred me for life. At least it still had toilet paper, so I can’t fully complain.
You can judge me all you want for being on the prissy side, but in this moment I kind of wanted to cry and asked myself why I put up with all the gross things that come from running races. Running a marathon ain’t pretty, my friends.
My plan was to obviously go to the bathroom when I needed to during the race, preferably only to pee but you gotta do what you gotta do during a marathon. I ended up not going to the bathroom again until I was back at home post-race. Don’t know if that’s healthy or not. But whatever…
5. I didn’t have any extra time at the start village. This was kind of what I wanted, but I was surprised just how tight it was! People on my bus were in Wave 3 and checking their bag, I have NO idea how any of them made it in time because I was cutting it tight for Wave 4.
By the time I got to the green start area, people were already loading into the corral for Wave 4. The set-up of this race is kind of hard to explain, there’s 3 different starting places (based on colors), 3 waves with different start times, and maybe 6 or so corrals in each wave.
6. They play New York, New York for each wave’s start and blast off cannons. So I got to hear New York, New York once before it was actually playing for me. I felt oddly calm waiting in the corral. The process of getting to Staten Island had taken literally forever so I kind of forgot why I was doing all this (to run a marathon, duh). It wasn’t until I got to the actual start line it hit me– I was about to start my first marathon.
When New York, New York played for my wave I cried, just like I expected to. I cried a lot during this race. Like, so much weeping.
7. I felt kind of gypped out of the true Verrazzano bridge experience. Being on the lower level meant there wasn’t a ton to see except other runners and a sliver of Manhattan to my left. I secretly though to myself “See you in oh so many miles, Manhattan….”. What they say about the incline is true, you don’t really feel it because of the energy. I was surprised with how many people I saw walking the bridge and did my best to get around them when necessary. I’ve been warned a million and one times to not go out too fast so focused on staying slow and steady on the bridge. I ran the race without any sort of watch or GPS device and went by feel like I have been on my most recent long runs.
The bridge was quiet and boring so I put some music on to keep me going until we got to Brooklyn. My music also wasn’t working at first and I almost had a meltdown thanks to that.
8. Yes, the crowd support is insane. What they say about the NYC Marathon crowds are true, the support is amazing.
Once we got to the heart of Brooklyn, everything felt magical and surreal. People will full out scream your name, people will chant your name, there are bands on almost every block rocking out for you. The signs are hilarious. The energy ebbs and flows throughout the race, and I think my favorite part were those early miles in Brooklyn. I soaked it all in and definitely didn’t need music to power through. I couldn’t believe how many people there were.
9. Definitely wear your name on your shirt. I didn’t want to ruin a perfectly good Lululemon tank, so my dad ended up getting my name printed on another old t-shirt at one of those places that prints custom t-shirts (the one he went to is in Westchester). I cut that out and pinned it to my shirt and it worked fine without ruining a shirt. I know others use iron-on letters or worst comes to worst tape.
I’ve never had my name on my shirt before during a race (I don’t think it’s common during half marathons…) and it was pretty awesome. Kids will cheer your name and total strangers will tell you you look awesome. Thanks, stranger, I look like shit right now and I’m sweating profusely but thanks for the boost!
10. The volunteers are truly something else. Almost every volunteer I encountered during the marathon made me feel like a rockstar. The people handing out water said “You’re doing great, Kayla”. The guy manning the front of my corral entrance made jokes with me before I started. Police officers cheered me on and took pictures of us. The volunteers at the finish were SO incredibly kind as we hobbled out and made sure each of us was doing alright. You guys made this race special, thank you for devoting your Sunday to us. You are the real troopers.
11. I broke the race up into chunks. It’s a really, really long race and thinking about running 26.2 miles is daunting. Instead I just kept thinking about the next time I would see family or friends or eat some food.
My parents and boyfriend were able to see my 3 times during the race!! First was around the 5K mark in Brooklyn, again around 8 miles in Brooklyn, and one last time at mile 22 in Manhattan. I looked forward to seeing them and showing them how happy I was and how good I was feeling. They also had an emergency peanut butter sandwich, apple sauce and water for me just in case. Having them at mile 22 was extra special for me because I was really scared about getting past 20 miles and hitting “uncharted territory”. Knowing I would see them kept me positive and excited for that point.
I also had a few friends on the course that I kept an eye out for, my amazing trapeze friend Neal gave me a hug around mile 7, my friend from sleep away camp Maddie and her mom met me around mile 17 with oranges and tissues and Coach Jess was cheering loud at mile 19.
I literally had a list on my phone of where to look for people during the race so I wouldn’t miss them– knowing if they were going to be on the right side or left side made a huge difference and I was able to see everyone I was planning on seeing.
Casually chatting with Jeremy at mile 22
12. Being bad a math was helpful. I’m SO bad at doing math in my head, but it worked to my advantage during the race. Whenever I passed a mile marker it took me literally forever to calculate roughly how fast I was going based on my start time and the last time I passed a mile marker. It was a good distraction.
13. My Coach told me to only listen to music when necessary. I literally always listen to music during my training runs, so this was a different approach. I’m happy I turned off the music completely for much of the race because I was able to hear people screaming my name and let the energy from everyone else keep me going. When I was having tough spots during the race, listening to music felt that much more powerful.
I meticulously planned out a playlist for every aspect of the race– some choices for the beginning of the race, if I listened to Hamilton that would get me from mile 13-23, and some seriously energizing songs to end– think loud punk rock and lots of Green Day.
Music ended up being crucial during those tough moments. I swear, hearing “Non-Stop” from Hamilton was gave me the most amazing jolt of energy around mile 20. Hearing Green Day’s Homecoming in Central Park got me weeping because I knew I really was coming home to that finish line.
14. There was never a point when I didn’t think I would finish. Sure there were good moments and meh moments, but I never once thought that I wouldn’t finish. If I am anything, I am stubborn, so when I set my mind to a goal, I will do everything possible to conquer that goal. I won’t pretend that running a marathon is easy, it’s not. I did feel really well prepared and well trained for the race. It was hard in the ways it was supposed to be hard, not because I wasn’t physically capable of finishing the race.
Much of running a marathon is mental. It’s all about keeping those good vibes going. I never had to give myself a pep talk because I kept things positive.
15. The toughest part for me was mile 10. I have NO idea why. My knee was aching a lot of this point (okay, it ached the whole time) and I felt more sore than I should have been that early on. This quiet point in Brooklyn was my hardest point, even though it’s mileage I’m really comfortable with. I blasted my music to push me through to Williamsburg where the crowd support was once again loud.
At this point in the race I was a little disappointed in myself, MILE 10 AND YOU’RE STRUGGLING? Luckily the feeling wore off and I hit my stride again.
Besides that mini struggle, I never hit a wall during the race. I’ve read so many marathon race recaps and been warned so many times about hitting the inevitable wall around mile 20. It never happened. I guess I’m lucky and fueled well?
16. I loved having a hometown advantage. I came into this race having previously run over 50% of the course. Once I got to Williamsburg I felt like I was in my home turf. Okay, my actual apartment is across the river from Williamsburg, but it was SO familiar to me having run over the bridge countless times on training runs and hung out on Bedford Ave a million times. The familiarity from this point on was really helpful, I kind of knew what was ahead. I’m really grateful I did the 3 Bridges run and last 10 miles of the course as a preparation for this race.
17. I didn’t hear the infamous “wall of sound” coming off the Queensboro bridge. I know the Queensboro Bridge is supposed to suck, but I didn’t mind it! I thought back to my horrible 20 miler when I thought my stomach was trying to kill me and was grateful to feel AWESOME at this point, no stomach pain!! A ton of people around me were walking, I just kept on powering through.
I turned my music down at the end of the bridge hoping to hear that “wall of sound” people always talk about coming off the Queensboro. I didn’t hear anything of that nature. The crowd right off the bridge was disappointingly SILENT and the person running next to me had to rile them up. Uh, I don’t think we’re supposed to be the ones cheering/
Once I got to 1st Avenue it felt like a celebration. People were going nuts for us.
My “I’m so happy to be in Manhattan” face…
18. I ran the entire thing, minus food breaks, hugging my family + friends and walking through water stops. I just didn’t feel the desire to walk, and knew that walking meant it would take me that much longer to get to the finish line. I will say, I ran really slow and conservatively. Could I have run a faster marathon? Probably. I didn’t care though and instead focused on keeping a smile on my face the entire time. Whenever I saw someone I knew, they commented on the fact that I looked like I was in a good mood. I really was.
The only other time I walked was around mile 25 on Central Park South. When I started running again my legs hurt a million times more. Lesson learned, don’t walk.
The weather was on the toasty side (high 60’s, some humidity) which made me worried about getting dehydrated. I made sure to stop at all the water stops and even refilled my handheld a few times. I’m not coordinated enough to run while eating or drinking, so that wasn’t happening.
19. Once I got to Central Park the aim of the game was catching up to people. It’s really easy to get bored at this point in the race. You’re so close but still have a lot of time left, especially when you’re jogging at a snails pace like I was at this point. To keep me motivated and moving, I’d find someone a few feet in front of me and speed up to catch up with them. It sound stupid, but I swear it kept me going and helped me run a tiny bit faster.
I also think I saw someone throw up mid running which also gave me a hugeeeee boost because like I said earlier, I have a really bad phobia of vomit, which is something I was really really concerned about going into this race. I lucked out overall though and didn’t see anything else that was panic attack inducing.
20. I was wearing new shoes. Yes, I broke the first rule of running a marathon. I’d only logged about 13 miles on my new Mizuno Wave Riders and simply hoped for the best. While I would’ve recommend anyone do this, it felt necessary for me because my old sneakers were starting to hurt my feet. There were moments during the race when I could literally feel the blisters forming and I wanted to take my shoes off. Eh, still worth wearing the new shoes. Besides the blisters, my feet don’t hurt.
21. From mile 23 on I was a crying mess. I was also really tired at this point, just physically drained for obvious reasons, so the crying was more like hyperventilating and awkwardly audible moans. Every time we saw a mile marker, which at this point were huge banners across the course, I started crying all over again.
I wasn’t crying because I wanted the race to be over, I was crying because couldn’t believe I was hitting these miles and I knew I was SO FREAKEN CLOSE, it was really going to happen unless I did something stupid like trip and fall. The last bit on Central Park South is a total blur to me. Even though almost everyone around me was walking, I told myself to just keep running minus one small walking break. Victory was so close I could taste it.
I distinctly remember smelling horse poo on Central Park South and thinking how that’s the last thing I want to smell right now. Get me to that finish line!
22. Crossing the finish line wasn’t what I thought it would be. When I crossed that finish line I was crying and sobbing and sort of hyperventilating? It was weird. I threw my hands up in the air like I always do.
I’m really sad because I don’t think they captured a photo of me crossing the finish line. What the hell.
I felt insanely proud at that moment but something about it wasn’t what I envisioned. I had visualized that final moment SO many times, I would literally weep thinking about it. In the moment, I was SO tired and fried that it wasn’t as magical as I imagined.
I got confused about whether or not I should cross the finish line on the right side or left side… and I was disappointed that the bleachers were empty. Compared to the energy of the entire race, it felt like a very quiet moment. Just me (and some others) crossing the finish line quietly of what’s arguably the most challenging thing I’ve ever endured.
You feel very different than at the end of a half marathon, at the end of the half you still secretly have energy left to scream and shout. At the end of a marathon you’re just pure emotion. Crossing that finish line was more like a sigh of relief than a celebration. I was so shell shocked in the moment I couldn’t fully process what was happening. I did it. I RAN A MARATHON.
These selfies get more and more attractive….
23. Exiting the park wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. People told me this part was miserable, it wasn’t so bad.
Like I said earlier, the volunteers at this point were SO sweet, literally putting the heat sheet on me and making sure I was okay. All I wanted was for someone to hold me, I was just so tired and drained. The volunteers congratulated us every step of the way, reminding me that I just freaken ran a marathon.
I was forced to choose bag check even though I didn’t check a bag, so I hobbled my way through that whole process. I have no idea how long it took me. I happily munched on pretzels and sipped water from the finish bag, really grateful to also have a bag where I could throw all my stuff in and something salty to eat.
Everyone does this hilarious Frankenstein walk to the exit. We are all obviously exhausted in every sense of the word yet there’s also this wild look we all had in our eyes. The look of “holy crap, I did it”.
24. I’m so happy I didn’t have to take the subway. My dad parked his car in a lot Saturday morning on 83rd and Amsterdam. In actuality that’s super close to the park, after running a marathon it felt like the longest walk of my life.
I was so excited to finally reunite with them! And to put flip-flops on my blistered feet.
My parents dropped Jeremy and I off at my apartment. Getting out of the car was a struggle. Walking up the 3 steps into my building might’ve been the most painful experience of my life. I’m kind of sad that my doorman didn’t acknowledge the fact that I looked like a burrito in my heat sheet and was holding a medal. Dude, I just ran the NYC Marathon!
25. After the race Jeremy and I went to Veselka for some matzoh ball soup and piergoies. People kept asking me what I would want as my post race meal. I wasn’t craving anything specifically and wasn’t that hungry at the end of the race. Weird, I’m usually STARVING at the end of long runs.
I finally decided comfort food was the way to go. Of course my idea of comfort food is salty Matzoh Ball soup. I went to dinner wearing my medal, flip-flops and no make-up on because I had just taken a shower.
Walking home took 5x longer than usual because walking is hard…
26. Thank you times a million to my parents and Jeremy. They literally chased me around the city all day and it was awesome to see them 3 times during the race, especially towards the end when I was really nervous about hitting mile 22. Just knowing that they would be there, waiting to take me home after the race was comforting.
Poor Jeremy had to deal with me post-race. Even though I was feeling good overall and giddy because I just ran a freaken marathon, the whole experience takes a lot out of you. I felt like everything I said sounded whiney because I was so tired and physically exhausted. Super attractive. After dinner I was ready to put on pajamas, watch some Arrested Development with Jeremy and go to bed ridiculously early.
I am beyond grateful for the support from my parents and boyfriend throughout this whole process. They’ve been my cheerleader every step of the way for the past 17 weeks.
… And of course thank you to everyone who sent me kind words of encouragement and congratulations. Shoutout to Neal, Maddie and Melissa for giving me an energy boost on the course, Leah for cheering me on during every long run and for getting me dairy-free peanut butter cups. Thank you to everyone that texted me, messaged me, tweeted at me, commented on instagram and so on. Thank you. Thank you for making me feel like a rockstar. Thank you for helping me celebrate this special day.
26.2. So… would I do it again?
Ah, the question everyone has been asking me. The truth is, I don’t know. Not because it was hard, while it’s physically demanding, apparently my body can handle the challenge.
I don’t think another marathon experience could every compare to this one. The whole day felt like my freaken birthday and all of NYC was celebrating with me. My Facebook and instagram basically blew up after the race with the outpour of kind words and messages.
Yesterday was literally magical. I can’t believe it happened. I can’t believe I ran a marathon. I can’t believe it didn’t suck nearly as much as I thought I would. I can’t believe I did it.
I don’t think anything will every feel as special as running my first marathon and getting to do it in my city.
Could I do it all again? Sure. Do I want to do it all again? We’ll see.
For now, I’ll just keep replaying November 1st, 2015 in my mind. Because it will forever be one of my favorite days.