As the alarm on my iPhone went off, I slowly turned it off and flipped on the light. The phone said 5:00 a.m., yet the alarm clock next to my bed said 6:00. Despite being 99% sure it was indeed 5:00, I turned on the TV in my hotel room only to see that the time in the corner of the screen on the morning news broadcast said 6:00.
My heart started to race as I realized I had overslept.
On the day of the New York City Marathon, I overslept.
Instead of taking the time to eat a leisurely breakfast in my hotel room, followed by a few minutes with the foam roller before casually heading toward the bus to the start line, I had to rush.
I had less than 15 minutes to get myself together and quickly jog to the New York Public Library, luckily just a few blocks from my hotel. I made it with just minutes to spare. Any later and I would have been shooed away from the bus line and sent all the way down to the State Island Ferry to make my way to the start instead.
This was not how I wanted to start my marathon morning!
I arrived in Staten Island just before 8:00 a.m. and after going through security, I found a spot on a curb to sit and enjoy the breakfast that I should have had back at the hotel – a couple gluten free blueberry muffins, a bagel with peanut butter, a banana and a bottle of Gatorade. Then I hit up the porta-potty line for the first of nearly a dozen trips.
By 9:20 a.m., I had to deposit my transparent gear bag at the bag check and by 10:15 a.m. I had to be in corral B of wave 3. The time went faster than I expected as I alternated between taking pictures, sharing on Snapchat, using the porta-potty and stretching out/warming up. Before I knew it, I was at the start line, getting ready to run across the Verrazano Bridge (unfortunately on the bottom portion, so no amazing views).
Within minutes, I decided to turn off my Garmin watch. I had been debating my race strategy for days, trying to balance my competitive nature and wanting to reach for a personal best time with the reality that I have been sick and slightly injure and that running through the five boroughs would be a tough run with several long, challenging hills. As my legs felt like lead running across the bridge, my decision was made for me.
I would try my best not to think about my time at all and just have fun.
The fun part was easy. As soon as we crossed the bridge into Brooklyn, the crowds were overwhelming! While in Chicago it seems like most people just come out to cheer their friends, in Brooklyn, it felt like everyone was out there to cheer on everyone! There were gospel choirs and bands and dancers and little kids reaching their arms out for a high five. I couldn’t help but smile and run faster, even as I told myself I needed to preserve my legs for the second half.
It may sound odd to say, but by mile 12, I thought, “I got this.” I was cruising along at a nice pace, my legs were feeling fresh and I was really enjoying the whole experience.
And then came the Queensboro Bridge. More than a mile long, it was an incredibly gradual uphill climb, but uphill nonetheless. I went slow (or so I thought) and it seemed to go on forever. Eventually, though, I made it to Manhattan and the crowds lining 1st Avenue. Except for that they weren’t exactly what I expected. The road was wider in Manhattan, so the crowds felt more spread out. It didn’t feel as intimate as Brooklyn. I didn’t feel like the spectators were cheering everyone anymore, but rather just their own selected runners. I painstakingly watched for my friend Sophie who had said she would be at 72nd Street, but 72nd Street came and went with no sign of her.
At the same time, the route suddenly seemed familiar. I ran up 1st Avenue back in September when I was in New York for the U.S. Open. Likewise after I turned the corner through the Bronx and headed south down 5th Avenue – I had been there before.
By this point, my quadriceps were on fire. The hills had killed me and I was walking through every water stop. I paused momentarily to help a fellow runner who had slipped and fallen on banana peels. I even stopped along a barricade to try to stretch out, but it didn’t help much. If anything, it was even harder to get going again.
Entering Central Park should have been a thrill, but by that point I was feeling stressed. I snuck a peek at my phone and realized I likely wouldn’t hit my revised goal of coming in under five hours. I hit the incline going into the park and my quads burned even more. I wondered for what seemed like an eternity where the hell the 25 mile marker was because it seemed like it had to have been at least a mile since I passed 24. Seriously, those last three miles were the longest three miles of the entire race.
Finally, as I turned onto 59th Street, which runs along the south edge of Central Park, I knew I was getting close. By that point, my joy in running and turned into impatience and I just wanted to be done. I pushed as hard as I could for that last half mile or more and when I finally crossed the finish line, my legs were like jelly. It would be more than an hour before I would reach my hotel, with a surprise stop at Garrett Popcorn along the way. After a shower, stretch and short rest, I limped my way out to dinner to celebrate, cursing the New York City subway system for not having more escalators.
My final time? 5:05:27. Not my best marathon by any means, but not my worst either. But I finished and I had fun (for the most part) and that’s what matters, right?
I ran the New York City Marathon to support buildOn, the great nonprofit that I went to Mali with last fall. I’m still short of my fundraising goal, so I would greatly appreciate any donations! You can make a gift at https://www.crowdrise.com/BuildOnNYC2015/fundraiser/katieaune.