Back in April when I was totally euphoric from my London Marathon experience, someone mentioned on Twitter that the deadline to apply for the New York City Marathon ballot was closing in a day. Having entered London Marathon ballot 6 times without success, I thought I’d try out New York and maybe in a few years I’ll get a spot.
Two weeks later I got an email. “Congratulations. You have been selected to run the New York City Marathon on 3rd of November 2019. $230 has been taken from your bank account. There is no way out of this now.”
They didn’t actually say that last bit, my brain said that.
So after 1.5 months ‘off’ from marathon training, I started an 18-week McMillan marathon plan in July. Having tried the FIRST (aka Run Less, Run Faster) plan and the Hansons’ Marathon Method before, I wanted to try out something different.
My McMillan plan was 5 runs a week with no short sprint sessions – one long run, a few easy runs, some tempo runs, some fast finish long runs. Compared to the other plans I’ve followed, the distance and pace ranges in this plan varied a lot. For example, long runs were 25-35km, with a pace of 4:58 – 5:45 min/km. That kind of a range is HUGE for me. I contacted the McMillan team to ask about that. The answer was to learn to know your own body and what pace feels hard and easy and go with that.
Ok. I’m all for intuitive running but when it comes to marathon training, I actually want to at least TRY to follow more specific speeds and distances.
Fast forward 18 weeks and a lot of life stress (juggling my work’s move to Amsterdam, etc.), I had done most of my runs at the easiest pace in every prescribed range. I was trusting the plan that said that as long as I stayed in the range, I would be ok.
Friday, 1st of November
I flew to NYC, met up with my 2 bestest friends who’d traveled in from other parts of the US just for me (#truelove) and went to the expo to pick up my number.
The excitement was real. Marathon expos always make me a bit giddy. Probably pre-race nerves combined with a sensory overload of all the STUFF they’re selling there.
Saturday, 2nd of November
Lots of walking, checking out the finish line, catching up with my friends. The weather was beautiful and life was good.
Sunday, 3rd of November
I woke up at 5:15, got my kit on and walked 10 minutes to Penn Station for my 6am bus to the start area on Staten Island. The crowds heading for the buses were huge but 40 by 40 we got into buses and left Manhattan.
The drive to Staten Island took over an hour. I didn’t mind. My start wasn’t until 10:10 and it was nice and warm in the bus.
Once off the bus, it took a little bit to get through the security to get into the race village. The next 3 hours were mostly spent waiting in portaloo lines and finishing my porridge.
3 hours to wait for a marathon start is a long time.
Finally a bit after 10 my wave was off, I threw my charity shop jacket into the donation bin to go to another charity and the marathon had started!
The first 1.5km was uphill on a bridge but after that the next 10km was either slightly undulating or even more downhill than uphill. My pace was fast. 4:58 min/km ish. I knew I actually had to keep it at 5:08 but with all the downhill bits it was really easy to go faster.
I always feel like I’m too careful when I run marathons and hold myself back so this time I took a risk.
Let’s just say I won’t do that again.
I saw my friends at 12 miles and shortly after that I started getting really nauseous and my legs were done too.
The rest of the race was as awful as a marathon can get. I was one of those people who was walking 2km from the end because I simply could not run without feeling like I was going to puke or just fall over.
The crowds were amazing, the cheering was amazing, signs people had were amazing (10km into the race: “2miles to go. #fakenews”) and I saw everyone sprint past me to the finish line, hands up in the air, happy like I was at the end of the last 2 of my marathons but I was not feeling any of it.
Once over the finish line I was so wobbly on my feet I wanted to curl up in a big fluffy sleeping bag and just lie down right there. I chugged some Gatorade to ease the nausea and started the ONE MILE WALK UPHILL to collect my bag. I was freezing, the foil they gave us wasn’t helping at all. I wanted my bag and my clothes. And I wanted to lie down.
Once I got my bag, there were no portaloos or tents to get changed in. Nothing. I debated for a second to just leave with my wet clothes on but I was shaking uncontrollably so I found a few bushes (we were in Central Park) and stripped my tops off (I was wearing 3 t-shirts ;P) and then my bra off. Boobies on display in NYC. I really didn’t care. I quickly got a try tshirt and then sweatshirt on, tied the foil around my waist to get my shorts off.
Dry clothes felt good. I walked a few blocks to find my friends and initially I thought I’d just walk back to our AirBNB but I was really not feeling well so we called a cab and paid $40 to go 8 blocks 😐
I didn’t stop shaking for a while but a couple of hours after the end I finally felt almost back to normal.
We went out for pizza in the evening but I didn’t really have much of an appetite so I saved half of mine for next day’s breakfast ;P There were a few other people in the restaurant with the medals around their necks but those things are HEAVY. I think marathon medals should be huge but light!
After pizza we watched several episodes of Modern Love back at our AirBNB, taking a discussion break after every episode. It was so good. I don’t have many girlfriends so this was so freaking nice and I fell asleep 11pm-ish with a smile on my face despite the disaster of a marathon.
Monday, 4th of November
Last day in NYC. Bagels for breakfast, big salad bar box for lunch, a bit of shopping and then after 15km of walking the backs of my knees got really sore all of a sudden so we spent the afternoon inside watching Jane the Virgin.
Tuesday, 5th of November
Flight back to London and trying to resume Life. I’m deferring my London Marathon Good for Age place until April 2021. At the moment I want to get back into Crossfit and rock climbing and only run when and how I want to.
And that’s that. Marathon nr.6 done – 3rd bad one for me but at least my bad/great ratio for marathons is an even 50/50 so I will run a few more in the future. Just not in 2020.